Have you ever wondered at those TV archaeologists who pick up a tiny fragment of coarse pottery and declare that it’s a Bronze Age grog-tempered sherd – with absolute certainty? Now it maybe that these pieces have been planted to make them look clever for the camera – but I’ve seen it in the field so-to-speak at the Coppergate dig in York ( now the Jorvik Centre) . They are certain.
It’s down to ‘getting your eye in’ – recognising those tiny clues which convey exactly the right information. The same applies to sea glass hunting:
- the minute differences between areas of shingle which will be productive and those which won’t
- knowing that beyond a brief poke with your toe, digging is a waste of time
- learning the sound of the tides which will throw up more treasures
All this comes with acquiring knowledge, making comparisons and putting in lots of practice. Just like writing.
what about those disappointing days? The wading through treacle, can’t remember another word for ‘twist’, six hours to write six hundred word days? No apparent reason behind them – a failure of the scientific method with having no control over the variables. I sometimes wonder if it is phase of the moon.
Well, the point is to keep searching. To go down every day and look. Sometimes I get only a splinter or two – bits of characters’ speech or a glimpse of a scene. Other days I might find a bit of gorgeous Bristol Blue – rare but gorgeous – like when a sub-plot all falls into place. or it might be a slab of soft green – like a good solid chapter.
Who knows? I won’t find it if I don’t look.