I think that everyone will agree we have not had our fair share of sun this Summer in Britain. The sky is just a grey skin sagging over the earth. The sun is generally elusive. Like many other people, I am someone who is greatly affected by the quality of light. When the sky is dark grey, so is my mood. When the sun is on fire, so am I.
In my world, energy and motivation do not arrive on cue each morning. I am fortunate in that I have a bouncy Labrador who wakes me up every day fearful lest I forget her breakfast. Perish the thought! The food-obsessed Hereford Hoover will never go hungry.
At 6.30am I do not really appreciate a warm tongue, nudging snout and heavy paws forcing me to greet the morning. But I know that Trudy gives me a daily routine that I would not otherwise have. It would be so easy to hibernate, to sink deeper inside my duvet and to dwindle into oblivion.
At a very basic level Trudy provides me with a reason to go out every day. Even when I have no incentive and no inclination to do so, I have to take her outside to the grass. Having this tenuous framework has given many ominous days an uplift. If you venture out for five minutes there is every chance that something will inspire you or shift your focus. A shard of sun piercing through an otherwise black sky, a cheerful greeting from a neighbour, a huge Tom cat rubbing against your shins… There have been many times when I have gone back inside with a fresh outlook. It is like being given a second chance to start the day feeling positive.
Being involved with the Past in Mind project has lifted my life out of the everyday. I feel an enthusiasm for this project which propels me along and gives me purpose. The duvet is well and truly at bay.
I have been asked to translate some Medieval Latin as part of the historical research. Many people might be grimacing when they read this, but I feel as though I have been given the key to a treasure chest. If you picture a mad boffin chancing upon a rare species of butterfly – that is me at the moment! I seriously never thought that I would ever be translating again. My Classics career came to such a sudden end when my eyesight plummeted in 1989 – it seemed unthinkable that I would ever be reunited with Latin or Greek.
When Kate Lack the Project Historian asked me to steer the “Latin translation” group for the Past in Mind project, I was very apprehensive. To say that my Latin is rusty is an understatement. But I was keen to give it a go. Our first piece of text was from the Bishop’s register in 1397. It took me many hours to click my brain back into Latin thinking. I had some valuable assistance from a fellow volunteer who looked up the vocabulary in the dictionary, and this sparked my enthusiasm into a real flame. Although I am full of cobwebs and can no longer call myself a Classicist, Latin text still gives me an incredible thrill. It is like solving a Sudoku puzzle or completing the Times crossword; when you think you have got it right there is immense satisfaction. The struggle and sweat suddenly seem worthwhile. Wanting to improve and do better next time makes me eager for more.
Twenty years ago I thought I would have a career in Classics. Even when the dream disappeared, the Classics geek inside me never completely died. So to be given this chance is a small miracle.
Everyone taking part in the project will have their own reasons for getting involved. Many will be facing daily battles which might ordinarily prevent them from venturing out. Even if someone just attends one day of the dig or one group meeting, it is an achievement for them. Past in Mind is a valuable research project but it is also a personal journey, and I feel confident that everyone who joins us along the way will be enriched in some way.
The Studmarsh site survey has begun today and continues for ten days (please refer to Ian Bapty’s post). Although I am not participating in this part of the project I have been there in spirit and cannot wait to learn the results of the survey! This will determine the position of the first archaeological trenches when we start the dig in August. Whatever the weather, inside and out, we will be there.