Summer is over and there is a biting wind howling round the site. That’s fine, I have my C17th spun/knitted hat, or at least I have had every other day. Today of course it is in the caravan 9 miles away. It is a community day so we have visitors and are encouraged to wear English Heritage Volunteer tee-shirts. Most opt to go for this on the grounds that it provides us with an additional layer, although it isn’t long before these disappear under any other garments we can find. Community day also means that there is a mobile canteen on site with warming soup and drinks in non-Neolithic polystyrene cups but there are only so many hot drinks one can have, especially with the consequent problem of negotiating many layers. We are reduced to more chalk pounding to keep warm, even though we have sufficient chalk for the floor that is being laid in 848.
I am pleased that my muscles don’t seem to be suffering from all the shovelling, riddling and pounding yesterday. My hands however are a different matter and have turned genuinely Neolithic. Despite liberal applications of not very Neolithic hand cream our hands are really effected from all the chalk even though we’ve been wearing gloves. Best I can manage is a C17th hand cream recipe: To make the hands white, take the flower of Beans, of Lupines, of Cornstarch and Rice, of each six ounces. Mix them and make a powder, with which wash your hands in water.
Chris is, with permission, raiding the on site skip. Not only does he acquire useful materials for the build in this way but he also appropriates a slightly dilapidated model cannon. Chilly members of the public are trying chopping with flint axes, weaving hazel and helping to flatten our chalk floor. There are many favourable comments about the project.
As the community day draws to a close we are thawing out in our portacabin when someone remarks, ‘there’s a hurricane outside’. They are not wrong. I have never experienced a weather event like this as Neolithic land is engulfed in the eye of a storm. As we leave the safety of the portacabin we are covered in fine chalk dust that has been raised in the storm. Hair washing will be interesting, as adding water to chalk just makes it solidify. Will we be able to patent a new form of hair gel? We rush to cover our chalk pile and struggle to stay on our feet as rain begins to lash and we battle with tarpaulins in the wind, searching frantically for anything of sufficient weight to stop them blowing away. Then we notice that the fairly substantial English Heritage gazebo is about to take off. We have been watching parachutists over the site all week and it takes several people on the end of the gazebo poles to prevent us joining them. We are attempting to remove the cover from the metal uprights so that it no longer acts as a sail. The weighty two foot tent pegs have long since ceased to secure the uprights. I wonder if I am going to end up with only my ruby slippers (suitably health and safety approved) showing under the remnants of the gazebo, in imitation of the wicked witch of the west or if I am to be whisked back to Kansas. The ruined gazebo disposed of, we hope our rescue efforts have earned us Brownie points in the bid to be chosen to take part in phase 2. The tornado does provide useful evidence about the durability of our buildings. They are all still there, although there was a mad dash with a ladder to secure the thatched roll that protects the smoke hole of 851.
Sadly this is our last day on the project and we have to time travel back to our C17th lives. We say goodbye to our new found friends and head home. Surely all this physical effort will have had its benefits when I stand on the scales, ah no. I am attempting to subscribe to the ‘muscle weighs more than fat theory’, or it could just be because my hair has solidified?