On becoming a mudlarking bore

It turns out that in this glorious city of ours, in addition to eating Rowley Leigh’s burgers in the middle of a movie and visiting the Tate to help obliterate a room by putting stickers all over every surface and go and see Adele play at the tiny Shepherd’s Bush Empire for £16 (ok, that was 4 years ago, but still) you can ALSO go and find all sorts of historical artifacts sitting amongst the shingle at the Thames foreshore at low tide.

May I introduce Mudlarking, the funnest and freest and muddiest thing to do in the capital EVER. Fact.

So, it seems that the Thames is the largest archeological site in the world. It is all a bit tricky to get to, though, because the tides come in pretty quick and leave you stranded up against green algaed walls, and the stairs are unnoticeable rickety steep things dotted here and there. It is a bit dirty, although not like it was, so they say, and you really don’t need much more than wellington boots, babywipes, antiseptic gel and a plastic bag. And I SWEAR it is more fun than you would BELIEVE. So much fun that the childcare aspect of an afternoon is largely overlooked, kicked to the curb in favour of deepest concentration, as you scan the shingle and burrow into mud and bend over awkwardly as you attempt to find Victorian buttons and medieval shoes and Roman coins. So the smallest kids do fall over a bit, and they do cry and show you their muddy hands and despair over their wet trousers and try to pull their little legs from the old bits of rotting planks, but you are TRYING to find stuff and really resent having to look up from the rocks and so it is a bit hard to do both. Mudlarking and being a parent – totes incompatible. WHO KNEW?

Anyway, look at the hoard:

That is a most-excellently-laid-out collection of medieval ship’s nails, old crockery, Roman tiles, and 16th century handmade clay pipes. AMAZE. And a close-up of my treasure:

And yesterday’s attempt, from the same spot, underneath the Millenium Bridge:

And here we are eating fish and chips and drinking gin and tonic in the sun after our first successful anthropological morning poke:

More Boffinery:

The mud in the Thames is anaerobic, which means it has no oxygen and so things are preserved there. Basically, what you can find is just stuff that has been dropped into the Thames, accidentally or not, over a very long time. The tide and the increase of faster boats zooming along the river have slowly eroded the muddy layers and so new old stuff appears all of the time. How supremely excellent is that? You aren’t allowed to dig unless you have a £7.50 permit, and anything that you find which is of historical significance should be passed on to the British Museum. Apparently, the 400 year old clay pipes are so common that they don’t pass for ‘interesting’. That is a very odd concept for someone from New Zealand whose colonial past only goes back a few hundred years. Anyway. I have turned into a mudlarking bore and it is all I want to do with my weekends until I die.

Except for attending London Fashion Week shows, of course. Here is my actual invitation to an actual show. Mary Katrantzou, no less, which by association quite obviously makes me fabulous. See the genius hologram invitation WITH MY NAME ON THE BACK (you have to imagine that part):

And see the badly photographed show, where I was pretending to look like I had a reason to be there, other than desperately searching for a glimpse of the back of Alexa Chung/Anna Wintour’s respective heads while chanting to myself

Be cool, be cool, look disinterested:

I saw neither Chung nor Wintour, although they were there, according to the Daily Mail. Disappointingly, no one photographed me for their blog full of well-dressed fashiony LFW attendees, either. I expect no one was fooled by my ‘edgy’ look of geometric charity-shop polyester frock, old Kate Sylvester boatneck shirt, rabbit coat and babylissed hair. Ahem. Actually, the women getting photographed were all wearing comedy outfits, on the wrong side of ‘wrong’, with big spectacles and ankle socks and 80’s jumpers. So QUIRKY! so IRONIC! And they were all thin, and probably didn’t have dried weetbix smeared on their cuffs. Thanks, the Unsupportive Kids. So I didn’t feel too slighted. It was actually excellent fun – not exactly to the mudlarking degree of funness, but not very far behind.

Here is a model to further prove I was actually there, and not just fantasising:

So. In other news, Casper has become a very badly behaved child, worse than before, calling me an idiot very loudly in public, along with the old “SHUT UP’ favourite of his. I sometimes squeeze his arm, I sometimes ignore him, I sometimes strap him in the buggy, I sometimes yell right back. It is awkward and embarrassing and I think this is what they mean when they tell you parenting is hard work.  He starts school in September. I think I love September.

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4 Responses to On becoming a mudlarking bore

  1. The mudlarking sounds simultaneously interesting and terrifying. Great to find all the ancient relics, but as you mentioned, the mud is anaerobic, and some of the nastiest pathogens in the world are anaerobes.
    Hope nobody got a scratch while they were delving in the sludge, gangrene can be a bugger, so can tetanus.
    I love watching fashion shows.
    They’re so funny. Does anyone ever dress like that outside the shows themselves? Without getting commited to an insane asylum I mean. DON’T like looking at the anorexic models. I think most blokes prefer a more cuddly and wholesome look.

    Regarding Casper. The old fashioned method would have been a good skelp on the bum as a reliable method for introudicing some negative feedback, but that’s forbidden now. Try a restorative session, where you sit down quietly with Casper and try and talk about how his behaviour is making you feel, and get him to describe his feelings when he says it. I know4 or 5 is a bit young,but they use this technique in Primary schools in NZ now.

    Good Luck.

    • theharridan says:

      Tetanus! Deadly pathogens! Who knew? I just told my slightly germ-phobic husband and he paled and said perhaps we should wear gloves…and go a little less. Good to know, although you are the bearer of very dramatic and fairly depressing news.
      As for Casper, I shall give it a whirl. That is quite possibly a much better alternative to surreptitious arm-squeezes.

  2. amber says:

    With that pose Casper looks like he should be in a performance of Oliver – wearing a flat cap and doing a jaunty dance while nicking things out of rich people’s pockets.

  3. Argh, soiling the good name of mudlarking, he is! You had me sold on the hobby at “larking.”

    And the model is wearing a top knot. Of course she is.

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