amigas, cheetahs, friends for lyfe.

It’s always nice to see your friends – especially ones you haven’t seen in over a year.

This week, the down week between me getting back from Bamburgh and then jet setting it off to Italy to hang out with dead people (re: I’m taking an Osteology Course near Pompeii), I had one my best friends from American come and visit.

Mallory and I had suffered through *American High School* together so we’ve been through a lot.  She had been in Ireland this summer working at the Trinity College Library in Dublin.  She’s a pretty cool person doing European Studies with a focus on Museums at University right now.

She arrived late on the 22nd and I walked down to meet her at Waverly Station.  After that I spend the next week showing her around the lovely city of Edinburgh.  We went to lots of museums: The National Gallery, Portrait Gallery, and the National Museum.  And drank a metric shit ton of coffee.  One of our favourite activities is to sit at a coffee shop for prolonged periods of time and drink enough coffee to feel our hearts palpitating.  Great fun.

We also explored plenty of *creepy* graveyards and went to the cat cafe where Mallory harassed a hairless cat wearing a hoodie.

spooky haunts with the bestie from the westie.

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Mallory speaks to a cat whilst imitating some geometric Italian art. #candid #catcafe

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And brunch! We went for brunch on multiple days.  Brunch is one of our favourite activities.

Basically we’re already old ladies.  We actually discussed the ‘Are you a Twenty Something Grandmother’ Buzzfeed quiz where we had both scored over 80%.

We also went to the Royal Botanical Garden on a particular sunny day.  I’d never been before, having attempted multiple times but always getting lost and then somehow ending up in Leith with blistered feet… long story.  The garden stretches over 72 acres and features a variety of plants.  Some are very big.

I'm standing on my toes.

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On one of the rainy days we went to go see the new film Dunkirk.  Mal and I sat in the corner and cried for the entire duration of the film.  We are also both very frequent criers, especially if the topic includes anything historical.

But anyway, we had a great time.  Not to be sentimental, but living abroad has really made me understand that I make friendships with people in different ways now.  Since I don’t get to see many of my friends on a daily basis, I mostly communicate with them via social media or sometimes when I’m feeling really elderly I’ll send letters.

But, just because I don’t see a person as frequently as others doesn’t make that friendship any less important to me.  It’s actually really incredible when I do go online and get to see what cool things my amazing friends are up to all over the world.  It makes the world a much smaller and connected place and it just means that when I do get to finally see a friend it’s all the better. ❤

 

summer with the anglo-saxons

Hi all! It’s me.  Still alive and probably still a nuisance.  I just got back from my five week excavation at Bamburgh Castle along the Northumbrian coast.  I’m still super tired but the last five weeks have been amazing.  Here’s a quick run-down of the excavation from my excavation journal for the viewers at home.

12 June, 17.45 

First day at Bamburgh Castle excavation!  Arrived yesterday via train from Edinburgh.

Today we had a site tour, health and safety, and general info.  We are working in the outer ward of the castle with two trenches.  Trench 1 is located near St. Oswald’s Gate, the original 7c entrance to the castle.  Trench 3 is located closer to the inner ward of the castle in an area that has been identified as a manufacturing center with evidence of metalworking and animal processing.

We then took a tour of the Excavation offices located in the 19c windmill.  This is where most of the post excavation work is carried out.  We got a chance to see a multitude of finds from the project including bone artifacts and metals like iron, lead, and even gold.

We began to clean Trench 3 after removing the tarps and sandbags.  Cleaning a Trench means that you remove the top few millimeters of wash-in soils to reveals the colour changes of the archaeology below.

Trench 3 showed evidence of a structure with two cobbled paths.  The current level of excavation is around the 7/8c.  There is a large amount of animal bone as well as evidence of metalworking.  As stated, the current assumption about the site is that it was the manufacturing portion of the castle, near the entrance, with finished goods then taken into the inner ward.

13 June, 17.53

Day 2 complete.  Continued to clean back Trench to reveal colors of the features.  Nearly finished with cleaning and will start excavation in few days.

During cleaning, I uncovered an iron nail!  It was catalogued as a small find and given a number for the records.

A lot of animal bone has continued to come up so the site continues to support the ideas of a production center.

Excited to begin trench excavation.

14 June, 19.55

Finished cleaning trench today.  Took photographs of pre-excavation levels.  Will begin proper excavation tomorrow.

I was cleaning the ‘Roman’ area of the trench.  So-called because of the samian ware found in a hole in 2011.  This bedrock on this side of the trench is located higher up but is equal stratigraphically with the other side of the trench.  However, because Roman finds have been coming up on this portion of the trench, work in this area will stop until the Roman level is reached on the other side of the trench as well.

We have the castle tour tomorrow, which should be good to see with our supervisors leading the way.

Overall, I am really enjoying the site and learning a lot.

June 15, 18.54

Worked on Trench 1 today!  The Trench is nearly complete with aims to close at the end of the season.  I finished cleaning a feature, planned, and took a photo.

Today we also had a tour of the castle.  We learned more about the site and the history of the castle.

June 17, 19.21

Yesterday I worked Finds.  I floated samples, sieved, and worked in the windmill for a bit.  The Windmill is where all the records are kept and finds are managed.

As for floatation, I am always so surprised at the material recovered.  Basically, floatation consisted of taking soil samples from the trench and stimulating them in a large tank with running water.  This causes lighter organic material like charcoal and even burnt seeds to float to the top and into a collection bag.  The skill is really useful for collecting data about past environments like what I was doing in Romania last summer.  It’s a really useful way of analysing the site… I just really hate having to go through the process.

Excavation on site will continue tomorrow as I help to plan more of Trench 1 before it closes.

*heavy breathing* took my day off from excavation down to Alnwick.

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As for today, I had the day off and went to Alnwick (pronounced An-Ick).  I went to Barter Books as the recommendation of my friend Sophie.  The bookshop is HUGE! and is located in the old Alnwick Railway Station.  They basically just covered over the Platforms with boards and put in tons and tons of bookshelves and filled then with thousands of used books.  *heavy breathing*   After going to the bookshop, I went to the castle.  The castle was incredibly opulent and the library inside was ridiculous, I could not believe some of the title they had! Leather bound copies of both the Chronicles of Froissart and Monstrelet aka the closest we have to eyewitness accounts of the Hundred Years War including the best account for the Battle of Agincourt!  Alnwick castle was also the filming location for the first Harry Potter movie and was used for exterior scenes of Hogwarts!  And it was the birthplace of Henry Percy aka Harry Hotspur who helped to put Henry IV on the throne and then later became rivals to the family and according the Shakespeare a direct rival to Henry V.

Causal castle crying.

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I work again tomorrow and Monday starts Week 2.

June 18, 18.04

Worked at the castle today putting a stair access into the trench by cutting back the turf and shoveling dirt.  This is because the ramp used as a second access point will soon be re-sucked back into the trench as Trench 8 (an old trench dug by Brian Hope-Taylor in the 1960s) will be reopened for re-evaluation.  The stairs will serve to allow access in. This a very important part in site planning and health and safety.

Additionally, after a long day of hard work in a surprisingly hot Northumbrian sun we ate ice cream and went for a swim on the beach.

19 June, 18.30

First day of Week 2!

Excavated a shell midden to start which proved to be a very complex feature with evidence of multiple dumping acts over a period of some time.  There were layers of shell beneath layers of sediments.

Next, I cleaned the feature in the corner and planned it.  Unsure as to just what the feature is as there are many different context boundaries and colour shifts.  It is intriguing that there is a near perfect darkened rectangle in the middle of the orange clay feature.  Possible burnt area?  Possible post hole?

June 20, 17.24

Worked a long day today.  Excavated the feature I planned yesterday.  Revealed to be a burning site, potentially in situ!!  As I found evidence of fire cracked stones.  Large stones were used as a means of boiling large vats of water quickly or could have been used to line a hearth.  However, the bone found in the area did not show evidence of burning. It was a more redish hue which could mean that it was boiled, connecting it to the fire cracked stones.

I collected two sample buckets of the burnt context for further analysis and then filled in context sheets, plan forms, and photos.

June 21, 18.24

Today I began a cross section of a possible feature.  I planned, leveled, and began to find the edges of the context.  This was in the afternoon.  In the morning, it finally rained and we went inside the Windmill and washed finds.

I am getting along great with everyone on site and am really enjoying the excavation.  I am a little tired though and probably a little bit more grumpy than usual.  But, it’s been 3.5 weeks camping for me now.  (1.5 on excavation and the two weeks before that going up to the Bothy and then the Road Trip).  My grumpiness could be linked to that or the kinks in my back.  I plan to take evening to read a little and go to sleep early.

Tonight we have a lecture about the Bowl Hole, the cemetery found outside the castle a few years back.  I am very excited for this lecture.

June 22, 17.39

Today I helped with the ramp building along Trench 8.

Trench 8 is to be re-evaluated once a safety ramp is constructed.  I shoveled dirt, belayed buckets out of the trench, etc.  No actual excavation today but setting up a proper area to work in is just as important as the actual work itself!  No one wants to become part of the archaeology!

And it was pretty fun to get some rope work in.  I used a hip belay to bring up buckets from the Trench.  Archaeology and mountaineering knowledge… am I Lara Croft yet?

24 June, 21.38

Yesterday I continued to clear out the backfill of Tench 8.  Again, T8 is the location where Hope-Taylor found the two swords and the axes in the 1960s.  We are reopening it to 1) Check the records are correct for publication and 2) Connect T8 to the cobbled path in T3 were last year a copper Anglo-Saxon bird plate was found.

We shoveled more buckets of backfill and will continue on Sunday when I work again.

Today I am off to Edinburgh to do my laundry and water my plants.

25 June, 19.46

Today we worked to plan a cross section of a pit by measuring out the grid, measuring rocks in the cross slab.  We did this by taking grid points aka eastings and northings.

Good day today with good work.  Easy Sunday.  I am excited to get back to work tomorrow.

week 2/5 complete on this lovely site with an equally lovely view.

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26 June, 18.25

Today I filled in context sheets for the tri-pit.  So called because this feature is a pain in the ass.  It was thought to be a single pit.  Until two more pits were found cut into an older pit in the center.  However the southern pit has been truncated by an early section excavated in the 1960s.

The feature was half-sectioned and I filled in sheets for the section completed.  It was very confusing attempting to establish a chronology for the feature because you first need to locate the cut lines in the half section of the wall.

After completing the paperwork, for the half section the other side of the pit was excavated.  Samples were taken of the first two pits.  Each pit had to be excavated separately as to keep the samples with the least amount of contamination.

Tomorrow it is due to rain and I will be working Finds.

living the tent life day 32. #archaeology

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28 June, 17.15

Yesterday it rained.

Today I finished excavation of the pit feature, previously called the tri-pit… now is the quad-pit. Today there was even evidence of a possible post hole burning with a perfect circle of charcoal appearing the new pit cut into the pit.

We realised that the multitudes of pits inter-cutting each other had made the feature look bigger than it actually was.  But, there was no way of telling the boundaries of the feature without excavation.

Lastly, the pit shows (maybe?) a relation to a know floor surface.  Was the floor surface cut into?

1 July, 11.59

Sorry haven’t recorded.  Thursday it rained.  So we worked finds in the morning and in the afternoon we took a trip to Lindisfarne.  We got to see the island, the priory, and walked along the beach.  It was a beautiful island and amazing to see the connections between Lindisfarne and Bamburgh.

Friday was another rainy day spent working on finds.  I sorted the environmental finds in the morning and finds washed in the afternoon.  All in all two good rainy days.

It’s been a little hectic lately with the living situation.  A group of us got majorly flooded out of our tents on Friday.  With our tents flooded all our kit got pretty soaked and the staff who had stayed at the campsite spent the day drying kit and making sure nothing was super wrecked.  It was awfully nice of them.  But, you can’t really return to a tent once it’s had nearly 2L of water poured out of it.  So I now find myself with the other students in an AirBNB here in Belford.

3 July

Yesterday I worked back in T8.  Continued to shovel backfill until the section edge reached 1.20m.  The legal working height for an open trench with small sides is 1.20m again health and safety.

Today I planned the stupid quad-pit and it still proved to a pain in the ass.  But the context is now closed.  Afterward I helped one of the staff members to locate a missing trench edge from an old plan that had unfortunately not been finished or included grid points.  By using the context register and old photos from 2002 we were able to locate the plan and then I started to remove the turf to uncover the edge.

6 July

Tuesday was the fourth of July spent in rainy Northumbria.  We worked in Trench 8 on the section plan until the rain puddled too much and we had to move to Finds.  I spend the afternoon working to track down missing samples from the Kaims which had somehow gotten lost in the shuffle a few years back.

Wednesday was sunny so we did a full clean of Trench 1.  So that it could be photographed.  T1 is again the trench by St. Oswald’s gate was thought to be complete until about 18 new features surfaced after the amount of rain we got last week. Wednesday afternoon I worked on Finds.

Today was the day!  We started the morning by going back to Lindisfarne to see the excavation being carried out there.  Looks like they found a new church!

That afternoon, I started to remove and sample the 9c pebbled surface.  The pebbled surface ran adjacent to the 9c metal working building in the SE corner of the trench.  I’m working on the area and today was excavation was recorded to later be used in some media uploads for the excavation.   The surface is between two rows of curb stones and consisted of many layers of stone deposit.  I have already found animal bone, teeth, and charcoal.  Basically, things people would have dropped or lost.  With it’s proximity to the metal workshop I am hoping to maybe find metal objects or coins.  The last part of the day I id’d a cut feature in the path which had been called a post hole.

I’m really proud to be able to work this pebbled path because it’s a really important part of the trench.

9 July

Friday I continued to clean away the surface.  We planned and photographed the area.  This included having to off sight plan by using a temporary bench mark.  We then used the tape measures to off sight the eastings and northings.

We did id a definite post hole on Friday and today I half-sectioned the post hole for sampling.  The post hole rests against one of the large curb stones and so the curb stone was probably used as a packing stone for the post.

While I was excavating the post hole my working partner half sectioned the path so that we could see the layers of stratigraphy.

After a bit time it became apparent we had entered a new layer as small pebble stones stopped and a layer of shell emerged followed back a layer of cobbles.  Next to the new layer of cobbles is what appears to be a sandstone area.

The curb stones on either side of the part are very deeply imbedded and will an absolute bitch to excavate out.

13 July

Monday, continued to work on pavement for half day and then moved to work on cleaning back trench edge on east side to reveal matching statifigaphy to missing plan.

Tuesday, worked finds.  I sorted between animal bone and human bone from old bone bags from the Bowl Hole.  Actually found a human finger mixed into the older bags.

Wednesday, worked on the cobbled path.  Removed layer of cobbles and sandstone to find that the cobbled path discovered last season underlays our area!  How big is this path?!  Also found another medieval hobnail!

Thursday, continued with cobbled path with planning and photography.

Today, last friday at the castle.  Very good season.  Today I was on Finds.  Worked through five bags of samples. I really enjoyed this season and as I weigh my options for next summer, I am really considering returning.

Last week of excavation here and I'm sad.

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In 793 there were Viking ships in this water. 😱😱

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The excavation was really incredible and the site was in a beautiful location with the sea crashing up onto the nearby beach.  I am so glad that I was able to excavate here and again, I am so glad that I chose to study archaeology.  It gives me a chance to get out into the field but also stay in and work with records and books.  It’s an incredible feeling waking up each morning and entering a castle to work.  There were times when I was excavating the pebble path that I thought just how many feet had trodden over the surface and that I was now amongst them.  I guess it’s just like the pull of mountaineering.  To be able to go places and see things that few people will ever get to see.

On Saturday, a group of reenactors came to the castle to stage mock fights.  They pitched tents in the outerward by our excavation.  I shut my eyes and listened to the clanging of metal swords and spears as I worked.  For a brief minute, as I uncover the Anglo-Saxon world I got to be a small part of it and was re-learning what we once knew.

Screen Shot 2017-07-16 at 1.45.21 PM

 

whoa-o we’re halfway there

Hello friends!  It’s me.  Back in civilisation after a month of traveling around and living in the ~great outdoors~.  But just for a bit.

I’ve just finished week two (of five) of the Bamburgh Research Project.  I’m excavating at Bamburgh Castle aka the Anglo-Saxon capital of Northumbria.  There are three weeks left of the excavation but I caught a ride back up to Edinburgh to water my plants, do my laundry, and check up on things around here.

Just quickly because I’ll write a longer post at the end of the excavation, I’ve been working in the outer ward of the castle which was used as a manufacturing centre for the castle.  Think metal working, smithing, and animal production.  Past excavations have uncovered everything from patent welded swords to a metric fuckton of animal bone.  I’m staying in Belford with the rest of the excavation crew, in you guessed it, another tent!  And you guessed it, my back hates me.

We spend the first week cleaning out the trench and setting up for the season.  The second week, I excavated a corner of the trench which had evidence of burning aka fire cracked stones, charcoal, different colours of soils.  The rest of the week I helped to literally move a metric fuckton of soil to reopen another trench for re-evaluation.  I used some rope knowledge to hip belay buckets on buckets on buckets of backfill.

[Dad, I know you’re going to make some joke about me ‘actually doing manual labor’ in the comments.]

But it’s been fun.

I got all my marks back for the year and ended second year with a solid 2:1.  I’m now a Third Year!  Cries.  I’ve chosen my classes for next year.  It look like I’ll either have a course on the Crusades and Medieval Society or a course on Conflict Archaeology for first semester plus two required courses.  For second semester I have one required Archaeology course and then hopefully a course on the History of Tea (it sounded fun, okay?) or the Crusade class if I didn’t get it first semester and then another class in Forensics.

But anyway, that’s what’s up and why I’ve been more AWOL than usual.

things i should do

Hello friends and welcome to Limbo!

Since getting back on Sunday night this week has been a rather calm period again right before the storm that is going to be me in a tent for 35 nights crying over Anglo-Saxon archaeology in rainy/boggy Northumberland.  Picture a slightly more grotesque Gollum holding a trowel instead of The Ring and you should sort of get the idea.

This week I’ve spent it mostly inside because of the torrential downpour Edinburgh is currently facing.   We have gotten so much rain in the past week, Princes Street Gardens has basically become the Old North Loch again.  Now we just need a David Hume-like figure to fall in. (True story, David Hume fell in a bog right here in Edinburgh.)

However, on Monday I went to go see Wonder Woman.  Go.  See.  This.  Film.

I know I always gripe about DC and how their past films have been pretty shitty… but Wonder Woman is fantastic.  The acting is incredible and the story is spot on for today.  It has a great message at the end about doing the right thing and believing in hope even if everyone around you is being shitty.  It also does a great job at presenting both the female and male characters in the film.  This is a film that we’ve needed for a long time.

And, it’s directed by Patty Jenkins who is from Lawrence!  The playlist for today is just the Wonder Woman soundtrack because I’ve been listening to it on repeat.

I also finished playing Rise of the Tomb Raider the other night.  The final boss battle was frustrating af, but the overall game was great.

I’m doing some general tidying and then I’m packing for excavation.  This morning I used the egg coddler (a birthday gift from my mother) to make myself a plate of my favourite breakfast: eggs benedict.  I turned on some ~smooth~ jazz to drink my tea and write this post.  Look at me, #adult.

But today I have a list of errands to run so because since I find my days remotely interesting, I figured you would find them interesting as well.

I. I need to become a presentable human to the outside world and not forget to brush my hair.

II. Before I head out I need to put on a load of laundry or else face the wrath of the clothes monster growing faster than No Face from Spirited Away on my desk chair.

II. My disposable camera from the Road Trip has been developed so I need to run up to Princes Street to get the photos. Those (fingers crossed) will be uploaded to Facebook tonight.

III. I need to sort out the pillow situation for excavation or my neck will riot.   Thinking of getting a compressible camping pillow, so if anyone has any recommendations???

IV. My favourite body lotion, a combination of cocoa butter, oatmeal, and lavender is back at Lush…

V. The dishwasher is out of tablets and I am nearly out of milk… to the shop.

VI. Get a cup of coffee.  Or two.

In other exciting news, my writer’s block aka the constant nagging I’ve had for not publishing something again in the last six years has lapsed? Finally?  After basically abandoning a manuscript I’d worked on for years and was over 70k… I’ve just hit 30k on a new manuscript!!   I think the story works well and I’m hopeful that I can finish it.  Two words: Space Archaeologists.

But, that’s my afternoon.  It’s just starting to rain.

 

yummick road trip 2017

Hello friends it is I, your local hermit.  I just got back last night after a whirlwind tour of the UK.

sound on.

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It all started right after my last exam on May 23.  I finished my exam at 4.30 pm and then headed right north to the Bothy with a small crew to finish renovations and spend a few days there.  I’ve officially taken over as Bothy Secretary for the EUMC and the place looks fantastic.  The kitchen is now fitted, doors are hung, the fireplace is filled in, and we even got a fantastic day out on the hills for some sunny walking.  We walked the Five Sisters of Kintail, a ridge line with five peaks and three Munros.  I got terribly sunburned during the walk and basically both of my arms  have peeled off.  On May 26, it was back to Edinburgh.  I spend May 27 airing my kit and repacking.  It was a quick turnaround as we left again, early, on May 28 to head south.

hi mom! i forgot sun screen.

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Ali, Ellie, Tuva, Erling, and myself all crammed ourselves and our kit into Ali’s parent’s car and began our week long adventure across the UK.  We first headed south to the Lake District to avoid the bad weather up north in Scotland.  We may have had a mild SNAFU with the bouldering mat whilst driving the M-6.  For the first two days, we stayed at Ellie’s grandparent’s cottage in the Lake District.  The building was built in 1725! We spend one day climbing and the next day we went for a nice 17km stroll.

Then we packed up again and headed further south into the Lake District. We arrived in Great Langdale for a rainy afternoon.  We pitched our tents and I made sad sausages in the rain on my camping stove while Ellie held an umbrella over my head.  To wait out the rain we all headed to the pub.  Later that night, more Yummicks joined us at the camp site.  The next day we headed over to Shepard’s Crag for a day of climbing in the sun.  I got sunburned again.  I lead my first pitches in a right long while and it felt really good to be back out climbing.  The next day, Ali, Ellie, and I headed to the Langdale Boulders.  I saw the Neolithic rock art carved into the sides of the boulders and pitched my hammock and take a nap.  Tuva and Erling went climbing at the nearby Raven Crag.

The next day was a long haul drive from the Lakes up to Oban.  Oban is a port city on the west coast of Scotland.  We caught the ferry over to Mull from Obam.  Once on Mull, we put the party bops on and jammed out as we drove across the island to reach Fionnport.  We stayed the night at a campsite in Fionnport.  The sunset was incredible.

The next day, while many stayed on Mull for some climbing I packed up my things and caught the early ferry over to Iona.  Iona was the location for the Dinner Meet on Saturday night, a dinner of general shenanigans and debauchery.

However, Iona is also an island of significant historical importance.  In 563 AD Columba landed on the island with 12 monks and established one of the more important religious sites in Scotland.  The Abbey on Iona is famous throughout history.   And, a link to my upcoming excavation at Bamburgh Castle, when King Oswald was a boy he spent his exile in the kingdom of Dal Riata (modern day Argyll and parts of Ireland).  Iona was the religious center for Dal Riata.  When Oswald converted to Christianity, he would at some point visited Iona.  And later when Oswald returned to Northumberland and took back his rights as king of Bamburgh castle, he brought with him a new sense of Christian ideals.  It was Oswald who granted Aiden the land for Lindisfarne and strengthened the connection between secular kingdoms and the church.

So anyway, I spend the day on the island by myself.  I went for a run around the island to explore the sites.  It was fantastic.  The weather was amazing as I explored the Nunnery and the Abbey.  While I was listening to the audio guide at the Abbey, I heard what I thought was a crack of thunder.  At first I just thought it was part of the guide’s music but then I looked outside and saw that the sky had opened up and there was actually a small thunderstorm!  I waited in the 13c Benedictine cloisters for the storm to pass.

That afternoon, more yummicks made it to Iona and we headed down to the beach.  I jumped into the ocean and had a good swim around in the cold, but-not-too-cold water.

Iona was definitely an island where you could feel the sense of history.  It cloaked everything on the island with a sense of mysticism.  When I took the ferry over from Mull and caught site of the Abbey from the water, I could understand why for over 1000 years people have been coming to this island.

That evening, everyone finally took showers and we headed to the restaurant for the dinner meet.  It was a really nice time and I got a chance to see all my friends again before everyone leaves for the summer or in the case of a few for exchange the next year.  After dinner, we headed back to the campsite to change and then headed back down to the beach for a bonfire.  I roasted s’mores and then taught a lot of my friends how to make them as well.  I was shocked to find that the quintessential camping food was just an American thing.  We hung around the bonfire singing songs, telling stories, and drinking a lot of alcohol.  Lol, what did you expect?  You put 40+ twenty somethings on an island after a week of walking, climbing, and camping.  We finally got pushed out of the beach by an onset of rain around 3 AM.

The next day was a slow pack up and then ferry back to Fionnport.  From there we drove back around Mull to catch the ferry back to Oban.  The drive was long as we arrived back at the flat around 9.45 last night.

All in all it was a fantastic trip out with lovely people and a good start to a summer I know is going to be stellar.  The only downside is that it’s over and lost pretty much all the skin on my arms.

I woke up late this morning to air out my kit and write this post.  I’m just back in Edinburgh for a few days now.  I’ll be heading south soon again to start my five week excavation at Bamburgh Castle!

 

this is early bc im skipping town

This post is *technically* about a day early but since I’m getting the heck outta Dodge right after my exam, I decided to write it tonight.

And that’s second year.  Tomorrow, I have my last exam, Roman World, at 2.30 pm (to 4.30pm).  I’m a little nervous for it as always, but I am currently channeling the planet Saturn which astronomically exudes confidence.  I’ve read through my notes and my textbook, so I’m feeling pretty good.  I also figure after four+ years of Latin, a trip to Italy, and having a published novel which draws on aspects of Roman/Greek society if I don’t know Claudius from Caligula by now…    

Right after my exam, I won’t have much time to celebrate.  I’m running right back to my flat to grab my bags.  I’m leaving for one of my favourite places in all of Scotland – the Bothy.  I’m officially become the Bothy Secretary for the EUMC and I cannot be more excited.  This trip is going up to work on the kitchen and finish up the main refurbishment works so that the Bothy can be ‘officially reopened.’

Anyway, I am so glad that exam season is over.  It’s been more tiring than stressful and honestly, more annoying than anything else.  Classes finished back in the beginning of April, so it’s been about a month of waiting for my exam.  I’m the type of person would would rather write 2-3 long essays in a class over the semester than wait for an exam.  So, I’ve read a lot, walked around a lot, and drank a metric fuck ton of coffee.  Yay!

But, two down and one to go.  My archaeology exam was last Monday and it was pouring outside.  Medieval Europe was last Thursday and after I took the exam I went to the NMS for a book talk with Diana Gabaldon (the author of Outlander).  She talked about writing and then signed my copy of Outlander.  It was pretty cool.  Today, I went for the massage/facial my mom booked me for my birthday and I have emerged a new woman with fewer knots and much less dead skin.  Thanks mom!  I’ve also been trucking away on my *space archaeology* manuscript, it’s nearly at 30,000 words atm. WOWZAH!

But anyway… tomorrow I finish up with my second year of university.  This, September (assuming all goes well and I didn’t fuck everything up on my exams) I’ll be starting my third year!  GASP!  Time to start working on a dissertation and having my marks count toward my final degree.  Honours years is going to be a transition, but I’m really excited for it.  This year has honestly been amazing.  First semester I got to take an osteology class and this semester I got to use those skills on the excavation in Chester.  I can’t wait for this summer to use them again at Bamburgh and in Italy.  This semester I took a course in Medieval History which I enjoyed so much.  It really makes a difference when you finally get to take courses in things that you have a genuine interest in.

It’s been a crazy two years.  If you had told 2015 Kennedy that 2017 Kennedy would be having a kick-ass time in Scotland she would have probably been a bit skeptical.  Sometimes 2017 Kennedy still can’t believe that she made it here either.  Walking around Edinburgh still catches me off guard sometimes as I catch sight of new things.  You’d be surprised how many old things tend to blend into the city unnoticed.  Just the other week, I wandered into the Old Calton burial ground and ran into David Hume’s tomb – who knew.

But, enough with academics already.  I am so ready to finally relax this summer and turn my brain off, enjoy the weather, and drink some well earned alcohol.  Treat yo’self.

Well, that’s second year.  It’s been grand.  After my exam I’m headed to the Bothy for a few days and then back to Edinburgh and then out for the Road Trip for week and then back to Edinburgh and then out to Northumberland and then back to Edinburgh and out to Italy and then back to London and then to America… you get the idea.

dear crosby, (your room still smells like french fries).

Congrats Crobmonster.  You’re officially done with high school, well, minus the actual graduation day… But, tbh no one really cares about the physical day of graduation.  It always rains and all you do is walk across the stage to get an empty diploma case (jokes on you, your real diploma hasn’t been printed yet!)

Alright.  I figured I would take this chance to write you a nice ‘lil blogpost.

I hope you enjoyed your last day in high school, but I do hope that you aren’t in the mindset that this has been/must be the best four years of your life.  Because tbh it’s not.  It won’t be.  You’ll probably miss your friends, your teachers, and that gross but sweetly nostalgic smell of old hummus that haunts the hallways of LHS *shudder.* Keep in touch with as many or as few as you want, but, now, clean the mold out of your locker and leave. (But, not before thanking your teachers.  Dammit Crob, go back inside right now and thank those wonderful humans.)  But yeah, don’t stick around.  Get out and go.  Don’t dwell in the past, especially when it comes to high school.  No one is going to care at all in a year.  You’ve past the high school milestone in your life, but this isn’t like on a road trip when you get out of your car and and take a gazillion photos with the ‘Welcome to Colorado’ sign.  You’re going seventy-five and have no time to stop, because Cr(ur feet smell)osby, I know, mom and dad know, your teachers and friends know that you’re headed to something cooler than just the ‘Welcome to Colorado’ sign.

I know you’ve had a pretty rough time these last four years.  (I hope that at least for the first two I was able to help a bit?) But, truthies Crobula? I know you’re really scared of growing up and leaving and you think that by graduating that you’ll have to start acting all adult and shit.  Lol nope.  In fact, the people who act really adult right out of high school are probably the most insecure and worried about their future.  They’ll tell you that ‘being mature is the best thing since sliced bread’ as they sip their disgusting cold brew coffee.  The real secret, Bobsby?  Maturity is circumstantial.  Meaning you’ll learn when it is appropriate to at 2 am shout ‘Down it Fresher’ to yourself as your drink an entire bottle of Malibu while covered in 200 googley eyes versus when you need to assure the director of the bank that all your paperwork is in order and that you have the right forms of ID and signatures to be made a signatory on a bank account.  See, Crib, completely circumstantial.

Alright enough about high school (*whispers* because no one cares).  Now onto University.  I’ll give you a bigger pep talk this August but for now…

I know you’re worried about making friends.  I mean aren’t we all?  But, trust me on this one.  There will be plenty of theatre loving weirdos for you to hang out with.  It’s a weird thing: once you get to a place that specialises in something people who like that thing… *hides behind my hand and whispers* they are everywhere.  I think it’s a government conspiracy.  And for that first week of classes?  Everyone is going to be scrambling to make friends.  Sometimes the people you meet in week one are going to be your best friends, other times they are going to be the ones to introduce you to your best friends.  Either way.  Chillax, Bing.

Have fun this summer.  Hang out with your friends and enjoy having dad do your laundry.  Don’t think of it as your last, it’s just the prologue of the sequel that ended up being better than the first sorta like The Empire Strikes Back.  High school is over for you.  But, I bet you that you’re going to be sad for like 0.00000000003 seconds because I know how excited you are to start at Cornell this fall.  Congrats Bob.

Now thank your teachers and leave.

– ur older, wiser, and infinitely cooler sister

p.s enjoy the playlist. i only put i musical song it on because i can’t stand musicals.

p.p.s ur room still smells like fries.

hi mom! i’m still kicking it.

Hi Mom (and other family members who like to know what sort of weird shit I’m up to these days!)! Here’s a weekly update on my life (and a playlist of what I’m currently listening to… [does anyone actually listen to these? asking for a friend]).

While many of you are aware, I turned twenty on Friday.  My hair has turned white overnight and my chronic knee pain had developed into full blown osteoarthritis.  I am coming into my elderly age.  I stayed inside all day Friday and sat.  It was glorious.  I watched films (Mr Holmes, Young Victoria, Pride and Prejudice, Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, and Indiana Jones), made homemade cinnamon rolls with the new hand mixer my mom bought me for my birthday, ordered pizza, and drank some fancy gin and tonics.  My friends came around during the day to sit with me and watch films.  Then they went back to studying for exams.  Everyone was out the door by 9.30 and I was asleep by 10.  It was a total rager, Mom.

On Saturday, I woke up early for yoga at 9 am.  Then I came home and studied for my upcoming exams.  I finished knitting a scarf for myself and then went out for coffee to study some more.  That even I went to see Guardians of the Galaxy 2 with Ellie.  It’s out a week early here in the UK.  So, Mom, tell Crosby she better not be stealing anymore of my clothes or else I will text her the entire plot summary and spoil the film.

Sunday, I went to the Cat Cafe and petted cats.  Then I came home, worked a bit, and then went to yoga at 2.  In my elderly age, I must preserve my core strength and flexibility of my youth.  In the afternoon, I used some weird sea salt shit on my face and scrubbed off all of my dead skin cells.  Then I put some smashed seaweed on my face and sat around the flat like an Ariel wannabe for a while.  Sunday night, I stayed up until 3 AM watching the entire season of GirlBoss on Netflix.  It was very good if at times a bit infuriating.  But, I recommend watching it.

Today, I woke up at noon.  I made myself a breakfast sandwich and then took a nice stroll up to New Town to grab a cup of coffee and work on my revision.  I’m re-writing my notes and creating charts now to help me remember key facts.  My exams aren’t for another two weeks, but I study the best if I do a little bit each day.  Tonight, I’m going to hot yoga and will be reduced to a puddle of sweat.

I got the last of my assignments back on Friday.  70 on a report about the domestication of the common goat and a 68 on a Roman essay about Roman Forts.  Pretty decent.

The rest of the week, Mom, I’ll be working and drinking a lot of coffee because I’m (probably?) addicted to caffeine.  On Thursday I’m going to go pick up the two canisters we painted for the kitchen.  I am very excited to be able to organise the flour and sugar so that when I open the cupboard they don’t spill out and attack me.  It will be nice not being covered in white powder and looking like a cocaine addict every time I want to bake!

I’m in this strange stall period now with classes over and exams not for another two weeks.  It’s a bit stressful but also semi-relaxing because I don’t have any classes to go to, if that makes any sense?  However, I’ve honestly been a bit bored because I do actually enjoy my lectures and such.  So, to  combat my pre-exam stress/boredom I’ve been listening to a lot of Fleetwood Mac and searching the internet for funky fresh activities to do with my time in-between revision.  I was thinking of maybe taking a few day trips to random places but not yet sure.  I’ll let you know when I make up my mind, Mom.

Anyway, it was really nice being able to see you all last week.  Miss you and Dad and Rory and Mulan and (sometimes) Crosby.

xx.

I crack an egg into the pan and watch the clouds move over the castle.  It’s quiet here, just after 7 AM.  I had stayed with my mom last night after coming back late from dinner.  This morning, the cab dropped me off at my door and then took my mom to the airport.  I just got a text from her, she’s all checked in and ready for her flight back to America.

I had unlocked the door to my flat, took a shower, washed my greasy hair, and then set to make breakfast.  The pan sizzles as the egg scrambles.  I pick through the refrigerator and grab my sticky tub of butter, a clean packet of smoked salmon, and a nearly empty jar of blackberry jam.  The toaster pops up and I grab the two crispy pieces of bread.

I pause by the window.  The clouds move over the castle.  I spread jam on one of the pieces of toast and butter on the other.  I layer scrambled eggs and smoked salmon on the buttered toast.  Then I pour myself a cup of tea and sit by the window watching the clouds move over the castle.

I turned twenty this morning.  Similarly to last year and the year before and the year before that… I hope that I’ve grown as a person but not changed too much.

I’m not going to write a long post this morning because I generally don’t like being fussed over or creating a fuss but I will write about a few things as I sit here watching the clouds moving over the castle.

I will write about how lucky I am to be here.  I will write about how I am living in this lovely city working toward the goal I set in my mind when I first finished that museum with my grandmother ages ago.  Each day I walk to class I pass centuries of history and it still amazes me after nearly two years.  I will write about the amazing friends I have met here who have made me part of their own little new family.  I deeply adore each and every one of them and I still can’t believe they put up with my shit.

But, I guess most importantly I will write about how as I enter my twentieth year, I am happy.  Three years ago, I was a mess of anxiety and panic attacks.  Now, I’m still a mess… but at least I’m enjoying the mess.  I’ve traveled and seen so many beautiful things from around the world.  And, I have two more excavations this summer… I just have to get through exams first.

Happy Birthday.

 

 

 

 

 

Poulton Excavation

Hello all!  Today marked the end of the Poulton Research Project, the two week excavation of a medieval graveyard south of Chester.  The site is located five miles south of Chester in the middle of an agricultural field.  For your reading enjoyment (and because I’ve already written it) here’s my field journal.

April 9. 3.56 pm 

Took the train down from Edinburgh this morning.  Had a stop over in Crewe to change trains.  Read Postcards from the Edge by Carrie Fisher while on the train.

Arrived in Chester.  Will be taking part on the Poulton Research Project for 2 weeks.  Staying at a lovely flat on the River Dee.  Just staying by myself, I really am going to enjoy the next two weeks.  And!  The place that the Parliamentary forces broke through the city walls during the English Civil War and a Roman Amphitheater are just around the corner from where I am staying!  I will pass them each morning as I walk to the bus stop!  I am going out now to sort lunch and buy groceries for the 2 weeks.  Very excited to be on this excavation – medieval skeletons! Need to be on site for 9 am tomorrow and then 9.40 form there.  On site until 4.30 pm each day.

April 10. 5.52 pm

First day of excavation complete.  Caught bus to the Straight Mile this morning.  Met at the milking parlour for debrief.  The site is on a very old landscape with finds from every period from Neolithic to Medieval.  A large Iron Age settlement is suspected in the region.  We saw the finished Iron Age trench (to be filled in next week).  It had 9 roundhouses.  Massive round-houses built over a period of 200 years.  They suspect it was some sort of tribal capitol.  The land during the Medieval period (12c-ish) was owned by a the Cistercian monks who build a large Abbey in the area.  The Abbey has still yet to be found.  The monks kept people off of the land, un-intentionally preserving the archaeology.  After 70 years, the Abbey was abandoned and the land laid bare due to increasing pressure from the Welsh border.  There was a series of Welsh/English conflicts in the 14c/15c.  In the early 15c, a Chapel (where I am excavating) was built by the Manley family.  The last time the Chapel appears in records was during the English Civil War of the 1640s where the Chapel was used as a look-out for invading Parliamentary forces as Chester had backed the Royalists.

The Chapel itself is built on the ground of a Roman building (possibly a shrine to a water-goddess).  After Roman occupation there are Saxon furrow marks in the soil.  A early medieval chapel was built on the site before the larger later one built by Lord Manley.  This is evidenced by the buttress on the inside of the Chapel tower.  A buttress was a feature used on the outside of a building to support the wall.

I am excavating in the southern graveyard.  There are six of us working in the graveyard.  We have been allocated into groups of two.  My partner and I excavated through the demolition layer which included charnel bone, teeth, slate roof tiles, sandstone, and building mortar from the Chapel.  We should expect to find an articulated skeleton by day three or four.  The side of the trench has the ball of a femur exposed so either this is a loose burial or a disarticulated bone.  Additionally, a geological anomaly created soil that was less acidic and in turn preserved bone much better than most sites around Britain.

The site is in a really amazing landscape with large potential as not many excavation have been undertaken in the area due to the boulder clay soil/idea that nothing was there.

April 11. 6.17 pm

Long day!  On site for 9.40 am.  Continued to take down demolition layer.  Still no sign of burial after a few false leads.  The femur head was just that.  I found a few other bits of bone but no stratified burial yet.  My partner discovered a bit of skull just before the end of the day.  Have been excavating quickly now to get down to lower levels but unsure.  We have however uncovered a piece of 10c Chester ware which backs up the Saxon connections to the site!

The site directors are very nice and I am learning a lot from them.  My knees are sore from today I stopped at Lush for some bath bombs and will take a nice soak after making dinner… I’m thinking salmon and veg.

April 12. 6.52 pm

We have a burial?  Or two?  Articulated vertebrae and ribs were found today!  The cranium found yesterday was actually a second cranium directly on top of our burial.  We have excavated down and are currently working to recover the rest of the burial by removing the deposition layer.

We have been assigned a context number for our burial now.  Context is an archaeology word for a ‘human action in time.’ A burial consists of 3 actions: grave digging, placement of the body, and backfill.  Our feature has three context numbers.

However, our feature has been a little strange.  It also has a spare C2 vertebrae and Maxilla (upper jaw).  Is there a second burial below?  Will be interesting to see if the burial is indeed a burial/double burial/ or a charnel pit.  Many questions.  The cranium is facing east, so that is a good sign pointing to an articulated Medieval Christian burial.

April 14. 7.34 am

Forgot to write yesterday.  Went out for drinks and a tour of Chester!  The city is super cool and was founded by the Romans as a fortress, you can still see the Roman grid system in the roads.  We met at a pub which was actually located in the old city crypts built in the 11c!

Anyway, excavation went well yesterday.  Our burial is very young, probably at least three but no more than four.  I exposed the vertebrae and we have recovered the right femur.  Still no sign of the right side which is a bit strange.  Haven’t been able to figure out how the second cranium fits in either because it is too close to the first and one would expect another stratified burial?

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April 15. 10.14 am

Just seated for breakfast on my day off.  Yesterday was a quick day on the site.  First, we gave short presentations about our burials and excavations thus far.  We have continued to clean down our burial.

Our skeleton is very young – probably three but no more than four years old.  There are two extra craniums alongside the burial.  I excavated the right side to reveal that the right arm (and so the left) have been crossed over the body.  However because the burial is so young, small, and fragile we have little hope of recovering finger and hand bones.  Likewise, while we have cleaned the ribs and second cranium (to be removed Monday as it shows no sign of stratification).  We have avoided cleaning the sacrum because a phD student from Durham is doing a study about parasites found in child burials.  Okay breakfast has arrived… will continue later.

Overall, the excavation is run very well and I believe I have truly learned much over the past week.

On Monday, we will be having an osteology course in the milking parlour at 10 am.  on Tuesday afternoon, we are getting to learn about medieval archery!  I have not expressed my massive interest in archery just yet – I fear it may make me look like a bigger geek that I already am!  Today I have the day off and will be exploring Chester for a good coffee house – somewhere to revise.

April 18. 8.24 am

Busy weekend off.  Glorious weather and exploring Chester.  On Saturday, I went to the the Grosvenor Museum and saw some of the material from Chester’s Roman fort.  Next to the Cathedral, the oldest part was built in the 11c!  On Sunday, I ate breakfast, went to the Jaunty Goat for revision and coffee and then took the bus out to see the Duke of Westminster’s Estate.  He had opened the gardens for the day to allow the plebeian riff-raff like myself a chance to see them.  The driveway was long (2 miles!) and no one stopped offer me a lift so I walked.

Monday was back on site but it was raining so we stayed inside to wash finds.  We had an osteology unit.  It was very cool and we got a chance to look at two different skeletons from the site.  I clearly had not gotten a first in osteology for no reason and I was able to successfully age and determine the sex of both skeletons!

It always amazes me what you can tell from a set of remains – nearly everything about a person… but really nothing about who they were…

10.18 pm

Cleaned up after muddy day on site and ready to sleep.  Today was a typical day will be photographing skeleton tomorrow morning.  Lifted 2nd cranium today but third (the one bisecting the right femur) is still a mystery.

Other groups: one intact standard burial near complete.  Another group started as a charnel pit(?) but turned into a child burial with potential of being a double inhumation!  However, while clearing, a cranium was found inside of a left pelvis!  Our supervisor was concerned that they had uncovered a baby in utero alongside the mother!  Thankfully, it turned out just to be two more charnel bones.  Whew.

Our skeleton is just as interesting however in its relation to cranium 3.  As it bisects the right femur, the only was it could have would be if it was placed in first there is a significant grave cut which truncates the child’s burial past mid-femur so there is a high probability that there is a second grave directly below ours. A mandible located close to the cranium 3 could belong to it… but no way to know.  Additionally massive amounts of post-mortem damage has affected our skeleton including bioturbation from the nearby hedge line and compression from years of walking over which has actually smashed the skull inward.

Additionally, an archery teacher came today to talk to us about the English longbowman because the site being on the Welsh border was an important one during the Border Wars of the late 13c!  The ones that Henry V was involved in during the reigns of Richard II and Henry IV.   They have actually found a burial on site which had a large bodkin inside of the sternum!

We got a chance to shoot the bow and although I hadn’t shot a bow in nearly a year… I guess it’s like riding a bike.  The archery teacher even complimented my technique.  Side tangent: I taught myself how to accurately shoot a traditional longbow and crossbow while researching a paper on the English longbowman during school to gain a better understanding of the medieval sources.

April 20. 8.25 am

Good day yesterday.  Photographed and took levels and measurements for the burial.  Used the dumpy level and took eastings and northings using the grid system.  Filled out context sheets and skeleton forms.  Now lifting the burial and should be complete by tomorrow!

8.34 pm 

Today I lifted the cranium of a small child.  Who ever they were, I would like to hope to think they were buried with love and care as they were wrapped in a shroud and lowered into the earth over 600 years ago.

We finalised our burial today, filled out more forms, will plan the cut of the grave tomorrow. I have truly enjoyed this excavation and it has given me huge insights into medieval osteoarchaeology!  The teaching has been very professional and well explained.  And the constant supply of coffee and biscuits is always a plus.  I have learned a lot and have been very inspired to continue my study of osteology.

This excavation has really given me more reason to further my study.  Excavating a skeleton has given a sense of gravitas to what I study.  As I lifted the cranium from the ground, I thought of the people who placed the body of the child into the ground.  I know we will never know for sure, but I would like to think that this child’s parents loved them as much as my own parents love me.  I am thankful to have been able to excavate them a get a glimpse of who they were.  This adds in a better understanding of who we are, where we come from, and where we are going.

However, I know that we cannot lose sight of the humanity of the field.  We have been given a unique chance to know our ancestors on an intimate level and I feel I have a better understanding of what sort of relationship that needs to be.  The site was very clear about respect for remains on day one.  For instance we are not to name the skeletons or take photos to be posted online (which is why there are not many photos in this post).  We always have to remember that these were once people who already had a name and a life.  We will never know their true name and so will only assign a number.

It’s a funny thing really.  We know nearly everything about a person by studying their remains, their age, sex, height, pathology, healed injuries, even DNA can give us eye color, hair color, facial features… we can recreate their faces and see the past with our own eyes.  But, who were they?  What was their favourite color, food, animal?  Who was their best friend?  How did they spend their days?  That’s the rub. We know everything and nothing about them.  It’s exceedingly frustrating but rewarding all the same.

I shook when I raised the cranium, but I knew that I had to be steady.  This child deserves to have their life retold and studied, but also respected.  Science has a no many ways of helping us to know that past – without studying human remains our history will become lost to us for a brief moment the people of the past have a chance to be relevant again.  However, we must always remember with what and with whom we deal.

April 21. 5.53 pm

Today was the last day of excavation.  We planned the grave cut and took levels and then spent the rest of the afternoon finds washing.  We cleaned a lot of the extra human remains that came from the fill of our grave including the second cranium and multiple extra mandibles.  I had a strange experience when I realised that I was brushing a medieval person’s teeth with a modern toothbrush but other than that it was a solid day in the field.

I’m a little sad to be finishing as I really enjoyed going out each day and working.  Field archaeology is probably my favourite aspect of my degree.  Sure it’s fun to sit around and read articles and debate theory but I always love a chance to lay on the ground in some contortionist position with my head stuck in the trench, dentist pick in one hand, and brush in the other.  Someone has to do the dirty work to collect the data sets for the academics!

I feel like you also get a closer connection to understanding the past as you truly get to experience the environment from which the artifacts come.

Anyway, I’m back to Edinburgh on Sunday and then my mom is actually coming to visit for the week because my birthday is on Friday and she’s that sort of mom.

It’s been grand.  Props to you for reading all of this.