The Stupid Brothers Have A Winner
© Mark Gatter, 2005

It's been a quiet Christmas, for which I must in part thank fellow Stupid Brother, Martin Savage, for deciding to go somewhere warmer for the holidays. Florida was the final choice, from which he returned just before the New Year - slightly tanned (bastard!) and at least 12 lbs heavier (serves you right, mate!).

I think there should be laws against people walking around with suntans in December and January. I mean, it's despicable. The rest of us huddle around the fire, hardly daring to venture forth with a detector in case we're found frozen, days later, like a sort of sculpture in a distant field. I can just imagine the epitaphs -

'Fancy that, his batteries went flat, and that was that.'

Or perhaps,

'He froze sometime round about seven,
But let's not just stand here and weep.
Remember, there's Minelabs in Heaven,
and whatever you find there, you keep!'

But I digress. I'd talked with Martin since his return, but we hadn't been out detecting together as he needed to immediately fling himself back into his work, more or less. Probably less, knowing him. So instead, I'd ventured forth with Weymouth and Portland Club El Presidento, Paul Rainford. We were quite near to Dorchester, in a field that is visible from the nearby road. I'd been there earlier in the week with another Club member, Kevin McNie. That day I hadn't found much, and the wind was bitterly cold, so I wandered over to Kevin in order to suggest to him that we should move to another location not quite so exposed to the elements - the nearest pub, perhaps - but discovered to my dismay that he'd had the cheek to find a beautiful Charles I shilling! In my field! How dare he…I decided to shut up about the pub and kept detecting, and a few minutes later had been amply rewarded with the find of a nice little Roman bronze coin - and a small gold wedding ring, more of which a little later on.

Paul and I wandered up and down, battling through lucerne stubble that was both thick and tall. This is not my favourite stuff, but at least it's better than maize stubble, which tends to restrict my swing to 6 inches to the left, 6 inches to the right, and so on. However, by the end of December, most stubble has rotted through at the roots, so you don't have to be Arnie to deal with it. Still, it gets tiring after a while. We'd been wading around in there for a couple of hours when I heard a loud 'Oy!' from near the gate.

Sure enough, it was Martin. Full of beans, as usual, and raring to go. He clambered through the fence - three strands of good, British barbed wire - thus cleverly ignoring the nearby gate, and limped in our direction. 'Saw you from the road', he announced. 'Found anything good yet?' I explained that we'd only been there for a couple of hours, barely enough time to qualify for a pewter button between us. 'Didn't think so,' he laughed, 'I could tell from the way you're both dragging yourselves around. Shall I get my detector out and show you how it should be done?'

This, under normal circumstances, would have been a fine idea. However, my agreement with the landowner was that I could only bring one other person with me...and Paul, fairly obviously, was already present.

I explained the situation to Martin. 'No problem, I understand completely,' he replied. 'I'll just leave you two selfish, miserable bastards out here in the stubble and go and find something good. I'll probably curse your families for seven generations while I do it, just for fun.'

Once again, I found myself immensely cheered by the camaraderie that exists among my fellow metal detectorists. Where else would you find such unstinting good humour in the face of adversity, except perhaps on the examining bench of a murder trial during the early 1500's, or perhaps in the dungeons of the Spanish Inquisition? Muttering (spells?) to himself, Martin headed back towards the fence.

Paul and I tottered around for another hour or so and came up with a grand total of...nowt. A pity, as it was likely to be my last spot of detecting for 2004. Martin and I had been keeping score - in a light-hearted way, I hasten to add - and unless he managed to find something really exceptional in the next 24 hours I would finish slightly ahead in our hammered coin count for the year - 23 to his 19. Additionally, as well as the ring mentioned above, I'd found another one earlier in the year. Oddly enough, although they were found about 10 miles apart, both have the maker's initials of 'WE' stamped on them, and both also have an anchor hallmark, identifying them as having been assayed in Birmingham. One dates from 1832, and the other from 1859. I already thought that the earlier of the two might have been made by William Eley, a famous silversmith of the time, although as far as I am aware he stopped working sometime close to 1830, and was based in London for his entire working life. It seemed even more unlikely that the second ring could also be one of his. So, I'm stumped. If any readers can shed some light on the question, I'd love to hear from them.

Despite returning empty handed on this occasion, I'm happy to say that even on the days when I don't find anything at all it doesn't get me down. After all, I'm free to wander around in some of the most beautiful countryside anywhere in the world. I see deer, badgers, foxes, all kinds of birds, and more. I can sit in the shade of an ancient hedge and just...sit. Treasure? It's all around us. And very occasionally, some of us are lucky enough to dig some up, as well.

Arriving home in good spirits, I was surprised to find a message from Paul already clogging up my answer phone. Not the most coherent message anyone has ever left me, either (- it's best if you hold the phone near your face, Paul). As far as I could gather, he appeared to be telling me to check my email. Accordingly, I dialled in...and found myself looking at two emails from Martin.

The first read 'Back, and kicking butt' and was accompanied by a photo of a beautiful George II guinea. The second just read 'More butt,' and carried a photo of the reverse of the same coin.

I have to hand it to him. It's not a hammered coin, nor is it silver - but who cares? It's lovely, and I wish I'd found it.

When I spoke to him later that afternoon he told me that he'd more-or-less decided to head home after leaving us in the field, but along the way he happened to drive past some land he hadn't detected on for ages. 'Mostly it's just really long grass,' he explained, 'but the farmer ploughed it back in the Spring. I noticed the other day that he had a load of cows in there, but as I drove by I realised that it was empty - he must have them inside now, for the winter. Anyway, they left the grass shorter than I'd ever seen it, so I thought I'd give it a quick dibble. This (the guinea) was only about an inch down - I could probably have found it with a broom!'

Final score? The official results for Stupid Brother Detectorist of the Year are as follows: Martin gets the gold, I get the silver...

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