|The Stupid Brothers Go Roman
© Mark Gatter, 2004
|A couple of weeks ago I’d arranged
to meet with (fellow Stupid Brother) Martin on a nearby farm. We’d
had our eye on it for a while, and Martin, oddly enough, had the good
fortune to meet the farmer a few days beforehand - the cunning fellow
had actually gone and knocked on his door! Now, I know this may seem like
a dangerous thing to do - indeed, I know quite a few people who have been
detecting for years and have not yet done it - but believe me, it’s
not that hard. The fact is, most people would rather be polite and pleasant
to you than otherwise, and farmers are no exception. Well, not usually,
Actually, come to think of it, I’m AMAZED that people find door-knocking so hard to do. I mean, metal detecting sort of requires it of us, don’t you think? After all, if you never go out and get land yourself, it means that you’re always going onto land that other people have provided. It’s a bit like never buying a round in the pub. After giving this due consideration, I decided that a short course in door-knocking might be a good way to begin this piece.
For those of you who are used to this activity, please feel free to skip the next bit. Otherwise, may I humbly suggest that for those who haven’t yet tried this unique - even daring - approach to the Worlds’ Greatest Hobby, a fairly good way to proceed might be something like this:
1) Find a field you like the look of. This is quite important.
OK, now that’s out of the way. We may now proceed.
Martin, it turned out, was covered in pink spots. “Good grief”, I stuttered, “are you OK?” “Oh, yes”, he laughed, “it’s only hay fever”. I couldn’t help but think that’s no doubt what the early victims of the Black Death told each other, just prior to collapsing covered in vile purple warty things. “Right-o”, I replied, cautiously stepping back a few feet. “Is it contagious?” “What? Oh, no - it’s just that I normally get my hay fever pills from Allie (his daughter, Alice) and she changed her brand. And the new ones give me spots”. As I couldn’t think of anything to say about that (except perhaps ‘wouldn’t you rather have hay fever?’) I suggested that we do a little detecting. So off we went.
Martin, I should like to point out, sings while he is detecting. I’m not even sure he’s aware of it (though he will be when he reads this), but from time to time he sends a disembodied line or two warbling across the fields. Headphones have a habit of making some people act as if they had suddenly gone deaf: they fool them into thinking that they need to shout in order to be heard, and /or that if they sing nobody else can hear them... Hiya, Martin!
After an hour, nothing was happening. The usual Stupid Brothers afternoon out, I found myself thinking. Nice farm, lovely field, dose of spots, no finds. Still, it’s good to be out here... Perhaps I was thinking out loud (fooled by my headphones?) as Martin almost immediately wandered across. “How about a quick look in that field up by the road?” he suggested. “I’m not getting anything here, and I had a couple of roman grots in that one the other day. I bet I left a few behind”. Grots? Great! Why not. On a bad day, grots are better than...spots? Off we went again.
Half an hour later, the score was Martin: 8, Me: 0. And boy, was he happy. None of his finds were great, but they were all 3rd-4th century Roman, and all had reasonable detail. “Don’t worry, you’ll find some - eventually!” he chortled. “Are you sure you turned your machine on? It really helps!”
Humph. I veered determinedly off to the left and suddenly got a really good signal. I was surprised to find that I had to dig nearly a foot down before finding the cause, as I didn’t think my machine could pick up coins that far down. Out came a truly beautiful follis, fresh as a daisy and twice as big. Although the inscription implies that was minted for Maximianus, I have it on good authority that it is in fact a coin of Gallerius. Maybe he was having trouble remembering his name... Martin, to his credit, was delighted for me. He already has a large collection of good Roman coins, many of them silver, but this (as he knew) was my first really decent ancient coin. I suppose that it had managed to escape the ravages of the plough through laying just a little too deep, though sometimes it must have been a close call. Gloating over, no sooner had we decided to carry on detecting when car drove into the field and headed our way. Martin, having met the owner before, immediately recognised him at the wheel and walked over, a big smile on his face and a bunch of Roman coins in his hand. A few words were exchanged, then the car turned and drove away. Martin looked at me, dejectedly. “Well, that’s that,” he sighed. It turned out that this particular field had just been rented out to a third party, and the owner was afraid that our detecting activities might dent his rental agreement! So we had to leave...for now. Nevertheless, we’d managed to pack a lot into 30 minutes! The next step will be to find the new tenant. We will then apply the door-knocking technique, with an added variation: “Hi - Mr. Farmer, the owner, gave us permission to detect on the field you just rented from him, but he wanted to make sure that it was OK with you, too...”
What do you think he’s going to say?