Posted by J Russell
I have a deep fascination with the Thames…
Doesn’t that sound pretentious? I have no such thing. Actually, I do. I am obsessed with it as a thoroughfare, a literary device, a witness of history. With the whale that swam up it, and the swimmers that swim down. With its floods and barriers, its sunken ships (at least one full of explosives), the Shivering Sands straight out of H.G Wells, and the boat that Magwitch and Pip rowed down it in the Victorian fog, at least as far as Chalkwell Beach and the Crowstone which marks the limits of the reach of the Port of London Authority.
Which leads me to mudlarking – basically scavenging on the foreshore. Inter-tidal archaeologist or no, the bottom line is you fossick for stuff when the tide is out. Except… if you don’t have a licence, issued by aforementioned Authority, then you cannot dig.
Guess what? I now want a licence. Turns out if I want to dig to a depth of 7.5 cm (basically a tourist’s visa) it’s going to cost me £70 for a standard licence for a year. Then if I want the full mudlarking shizzle – I have to serve two years probation at the 7.5 cm depth, and a build a record of submitting finds to the Museum of London. Then, if approved, I can excavate to the mighty depths of 120 cms. Watch this space.
In the meantime, I found this – too heavy to carry. I thought it quite beautiful and it reminded me of a friend. As well as all this, I sensed the ghosts of many a workman fulminating, ‘Bloody bucket!’ as they lobbed their wooden contraption with a busted galvanised handle into the deeps with a splosh. If you go, wear gloves and wash your hands.