Tuesday, May 20, 2008

And Even More...

You may recall that a few months ago I was delighted to report that my son Alex got a placement for his work experience week with the University of Reading History Department. If you missed that blog entry, basically every young person in England does one week’s work experience in Year 10. Finding a placement can be quite a challenge, and often parents are required to help source a placement for their child. Because of the deaths of my parents in the last few months, I really was not able to help Alex find anything and so was quite worried that he would end up replenishing the shelves in a grocery store somewhere. Now I do not mean to offend anyone who stacks shelves, but it is just not a very interesting work placement for a fifteen year old boy. To my great delight, Alex was offered a placement with the University of Reading. I was told that the placement was not at their main site, but rather at a satellite site a few miles away. I said it did not matter, and that I was happy to drive Alex there and back. When I queried the nature of the work, the lady from the education authority said it would involve looking at and categorising artefacts. It sounded amazing and both Alex and I were delighted.

Not long ago, I realised we had not had any further information about the work placement and as it is coming up in July, I was beginning to be concerned. Imagine my relief when a letter arrived this afternoon from the education authority!

Or not, as the case may be….

It turns out Alex’s work placement is on an actual excavation site in a place called Silchester, not far from here. Alex is not a real outdoors, get your hands dirty kind of kid, so this was a bit of a surprise. We were both reassured when the letter stated that placement students under the age of 16 are not allowed in the actual excavation trenches for health and safety reasons. So there is only one problem with this assignment, which is actually a brilliant one and could be totally fascinating if the British weather cooperates and Alex does not have to spend an entire week soaking wet and cold. The problem is this. Alex is not so keen on the part of history that involves bones.

Sadly, the excavation site he is going to is called Calleva Atrebatum. When I Googled it, the first entry I found translates Calleva Atrebatum. It means “City of the Dead”. Fantastic.

It’s really important Alex does not find that out, or it is going to put him off terribly. Unfortunately, part of the work experience experience involves going for an interview which Alex will have to do in the next couple of weeks. So he will need to prepare for said interview by doing research on the internet. I’m in big trouble.

I’m going to spend a lot of the next few weeks trying to emphasize that part of history which involves artifacts, and not bones. I’ve already started going on about the coliseum and the amazing architectural finds. Alex is on to me though. He has a ringtone on his phone that has sirens and a voice saying “Bulls**t Alert” when he sets it off. Strangely enough it went off twice during my conversation with him about the work placement! Hopefully he’ll be able to see past all that and really get into the super opportunity this is. It’s one I would have been eager to accept during my “I want to be an archaeologist phase”. It lasted about two years in my early teens, until I realised that you needed patience by the bucketful to be an archaeologist – and patience has never been my strong point. And I have to admit, I was put off by the bones and death side of it as well. Poor Alex!

On the plus side this is an amazing excavation site. If you want to have a look, just Google "Silchester" or "Calleva Atrebatum". As for me, I’m off to find some websites that are big on the architectural side of Calleva Atrebatum, and not quite so big on translation!

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