Mudlarking for Treasures — Something I would love to do.

‘Mudlark’ is the charming name for those searching for objects on the river foreshore, similar to beachcombers fossicking at the sea edge. In London, the Thames provides a Mudlarker’s heaven. Ever since the 18th century, the destitute rifled the riverbanks for trinkets dropped into the water or cargo fallen off passing boats, which they would then sell for a living. Poor Victorian children were nicknamed mudlarks, for they used to dig and scavenge in the smelly mud at low tide, hoping to find lumps of coal to earn a few pence.

Nowadays it is more treasure hunting. Lara Maiklem (well-known modern Mudlarker) says there is a division between the hunters and gatherers. The hunters are usually men focused on the outcome often with the help of metal detectors. There are territorial disputes, and the shoreline can become a battlefield. Whereas the gatherers, mainly the women and children, are there for the enjoyment of the search, a meditative process. She likes to slow down, relax, and look through the surface.
Ref: https://www.theguardian.com/books/2019/aug/16/mudlarking-lara-maiklem-river-thames-review/16/

The sides of the Thames are a vast archaeological site, the tidal stream ebbing and flowing displaying 2500 years of London’s history. Twice a day the tides flood and spill their contents, like Grandma tipping her apron out, full of bits and pieces including prizes for those ‘in the know’. 

A lot of the charred remains from the Great Fire of London in 1666 were dumped into the river and in more recent times, the same happened when the city was bombed during the blitz of the Second World War.

The increase in popularity of mudlarking resulted in a new law enforcing purchase of a foreshore permit from the Port Authority. Items found must be checked by London Museum staff, to check for first dibs. That way they are available to be seen by the whole community. 
Safety is also important due to the swift rising and falling of the tide to more than seven metres and there being few accesses for a fast retreat.

Some of the prized finds include fossils up to 100 million years old, Stone age flint artifacts, Roman mortars and tesserae (tiny cubes of stone, tile or glass utilised in mosaics), musket and lead cannonballs, gold and silver jewellery and coins. Trade tokens and bravery medals from the sixteen hundreds. Tudor beer tankards and ancient bottles. Eighteenth-century wig curlers and wooden combs. Brass weights, Victorian medallions, snuff and matchboxes. Beautiful statuettes of Hindu deities possibly cast into the river as a ‘home’ ritual. Animal bones, often seen near past slaughter yards. Human teeth in good or bad condition. 

Clay pipes are a common find with carved heads on bowls and long stems, dating back to the sixteenth century. Although reusable, they were frequently just tossed away, especially by the dock workers. Some are whole with tobacco still inside and others in pieces. 

Most searchers will come across sherds of pottery, stoneware, lots of old nails and washers, screws, nuts and bolts, knife blades, cutlery, chains, bones, scissors, pins, thimbles, buttons, buckles, studs, badges, beads, and keys. Broken porcelain figurines, coloured sea glass, blue and white china /Delftware, glass and clay marbles. Old iron, hinges, files, hammer ends, petrified leather shoe soles and heels. Parts of old lamps, padlocks, and bottle stoppers.

To further one’s knowledge of mudlarking, a variety of books and YouTube videos can be found online, as well as identification resources for the discoveries. 

There are Facebook groups as well as people selling craft articles and jewellery made from clay pipe stems and other relics and fossils which are listed on their sites and on e-bay. 

Image by Derar Al Nasser. Permission granted.

High Horse

This flash fiction is my response to the challenge photo above.

‘It’s raining on our parade,’ grumbled Torpillo. 

‘Don’t be such a wet blanket,’ replied Quel Destin.

‘Can’t help it. You know I’m expected to win. There’s a lot of money riding on me today.’

‘We all know that, you’ve told us before.’

‘I can’t help being so popular.’

‘What happens if by some misfortune you don’t win?’

‘Don’t be ridiculous, I’m Torpillo, a thoroughbred. Feisty, agile, and fast, you watch.’ 

‘The rest of us are pretty good too, you know?’

‘Ha-ha, you’re all over the hill now.’

‘You reckon. Well we’ll see.’

Race caller: “… It’s much of a muchness at the moment, but Quel Destin is moving forward fast. And watch the favourite. Here comes Torpillo. Looks like he’s going to repeat last week’s win, coming from the middle of the pack, working his way to the front. No … what’s happened? There’s been a bit of jostling there, they’ve all gone wide on the turn, and I can’t see Torpillo. Looks like the wet track was too much for this short-priced favourite. He’s making heavy work of it now. Yes, I’m afraid he’s dropped right back, and we have a surprise happening here.  It seems that Quel Destin is going to cross first. Yes, It’s Quel Destin, … followed a half-length by Effernock Fizz and Nelson River, locked together. Going to need a photo to separate them. And unfortunately for his backers, Torpillo, tailed off last.

Sasha at Boat Harbour, Tasmania in the 70s

Sasha lived in an A-framed house on top of a hill. In the paddock next to our A-framed house on top of the same hill. Her ancestors originated from the Saane valley in western Switzerland; her descendants now sprinkled the green hills of Tassie with pure white flashes. 

Goats were a commonality in the self-sufficiency world of our island in the 1970s. As were their triangular weather protectors, seen along most country roads. Corrugated iron and old timber recycled into A-frame goat homes. 

I was one of the many Grass Roots readers waiting impatiently for my regular delivery of the magazine from Victoria and Earth Garden from overseas. What creative ideas would there be this time for us ‘earth mothers living off the land’? 

Twice a day I milked Sasha. Fresh, low in lactose and butterfat, I thought how healthy this milk would be for the girls. Unfortunately, they weren’t so keen, preferring cow’s juice from Maxie Austin’s dairy down the flat. And so in amongst magazine articles, I found simple recipes for goat yogurt and cheese. I loved the sight of dripping muslin cloths hanging over the rich myrtle kitchen bench, in front of my stained-glass leadlight windows. 
Yum, the chevre and yogurt tasted beautiful. Creamy, slightly sweet, but more savoury than from cows.

I felt like ‘Heidi’ when I wandered up and down our steep road with Sasha chewing away at the young straggly acacias escaped and trying to grow in the side drain. At times, I discovered how ‘ornery she could be seeking out something she shouldn’t eat. Seventy kilos of pure white solid and hairy body with two horns, pulling against me in a ‘tug-of-war.

LOST PROPERTY TO BE SOLD AT THE STATION ON FRIDAY 13th FEBRUARY. 

Seventeen wooden walking sticks

And umbrellas from carriages

Five solid gold rings

perhaps from broken marriages

*

Seventy-four books

many of them thrillers

and by the looks 

two pocket flasks from ex-swillers

*

Three empty hatboxes 

Plus thirty caps and four new hats 

Seven pairs of coloured sockses

And two antique Persian mats

*

Sundry sizes waterproof coats

Silken and woolly scarves 

Reams of printed student notes

Spectacles, many in halves

*

Handbags, empty purses

A log of William Blake verses

Back packs and shopping bags, 

One French and two Fijian flags

*

Pipes, lighters, and cigarettes

Even a pair of castanets

five penknives, four riding whips, 

some fancy bejewelled hair clips

*

Hand mirrors left in the bathroom

One witch and a small superman costume

Scissors, hairbrushes and combs

Father and son garden gnomes

*

A stuffed squirrel with a hole 

Satin nighties and a camisole

Blankets, rugs, and pillows

Cricket bats made from willows

*

one pair of silver bangles, 

and a couple of triangles

Sixteen long neck chains 

then some old horses’ reins

*

All types of boots, 

slippers, sandals and thongs

well-worn mens’ suits

plus discarded glass bongs

* * *

Morgen E Bailey 100 Word Competition

A BOOST TO THE OLD EGO –NOT UP THE TOP, BUT SOMEWHERE THERE — ‘WILL I OR WON’T I?’

RESULTS OF MORGEN’S 100-WORD COMPETITION: JUNE 2021

Hello everyone and welcome to the seventieth month of this competition. There were 56 entries from 22 authors for the theme of ‘the tourist trap’. The winning stories are ones that I reacted most favourably to. They were clever, surprising, eek-making (in a good way), or gave me a warm fuzzy feeling (without being sickly). Sometimes a story beats another because it has a stronger link to the theme so it’s worth writing a story to the theme rather than tweaking a story you already have to loosely fit it. Alternatively there may have been several stories on with same topic so I chose my favourite of those. With any competition, much rests upon the judge’s preference and it’s usually ones than garner a stronger (positive) reaction that do the best.

First Prize: James A. Beaumont with ‘The Tower Plot’

Second place: Joan Reed with ‘Travelling Back’

Third place: Nicholas Marshall with ‘Caught’

Highly commended in alphabetical order:

David Filce with ‘Return to Childhood’

Douglas Goodrich with ‘Interplanetary Knock-Off’

Gemma Roche with ‘The Entrepreneur’

Isabel Flynn with ‘Will I, or won’t I?’ (See Below)

Jeremy Chotzen with ‘Beware of the girls at the gates’

Sue Massey with ‘We never complain’

Wendy Howard with ‘The Trapper’

Honourable mentions in alphabetical order:

Denise Bayes with ‘A Family Business’

Helen Sant with ‘Knight in Shining Leather’

Kyle Barratt with ‘Exit Through the Gift Shop’

Lestie Mulholland with ‘Parisian Gewgaws’

Liz Hardie with ‘The Look Looked Man’

‘WILL I OR WON’T I?’

She sits sideways on the top steps of the basilica. Tiny white and russet-roofed clay models of the church line up in avenues beside her. The sculptures are naïve. She is not.  

Dressed in worn layers and scuffed sandals, she hides the payments received. Her covered head is bowed, so her eyes are not visible, until an interested tourist or sympathetic passer-by moves toward her. 

Then her wrinkled hand creeps out. Points to her wares. Her other hand appears palm facing up, begging for an offering. Her body slithers a little nearer in hope. 

(Three hallow my living room bookcase.)

* * *

 

LOGAN, Lonnie – a genealogy brick wall

by Isabel Flynn 2020

Mr Lonnie Logan from Lurgan is lost

A descendant is searching for him at high cost

His Da was Lonnie Senior

His Ma was Wilhelmina

He was born in December of 1843

Baptised in January at St Mary’s of Latree

*

Little Lonnie Logan must have taken flight

For there’s nought to be found, of him in sight

After his baptism, he goes into hiding

His time from then, is spent just biding

There really are no school records to be found

It seems that he never, ever made a sound

*

Mr Lonnie Logan from Lurgan disappeared

He’s not on any census as we all had feared

He may have married Rosie O’Reilly in 1864

But we’ve not yet been able to prove that for sure

And if he did get married, we will never know

‘cos his name’s not on the register, or it doesn’t seem to show

*

Mr Lonnie Logan from Lurgan is missing

We’ve done a lot of searching and a lot of guessing

Checked in all the newspapers, 

For reports of any loose capers

There’s just nothing to be found

He’s gone completely underground.

*

Mr Lonnie Logan never ran a business

Was never in hospital, with any sickness

There’s no wedding, no filing for divorce

He was never brought up before the courts

He didn’t even bother to license a dog 

And was never nabbed for drinking too much grog

*

Mr Lonnie Logan lived a very quiet life

Nothing says he was ever in any sort of strife 

He has no listings in the Police Gazette

And was never made bankrupt from business debt

He really is a ghost in all shapes and forms

Oh how I wish instead, he’d caused many firestorms.

* * *

Listening

Listening may seem an easy thing to do, indeed a natural thing. However most of us listen with the need to comment, correct, compete or connect what we are hearing to our own experience and take over the conversation.

If someone really wants a listening ear, then we need to be able to forget about ourself and focus purely on the person talking. This way we will be able to hear their story fully. We need to be able to give them our full attention, to make eye contact and show we are listening.

Listening means more than hearing. It means watching for the speaker’s body language like hand signals, shaking/nodding head, fidgeting, or frowning. Also picking up on their natural expressions, such as sighs, moans, laughs, intensity, tentativeness, etc.

This sort of listening is often referred to as ‘active listening’.

It includes feeding back to the person what you hear and/or see them tell you, as they talk.

eg: ‘I noticed when you spoke about your mother, you sighed as if the situation was difficult for you, is that how it is?’

In the past you may have said: ‘My mum can be like that …’ and then given an example and centred the conversation on yourself.

Instead there are lots of ways you can listen supportively and reflect back to the speaker, what you are hearing and checking if you are on the right path.

You can also help them explore the meaning of what they are telling you, by asking careful questions, eg: ‘Can you tell me a little more about that?’ ‘You chuckled just now when you told me, what does that mean?’ ‘You sounded angry when you said that, is that right?’

Do you have any questions about how to listen more effectively that you would like me to comment on?

Photo by VisionPic .net on Pexels.com

Moments to Remember

We reached the third day of our journey, and, to be honest, things were not going well. The start was bad enough, when, on the drive from my workplace out west, I struck a wallaby. It’s always a shock when it happens. As they do, it leaped from nowhere right in front of me. I braked in avoidance, making the wheels slide slightly, and he collided sideways. Poor ‘Skippy’. He was fortunate, though, as he continued hopping away. My stomach was turning somersaults when I checked Libby, but thankfully she still slept. Her new child car seat was well worth the high price. My little car got off lightly too, with a dent on the passenger front side, no blood or fur.

When we arrived at my family home, Dad examined the car for me. He offered to sort out the damage while I travelled–what a great father. My dear mum was unwell in her room. Although disappointed, it satisfied me to help out by cooking the meal and cleaning the kitchen before retiring. We said our goodbyes in the morning. My brother Bill took us around to his place, where I re-sorted our packing ready for the overseas trip.

In the evening, my friends held a party on the beach. The summer sun had baked the sand during the day, making it warm to lie on and relax. We shared many old stories, plus a barbecue and beer, and the time passed like a rainbow. After a moonlight swim, we ended up spending the night by the driftwood fires. Loud bird calls woke us from dreamland as the sunrise lit up the sky and ocean. We basked in the beautiful shades of orange and yellow. A farewell, I know I would always remember.

With constant yawns and a slight headache, I got my daughter Libby ready first and then worked on myself. Somehow we missed our plane. What could we do? It meant the adventure finished there. The check-in officer suggested trying to catch the next flight leaving Brisbane. The speed limit was against us. Luckily, Bill was a crazy fast driver, and the gods shone, for we heard no sirens. Oh, no, what now? Would you believe our bulky bag was overweight? Big brother to the rescue again, paying the extra thirty dollars.

He whispered: “Another parting gift, Sis. Anyway, what’s money for if you can’t spend it?”

No dry eyes as Libby, Bill and I hugged our farewells.

“Hear that?” I interrupted.

A male voice boomed out, calling our names. We headed for the desk where a staff member hurried us along passages, through the departure gate and onboard. Libby announced she needed to go to the ‘Ladies.’ Off we rushed before the hostess prevented us. I mean, Lib’s only two and a half, and yes, toilet trained, but I couldn’t risk it. The way my luck was going, if I raked through the carry-on bag, things would spill everywhere, just as we left the runway.

Seated and strapped in, Libby bubbled with excitement from being on her first airplane. She kept pointing out the clouds and explaining them to me.

“Look Mummy…little fluffy cloud… Ooh, big swooshy one.”

Thoughts and feelings scuttled around inside me, competing for attention. Sadness, anxiety, unease, tiredness, and yet eagerness and happiness too, because I looked forward to seeing Sam again. New Guinea, here we come. Lib snuggled up, whispering her throat was sore, and asking me to sing to her. After a glass of chilled water, she cuddled into her crocheted rug, a ‘remember me’ present from her young friend. Her eyes closed, and not much later, she fell asleep. Me, too.

Next thing I knew, we were at Port Moresby. Time to disembark and claim our luggage. As soon as we descended the stairs, the heat smothered our bodies. Inside the building, I breathed in the cooler air, such bliss. We stood waiting in the crowd at the collection point. I reached into my bag for our transfer tickets. Help, a momentary panic filled me as they hid, followed by a sigh, ah, all okay again, as they reappeared. Putting my hand out for Lib, I found she wasn’t there. My heart became icy as I scanned the room. Where was she? Other people nearby laughed and pointed at the conveyor belt. I frowned, why were they shaking their heads at me and why on earth were they grinning? Someone indicated for me to check the baggage opening, and there she emerged, with the sweetest smile, riding on the carousel. Relief surged through my body, and I shook as I shouted her name and ran to her.

“Train,” she cried out, “Libby ride through flappy things.”

I settled while we munched sandwiches and sipped a drink. But no, Lib insisted, not milk, but water. Please, don’t have caught a cold, I thought. With our bags in a trolley, we rolled over to the waiting section for the next leg of our travels. Lib watched the jet airliners through the enormous windows. I explained to her that ours was a small one this time, a ‘mosquito’, with visitors and local people returning home.

It certainly was different. Two brown goats peered at us from the back to Libby’s delight. Other passengers jostled their many parcels on knees and seats. Lib gave a running description of the landscape and seascape. Hills, blue water, green mountains, and trees. The goats wriggled and bleated, and Lib turned to watch them.

“What smells, Mummy?”

One animal did not last the distance, but thank heavens, with the owner’s forethought, she’d clothed it in a napkin. How wonderful that we landed in a short time.

Tropical rain fell on us, and the air was sticky enough to chew. I saw my man there waiting, standing tall and gorgeous. Hugs and kisses all around, and Sam grabbed Lib and swung her up to his shoulders. Beaming with smiles, she chattered nonstop, describing everything: the plane, the nanny goats, and all she had seen through the window.

The airport was tiny, the terminal only a shed in a grass paddock. Misfortune, however, had intervened; our belongings did not make it. With no ‘train’ to ride on, no food, or comfortable seating areas, it was not a place to wait.

Sam said, “No worries, you can wear my t-shirts and shorts in the meanwhile.”

When we piled out of the car, a large ‘WELCOME’ sign greeted us on the door. Tears welled, and I let them flow. Sam stood back, gesturing with his arms to enter the mining company house. He wore a mischievous grin, warning us to be awake for little green snakes and frogs. Libby’s eyebrows shot up and her mouth opened wide. She wanted to see them straight away. Her father advised it would be best in the morning, to search for any hiding. The wet weather had accompanied us home and now provided background music on the tin roof. I was full of oohs and aahs when Sam served the fresh-caught fish and salad. Libby had lost her appetite. She felt tired, and out-of-sorts so climbed on her new bed and soon nodded off. At last, peace. The two of us celebrated our reunion with champagne and lay back relaxing on the lounge in the fragrant evening air.

It was strange to wake in someone else’s bedroom in another country, and I shook my head to clear my mind. Sam had written a message; ‘gone to find your gear.’        Libby crept over and pulled off her man-size t-shirt, exclaiming her body was itchy.

“No wonder you seemed off-color yesterday, you’re covered in red spots. I think you have measles!”

Sam returned at that moment and chuckled. “Lib, you are the same as the spotty coral trout we ate for dinner.”

“No, I not fish. I want to fly like the ‘squito plane with wings.”

We laughed and replied in unison, “I’d rather be a bird than a fish.”

The Normal Cycle?

I must tackle the laundry today, or I’ll never do it.  I’ve delayed washing his clothes now for five weeks. It’s just been all too much.  I’ve put aside his one good cashmere pullover to nuzzle at night when the loneliness and grief set in.  It helps.

Okay here we go.  My expensive eco-friendly washing powder, 1 scoop.

Set the dial on normal wash.  Start.

Now sort the darks from the lights just as my poor old mother taught me.

His lovely check shirt, how smart he always looked.  In go the white ones and next the pastels.  His pale blue t-shirts.  We bought two the same, good polo ones when he got the voucher at work.

Breathe.  Hang on to the machine and listen to the water running, splashing and spinning with the agitator.  Breathe deep.  Come on girl, you can do it.

Shake your head and get going.

Right.  Underwear and pyjamas in.  That’s it.

Lid down, and off.  Leave it now and make a cup of tea.

Congratulate yourself Meg, for getting that first load on.

I still don’t want life to go on without him.

I want him back.

I want us the way we were.

How can anything ever be normal again?  Without him, it can’t be.

As I sit here with my cuppa, I expect the phone to ring any moment.  It always did.  He had the knack of knowing when I was taking a free moment.  Funny that.  It used to annoy me.  Why did I let it annoy me?  Now, how I yearn for that phone call.  

Often, I would have snuck a couple of chocolate bickies; no way could I face them these days.  Eating has no interest.  I’ve turned into a sad little bird, a picker.

But there’s nothing like a cup of tea, and the sigh that burst forth, after each mouthful is from habit, though full of emotion as well, it is so good to let it out. 

Time to get back to it, love.  Go through all the pants’ pockets.  Check they’re empty.  At least I don’t get all those lolly papers he used to stuff in there. 

“Give up sugar, fat and alcohol,” his doctor said.  Well he did that, and what happened?

Only twelve months or so and that was it.  What is life when the things that gave you pleasure, are banned?  Poor Chris.  

Oops, a button in that one, I wonder where it came from?   I’ll need to check everything later to see what’s missing one.  Not that it really matters anymore.  I used to love doing any little repairs, shortening or lengthening, loose stitching, all those bits you do at home.  And he always noticed and was so grateful.   The honey, he was.

“You keep me nice,” he’d say, “not like some of the blokes’ wives, they never seem to mend things.”

Big breaths, in, hold, sigh.  And again Meg, come on.

Turn the socks inside out.  Do I have all matching pairs?  Well I do now, but oftentimes there’s one missing by the time the clothes are dry.  I wonder where those gadgets went, the ones Sis sent me, to hold the sets together?  I’ve no idea, possibly with all the lost socks. 

Looks like two loads will be enough. 

Thank heavens he put up that drying contraption under the awning outside. I can leave things out all night and not worry.  Thank you, thank you Chris, for all those jobs you did for me.  I used to badger you, but you always came good.  

Oh, how I miss you.

I’ll get the morning mail and check what there is.  So many forms and things to fill out.  I had no idea it would be so involved.   I should have gone first; Chris was good with all the paperwork.  I left it to him.  

Sometimes he would call me over and say, “Meg, come here and look at this, you need to know, if anything happens to me.”

I wonder if he knew, if he had an inkling then.  No, I don’t think so, ‘cos even when he was put on the diet, he thought he was invincible.  His doctor advised him that he’d be right if he followed it.  And he did.  But he wasn’t right in the end.  It wasn’t even the worry of diabetes. No.  Instead, a massive heart attack.  He had no trouble before, and he’d got fit at the gym plus doing all that walking.  We weren’t to know.

Stop thinking about it, once you start it just goes around and round in your mind.  Just like the clothes in the machine.

No mail, well that’s a relief.  Could have been more bills, I don’t need any more of those.

Time to hang out the first load.  Get the peg bucket and everything out into the basket.

Perhaps I’ll leave the next lot for tomorrow.

Nice to see that the sun is shining, it’ll make the drying easier.  Undies first and at the back.  

Gran used to always say, “Don’t let the nosey neighbours see your smalls”.

Shirts next.  Give them a good shake. Is that something in there?   I must have forgotten to check shirt pockets.  I’m getting so forgetful lately.  Marge says it’s a part of grief.  I’ll take that.  What can I feel?  Stuck right down there in the bottom stitching… his St Christopher medal?

Doc said it was a good idea to take a few naps, and I’ve been following his advice. Turn the phone off and have a lie down.  I suppose I should be answering all the condolence cards, but it’s still too hard.  No, a sleep sounds much better. 

I do feel slightly more energetic now after the shuteye. Not really hungry though.  Best grab something, that’s what they all tell me. Strange thing, how everyone is now worried about my health.  Maybe a slice of cheese and a cracker and then some spoons of yogurt.  I think I can manage that. 

Time to check the washing.  Well fancy that, its dry.  I guess the sun and then the wind coming up has done the trick.  Now I see where the button’s missing.  Off his check shirt.  When he bought it, he wasn’t sure about the colour, light pink and blue.  I said they’re only tiny checks, Chris. 

But he was concerned, “men don’t wear pink” 

Rubbish I said, that’s an old-fashioned idea. 

“Boys blue and girls pink” he said.

It looked so nice on him that he had to agree.  No-one ever commented on the colour, so he adjusted, and, in the end, it was his favourite, and mine.

Unpegging it from the line, the left sleeve wraps around my back, the right one reaches out to take my hand.  We move into a slow dance circling around the patio and I snuggle my face into his collar. 

Oh Chris, home in your arms again.