An ill wind

A dear friend after a Turkish dust storm, and Sting in Dune

A dear friend after a Turkish dust storm, and Sting in Dune

In general, I like windy days, such as today. It keeps the flies down, keeps you cool, and everyone starts wearing natty scarves and hairdos like Sting in Dune. There’s also the endless fun of watching fellow archaeologists get smacked in the face when their planning board catches the wind as they turn around. Cemetery digging, however, is not so fun in 30 knots; hair and soft tissue go sailing off over the sand and whole babies have been known to simply blow away. Being constantly sat in the same place often leads to your windward ear filling slowly with sand.

A colleague receives the planning board slap

A colleague receives the planning board slap

Today did not go to plan in other ways, in that I managed to lose two of my six workmen in one day. First went Hussein. Being only three foot six, Hussein necessarily has the temperament of a Yorkshire terrier in a hot car, and most days can be found seething with rage over one thing or another while neglecting to move buckets of sand. The root source of most of his anger is his optimistic attempt to work a day job and a night job and not to sleep. He’s been largely getting round this by turning up (eventually) to site, announcing he is sick and then proceeding to sleep behind the spoil heap for an hour. Today Hussein, looking completely deranged, finally admitted defeat, announced he was leaving and shuffled off home to catch up on four weeks of sleep.

The second departure was more dramatic. Abdel Malek has been irritating me for weeks with his comedy voice, which to me sounds most like a man talking while straining very very hard to go to the toilet. I was just directing some particularly malevolent thoughts in his direction when he fainted just like they do in the movies. I have no formal first aid training, but calling on my fifteen years of rugby experience I directed that cold water be poured liberally over the affected area. Taking no notice, the remaining workmen proceeded with their own tried and tested method, which involves dragging the casualty out of the trench by one of his arms and both of his legs, then shaking him violently while kneading the back of his head and shouting at him to wake up. This eventually bore fruit and Abdul Malek was assisted from the field towards the doctor.

Meanwhile, I am left to face accusative stares from the dig director about how I treat my workmen, as I have to all appearances forced one of them to resign and worked another to death in the same day.

Life on the excavation pay role is brutal and short

Life on the excavation pay role is brutal and short

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