Apologies for the long winter silence, I won’t make excuses; partly because they’re boring and partly because they’re not very good. At any rate, I’m back in Iraq and back on the blog.
Getting here has not been easy. The day before I was flying out I had an interview at the British Museum for a temporary curator job, which is more or less the job I’d like above all others. Given this, I’d taken extraordinary measures to make sure I was prepared and on time – I stayed closer to London at my sister’s and booked an earlier train than the one that would get me there in plenty of time. Alas, after 20 minutes my train stopped, stuck behind a broken one ahead, and didn’t move for over an hour. As I watched all hope of getting there on time slowly tick away I reflected on the universe’s certainty that I don’t need a job and wished that I could share it. I finally got there half an hour late after sprinting through the London transport network. They put me straight into the interview, which I don’t recall clearly because I was distracted by my brain screaming AHHHH! AHHHH! AHHHH! AHHHH! over all the interviewer’s questions.
I got my rejection by email the next morning as I was trying to pack for Iraq and recover from my hangover. It seems that the British Museum prefer their curators to be less late, sweaty and incoherent with rage. I’ve found some solace in engaging in a protracted exchange of sarcastic emails with Chiltern Railways customer services, but it’s a hollow sort of pleasure.
I arrived at Ur on Thursday afternoon and was almost immediately handed a bowl of rice and beans in tomato sauce (rice n red), which elicited a range of powerful emotions. I spent yesterday making myself at home in cell (shipping container) 47, in which the toilet still doesn’t flush. Today was our first day on site. We’ve borrowed an Italian team’s truck as transport, which has come complete with the Italian team’s compilation CD of driving music. Our progress today was to the accompaniment of Pink Floyd’s ‘One more brick in the wall’, ‘We are the Champions’ by Queen and the theme tune to Indiana Jones, which has given us some notion of the inner mental life of an Italian archaeological project.
At the site we found thirty men from the local village waiting for us. We’d asked for six. The problem was resolved in a distinctly Iraqi way by deciding that this week twelve men would work and split the wages of six and then swap in with a different twelve next week and so on, meaning that the six wages will be split among twenty-four men, thus making no one very happy but no one very unhappy. Except us that is, as we’re now stuck with far more workmen than we have work for and a weekly problem of going through what we want them to do all over again.
We managed to get all of the back fill out of the tablet room by the end of the day so tomorrow I will begin the lonely hunt.