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Trench Warfare

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            They’ve been here three weeks already and it’s been rain for most of it. On the first day Stephen almost had a panic attack because the water and mud was ruining his entire wardrobe and had to be escorted hysterically into the main cabin to calm down (alongside Alfie who’d volunteered for ‘emotional support’ and Chantelle, who was emotional support), but now he’s head-to-toe purple waterproofs and steel-capped lace-up boots and wields a trowel like a bored expert. In fact Trench 3 – his trench – is now so deep (he is paired with Frank: the muscle) that people hide in it when they don’t feel like doing any work: their team (along with Chantelle, who never does anything more physical than sorting) is in fact the most productive of the lot.

            They’ve gone from soil context to soil context scrape by scrape. Mitchell’s a demon on mattock (if he doesn’t do enough work on this, juvie’s going to find him a different type of community service) and Joe’s your man for getting a wheelbarrow up a spoil heap (they’ve all agreed Alfie built them too steep). Stephen, who thought initially that the Romans were the ones with ‘the red skirts and metal hats… omg babes, those chest muscles, though…’, can now tell apart three different types of pottery, identify artefacts in soil mid-mattock-swing, and judge the direction of a buried wall after five minutes scraping clay off the top of it. Even Alfie chips in now and again (even though it’s just interfering most of the time).

            ‘Pub’ has become less of a treat now and more of a sanity-restorer.

             Jing has spread Latin quotes around like a disease (according to Alfie, who doesn’t know any Latin). Stephen has caught on and has started to use phrases like ‘hashtag-carpe-diem’ in everyday conversation.

            Frank loves the dumpy level staff. It is an extending ruler, each of its five metal sections one-metre in length, meaning ten metres to swing it in. Alfie and Joe are less fond of it… although, now that Stephen is around to make sure Frank doesn’t kill anybody, they’ve started retaliating with spades and whatever they can get their hands on… when the site manager isn’t looking, that is.

            Jing’s fed up of washing soil out of her hair.

            Cleo can’t wait to have clean nails again.

            Rem Dogg is enjoying the three weeks of no school. He can’t get on site at the moment because his wheelchair is useless over wet mud, and, when this is all over, he’ll be the one escorting the museum tour groups.

            All Mitchell wants to do is make dirty spade puns and drink beer.

            Frank likes watching Stephen when Stephen’s not looking.

            Stephen likes ogling Frank.

            Chantelle sorts finds on the side of the trench (that they’re not actually meant to sit on) and keeps having to ask for a second opinion on flint. (Frank is resident expert on bullshitting on flint.)

            Alfie has taken to lying about on the spoil heaps like they are luxury mattresses.

            Rosie has found the most bones of anyone on site despite only having come in two days. Although she is practically his girlfriend, Alfie doesn’t like the fact she’s showing him up.

            If anyone finds a nail, they leave it in the ground for somebody else to find. They have to document nails.

            Chantelle takes selfies with the records camera.

            Alfie is constantly amazed that Jing’s packed lunches include western food.

            Everybody is all too familiar with soil.

            Whenever Fraser visits the site he treads in something. He is still glad he suggested this healthy volunteer programme… but he’s decided it’s better at a distance. Sometimes he sits in the cabin waiting for Alfie and drinks Alfie’s tea.

            Maybe careers predictions do come true after all? In any case, Fraser left a good review of the website he found the careers quiz on. He’s been recommending it to other teachers…