Leonard Cotterill provided lots of nice detail on the daily lives of ancient Egyptian kings in Life Under the Pharaohs, which was fine, but I had outgrown him already—Cotterill wrote in a schoolmasterly fashion which was okay for introducing people to the Ancient World but tedious if you knew a bit about it. Everyday Life in Ancient Egypt was one of a series of books by different authors on different ancient civilisations that were absolutely essential reading for anyone wishing explore the ancient world more deeply. But it was the exploration itself that appealed to me more, as in Leonard Woolley’s Digging Up the Past. I absorbed every word and promptly informed everyone who would listen of my ambition to become an Archie-ologist.
I was so fired up by it all that, by way of apprenticeship, I set about excavating the backyard and almost immediately struck pay dirt—old bottles, rusted tools and nails, seized-up clockwork things, tins of god-knows-what with their jagged tops, heaps of wonderful stuff. In the process I got bitten by a venomous spider which I tried very hard to ignore the way I was sure those guys would but the whole enterprise came to a sorry end when I seriously cut my hand on one of the rusty tins and was hastened to the doctor for stitches and a tetanus injection.
Ultimately, the spider bite proved to be of greater concern for by then it could no longer be ignored as my hand began to turn black. But what hurt most of all was the boot in the bum I got from Horrie as he dispatched me back to the yard to ‘get rid of that bloody junk and fill that bloody hole in’. Archaeology might have been the first ambition I seriously abandoned. Digging holes was far too much like hard work anyway.