Back in Groningen…

Groningen 365 66

Originally uploaded by girlwithtrowel.

We ran away to Berlin for a couple of days earlier this week so I’ve just done a slightly belated 365 upload to Flickr and caught up on emails and the like. Yesterday I celebrated a belated birthday with my work colleagues, did lots of domestic things and then went to see Thor, which was rather good. We’re about to head into the city centre to enjoy our first Queens Day. The celebrations had already started last night with two open air stages in the market squares playing several flavours of dance music. We decided to give Amsterdam a miss and let my brother celebrate without worrying about us getting lost; he’s coming here on Monday instead which I am really looking forward too! I don’t want to think about M leaving on Thursday, but he does, and I’ll try to do a more academic post about Calabria then, to distract me from him going …

But now, beer, sunshine and orangeness beckons x

Calabria Redux

I couldn’t blog while I was away, so you all get a long-ish post now on what I’ve been up to. Lucky readers! Ahem…

Italy always overwhelms me. It’s a country of amazing contrasts. Massive scenery and skies, but unfinished looking buildings and roads. Old villages, but sadly filled with older people; all but a few people between 20 and 40 seemed to have left. The people we met were unfailingly lovely. Food, friendship and strong drink was supplied in abundance. We stayed in a village at the gateway to the Pollino mountains called ‘Cerchiara di Calabria’. It’s famous for its bread and bakeries. The comune (sorry, the website plays music) welcomed us very warmly, and put us in their Ostello which was a great base to work from. We worked on 4 glorious and very different sites. I was fed the very best lunch I have ever had on fieldwork (and I’ve been supplied with packed lunches by Geoff Wainwright on a memorable week in Wales!), and met some very small cute dogs, and some enormous ones that I felt it would be rude to take pictures of. I practised my Italian and my Dutch, and now keep saying ‘Ci’ instead of ‘Ja’.

There were some frustrations too; permission for any kind of invasive investigations is hard to negotiate, but the nature of the geophysical environment makes ground-truthing essential. I’m going to spend some time examining the data and writing coherent outlines and arguments for some ground truthing in the next campaign in July. We had the normal problems with getting used to unfamiliar equipment and software, but things were running smoothly on that front within a few days.

The results themselves are, as expected, somewhat fuzzy and ephemeral on most of the sites, with some great challenges to interpretation. I am very much looking forward to going back to Mainz to attack all of this with our collaborators. We had some fantastic results on our last day, with what looks like 2 structures showing up in the data (instead of the usual patches of enhancement and ‘noise’, or tiny monopoles) on a site where I hope we stand a good chance of being allowed to dig at least a small hole.

The ‘other half’ of the team had some good results as well, with some great soil and pottery samples, and some charcoal so we might be able to get some RC dates, depending on how big the charcoal bits are. I think that all-round we are seeing it as a success, and have a whole new raft of questions for the July campaign. We also got to start building relationships with our colleagues from Mainz, and with a lovely bloke from Berlin called Ron. I owe him several large beers as he did the actual surveying on the final site on the last day, covering 6 grids wearing Wieke’s wellies, getting terrorised by a REALLY big dog, fighting with brambles and slopes and limping out of the whole experience with the biggest blisters I have ever seen and his sense of humour intact.

The usual fieldwork madness applied, in spades. We got told a rather brilliant joke in 2nd hand format by one of the locals. We laughed so hard we couldn’t speak, frequently, mostly at my attempts at learning Dutch and Italian. I now know that chick peas are Ceci in Italian, and kicker erten (frog peas!) in Dutch. A shrew is a spitsmaus (literally a pointed mouse), and lizards are hagedissen. The vocabulary is at least building! I also saw loads of wildlife; multicoloured spiders, teeny crickets, snakes, lizards, all kinds of birds and amazingly, a gryphon vulture, wheeling about in the mountains. I also saw storks, back here in the Netherlands, and today, some very fluffy cygnets and lots of sex crazed frogs.

Matt is here with me for a while now, and we’ll be flitting about a bit, including going to Berlin (and will hopefully meet up with Ron there) next week. My wonderful little brother is coming back to the Netherlands for a short break from Georgia the same day we come back from Berlin, and there is the small matter of my 30th Birthday to contend with too, so blog entries might be a bit few and far between for a couple of weeks. I’ll try to get on top of the 365 pictures though; it’s something I am determined to do as well as I can. I might cheat and use some of Matt’s pictures though as he has a proper camera for the trip, and takes nice pictures. I’ll be sure to flag which ones are him!

ETA: Pictures now up at

Not a 365 post…

..partly because I have lost track of what number we should be up to.

I arrived back from Italy last night and met Matt at the airport and we got the train to Groningen. We ate Tapas in the end as we were a bit too late to eat at the other places that had been suggested, so we have Moroccan, Italian and Japanese to try out at some point this week. I’ve just pulled all my pictures off my phone and realised I took less ‘tourist’ shots than I thought. I’m not sure I have one for every day I was away either, and didn’t get one yesterday (or today so far!)…. but normal service will resume shortly. We are planning on a lazy evening, and perhaps the Botanic Gardens tomorrow, and Amsterdam on Saturday for my birthday. So far it’s just nice just to show M the city, cook together, talk about books and movies, and laugh despairingly at British politics.

I’ll do a monster Flickr upload (probably tonight) and try to split things up so that those of you that just want nice pictures of the mountains are spared lots of pictures of soil and grid set ups. I’ll also try to do a proper blog (probably tomorrow) describing my adventures in more detail than I was able to tweet. Suffice to say, the people were wonderful, the food great (if a bit substantial), the work frustrating at times but ultimately rewarding and the weather changeable. It’s hotter here today than it was in Calabria on Monday. I am really tired; I didn’t sleep very well the last few nights, and then did a lot of travelling, but I am feeling sorry for the rest of the team who are driving to Rome today, and the rest of the way back at various stages the rest of the week.

The other denizens of the container complex are having an improvised barbecue outside and we’re holed up in my little flat getting used to one-another’s company again. It is really rather nice.

Day 40- and I’m off to Calabria

Groningen 365 40

Originally uploaded by girlwithtrowel.

This is my hand-luggage, sans laptop. I hope it all fits!

I’m off to Amsterdam shortly, to catch a flight to Naples. We’ll then drive over the mountains into Calabria, arriving probably around midnight. It’s straight on with the work the next day. The next 2 weeks are going to be intense, but also, I hope, really good fun. Now I just have get my brain back into Italian mode- I’ve not spoken it much since I was last there working in 2006, and I’ve been trying to learn Dutch for the last couple of months, so this could be ‘interesting’!

Day 39- A trip to the gardens

Groningen 365 39

Originally uploaded by girlwithtrowel.

I biked out of the city along one of the many cycle paths. I was a glorious sunny day. I took myself to the Hortus Botanicus at Haren, and met a lovely chap who volunteered there for a while who offered to show me around. I saw lots of cool plants and animals, but my favourite part was the Chinese garden. I’d love to hold some kind of LARP there…. who is up for coming to the Netherlands to play L5R?

The pictures are all on flickr here.