One can’t help wondering about the fall out – literal and metaphorical – of the volcano in Iceland. Is this going to be an event of such magnitude that it turns up later in the archaeological record? One of our guilty pleasures is to video the back-to-back episodes of Time Team which are broadcast on Saturday mornings and then to watch one each lunchtime. Yesterday we watched the one about St Osyth’s, near Colchester in Essex. Some wooden posts had become visible in the creek. Investigation showed it was a dock which was abandoned in the 17th century. The archaeologists, looking at the physical record, said that some catastrophe had happened between 1650 and 1700. ‘In the diary of Samuel Pepys,’ said a historian, ‘he speaks of the great surge which flooded Westminster in 1670.’ [All these dates are from memory and therefore dubious!] The archaeologist couldn’t be sure – I mean, literature as evidence? – but said the date and the time were coincident to the wrecked dock.
Despite the doubts, it was a lovely tingly moment when we saw something which Pepys had mentioned. Everyone is blogging about the ash cloud but how will it show up archaeologically? As a thin grey layer over Europe? Or will it be a marker for a sudden change in economics, when the first world swops places with the third? Anything could happen, and be dated to 2010, when a cloud of ash finished off a culture already brought to its knees by greed and corruption.
A bit dramatic, perhaps, but isn’t that what novelists are supposed to be?
In our stories it’s good to have events happening at three or four levels. International, national, local and personal. It’s a trap, of course, since fascinating research can have us going on about such events too much (don’t I know it) but in right measure it will provide warp threads, i.e. structure to your story.
Meanwhile, we dance under silent skies.