20 February 2017


The last post. The last performance. The last time we meet. This can’t last. I’ve played before in the space of lasts. The Chicago-based Goat Island performance company came to an end in 2009, not a victim of the slow collapse of liberal global capitalism – though that would make a great story – but, after 20 years of practice, for the poetics. The Last Performance was a ‘constraint-based collaborative writing, archiving and text-visualization project responding to the theme of lastness in relation to architectural forms, acts of building, a final performance, and the interruption (that becomes the promise) of community.’ Based on the architecture of a Byzantine dome, The Last Performance evolved over two years, alongside the creation and performance of the company’s final work, The Lastmaker. The writing project and the performance evolved in parallel and shared generative constraints. I was lucky enough to be a part of it, although my contributions are now lost in the density of the dome. My chosen constraint was: Construct a last performance in the form of a heavy foot that weighs 2 tons and remains in good condition. 


Wikipedia tells me that a last is a mechanical form that has a shape similar to that of a human foot. It is used by shoemakers and cordwainers in the manufacture and repair of shoes. Lasts typically come in pairs and have been made from various materials, including hardwoods, cast iron, and high-density plastics. As my Human Seasons postings have so often been about moving, it seems fitting that last night I unpacked one of the last boxes. I’ve been desperate to reduce the heavy load in the third bedroom, an abject space that pitches wildly as though it imagines itself to be a ship on a stormy sea. Under the now-stripped wallpaper is the wonderfully fierce instruction: Fuck da police, written in bubble letters. I wonder who lived in the tiny room and whether they dreamed of sea-faring. Most of the heavy stuff has now been tucked into other spaces. What remains is a wardrobe, a box and 2 suitcases. The last large box contained shoes I no longer wear but can’t quite face throwing away. It also contained a shoe form – not a last – but from a size of shoe I’ll never grow into. Unsure what to do with it, I’ve left it in the middle of the room. Another thing to stop me from grappling with the impossible labour of making that space liveable. The last stand.


The last time that I walk into work thinking about a Human Seasons post. So I was heartened by the appearance of these little magical agents, who greeted me from the deli window. Although the fashion sites say it’s all about the men and Movember started in 2004, girl moustaches have been irritating the internet since 2008 or so. About that time, a friend’s birthday on the Cornish coast was spent in glorious stick-on ‘taches as we danced until dawn. I didn’t think about it as a ‘thing’ until the summer of 2015, when I was overwhelmed by feminine moustache mystique. A moustache on a woman or a fish is unexpectedly powerful. A carnivalesque topsy-turvy donning of the sign of the oppressor? Why would a fish wear its murderer’s moustache? Whatever is going on with them, these cute-n-coy feminised moustaches seem to make some men very angry. They make me slightly hysterical.


I arrive in the office without further moustachioed incident, though I should check that my flat white hasn’t left its own mark on my upper lip. Today my diary tells me that I must write this post, catch up on the one I missed, confirm my meeting with Hugh Brody to finalise our conversation on 30 March as part of the Royal Anthropological Institute Film Festival, fill in my Annual Research Review form for my Critical Friend meeting, read and comment on Faculty Conference and Research fund applications, book a coach to London, read my PhD student’s latest draft, check my School’s PhD theses for plagiarism via Turnitin, write the paper for my gig in Victoria next week (terrible guilt about the academic carbon footprint) and go to the gym. That is clearly ridiculous. And yet it must be. There is no last task there.

It’s after 11am now and I must crack on with the to-do list. I’ve enjoyed my time in the Human Seasons and the way in which the invitation has demanded a different kind of attention and writing. I’ve enjoyed sharing this space with a gang of people who spin beautiful yarns. I’ll miss you terribly. I leave you with Donna Summer because Spring is around the corner and archaeology is, if nothing else, totally disco.


19 February 2017

New Pier, Stromness. By Diana Leslie (2014)


Stromness artist and friend Diana Leslie paints Orkney, and especially Stromness. Wearing a marine survival suit and using a weighted easel to combat the wind she paints in-landscape, all year round. At first glance, her townscapes, buildings, boats and occasional landscapes are timeless, portraying Orkney as we might expect to find it, forever. Her most interesting work, however, captures the everyday – the people, co-op, post office and garage. In addition, these paintings are often repeated. For us, her paintings, therefore, are subtly about change. Now: old co-op, old post office, new pier.

Among the iconic line of Stromness piers, which has formed the theme for our Human Seasons blog posts throughout the year, the new pier has been a significant new landmark in the town. Diana’s painting, above, captures that point in transition, so often forgotten and ignored in favour of the static monument. Large floating cranes pile driving into the soft mud and bedrock. The painting itself may have been completed in more than one session. The essence of the moment, if you look closely, is captured even more by the drops of rain encapsulated in the surface of the oil paint.

For our last Human Seasons post, we want to remember changes throughout the year. Against the patterns of the tides, moon, sun and sky, changes have occurred, often unnoticed. Materials brought by the tide, a baby boy arriving in the night, the increase in cruise ships, house renovations, the water board digging up the street, developments at the community garden, storms and ferries come and go.

2017 marks the 200 year anniversary of Stromness becoming a Burgh of Barony. This designation meant that a Town Council could be formed and that the town could start to take control of some of its own affairs.  They adopted the motto ‘Per Mare’ meaning ‘by sea’. This year we look forward to celebrating these changes by the piers.

Sunrise                  07:34                    Moonrise           02:20

Sunset                   17:19                    Moonset             10:44

High tide         02:52 (2.58m)             Low tide       08:24 (1.56m)

High tide         15:28 (2.56m)             Low tide       21:22 (1.52m)

Waning Quarter Moon

18 February 2017


For my final Human Seasons post I return to the subject of my second -the paternoster in the Attenborough Tower at the university. At 10am yesterday I took a trip from up the second floor and and down again, recording as I went. If I had gone a few minutes earlier I would have coincided with change-over for lectures and seminars on the lower floors, introducing a whole other cacophany of sounds. But this was quite sedate, with occasional slamming doors, a running tap, colleagues greeting each other, shuffling feet.

17 February 2017


Oh dear, posting way later than I meant to. Missed all the alarms to post as I was fast asleep following a somewhat busy week at work and woke up in a coldy foggy headed panic as still a bunch of work to do.

This is my last post for Human Seasons, when I started my idea was to post a picture at the same time each day to see how far that reflected the seasonal rhythms of my job  – more office based in winter then out on site with volunteers over summer.

How far did it?

Not very. 

11 photos where I’m working. 12 when I’m not (plus 1 sick, 1 missed).

Mathmatically, roughly (very roughly) 50℅ of my awake time of my time was spent working and 50% not working. And I guess that is reflected in the posts, though it doesn’t seem particularly seasonal after all.

But saying a 40 hour average over the year hides a ridiculous work spike last summer with 170 hours overtime June-August (still with knock on effects hence oversleeping this morning) My experience of an utterly exhausting summer at work doesn’t show in the record at all. 

So if I’m taking one main thing from posting in Human Seasons has made me think one thing it’s how far sampling procedures we follow in archaeology can ever actually reflect reality. I haven’t got much further with that thought but it’s one I’ll carry with me.

16 February 2016


Growing up in Luxembourg, the only good day in grey and wet February was Liichtmëssdag (Candlemas Day), which takes place on the 2nd of February. After dark, small groups of children walk from house to house holding colourful lantern that they’ve made themselves and singing in return for sweets and money. Liichtmëssdag was originally held for Brigid, the pagan goddess of fertility and based on the Celtic festival of Imbolc, during which farmers visited their with fields with wooden torches to welcome Spring, a prosperous crop and light into their houses. It was gradually influenced by Catholic traditions and poor Brigit was eventually replaced with Holy Blasius (Patron Saint of sore throats, which I guess is quite a good fit for Feb?!).

Today’s song goes as follows:



Léiwer Härgottsbliesche 

Léiwer Härgottsblieschen,- dear Holy Blasius
Gitt ons Speck an Ierbessen – give us bacon and peas
Ee Pond, zwee Pond, – one pound, two pound
Dat anert Joer da gitt der gesond, – the next year you will be healthy
Da gitt der gesond. – you will be healthy
Loosst déi jonk Leit liewen let the young people live
Loosst déi al Leit stierwen, let the old people die
Kommt der net bal, –  don’t you come soon
D’Féiss ginn ons kal. – our feet will become cold
Kommt Der net gläich,-  don’t you come soon
Da gi mer op d’Schläich. – We will “tiptoe”
Kommt der net geschwënn, – don’t you come soon
D’Féiss ginn ons dënn. – the feet will become thin
Kommt Der net gewëss, – you don’t come for certain
Da kritt Der e Schouss voll Nëss. – you get a lap full of nuts
 (Source: Das Luxemburgische und sein Schrifttum, Nik Welter,  1929)