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The Not So Wise Owl
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'I don't want to do this' thought Louise as she lay in bed.
'It's supposed to be the summer holidays, why can't I do what I want?'
She groaned and looked at the clock on the cabinet next to her, 8.30am!
'I should be able to sleep late, it's not term time, anyway it's a Saturday!'
Sighing, she looked at the yellow ceiling of the little bedroom and made a move to get up.
Pulling back the yellow and green curtains Louise was met by bright, warm sunshine, the tidy back garden below and rows of house roofs spreading out before her.
'I thought Brighton was supposed to be cool, why can't we go to the beach like
'The Palace Pier was good, there's shops and people, but no, we have to
drive off somewhere into the countryside!'
Nevertheless, she put a step on, showered, cleaned her teeth then dragged on a pair of blue jeans, trainers, T-shirt and red sweat-shirt.
She fixed her hair, made sure her mobile was in her pocket and traipsed downstairs. What a way to start the last holidays before Year 10.
'Oh Mum, why did I have to come? I could be at home looking after you.
I know you'll get better after your operation but I could do the shopping, clean the flat and still see my friends, instead, I'm here.'
Uncle Howard had already made breakfast for 12 year old Andy, who'd finished his cereal and now chomped on toast and raspberry jam, washed down with a mug of tea.
As she sat at the kitchen table her brother caught her eye.
"What?" she said, immediately irritated by the smirk on his face.
"You don't want to do this."
Uncle Howard said, "Morning Lou, what do you want?"
"Hi, just toast and tea, please."
She turned to Andy feeling slightly defensive and embarrassed.
"I never said I didn't want to go..."
"You never said you wanted to either, you want to go to the beach again, don't you?
I know you do"
"Leave it, you're annoying me you little..."
Uncle Howard interrupted. "Look you two, I get it. Andy, you fancy this but Lou doesn't. If Aunt Sandra was here you could do what you like but as she's with
your mum back in London you're stuck with me today."
Louise said, "It's not you, Uncs."
"Yeah, I know. I said I'm sorry about this but it was planned weeks ago before
we decided you'd be visiting, and I can't get out of it.
People are depending on me and I have to go. You can't stay on your own so you've got to come."
"It's just that I haven't done anything like this before and it's not really my thing."
Her uncle winked. "Got your phone and i-pod?"
"Well, you're all set, aren't you? If you get bored you've got your music and you can chat and text your mates as much as you like. Tomorrow we definitely go to the beach again, deal?"
Louise looked up at her uncle, all 6' 5'' of him.
He'd always managed to get the best out of her.
She put honey on a piece of warm toast and chilled. "Deal."
As she picked up her mug of tea she half-whispered to Andy, "You still need to shut up."
He laughed, handed his breakfast plate to Uncle Howard and left the table.
"I'll get my rucksack."
"Good boy. When Lou's finished we'll go, everything's in the car.
Take your time, babe, no rush."
His niece asked, "Can you lend me a bag for my things, please?"
"Yep, you just eat and I'll tidy up. It'll be alright."
He smiled broadly and winked again.
It was one of his little habits that she liked.
The journey into the East Sussex countryside took over an hour.
Andy sat in the front playing his PSP while Uncle Howard drove the estate car.
Lou' sank into the back seat listening to music and sulking just a bit.
Getting hotter by the minute she was actually relieved when they arrived at the destination so she could get some fresh air.
The car parked tightly to a hedge bordering a big field.
An old wooden farm gate stood open before them.
Nearby about six other cars were parked in a rough line.
Some 15 people or so mingled at the entrance, including three younger kids.
Lou' didn't see anyone her age, which didn't improve her mood.
On the other hand it might be easier to wander off on her own...
'Well, this must be the place' she thought, 'I'm definitely not into this.'
Uncle Howard waved to his friends then opened up the back of the estate
car, pulling out the three long objects each with a plastic handle at one end and a circular part at the other.
The sun beat down and there was no breeze.
Looking around she saw the large green expanse of grass. Two empty fields bordered by bushes with a hedge line between them.
Another rickety wooden gate allowed access from one to the other.
She was surrounded by a sea of green, strange for an inner city girl.
In the distance was a large farm house with smaller out-buildings.
The farmer had given permission for them to explore the fields which were used as grazing land.
No farm vehicles had been used in them for generations so this was good territory for the group's investigation.
She sighed. 'I'm gonna get sooo bored.'
Howard strolled to his niece.
He knew how unimpressed she was with today but hoped she might change her attitude if they came up with something interesting when they explored.
"Here you go, Ms. Moody, you can use my very first one, the original, take care of it though, because it means a lot to me.
Andy's got my old spare one and I've got my new super-duper model.
It's very sensitive and picks up different kinds of metallic signals."
She forced a smile, realising he was trying to motivate her but it wasn't working too well.
'Whatever,' she thought to herself, gripping the three-foot long metal detector.
"Just switch it on like I showed you last night, walk with it in front of you and swing it from side to side. If you hear a beep or a buzz you've detected some kind of metal.
Dig with your trowel and what you find you put in the container that I specially
bought for you and Andy at the beach."
With that he tossed a little plastic sand-castle bucket to her.
She smiled again, this time for real.
She still didn't want to be here, though.
"We'll all spread out across the field in a straight line and slowly walk the length of it together. Shout out if you get a hit and everyone will stop while we mark the spot.
Once we've done one full sweep we go back and see what we've found.
If we get a cluster of stuff then we'll check deeper with the more powerful detectors to see if there's other things further down.
His niece replied with as much enthusiasm as she could find.
"Come on babe, it's not the end of the world.
Sun's out, it's nice and warm and you might even find something."
'Yeah, sure I will' she thought sarcastically.
She glanced at her yellow plastic bucket, OH, shame! I'm so glad Rahila and Lee can't see this.
Andy walked up, practising with his detector.
"When are we starting, Uncs?"
"Right now, make sure you've got what you need.
Okay, let's do this. But remember Rule Number One."
"What's that?," asked Andy, confused.
"Don't step in any cow pats!"
The boy burst out laughing and Lou' mumbled, "Oh, gross."
She sighed again, switching on her detector. This is tragic.
After 20 minutes trudging through the uneven field and dodging cow pancakes
she was so hot she'd tied her sweat shirt round her waist.
She regularly wiped trickles of perspiration from her face, her hankie damp from the moisture.
Her detector hadn't beeped once.
Finally they reached the far end of the first field and everyone had a break for
drinks and sandwiches.
Then they'd dig up the 16 hits they'd marked. Actually, part of her was vaguely interested in what they might discover and Andy was definitely up for it, since he'd got one of the hits.
It was near the hedgerow dividing the two fields, he couldn't wait to return to his find.
10 minutes later they were at the spot he'd found.
Other people were investigating the rest of the targets.
Many were thrilled, wondering what might be lying under the ground, unseen for hundreds, even thousands, of years.
Andy hoped it was something to do with Vikings but Uncle Howard said the
area had been populated in Roman times and the period that came after, what
people call the Dark Ages, from about 500 AD.
He said if they found anything that old it could also come from one of the British tribes living here before the Romans invaded the region in about 20 AD.
Lou' wasn't really bothered, part of her reckoned it would probably be a bottle
top or a 2 pence piece but she stuck around to find out.
"Right, Andy, dig where the marker is. Take out the dirt slowly and I'll sweep over the material you chuck out to double-check. Alright?"
"Yeah, yeah, can I start now?"
"Sure, but be careful so you don't miss anything or break something.
There might be some pottery down there, you see."
Andy's trowel pierced the dry earth.
Lou' gradually drifted closer, not quite as bored as earlier.
After he'd removed about four inches of soil he called out. "I've got something."
"Can I see?" said Howard.
Andy blew on the tiny object to remove dirt but the soil stuck to it.
He passed it up to his smiling uncle who scraped off the dry mud for a better inspection.
"Aha! A coin I reckon. Silver."
He cleaned it more then handed it back to his beaming nephew.
It was roughly the size of a 5 pence piece.
Andy examined the coin closely.
"I think there's a face on one side."
Lou' peered over her brother's shoulder to have a good look.
"Nice one, shrimp."
"Jealous," he replied, laughing.
He dropped the coin into his red bucket.
"Uncs, can I dig some more? I might find another one."
Something stirred in Lou'.
"If you two are digging here can I try somewhere else?"
"Of course," said her uncle, "but we're not doing the next-door field until we've finished here, so what's your thinking, babe?"
"How about that tree over there? You said they're quite good for finding stuff."
"No problem, but it's beyond the far hedge of this field. We're allowed to go there but it wasn't part of the plan to do that bit today."
"Oh, please let me. You two could be here for ages and it doesn't need three
of us. I haven't found anything yet. Give me a chance."
"Okay," he said, glad she'd livened up.
"Want to use my fab new detector? You can if you like."
"Cool," she replied, taking the apparatus. "I'll look for a gap in the bushes."
With that she was off to her target.
Uncle Howard knelt beside Andy to help.
"Would you believe it, she actually listened to what I've been telling you about all this."
They laughed and continued their search.
The wide oak tree had strong branches and leaves spreading about 25 feet
from the trunk, giving shade to anyone who sat or stood there over the centuries.
She took a deep breath, wiped beads of sweat from her forehead, swigged
from her water bottle, switched on the detector and began sweeping around the base of the thick tree trunk.
Some big roots stuck out of the ground and she walked with care so not to bump the machine.
It took about two minutes, going back and forth.
She'd only got a couple of faint beeps.
She remembered that meant any objects were either very small or deeper down in the earth.
The hits were about 18 inches apart.
She was relieved she had the new detector because the old ones probably wouldn't have been sensitive enough to find a signal.
She had to admit to feeling a sense of hope, even excitement, though she'd never admit it to anyone.
That would be uncool!
She worked her trowel around the first marker until she had a hole roughly 12 inches square, and dug slowly and carefully.
On her hands and knees, perspiration dripped off her face onto the parched, grassy ground.
Three inches down she still had nothing so she ran the detector over the area again.
The beep was stronger now that some soil had been removed, she kept going, digging deeper and regularly taking swigs of water.
She explored down more than six inches with no success but the signal was
Increasing the size of the hole gave more elbow room while also removing dirt layers over her second hit.
Without realising it, she was having a good time after all.
"Come on, I know you're down here..."
15 minutes later her arms were aching but she wouldn't give up, then the tip
of her trowel touched something solid, hard.
Her heart jumped and she went for it!
After three more minutes it was in her hand.
"Ooh, ooh, what is this?"
She scraped crusty soil from the article, stared intently at it and smiled. Enthusiastically she continued to dig, focused and determined.
'This is more like it' she thought.
Andy sat cross-legged washing the pot he'd found with water from his bottle.
Uncle Howard had finished cleaning a third silver coin and was sitting next to his apprentice drinking tea from a thermos flask.
"Three coins equals a hoard, brilliant stuff my son, and that's a nice little jug you've got there.
It's probably 16th Century judging by the shape, an old-time farmer might have used it for drinking when he was working here, not like us with our plastic bottles.
Some small chips and cracks but in pretty good nick overall.
It's called earthenware."
"Can I keep it?"
"Well, we must tell the Antiquities Scheme people what we've found, especially about the coins.
That's the law, we'll ask them about the jug, too."
"Okay. I wonder where Lou' is, I want to show her."
With that he turned his head towards the end of the field.
"Oh, there she is."
He waved to her and she gave a little flick of her hand in reply.
"She's doesn't look like she's found much." said Andy.
"Oh well, I'm sure she'll be pleased at our finds," replied his uncle, hoping his niece hadn't ended up having a rotten time.
Reaching them she asked, '"What did you get?"
Andy jumped up and proudly said, "Three silver Roman coins - that's a hoard.
Plus this drinking jug. Pretty good, huh?"
"Nice, nice," said his sister, smiling back at him.
"Yes, fine thanks. What about you? Any luck, or did you end up with your
head-phones on hating the world!"
He winked at his niece, who took his point in good spirits.
"Actually, I did find something. It's in my fabby yellow bucket."
Andy rushed to examine the inside of the container.
His eyes widened then he turned to his uncle. "Look! Look!"
Howard took the bucket and stared at the contents for a long time.
His niece stood waiting for a response.
"Oh, wow! I don't believe it, was it under the tree?"
She nodded. "Just like you said, you Time Team person, you."
They all laughed and Uncle Howard suddenly pulled them together for a group hug. "I'm so proud of you two. Check it out Andy" he said, giving the bucket to
The boy eagerly fished around and pulled out two gold rings.
Each was shiny yellow, one plain like a wedding ring, the other with a small red stone in it, a garnet.
Next came a handful of seven silver coins similar in size to the ones he'd found.
Howard was loving it.
"I don't know what to say, I really don't. This is tremendous, my sweet, both of you have done great.
Wait until your mum knows about this, it'll definitely help her get better when she hears you've done so well."
Lou' said, "I cleaned up everything as best I could. Some of the coins have
faces on one side, like Andy's.
I guess they're emperors' heads, yes?"
"Exactly," her uncle said.
"But this isn't all...there's more things in the hole."
"What?," asked Andy excitedly.
Uncle Howard simply stared at her.
"Two cups and a little plate, silver I guess, and a gold bangle.
There's more but I haven't dug it out yet."
"Let me do some," pleaded Andy.
"That's why I came to get you, dummy," she laughed, "and you, Unc."
Howard hugged her again. "Thank you. You are my favourite niece, you know."
She giggled. "I'm your only niece! Cheek, come on then."
As they strode up the field she said,
"By the way, thanks for letting me use your new detector, I wouldn't have found it otherwise."
"No probs. I know I can trust you.
I wonder when the hoard was put there, and why."
Lou' said, "I'm wondering who the actual hoarder was."
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