Fran Sibthorpe Oral History Transcript
Interview with: Fran
Date: 15th August 2019
Interviewer: Gill Evans
Q: Okay, so this is an oral history interview with the mudlarker Fran Joy, by Gill Evans on Thursday the 15th of August 2019, and also present are.
Q1: Duncan Wood.
Q2: And Eva Tausig
Q: And the interview is taking place as part of the Thames Festival Trust Foragers of the Foreshore Heritage Project. So would you mind telling me, to start off, with your full name and possibly your date of birth.
A: My full name is Fran [Sibthorpe 00:00:28] and my date of birth is the 26th of July 1961.
Q: And where were you born, where did you grow up?
A: I was born in South Croydon and I grew up in Loughton.
Q: And what subjects were you interested in when you were at school?
A: I was interested in art, history, English language, and music.
Q: Perfect combination for a mudlarker. So what’s your work and what does a typical week look like for when you’re not mudlarking?
A: I work as a freelance project facilitator, and I also work for a charity at the Royal London Hospital doing their finances, and also photographer and writer.
Q: Gosh, everything that’s needed.
Q: So can you tell me how long you’ve been a mudlarker?
A: Officially I’ve been a mudlarker for two years.
Q: Is that with your licence?
A: With my licence, yes.
Q: Yes, yeah, but before that?
A: Before that I did one or two episodes of I would say beachcombing, rather than mudlarking.
Q: Right, what got you started?
A: What got me started was I was working at the Royal London Hospital, and one evening a group of us went, decided to go to the Prospect of Whitby for supper, and we saw a small passageway leading down to the River Thames and because it was a really lovely sunny evening we decided to go down there together, and we went down the narrow steps and we came to a sandy stony beach and we started to walk along and I started to notice in the foreshore blue and white shards or pieces of pottery which I started to pick up and then I just had a small handful of those. And then sometime later I discovered them at home in the plastic bag and then I thought, well I wonder if there’s anymore or what else is down there.
Q: Yes, yeah, there on, yeah.
A: So I was hooked in.
Q: So what keeps you going back to the river to find more of that, or?
A: No, for me it’s multifaceted really. I’ve decided that you can, if you’re not careful, focus on looking for history and treasure and finds. I’ve noticed when I go down there it’s you can switch off but I notice that you’re there with nature, you’re there with the ducks, you’re there, I saw a fox the other day, you see all sorts of different species of birds down there, and I started to find it quite fascinating to be amongst them. For instance, one episode was I was on my own on the foreshore, I was so engrossed in what I was doing, I was bending down and when I went to get up I was completely surrounded by Canada geese.
Q: Oh wow, extraordinary experience.
A: So it was a really humbling experience, and for me it’s very important to share the foreshore with, you know, nature.
Q: Yes, so that’s very much part of the whole thing, yeah.
Q: Yes, yeah, so do you have a particular time of day that you like to go down?
A: I like to go down first thing in the morning, I find that it’s for me that’s the good part of the day for myself, but it doesn’t have to be beholden to that, I can go throughout the day.
A: Beginning of the morning certain areas on the foreshore you start to get to know the community, you start to see the runners out, I’ve got quite a good rapport with one of the local ladies who’s got two dogs, one day I helped to walk one of the dogs, and also for the toilet facilities, we forget about that, but actually it’s really good that she was willing that if I need to use the facilities that I can knock on her door.
Q: Yeah, no, that’s quite a consideration if you’re a regular isn’t it actually, yes.
Q: And have you got a favourite time of year when you go down?
A: Not particularly, no, it doesn’t affect me, it’s not a seasonal thing, no, no.
Q: No, so do you go to the same spot usually, it sounds as if you do.
A: Usually I do go to the same spot, although I have been to other areas, and also it depends on the safety aspect, because you know, according to the policies and procedures that it’s suggested by the Port of London that certain areas shouldn’t be accessed on your own, you should go with others.
Q: Yes, I was going to ask, do you go by yourself usually though, or do you go in a group sometimes?
A: I usually go by myself, but I have been with groups and I’ve also been with somebody else, about three or four times a year been with somebody else and we go together to unusual areas on the foreshore, we have a few adventures.
Q: And do you feel you’ve got to know the spaces where things turn up or is it not as straightforward as that?
A: There are certain areas that you know of that there’s, there will be finds, but however you can get caught out if you think that’s the only places you need to spread your areas, because you know, there are other areas that you can find things, so it can be unpredictable, so you have to expect the unexpected.
Q: Yeah, of course, and stay minded I suppose about every possibility and things?
Q: Yeah, that’s interesting. So how do you get prepared to go mudlarking, have you got a routine or a ritual or a--,
A: I have [laughs].
Q: Tell me about it [laughs].
A: Well I usually get my bag ready the night before, with gloves and things like that I will need, tissues and sometimes wipes, and antiseptic and things like that, and I have a set of keys which we call the fireman’s keys, and I was introduced to these keys from a colleague of mine who kind of suggested that if we go or if I’m by myself going into certain areas that need, when you come off the Thames foreshore have gated areas up the top of the stairs, or a slope, it’s very good practice to have a set of fireman’s keys which will open the gates, unpadlock the gates and then you’ve got access out to the streets or wherever.
Q: Yeah, of course.
A: So I make sure I have those.
Q: Where did you get them from?
A: I got them online [laughs], yes, got them online.
Q: Oh interesting.
A: The other thing is I have pen and paper, all the sorts of things, drinks, and I make sure that my mobile phone is topped up. And sometimes occasionally I carry my camera, but also always try and record on a piece of paper, or sticky label that the tide times and things like that because that’s very important, because the tide times are an approximation, they’re not always factual.
Q: Yes, research all of that.
A: So you have to research all of that and obviously tell somebody where you’re going.
Q: Yeah, how often do you go mudlarking then?
A: About once a fortnight, occasionally weekly, so it can be, you know, quite regularly really.
Q: Yeah, and stay out for how long sort of thing would you?
A: I stay out for about, depending what I’m doing, if I’m going to work I can stay out a couple of hours, if not I can stay out for about four hours.
Q: Yeah, get carried away really can’t you, yes.
A: You can do, yes, you can do, or you meet other people, yeah.
Q: Yeah, so you said about having some experiences with your friends and things, what kind of experiences have you had, that you can tell [laughs].
A: Well one day my colleague and I we thought we would try further down towards the Vauxhall and Battersea area, and at the moment there’s a big drain being installed so the actual steps to the foreshore has been blocked off. So we thought we would like to access, ‘cause there’s quite a wide expanse of foreshore so we thought we’d like to access that. So we decided to meet up and just along the walkway there is quite a high wall, quite wide, and a ladder down to the foreshore, which is quite a sheer ladder and it’s quite narrow, and so we thought we would do that, but it was just negotiating from the wall and spinning ourselves around and then with our feet finding the ladder which was a bit sort of like kamikaze. And then from there gradually lowering ourselves down to meet the first part of the rung of the ladder. So that was a bit unnerving, and also because the rungs on the ladder are very thin, you know, being careful getting down and obviously with our backpacks and things, so it was, we managed it, you know, very slowly between us, yeah.
Q: A bit terrifying, and did you go back up the same way as well then?
A: We did, yes.
Q: And was that okay, still--,
A: That was easier, if you didn’t look down, because on the bottom was concrete, so yeah, so that was a bit of an adventure, yeah.
Q: Yeah, it sounds it actually, that sounds quite challenging I have to say [both laugh]. So are there particular things now that you look to find, you said you found the blue and white pieces first of all, do you go for particular pieces, or?
A: No, I think for me I quite like that, you know, unusual things I find. I find all my things by eye, I don't use a metal detector or any sort of mechanical implement, so it is literally getting down to look or just standing looking and taking time to look. And sometimes I do a little bit of scraping but not the, you know, the huge amount, it’s just the surface, so that’s what I do.
Q: Yeah, and what do you do usually with the things you find, do you--,
A: Well the things I usually find, if they’re really muddy I usually sort of rinse them if the--, you know, rinse them in the water, in the River Thames, sometimes I can just take the sand from them with my gloves on, and then I just put them into little poly plastic seals. I don't have a pot as such, I just put them in there, and put them in my bag if they’re anything of interest, so I have a few of these usually with me and a plastic bag.
Q: Yeah, and then do you look them up when you go home or do you, have you got people to ask about things, what do you?
A: Sometimes on the foreshore you meet other mudlarkers and you can ask them, you know, what do you think of this, or have you seen this before, can you identify it. Or sometimes I go to local pub, we sometimes meet up if there’s a group at the local pub or find somebody there when I’m passing and ask them if they know what the find is, so there’s always somebody, and then I’ve got, I have a routine appointment with the--, Stewart, at the--, the Finds Liaison Officer at the Museum of London so I go and see him sort of like four times a year, so I can take things along.
Q: Oh right, that’s really good to do that, it’s nice to have a conversation isn’t it about it?
A: Yeah, so it’s nice to take selected pieces along and he will talk you through the pieces and then the things that they’re interested in retaining for the moment, they make a note of and then you sign them out and then you get them back in about three or four months’ time.
Q: Oh right, and have you done that quite often then?
A: I’ve done it twice now, twice, yeah.
Q: Oh right, what were they?
A: I had an unusual Chinese floral marble, I had a copper alloy matrix seal with initials GM on, I’ve had Elizabethan silver coin, various tokens and coins.
Q: Right, yes, and then they come back to you afterwards?
A: Yeah, they come back, yeah, they’re--,
Q: With a bit more information kind of thing?
A: Yeah, what he does is he formally identifies them, he measures them, weighs them, and photographs them in various sort of situations, and then he puts them on his database and also whether you’ve found them by eye and actually location as well, and then he’ll put a link on similar finds or he’ll tell you if they’re--, you can ask them if they’re quite rare.
Q: Yes, yeah, that’s nice, so you’re on record, it’s all there as well, it’s rather a nice experience I should imagine.
A: It is, yeah.
Q: Yeah, and you’re a photographer as well aren’t you?
Q: So that’s another access to all your pieces isn’t it?
Q: So do you share online, what do you do to like, to share the excitement of things that you’ve found with people?
A: Well I set up an account on Instagram and that is my portal for sharing most of my work, and I have a website, but for the most it is through Instagram.
Q: Yeah, and that’s quite handy I suppose because people can make other suggestions about what you’ve found and things too, does that happen a bit or--,
A: Yes, they do, it’s really good, it’s almost instant, and you’ve got a global audience as well, which is really good, and people are interested, and they ask questions, you know, where did you find, or you know, they’ve got a similar one, or they’ve not seen one like that before, they comment about the state of the find, whether it’s in good condition. And what I try and do is when I take a photograph of it on the foreshore I try and put it in context, so I try and lead a border around the actual find so that people can actually look and see, you know, where it was found within the context of the foreshore, or sometimes if it’s really small sometimes I just put it on my finger, tip of my finger and then take a picture.
Q: That’s handy as well isn’t it, to know the scale of something and that.
A: And then if it is really small I sometimes put a penny next to it and then they can get the context of, you know, the scale of it.
Q: Yes, yeah, and do you share the objects with friends and family as well or are they not interested or--,
A: I do, I do, my family’s interested, some of my friends are really interested. At home I do have a coffee table which has little compartments in and glass that covers it so it’s really ideal to exhibit my pieces so that everybody can see it when they come through the door, and actually it’s a really good talking piece, I think sometimes people come to see me to see if I’ve found anything [all laugh]. My neighbour says to me, you know, “Hi Fran how are you, have you found anything recently?” so the neighbourhood’s interested at home.
Q: That’s really nice isn’t it, to get everybody sort of involved, the coffee table sounds brilliant actually.
A: It is, it’s a really good idea.
Q: So you’ve brought some things along today particularly that you would like to talk about and they look absolutely tiny and intriguing, can you tell me about them?
A: Yeah, the pieces, the four pieces in particular I brought today are very, very tiny, and I wanted to deliberately demonstrate that, you know, the eye is amazing, and that all these little pieces I found by eye, so I’ve not used any metal detectors or any device to locate them. And most of them, with exception of two, were found without scraping, so they were on the surface of the foreshore. The first piece is a tiny, tiny yellow metal filigree piece which is almost like a flower, and it’s very, very fine work, it’s got tiny, tiny little segmented areas around which are almost done with yellow wire, and the middle bit is sort of like a blob of metal, and when I did find it I thought it was a tiny, tiny bit of sweet paper, gold foil, so I was quite--,
Q: Yeah, that’s what it looks like I suppose.
A: That’s what I thought it was so I thought I’d take it home, so I took it home and then I forgot about it for some time and came across it again, and then I had a really good magnifying glass and I had a look through and I was pleasantly surprised.
Q: ‘Cause I can’t even think what to compare it with, it’s so tiny.
A: It’s extremely tiny, it’s about four millimetres wide, by about three millimetres.
Q: Just absolutely tiny, and it looks through the magnifying glass so beautifully done, an incredible piece of work, so what do you think it is?
A: I think it’s either come from a very elaborate pinhead, or something like that, or a brooch, or something like that, something adorning, because it’s so tiny and so delicately worked, that I think that’s probably what it is.
Q: It’s very well done isn’t it, it’s very carefully done, incredible piece, and have you any idea how old it is or anything?
A: Well dating it is quite difficult to date it, but I would say it’s probably either late 16th or early 17th Century, yeah, but need to take it into the Finds Liaison Officer to get it formally identified.
Q: Absolutely, that’s extraordinary, I’m so impressed that you saw it [laughs], so getting a little bit bigger.
A: Getting a little bit bigger, we move onto a lovely glass, deep blue bead, and again that this is so, it is so intricate as well, it’s not particularly delicate, but it’s amazing, another tiny find out of a big expanse of foreshore. And blue is my favourite colour, and it has a lovely reflection on the paper, and also if it’s magnified under lights you do get a lovely blue clear colour through it, so--,
Q: It’s a gorgeous blue isn’t it, it’s almost like a kind of forget me not blue or something isn’t it, that kind of brightness to it.
Q: And so that’s a bead is it?
Q: And what about where that came from, or who made it or wore it or anything, have you got any thoughts?
A: Well my thoughts are, I mean my thoughts are, I mean there were local glass factories up and down the River Thames, dating as the Finds Liaison Officer has said previously, it’s quite difficult to date beads, because that that is that. I have shown him two other beads that I had, and he thought that they were Roman but I’m not sure about this one, but I always think that beads are always a lovely thing to find, and they can always be upcycled.
Q: Yeah, yeah.
A: At some stage.
Q: That’s exquisite, it’s a very beautiful little piece isn’t it?
A: It’s beautiful, it’s not damaged, and I just, as I say I like the colour blue and it has a beautiful reflection when it’s magnified.
Q: It’s gorgeous isn’t it, and have you had any thoughts about whether it would be a child or a woman or who might have worn it, or--,
A: You sometimes think about that, it probably--, I’d like to think it was a woman that wore it, yeah, as part of her jewellery, part of a piece at some stage, yeah.
Q: Yeah, other fingers have touched it, it’s fascinating isn’t to make that--,
A: Yeah, these things are tactile as well, when you’re sort of rolling them around, it’s nice and just a little tap on the paper when you drop it.
Q: Yeah. Just a little tap, yeah. Okay, what else then?
A: The other thing I found the other day is really interesting, I mean it almost looks quite modern, but it’s been, it’s part of a Georgian buckle, so whether it’s a shoe buckle or body buckle and it looks so modern, it looks so clean, and it’s got love hearts. It’s got two love hearts and then in between it’s got an upturned love heart which is sort of filigree sort of style, and then on the outer frame it’s got another love heart, but it is very intricately worked, and designed, and that’s why I’ve brought it. And most people would like love hearts don’t they, so it’s always an idea of romance and love and--,
Q: The lovely curve that you’ve got on that piece, and it’s metal isn’t it?
A: It’s metal, yeah, and it’s got a nice feel to it, and also if you had somebody that was visually impaired you could give that to them and then they could, you know, they can get the feel of different textures, you’ve got smooth and you’ve got very, very fine work on the top part, and then you’ve got some lovely sort of scrolly whirly work on the edge, so I think all it’s a really tactile piece, and then there’s some underneath.
Q: It’s quite heavy as well actually isn’t it, it’s surprising because it’s not an enormous piece.
A: It is quite heavy, yeah. No.
Q: But very clear.
A: Probably brass, probably made of brass.
Q: That’s lovely, but real detail still there intact isn’t it?
Q: That’s really lovely, yeah, you’re right about just being able to feel it and think what it is.
Q: That’s superb. That must be a button, is that right, that other piece?
A: Yeah, this is a button, and I found this not so long ago, and I’ve had other buttons which are three holed, now there’s all different ideas about this, one is that it’s a glove button or a boot button, there’s another one it could possibly be. But again, if you just look at it, this it’s probably made out of pewter, but if you look at it you’d think it was a plain button, but then once you get the magnifying glass you can see it’s got six petals actually worked into it, so and it’s quite unusual. And you can get other ones with lines, very fine lines across the entire button, but it’s quite unusual to get the six petals. And also to get the button completely whole without any chips, or any damage, and also so clear with the design, so that’s why I brought it here.
Q: Where did you find this one?
A: I found that one literally on the Thames foreshore.
Q: By any particular place or--,
A: Not really, no, I mean the--,
Q: Oh I can see, yeah, that’s extraordinary, how old do you think it might be?
A: I think it’s probably towards the end of the 18th Century, beginning of the 19th Century.
Q: It’s very perfect isn’t it actually.
A: Yeah, it’s perfect, yeah, it’s perfectly round, it’s not been particularly dented, when you think it’s hit against the stone, and it’s not missing anything, and also the delicacy of the three homes are in quite close proximity.
Q: Is that characteristic, three holes, is that like shoes you think then or gloves did you think?
A: Well the train of thought is gloves at the moment with other mudlarkers, but when you look it up on the website it’s very difficult to find anything with three holes, there’s button with two holes, four holes, but just quite difficult to find anything with the three holes so it’s a little bit of a mystery.
Q: It is isn’t it, how fashions change, the three holes is not the thing now. And then you’ve got one final object to tell us about.
A: Yeah, the last object is really quite strange, in comparison to other things I have found, and to date the train of thought is that it’s possibly a fossilised bead of some sort which you may come across in the ships, or boats, from far flung country. Now I’ve taken it to the Finds Liaison Officer, and again he thinks it could possibly be a fossilised seed pod.
Q: Ah, yeah, I was going to say, I mean it’s about the size of a lemon pip isn’t it, and shaped like that really.
A: Yeah, when I initially picked it up I thought it was a bead, because I look at one end and it looks like there is actually a little indent where the hole could be, but closer inspection with the magnifying glass shows clearly that is, tends to lean towards being a seed pod, fossilised seed pod.
Q: It looked to me like a tiny hand grenade almost, it’s got that kind of pattern hasn’t it on it?
A: It has, it’s got a very unusual pattern, when you look through the magnifying glass, and it’s quite hard, yeah, I have tried that with my teeth and it is hard, it is hard.
Q: That’s extraordinary, and where did you find that, do you remember where all of these were found?
A: Yeah, again on the foreshore, Thames foreshore, just lying there.
Q: No particular spot, so fantastic, there’s a real range of wonderful things there, thank you so much for bringing those along.
A: You’re welcome.
Q: I’ve got one more question for you, like in one word mudlarking, can you describe it in one word, what would you say?
Q: That’s a really nice word to describe it, thank you so much, that was really fascinating, have we got any more--,
Q2: Thanks so much, that’s brilliant, really good.
Q: Fabulous, really, really just these are wonderful things we have here.
Q2: Florrie said that you’d found some trade beads and that you’ve written about them from the perspective of having Caribbean ancestry, is that also something, ‘cause that’s really interesting, is that something you can talk to us about?
A: Yes, it is. I’ve always been interested in the trade, different sorts of trades, the West Indian trade of all sorts of things that used to come over, like teas, coffees, and those sort of things, tobacco, and the relationship that we had with that, the British establishment. And for me I saw one of the, my fellow mudlarkers had found a trade bead and I’d noticed that he’d put trade beads/slave bead, and I thought, hmm, that would be really interesting for me, I’d love to find something like that, and I thought, well will I ever find something like that, and he wrote a whole piece about it. And then one Monday morning I had a chance to get on the foreshore quite early, I got a lift into London so I thought, oh good, I’ll go down. And I went down some steps, not the usual steps I go down, but I went down the steps, it wasn’t a particularly nice day and I thought I’d stay with it and I hadn’t found very much, so I thought to myself I’m going to come off and just as I was coming off I thought I’d just look under these steps, and under the steps submerged in the gloop as a trade bead and also a token.
Q: Wow, wow!
A: So I was so pleased, I thought thank God, he must have heard that I was looking and thought just look underneath, literally under the steps and I thought there it is. And it was in a good condition, and I’m hoping to do some more research around it.
Q2: And what does it look like?
A: It looks, it’s about three quarters of an inch, an oval shaped glass bead, and it’s interspersed. It’s white background, it’s interspersed with blue and red, very, very narrow stripes, and then on the top it has a whirly red and white interspersed pattern on the rim of the, round by the hole, outer hole, and it’s just remarkable. But they’re still making them today, the trade beads are still being made today by various companies, and I was really interested to find out when I went to the Docklands Museum, and I looked in the case and I was actually quite surprised to see that one of the glass factories in Hammersmith had been using the end parts of the glassmaking pieces to make trade beads.
Q: Good heavens, yes.
A: So it was apparent in this country, although they thought that they’d been manufactured in Italy, but it seems like there was a sort of like a hidden business being run behind the scenes, so I’m really interested in researching that, and seeing who else was making them at that time, and interested to know they’re still being made today.
Q: And how are they used exactly, can you say?
A: They’re used, they were used as instead of money for all sorts of manufactured stuff, like tea, coffee, all sort of things that one would need, you know, for every day things which was traded, you know, across the world. And they also used them as fashion and the more elaborate beads that people had round their necks, the more you know, wealthy they seemed to be.
Q: Wealthy, yeah.
A: And obviously although what they like to say more on the side of trade beads rather than slave beads because that doesn’t give such a nice sort of connotation to it, but I was glad to find it, really because it’s so special, it’s really special to me.
Q2: And you knew exactly what it was when you found it?
Q2: And how did it feel sort of picking that up--,
A: Well I was really jubilant, you know, I really was jubilant, it was just, it’s what I’ve, you know, what I’d always wanted, you know, since I’d seen somebody else with one and understanding what they were and doing my own research and I just wanted to have one for myself. I wasn’t going to be greedy and say I want a handful or more, I just wanted the one. And that’s, so I think that’s with me, I’m quite careful that I’m not stockpiling, I’ve got this conscience that yeah I have a few, but some of my finds will go back, because give somebody else a chance, because you know, what, if we all are taking off hoards and stockpiling them in sheds and things that what chance has anybody else got?
Q: Yeah, and what’s the point really?
A: What’s the point, you don’t need lots, it’s nice to have a few pieces, nice pieces.
Q: Do you think you found it because somebody had shown you one so you knew what it was like, because I think sometimes your eye sort of tunes into something, if you know you’re looking for something you can see it.
A: Yeah, I think, yes, I think that was, yeah, I think that really did help. Although looking on the step I found that and a trade token as well, but that did definitely help that it had already been identified so I knew what, in the back of my mind I always have a, would like to find this, or wish list, you know, and that was on the wish list, yeah.
Q: Yeah, what’s the trade token like that you found with it?
A: The trade token is, it has three greyhounds on it, so it’s quite unusual, yeah. And the--, on the other side, the reverse side it’s got Eric Briscoe, so it’s quite unique.
Q: Gosh, yeah.
A: To that individual.
Q: What’s that made from?
A: That’s copper, yeah, copper coin.
Q2: And what does the name--,
A: Eric Briscoe, a personalised hammered coin.
Q: Who was he?
A: It’s just researching who he was, and a local individual, and it probably--, the three greyhounds could be a tavern, tavern at some stage.
Q2: And what would he have used that for?
A: For trade, just for trade, trading purposes, ‘cause after the Great Fire of London in 1666 it completely wiped out the coinage system, so people were, you know, finding the opportunity to hammer their own coins or have them made in certain way so they could use it for trade amongst, you know, candlemakers, bakeries and tradespeople like that, breweries.
Q2: So a lot of people say that mudlarking has this particular fascination ‘cause it’s like reaching your hand across history, you know, and this idea that the last person to have touched this object was someone from history. So I’m wondering for you with your ancestry when you’re touching that trade bead, does it make you sort of thing about your family history or the history of London, does it sort of open up your imagination in that way?
A: Well it did to me because I wondered how it got there, because it was right under the steps, so had it been there all that time, and the shifting of the tide going in and ebbing in and out, or had it just, you know, that particular morning you know, been washed in, because it--,
Q: Just for you.
A: Just for me [all laugh], that’s what I’d like to think it was just for me under there. Because it’s unusual, you wouldn’t normally be looking under concrete steps, you know, so it’s unless I’d literally got down and looked underneath I wouldn’t have seen it. And it does, yes, I always think about my history when I go down there, will I find anything, you know, of my ancestry there, you know, I always do look out for that, you know, and then it sort of takes you on a journey and you start thinking about it, you know?
Q2: Does it make you think about the history of London, I mean at--,
A: It does.
Q2: Colonial history is not something we talk about a lot, yet it’s so part of the fabric of this country, does it make you think about that more
A: It does, it does, it makes you think about the role that we had in this country with the trade and that all sorts of stories, and narratives that have come out from, you know, the slave trade and the triangle, and it’s a lot more complicated, and having done a lot more research it’s a lot more complicated than people really understand, you know, about that, and about the importance of trade and if we didn’t trade we wouldn’t have certain things, you know, teas and coffees and things like that. And we wouldn’t know about the other side of the, you know, the continents and what’s out there and what’s vibrant and, you know, coming together, you know, it’s very, very important to look at it and put it in context, and the wider scheme of things I find as well. Not to be narrow, not just to read what’s in the book, or what you hear, but to have that enquiring mind and go and look out there, research it for yourself, and that’s what I enjoy as well. It’s nice to read it on the page or what you hear or what you see in the museum, but for me I like to be out there, and see, you know, the date in time that I found it, where I found it and, it’s, you know, part of history, I think that’s very important, yeah, very important to me, where you find these things, how you handle it and put it into context.
Q2: Give it a second life.
Q: Yeah, that’s part of it though isn’t it, the whole, yeah, the excitement, the adventure, that’s what you said isn’t it, it does really--, so you’re a complete addict I think, I would say, is that right [laughs], or going to keep going.
A: Yeah, I would say--, I don’t know if I’d say I was addicted to it, but I do enjoy it. I do, I do enjoy it, I--, as I say I always expect the unexpected, meet all sorts of people, and really having respect for nature. I went down the one day and I was so busy looking I nearly stepped on a chick [all laugh] because it was so well camouflaged that, you know, you think you have to sort of hold yourself back. And when I did actually look there was two parents, Egyptian geese and there was the two parents there and they had seven chicks, and you sort of stood, well I stood back and let them, you know, wander about and it’s just fascinating to capture them on camera, video of them, and how they, you know, how they look after themselves. Like one day I went down there and they were gathering up their chicks for an afternoon rest, which is very unusual, like about two o’clock and you think oh I haven’t seen that before, and they literally, the mother would spread her wings out and they would be underneath and then the father would be looking out to see what was going on around him so it was really interesting, and those sort of things, if you just went down mudlarking you wouldn’t see that.
Q: No, it’s a whole 360 observation isn’t it, the whole time of day and the place and everything as well.
A: And another time I saw a fox, a few weeks ago, and I knew that where he went he wasn’t going to be able to get out that way, because the tide had already come in. So it’s standing there and waiting for them to acknowledge they’re not going to get out there and allowing them to come back, and then--, I’d got that on video, and then watching them come up the steps [laughs] to exit, so he’d obviously knew how to exit. But it was fascinating, so those sort of things, I find really fascinating, the wildlife.
Q: Yeah, yeah. Yeah, there’s a lot to it isn’t there, so many elements to the whole thing actually.
Q: You said earlier to me that you thought that the BAME community was not as engaged, or you found, was that true do you think?
A: I haven’t, since I have been mudlarking I haven’t found anybody from the black minority, ethnic group, actually on the foreshore where I’ve been, or several places, I haven’t seen that, whether they’re hidden or they go at different times, but for the two years that I have been down there I haven’t seen anybody from that group, the only people I have actually seen is a local group with learning disabilities that came down to the foreshore, which I was so pleased to see. And when I was coming up one of the workers asked me if I’d found anything and I said yes I’d found a marble, and they said, could I put the marble in the hand of one of the children so they could see it, so that’s what I did, and then they took a photograph of the marble and things like that. So that was really nice to see that, you know, that everybody was embraced to come down to the foreshore.
Q: Yes, yeah.
A: Yeah, included, so--,
Q: It’s interesting isn’t it because mudlarkers were originally trying to get some money back I think weren’t they out of anything they’ve found, I suppose over generations lots of different communities now I think.
Q: But it’s also become very popular hasn’t it now as well?
A: It has, yes, but it would be lovely, I mean if they are out there it’d be lovely to meet them from the, that well black minority and ethnic groups, and you know, meet up and see their take on what they’ve found, or you know, so for comparing and comparison. Yeah.
Q: Well there’s so much history there for everybody isn’t there?
A: Well there is, yeah.
Q: London’s got it for all of us hasn’t it actually.
A: It’s an open museum, open air museum.
Q: Yes, renews itself every day.
A: Twice a day [all laugh].
Q: Is there anything else you wanted to ask about?
Q1: I don’t think so.
Q2: I think, yeah, that was pretty good, maybe just one last thing, can you describe the feeling of being on the foreshore, what that feels like?
A: It’s very relaxing, you can wander at your own pace, you can switch off and be completely in your own world, but also you can be flexible and engaged with others, you have that option. And I do a bit of both.
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