An introduction

IN PROCESS OF UPDATING: some links broken
Right now
I live in Leeds, England, with my partner Lenore. I am a first year MPhil/PhD student at Manchester Instutute for Research and Innovation in Art and Design (MIRIAD) at Manchester Metropolitan University, having recently achieved a distinction in an MA in Historical Archaeology from Leicester University. I am researching the phenomenon of miniaturisation, as exemplified by objects such as mantelpiece ornaments from both the nineteenth century and today.
The beginning
I was born in Faversham, Kent, England, an ancient town that then had two breweries (and still has Shepherd Neame). It was once a centre for gunpowder manufacture, and a small tidal port, and was surrounded by orchards and hop fields.

I am the son of an ex RAF schoolmaster, later headmaster, Peter and an artist mother, Joyce. I have two brothers and a sister.

I had an interesting, sometimes idyllic, sometimes lonely, sometimes strange, childhood. I attended about 12 schools. I started school in Aden, Republic of South Yemen. Primary schooling in Adelaide, South Australia. My teens were spent at Borden Grammar School, Sittingbourne, Kent.

My first memories are of the exotic and vivid sights, sounds and smells of Aden, of Steamer Point RAF school, and of Crater. These are followed by brief snatches of various parts of England, and then the white heat and light of Adelaide.

So my young mind was filled with colour and strange visions. I also read a vast amount, from an early age, and as a result not only developed an over-active imagination, but also a hunger for exploration and a romantic personality. In the depths of the night I also tuned in to the weird adult world through the uncomfortable bakelite headphones of my crystal-set (later upgraded with a great new invention - a transistor), using my bedsprings as an impromptu aerial.

In my teens I spent many hours on my bicycle exploring north Kent - its marshes, old brickearth and chalk pits, its quiet back streets and alleys, the orchards and wastelands - finding fossils and old Victorian bottles and jars. My brother and I created our own museum in a garden shed.

It was therefore almost inevitable that I should become hooked on archaeology, having been introduced to the excitements and mysteries of excavation on a "dig" at Tonge Castle, not far from Sittingbourne, in the mid 1960s.

My archaeological career was spent mostly on rescue excavations, many in Kent, but also in other parts of the UK. I supervised professionals and volunteers, introduced visitors to the wonders of field archaeology, drew hundreds of plans, sections and illustrations, took photographs, made surveys, constructed scaffolding and taught evening classes. But I was probably happiest when at the bottom of a trench, wielding a trowel or a pickaxe and getting as close to time-travel as is possible! I am still addicted to the thrill of archaeological investigation, with its challenge and respopnsibility of getting everything right the first time because there is no second chance, and the excitement of not knowing what one's next trowel-scrape will reveal. I also love being outside, and enjoy the ups and downs of working with teams of people with very varied backgrounds, personalities and skills.
In between archaeological digs I began a parallel career in journalism, writing and editing. I began at the bottom and worked my way up (a little), as an editorial assistant on a printing trade magazine, proof-reading and making coffee. I was promoted to Staff Writer, and then moved on the become Hawkeye - assistant to Big Chief I-SPY of the I-SPY Books tribe - at its headquarters in Wigwam by the Green (actually a rather seedy first-floor suite of offices above a row of shops just off London's Edgware Road). Next I sub-edited the Faversham News, a local weekly newspaper in Kent, before pulling up roots and moving to Limerick, Ireland, where I copy-edited a trio of scientific journals at Elsevier/North-Holland Scientific Publishing. Then, back in the UK, and after another decade or so of archaeology, I moved back into writing, but this time in the corporate publications department of Dewe Rogerson, a large London PR company, then located at 3½ London Wall.
In the meantime
There were relationships that influenced and prompted changes in my life and direction. I fathered two children (now grown, healthy and sane). The list of places I'd lived in grew longer. In the early 1990s I met Lenore and moved to British Columbia, Canada, where, unable to find full-time work in either archaeology or writing, I worked for TRO Inc, later Plato Learning, as a Business Development Manager, and had a great time. I obtained Canadian citizenship. Then in 1998 we returned to the UK, where, after various adventures, we are ensconced in a Victorian semi-detached house in New Basford, Nottingham.
Between the lines
There are many stories that this brief survey of my life has had to omit. Buy me a pint of good cask ale and I'll bore you to tears...sorry...transfix you with some of them...

Ralph photographing rusty rails

Ralph and all that is left of the northern extremity of Vancouver's "Lulu" line. Photo by YR.