Friday, 13 January 2012

Just Say 'No'

As a child I was pretty damn sure that I never wanted to have a job which entailed me having to wear a uniform. Don't know why, perhaps I just hated conformity and never wanted to "work in a shirt with my name tag on it"...or a tie...what is it about ties? Flap, flap, flappy things that end up in your soup, fly round your face in a high wind (blinding you or some innocent passer-by), get caught in doors or retracting car windows or, worse, make a sudden bid for freedom down the most insanitary of toilet U-bends (not pleasant if you're trying to park a custard at the time). I always feel close to the point of utter strangulation on the odd occasion that I do wear neck furniture. Perhaps these feelings can be traced back to my school days (Patcham Fawcett Comprehensive....effectively (and comprehensively) pummeled into rubble in the early 1990s), where ties had to be worn and top-buttons rigidly fastened, even during the hottest of summer days. Perhaps if I had a past life regression I could put additional spin on the phobia (especially if there was, in my murky medieval past, a tale of garroting, hanging or auto-asphyxiation?)...who knows? Anyway, I can remember as a child, way before a love of dead civilisations wormed its way into my head, clearly NOT wanting to ever be in a job where there was a dress code; where someone else ultimately controlled what you could and could not wear.

So I became an archaeologist.

Trouble is, as with any profession, archaeology has its own rigid rules of dress; I just didn't know it at the time. Now I've been in the profession for a while, I know the codes and regulations well and, perhaps rather sadly, realise that I have, indeed, conformed to a dress stereotype....

.....for well over 25 years.

At university in the mid 1980s, a friend and I (Iain McGuinness, where are you now?) created a poster based on the 'Heroin Screws You Up' campaign, a bizarre government sponsored TV initiative whereby the dangers of drug use were highlighted by poor fashion sense and loss of bowel control...... anyway, to cut a long (and I suspect inordinately tedious) story short, we created a poster campaign of our own demonstrating the dangers of archaeology through the devolution and degeneration of 'Paul' (don't ask me how we settled on that name), a neatly attired, bescarfed and blazered sixth former, who, in his innocence, gets caught up in a life of mud, flint, pottery and taphonomic processes, slowly loosing his dress sense, his scarf, his grip on reality and (finally) his hair, gaining in the process spectacles, a beard, and (in a final indignity) a pair of super-soiled shorts, which he takes to wearing at the most inappropriate of times. A caption at the top of the poster, written in what appeared to be Paul's own blood, oozed the warning "ARCHAEOLOGY SCREWS YOU UP - JUST SAY NO !".

Sadly I didn't heed my own warnings and I am now what I feared most then.....

........I am Paul.

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