Excavating imaginary places

Today being a day off, I was in central Cambridge, and as I do in central Cambridge, I went by David’s to browse among the cheap books on the outside shelves. While doing so, I picked up what appeared to be an excavation report / local history on a small English village. I loves me some local history, so I leafed through it and found it was only 50p. Sold! This was the book: 

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Now, at this point, to paraphrase Denis Leary, some people laugh and some people need a fuckin’ explanation. I was in the latter camp, because I have never listened to an episode of The Archers, so it was not until I actually read the introduction and realised that the county this village is in doesn’t exist that I went “hang on…”. Ambridge, for my less British readers, is the fictional village where the aforementioned radio serial (yeah, we still have radio drama over here) takes place. 

The thing is, this book is fantastic. The only thing that lets it down is that the quotes on the back cover are from Woman’s Own and so on rather than History Today. Seems like an oversight to me. Because look at this thing!

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It is note-perfect. Working, as I did, on a piece of British archaeology associated in many cases with churches that are still around, I have read dozens of local history/archaeology books and this is exactly what they look and sound like. It looks like it was published by the CBA. It looks like it should be on sale in the gift shop of a museum with three rooms. 

Why did nobody tell me about this?! I’m giving presentations about how Lovecraft fans have this weird habit of building archaeological artefacts to sort of reify Lovecraftian mythology and they, as a community, are being made to look like pikers by The ArchersThe fucking Archers? My mind is blowing here. 

It’s just so perfect. If this thing had been about R’lyeh it would have been the bible of my young life, but it’s about Ambridge so I had never heard of it until it fell on me like a ton of bricks. 

I think I need to go have a think about some things. I think I need to go lie down. 

I was just thinking that I don’t have enough podcasts to listen to while I write … I like art and history and words and … and … I’m going to have to start listening to Radio 4, amn’t I? 

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Excavating imaginary places

12 thoughts on “Excavating imaginary places

      1. Edwin King says:

        I hate to tell you this but Jennifer Aldridge and John Tregorran are characters too… Writing a publishing the book was part of the story arc that went on for ages.

        I’ve picked up some real gems in Davids over the years.

  1. Now I know what to get my parents for Christmas! I don’t *get* the Archers, it’s a soap opera like any other but somehow seems to be more respectable in some way because it’s on radio 4, so the middle England middle class seem to love it 🙂

  2. And in a nice bit of synchronicity with your ODNB posts, today’s Life of the Day is Angus Wilson, who wrote Anglo-Saxon Attitudes – which has a fictional excavation (NOT Sutton Hoo) at its core…

  3. Jon says:

    Radio 4 is pretty much necessary to life, yes. The Today programme is irritating and excessively glib but probably the best news source here, the 6:30 comedy slot is more or less required except for the rubbish sitcom of the moment and, after years of systematically switching off the radio for 15 minutes at 7 pm on my drive home to avoid the Archers, I gave in to that, too. I’ve never watched a soap in my life but I recognise all of the voices from Ambleside as soon as I hear them …

  4. Jon says:

    Also, I now have an idea for a C’thulhu game set in Ambleside but I’m the only person amongst my friends who would get it. Maybe in another life.

  5. Luke Slater says:

    I went through a phase of listening to the Archers a lot, and even once used it as an excuse for late homework. (The lesson there is to understand your teachers.)

  6. […] At the recent Monstrous Antiquities conference, I was talking to some of my fellow attendees about fake history and how much I like it. By fake history in this context, I’m referring not to frauds or hoaxes, but to non-narrative works of fiction which purport to be historical documents. I have talked about this before on the blog in my completely gobsmacked post about the fake history book about the Archers that came out.  […]

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