Monday, 20 July 2009
Now I can tell you the whole story...part I
I am amazed that I have got this far...
I am now officially an affiliate member of The Institute of Tourist Guiding qualified to guide at Vindolanda and The Roman Army Museum (RAM). I got my certificate last Thursday. (The photo was taken by a friend at Vindolanda....you can see the reconstruction of part of the Hadrian's Wall in stone, turf and timber. The turret, on the right, is in stone and the milecastle gate/turret, on the left, is in timber.)
I'm over the moon! How did it come about?
Amongst the hoarfrosts of January Mr. H received a phone call from Tom Keating, a blue badge guide, telling him about a course being set up by Hadrian's Wall Heritage Ltd. to train up guides along the length of Hadrian's Wall and West Coast Frontier. Were we interested? I certainly leapt at the chance.
The interview date was set for February 26th. The date will always stick in my mind because it was the day after my mother-in-law's funeral in London. Be prepared to give a short presentation on your favourite bit of the Wall cited the e-mail. I had been shortlisted from what seemed like thousands of candidates. I was given 5 days to prepare for it. Hubbie was down South for those days. I flew to London there and back on the 25th. The interview will be a breeze I thought to myself. Little did I know.
Due to my own stupidity and lack of time planning I arrived at the interview, at Vindolanda, five minutes late. "Be all right" I bluffed (even to myself): my talent and enthusiasm will shine through.
I thought the interview had gone well. About a week and half later (after 5pm and just after a weekend) I received another e-mail..."Dear interested candidate...we are sorry to inform you..." I had not got through. I was speechless. What had I done!? (Weeks of mental recriminations then commenced..."I hadn't informed them of the funeral; I hadn't turned up at the right time; I hadn't prepared enough.... and on and on"...)
I rang the organiser to get some feedback. "Your presentation wasn't as good as the other successful candidates". I must admit that I verbally let off some steam (in the best possible way). As I put the phone down I felt sorry for the person at the other end. It wasn't their fault. Must learn to communicate better.
Luckily they didn't hold it against me.
I was invited to go along for the first lecture and a later day at Vindolanda/RAM. On that first day when I walked in at noon knowing that they had all introduced themselves to each other (in the morning) and had received their welcome packs I felt sick to the gills but I knew I had to hang on in there. Roll on Vindolanda.
The day at Vindolanda was marvellous. It was misty, freezing and cold, nevertheless, I loved hearing about the history of the place; being on the inside and hearing about the excavations. I had all but reconciled myself to not being on the course. Perhaps they would run it again next year and I would be successful. I had too much on my plate. I couldn't manage all the studying (120 hours required) plus read THE bible on the Wall....the Breeze and Dobson book...lectures, presentations, travelling, learning about other Roman sites, exams. The lot. And then during the talk at RAM...I was asked "Do you want to join the course after all?"...My reaction: gobsmacked: lost for words. Internally grinning I said: "Can I have 24 hours to think it over?" Twenty four hours later I accepted and it all kicked off for earnest in April.
I feel quite safe now to talk about the format of the exams. We could choose where we wanted to sit the written exam and I chose Tullie House - the Carlisle museum and art gallery built on top of the remains of a Roman fort. (I still need to go over there and have a good look at it. I believe they have an excellent exhibition of Hadrian there at the moment. But I digress.)
The written exam was straight forward. I was kicking myself that I didn't know what was the meaning of the Latin name (which turned out to be British!) for the fort at RAM. "Magna"...was/is 'stone, rock' - "highly appropriate for a site lying in the shadow of the crags now known as the Nine Nicks of Thirlwall". (Source: R. Birley)
The other weird thing which I wrote in response to "name an army unit stationed at Vindolanda"...I wrote " the 4th Cohort of Batavians" which is an unholy alliance of the 4th Cohort of Gauls and 9th Cohort of Batavians (only one hundred years apart)! Nerves must have got the better of me. For those of you with an interest in Roman army units based in Britain...check out this site: www. roman-sites.com - It's a mine of information.
The practical exam, which took place at the beginning of July, was another matter...a walkover it was unlikely to be...(to be continued...)
P.S. Robin Birley talk on the Vindolanda Tablets - this Thursday 23rd July at RAM 6.30pm - if you happen to be in the area (tickets from either RAM/ Vindolanda)
P.P.S More information on the Roman altar finds published in the Hexham Courant (click on the blue writing for the link)