I am so pleased and fortunate to have a GUEST POST ‘penned’ by actor and metal detectorist Andrew Caley. You may have noticed that he has started writing for one of the UK detecting magazines and is generating a lot of attention and favourable reviews.
Andy came to acting professionally relatively late in life, although he has been involved with stand-up comedy and amateur productions for many years. He’s also worked as a journalist … as you might guess from the standard of writing. From the showreel below you will see some of the productions with which he has been associated … also parts in Doctors and Downton Abbey.
An advert in which he appeared was for insurance company Go Compare – the one with the irritating moustache twitching and twirling tenor, but we won’t hold that against him … and the fact that he supports the Leyton Orient football team! Andy’s writing is different, fresh, entertaining and accomplished. Enjoy!
HOW I BECAME A DETECTORIST – Andy Caley
I have been attracted by the idea of metal detecting for as long as I can remember, but I cannot put my finger on WHY.
It may have been sparked in childhood by the tales of Treasure Island; maybe studying history at school and learning about the story of a panicked King John losing his valuables in the Wash; perhaps watching Ron Moody in Oliver! spilling his sparkling, ill-gotten gains into the River Fleet.
Something lost, something discarded, something buried, something forgotten. Something waiting to be found.
As a child growing up in the 1960s, I would dig holes in my back garden to keep myself entertained. Sad, I know. It was a different era back then. The fayre on television was thin to say the least, despite the rose-tinted view of it now. For a start, it was in black and white. True, I enjoyed Blue Peter and Crackerjack in the early evening. But kids’ TV was done and dusted by 5.45pm after The Magic Roundabout, and just before the news. There were no video recorders (to imagine such a thing!). Computer games and smart phones were the stuff of science fiction. So, for a seven-year-old in 1969, keeping occupied and staving off boredom during the seemingly endless summer holidays was pretty much a wholly outdoor affair. I made dens, ran amok on building sites, fished with a net in the pond in the park, played hide and seek, and periodically declared ‘war’ on our rival gang, The Bullies.
And I dug holes in my dad’s back garden.
I suspect today’s internet generation, glued as they are to their computers, phones and tablets, would regard me as a mad-eyed lunatic were I to suggest they might have quite a lot of fun if they went digging holes in a back garden. My 15 year-old daughter would at the very least LOL, and most probably ROTFLOL.
But, back then, digging in the garden was entertainment.
For one thing, my random excavations would infuriate my green-fingered father, whose precious nasturtiums were up far sooner than he anticipated. “Me Nasturtiums!” he would splutter at the sight of the withering strands of stalks and foliage lying atop the soil. His puce face and windmill arms were always a winner.
Second, all manner of creepy crawlies could be unearthed – worms, centipedes, millipedes, woodlice – some of which would dispatched into the next world with an inventive cruelty that makes me shudder when I think about it now.
And I found ‘things’. Mostly, these ‘things’ consisted of broken pottery. In fact, in our garden there was tons of the stuff, or so it seemed. There was a preponderance of smashed blue and white china.
How did all this stuff get broken and end up under my dad’s wallflowers?
I surmised that people in the old days were very clumsy, forever dropping their plates and cups, and chucking the bits out into the garden. It never really occurred to me that our 1960s semi-detached might not have been there forever and that, before us, others had used this land. In this case … thinking about it now … as a rubbish dump.
While shards of pot could lead to a few diverting minutes of pottery jigsaw puzzling, I would sometimes literally hit paydirt and dig up money. Real money. Money I could spend in shops! In those pre-decimal days when I dug up a Victorian penny, or a sixpence from 1923, Mr White, the local sweet shop owner, was more than happy to swap my grubby coinage for penny chews or Bazooka Joes. Happy days!
The seeds in an interest in metal detecting, or at least a passing curiosity in things subterranean, may have been sown early but this did not mean that as a teenager I was going to rush out to hunt for a Charles I groat. For a start, I didn’t have the money – not a groat – and anyway I had not the faintest idea where to get a metal detector. But this wasn’t the main reason I didn’t dash to the fields in search of a Viking ship burial.
No, the fact was that metal detecting was for nerds, losers, plonkers and weirdos. At the age of 15, I was already tainted by the fact I was a bell ringer at the local church. I sure as hell was not going to compound my dork status by adding metal detecting to my list of ‘dodgy’ interests. The coming years would be determinedly given over to drinking with mates in pubs and trying to impress girls.
To admit to being a metal detectorist would be akin to confessing a love for bus spotting, collecting birds’ eggs or smothering puppies. No one would want to associate with me. Detecting would mean social and romantic death. So, despite harbouring a secret wish to pound the fields and find my own Saxon hoard, I did nothing about it.
Until last year.
Getting older has some compensations. Granted, they might not quite outweigh the hair loss, the weight gain, and toenails that become more abhorrent with each passing year. But there are compensations nonetheless. The main one being the realisation that you do not have to give a toss what anyone thinks about you … to a point.
Sometimes you must take heed of what wives, children, friends and acquaintances say to you. If I decided one day to wear nothing but socks, paint my head green, and call myself Mrs. Posy Frumpton, I might need to take some advice. But I could take the hooting and catcalling that would inevitably come from those who heard I had become a detectorist.