As a student, I chose to study archaeology because I’d been fascinated by Ancient Egypt since childhood. Only when I got to university and had to decide in which area to specialise did I realise I’d been led down a false path.
I couldn’t see the practical application of being able to read and write hieroglyphics.
I couldn’t afford to visit Egypt, and back then I didn’t know enough about the world to realise that if I had to travel on business I’d get expenses.
And I didn’t see too many jobs in the museums of Britain where an in-depth knowledge of Egyptology was going to be a boon.
So I chose to study Prehistoric Europe.
Prehistory by its very nature is mysterious: before history, before documentation, before the record-keeping and writing that forms so much of what we know about ancient peoples. So I didn’t need to learn Ancient Greek, or Latin, or hieroglyphics.
I discovered buried treasure was the result of a lot of digging, a lot of sifting, and a lot of luck.
I got to realise that the world of professional archaeology is a small one. Contracts are short, and pay is low. Competition is high for the paid jobs that come up and I’d started too late to make a career of it without paying my dues for years to come. Years of moving from place to place and job to job, never settled, not knowing where your next contract might lead.
I’d already spent years living like that. The lure of buried treasure wasn’t so strong that I’d put up with the equivalent of going to the Klondike and living in a tent for a decade.
But as a writer, I can create buried treasure of my own.
I go digging. From the comfort of my desk, with a map and an open mind.
I take my lantern and my shovel and go out into the darkness between the lines of my favourite stories, like Howard Carter searching between the empty tombs of the Valley Of The Kings.
Searching for wonderful things.