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This is just spiffing enthused Minister of Popular Culture Ed Vaizey speaking at Tuesday’s 800-strong fossil hunting rally at Wrens Nest National Nature Reserve, Dudley.

Hail to Britain’s heroic band of amateur palaeontologists! I had a go myself and found a belemnite. Imagine, I was the first person to hold it in my hand since the original owner dropped it all those thousands of years ago.”

Ed’s right commented rally organiser Wayne “Findgobbler” Proley of the Dudley and District Community Fossil Recovery Service, speaking from inside his one-man tent….

It’s been a fantastic day. We’re doing no harm and it’s legal, is it not old bean? We’ve had people come from far and wide, across the sea and that – they have evil governments in that place that won’t allow it so them being free to get diggy at a place like Wren’s Nest in the daytime is a unique experience for them. Makes me proud to be British.

And every single one of them is in it for the love of palaeontology, nothing else. EBay’s a liar. DEFRA (the Department for Everyman’s Full Right to ‘Ave stuff) tried to stop the event as they said there was nationally important stuff here but we countered them neatly by saying “We know that yer goody two shoos, why’d you think we targeted it, so we wouldn’t find nothing? Duh! (They’ll never get the better of us in verbal jowsting).”

Despite DEFRA’s misgivings the event was attended by palaeontologists from the Portable Fossil Scheme. “It’s been marvellous” enthused one of the Scheme’s Finds Liason Officers, Tarquin Toffman…

The fossils are all just sitting there, some out of context and some not, so it’s harmless except where it isn’t. It’s a real privilege to see an unknown percentage of an unknown number of items being shown to us and of course it’s thrilling to interact with all these fine chaps, we have so much in common, all of us being interested in the past and having two legs. I’ve slapped so many backs I’ve got patronisers’ elbow. Fossil hunting is a Good Thing it says here on my payslip.

After a couple of threatening official phone calls from a mysterious”Friend” DEFRA issued a revised statement on the event:

We’ve pulled out all the stops to get this event off the ground (to repeat verbatim what we said on a previous occasion). The way it was designed originally it would have been unspeakably destructive but we’ve negotiated with Findgobbler whereby he and his friends will now do exactly what they want not what we want so the event now only registers as EO (Effing Outrageous) on the Civilised Behaviour scale of the various conservation conventions that Britain has inadvertently forgotten to ratify. It just goes to show, jaw-jaw is better than war-war – and craven submission is even simpler.

English Heritage, who have made not stepping on the Portable Fossil Scheme’s toes into an art form, said a visit to Warwick Castle is a super day out.

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