Donald MacInnes: I could have been a contender if I'd had a metal detector


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The Independent Online

There are usually several items that we, as children, request from our parents with little – if any – hope of ever receiving them. I recall craving a flick-knife. It was never gonna happen.

Many of you may believe that children in Glasgow are issued with such weaponry as soon as they can operate their opposable thumb. But have the Commonwealth Games taught you nothing? We are a changed nation now! We're good people! Don't be scared. Look how welcoming and conciliatory we were! Witness the English athletes who were allowed to express their physical prowess without people throwing chips at them or calling them English bastards.

In all honesty, it's not the perfect environment in which to break records. Altitude is always preferable to attitude.

Anyway, back to the presents I was often denied. One that regularly got away from me was a metal detector. Boy, did I crave one of those. I would spend hours drooling over the Littlewoods spring/summer catalogue (no, not that section, cheeky) and fantasising about owning my very own metal detector. I could picture myself edging slowly across a field, headphones clamped and brow a chasm, as I swept the bleeping frisbee-on-a-stick back and forth over what I hoped would be a Saxon cash machine. Or the equivalent.

Now, reading a story this week, I really wish I had spent longer pestering my mother for a metal detector. I'm not even sure why she never got me one. I can't imagine what kind of mischief she imagined I could perpetrate.

Well, wherever she is in heaven, I hope her personal angel alerts her to the story of a group of schoolboys (the collective noun is a "stench") who have detected no less a metal than 4,000-year-old gold. And they did it with their bare hands! No frisbees or sticks involved.

The trinket in question was found during a dig in Northumberland by kids from Alston Primary School in Cumbria, who were excavating a site at Kirkhaugh (otherwise known as "getting all Time Team on its ass"), when their attention was grabbed by what looked like a piece of gold lying in the mud.

The 1.3in (33mm) object, which is quite attractive (although it does resemble something from one of those £1 packets of toy jewellery you see in seaside gifts shops), is thought to be some sort of hair clasp. (It's certainly not hair straighteners – they weren't invented for hundreds of years.) It was found in a burial mound and could date from 2,300 BC. This is a very long time ago. I mean, way back. Before Pot Noodles.

Apparently, one of the suddenly way more popular seven-year-olds, Joseph Bell, confessed to having danced with joy when he spotted the gleaming "Copper Age" goodie.

To be honest, I didn't even know there was a copper age. I thought it went ice, stone, iron, bark, jelly then suede. But then again when I should have been studying for exams, I was probably somewhere with the Littlewoods catalogue …

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