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Today I’m interviewing archaeologist Dr. Kathryn Moss and journalist Denise Sullivan who first got together through the discoveries made at Starling Hill farm in Starting Over. As they are both in London with the professor arriving by train from Leeds, we’re meeting in the lobby of the St Pancras Renaissance Hotel, which is very posh. The selection of cakes for afternoon tea look wonderful. Ah, here they come now. Dr. Moss looks very professor-like, wearing a smart businesslike pant-suit, white shirt open at the collar and carrying a black briefcase. Denise looks like she has just got out of bed and threw on the first pair of jeans and t-shirt she found handy, in other words, she is dressed for comfort, not to impress. I have been asked by Dr. Moss not to ask certain questions but I was never very good at following rules.
Diana: Dr. Moss…
Kathryn: Please, call me Kathryn.
Diana: Okay, Kathryn. You met Denise, I believe, when she was writing an article about the archaeological finds at Starling Hill farm.
Den: Oh, come on, Kat. I think she wants a bit more detail. My friend, Jas, introduced us and the next day we met for lunch. And that led to other things.
Kathryn: Now who’s being cagey? We went back to my hotel room and had sex. And then you stole my files.
Well, that was unexpected. The tension between the two of them is palpable. The charming smile Kathryn had greeted me with has all but disappeared. Den is perched on the edge of the chair, and I’m not sure if it’s in preparation to fight or flee.
Diana: Well, yes. That has been well documented in the book, Starting Over. Shall we move on? Kathryn, when did you first become interested in archaeology?
Kathryn: My father and I used to go for long walks on the moors near where we lived in Sheffield. He would tell me stories about the history of the place. And my interest grew from there. I read anything and everything I could about Roman Britain in particular.
Diana: Similar question for you, Denise. When did you know you wanted to be a journalist?
Den: I sort of fell into by accident. Like a lot of things in my life (casts meaningful look at Kathryn). I majored in English Language and Literature at university but dropped out partway through my Masters degree course. Drifted around in various jobs and then started writing about things that interested me and eventually had some bits and pieces published in national newspapers.
Diana: Have you ever thought of writing a book?
Den: No. I don’t think I have the staying power to complete a full-length book.
Diana: What about you, Kathryn? You must have lots of stories from the digs you’ve been on.
Kathryn: It’s in the back of my mind. Maybe when I finally stop teaching. Writing articles and giving talks on the Starling Hill finds takes up any spare time I have now.
Diana: When did you realize you had found something significant at Starling Hill?
Kathryn: The sight of the first bone was exciting enough. Although I hadn’t expected to find anything like that when I proposed the dig. We were lucky that the farm had only ever been used for grazing sheep. Any intensive ploughing would have destroyed the skeletons centuries ago. To find two perfectly preserved ones so close to the surface was unusual and finding the items they were buried with was a bonus, otherwise we might not have been able to say who they were. The remoteness of the farm probably helped as well. No one roaming around with a metal detector.
Diana: What’s next for you, Kathryn? Anymore digs coming up?
Kathryn: It depends. I’m going for an interview at UCL, University College London, which is very prestigious. But I’ve also had an offer from Durham University and they have an ongoing dig at a nearby Roman site.
Diana: A hard choice, I should think. London has a lot to offer.
Den is in danger of falling off her chair, staring hard at Kathryn.
Kathryn: In some ways. But I love the countryside up north…
Den: Yes, and a certain farm…
Kathryn: (ignoring her) …and Durham has a lot to offer in terms of history with its predominant castle and cathedral. It’s a part of the country that has a number of active Roman sites.
She is avoiding looking at Den. I try to distract the journalist with another question.
Diana: What big story are you working on now Den, if any?
Den: (She takes a big breath and turns her attention back to me.) Nothing big at the moment. But people are always digging up things in this country. You can’t go for a walk here without tripping over a stone circle or Roman encampment. So, I’m not worried. It’s a bit like buses – you wait ages for one to come along then three turn up at once.
Diana: You alluded to a relationship of sorts between the two of you, is this something serious?
The look on Kathryn’s face tells me this is one of the questions she didn’t want asked. They both answer at once.
Den: Yes, of course it is.
Kathryn: It’s complicated.
Den: Well, as long distance relationships go, it’s manageable. I mean, it’s not like we live in different countries. It’s only a two-hour train ride away. Of course, if Kathryn takes this London job, that would help. If she goes to Durham, it’s a much longer journey. But I’m committed to making it work. (Another meaningful look cast in Kathryn’s direction.)
Diana: So, Kathryn. Are you committed to making it work?
I think I’ve really put my foot in it now. She gives me an icy professor-like stare. I’ll bet students don’t step out of line in any of her classes.
Kathryn: It works.
Den looks like she’s going to explode.
Den: It’s Ellie fucking Winters, isn’t it? That’s why you want to go to Durham. You don’t want to be too far from her.
Kathryn: It’s nothing to do with Ellie. We’ll talk about this later. Diana, it’s been a pleasure talking to you. I need to prepare for my interview at the university now. Are you coming, Den?
Well, that was interesting. I’m not sure how their relationship is going to pan out. Their love affair takes them on quite a journey in Arc Over Time the sequel to Starting Over. Kathryn gives off the aura of being very much in control. I think Denise has her work cut out figuring how to get under her barriers but she seems determined to keep working at it.