Regular readers will know that I love coins on the palm of the hand pictures, simply because I can hone up on my fortune telling abilities. The hand is always in focus and the lines pin-sharp.

Listicles are everywhere, and you must be familiar with the genre. ‘10 celebrities who have aged badly; 20 ways to insult someone without cursing; 15 signs that you are not a nice person, or 10 things to make out of discarded Garrett probe boxes’.

You get the gist; the world seems to have gone list crazy. But it makes for lazy writing … and easier to do a blog post, of course! Not only that, listicles suit hard-pressed writers and time-poor readers. At the end of the day it’s a win-win situation, innit?

With this in mind, I have been looking closely at the listicles that regularly frequent newspapers, magazines and the Web. For those who don’t know, the word is made up of ‘list’ and ‘article’. Followers of Lewis Carroll will recognise the form as a ‘portmanteau’ word. The Oxford Dictionary defines the word as ‘an article that takes the form of a numbered or bullet-pointed list.’

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Compass Pretending to be a Button

The Humble Buttons Wartime Secret

RAF Tunic Button. Kind permission of Wouter Has of

The Quartermaster (Q) in the Bond films, who produced and demonstrated gadgets for James, always intrigued me. It became an expected scene in the film when he demonstrated Bond’s assigned tools for the mission, and it was a near guarantee that each and every piece would prove to be invaluable.

I was reminded of those gadgets when I heard about the humble buttons wartime secret. Buttons are the bane of some detectorists; they don’t like finding them, but I hope this little story makes them stand back and take a second look.

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A Hit or a Myth?

A blog post with little metal detecting content …

Human beings wouldn’t be human if they didn’t question the world about them. Many thousands of years ago, men must have looked out of their caves and wondered about what they saw. What made the lightning flash? Where did the wind come from?

Man wondered about himself, too. Why did he get sick sometimes and eventually die? Who first taught him to use fire?

There must have been any number of questions but there were no answers. These were the days before science, before men had learned to experiment in order to determine the how’s and why’s of the universe. So what he did was to invent what seemed to be the most logical answers. Every group of human beings made up such stories . . . and foremost in excellence were the ancient Greeks. They were a lively, imaginative people with great literary talents and they made up the most fascinating tales that they called ‘mythos’, a Greek word that simply means ‘tale’ or ‘story’. The myth!

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An Improvement on the Fibula

A few years ago Mrs. John went along to a talk at her local Embroiderer’s Guild and when she arrived home proceeded to tell me of a New Yorker by the name of Walter Hunt. Don’t worry, I’d never heard of him either!

Hunt’s invention was not entirely novel; it was actually an improvement on a concept that the ancient Romans had used in jewelry, namely, fibulae, or brooches. His was not the first contemporary version of the safety pin either.  A version appeared in 1842 that did not include the spring mechanism that Hunt designed. This feature, of course, exists in virtually all safety pins the world is accustomed to using today.

The safety pin – The descendant of the fibula

Diligent research in the archives – with the help of Mr. Google – told me more. Hunt is often described as ‘the inventor of the safety pin’ (in the 1900’s), but most detectorists know that the safety pin, or devices virtually identical to it, had been in use for more than 2,500 years. Greece and Rome had its own forms of safety pins and clasp called the FIBULA (ancient brooch). There are so many different varieties that they are often used to accurately date an entire archaeological find. The fibula is an ancient precursor to the safety pin and used in the ancient world to keep togas, cloaks, hoods and other kinds of clothing fastened in place.

The fibula developed in a variety of shapes, but all were based on the safety-pin principle. Unlike most modern brooches, fibulae wernot only decorative; they originally served a practical function: to fasten clothing, such as cloaks. … In turn, fibulae were replaced as clothing fasteners by buttons in the Middle Ages.

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