Friday, 6 September 2019
The best mystery for years
You know how I love little mysteries, well this is a beauty.
I was leaving the flat yesterday and as I got to the bottom of the stairs I looked through the window and saw this little thing lying on the flat roof of the adjacent building on the other side of the medieval lane which used to follow the line of the city wall down to the river.
At first glance it looked like a dead leaf from an exotic plant, but then I looked closer and saw it was the rusting iron blade of some sort of reaping-hook. I went back upstairs and confirmed this with a pair of binoculars.
I stared at it for quite a while, formulating a plan to retrieve it from the roof. It was about 25 feet away from our building and about 20 feet up from the medieval lane. I began to think of ladders or trying to persuade the clothes shop at the far end to allow me access to the roof via their window, but then the simplest solution dawned on me.
I bought a powerful little magnet and went to the workshop where I picked up my 25 foot extending decorator's pole. When I got home I let myself out onto downstairs' small balcony and began fishing. The blade popped onto the end of the pole and I hauled it in.
That evening I pondered the two most important aspects of the mystery - what is it and how did it get there? As to what it is, that is self evident. It is a very small reaping hook for a crop such as herbs, the sort of tool an apothecary would have used in his herb garden. The pointed shaft would have had a wooden handle and it is 7 inches long including the blade.
Next question, how old is it? It looks quite old if it had not been buried in earth. Its condition is consistent with it having been lying on a shelf in an outhouse for anything between 300 and 100 years. Iron is notoriously difficult to date without sophisticated tests.
How did it get there? It could have been dropped by a gull. They often pick up objects such as loose bits of gutter fixtures or bones and drop them on the flat roof, but I think it is more likely to have been thrown up there from the narrow lane by someone from the restaurant under the flat roof. It was close to their fire door exit.
But why would you throw a beautiful object such as this out of reach? It is not as if the owner could have been trying to dispose of an offensive weapon during a police raid. You can buy much more efficient weapons in a kitchen shop.
I will spend this Autumn occasionally picking it up and reading it like a closed book.
I am beginning to think it could be a grape-harvesting knife, which means it could be French. I I get any more ideas (even from you) I will put them up here too, including theories on how it got there. Feel free to use your imagination.