WORLD traveller and TV presenter Adam Ford’s life is anything but shabby, contrary to his memoir’s cheeky play on words.
In his autobiography English-born Ford revisits his earliest schoolboy encounter with the field of science that would one day become both his livelihood and his enduring passion: archaeology.
This raw and colourful account carries readers from Ford’s training dig as a student on a beach in Barbados through the Middle East and Britain en route to his present-day incarnation as a TV host and director of his own archaeological operation in Australia. Along the way he returns repeatedly to Jordan, uncovering Bronze Age, Nabatean and Ottoman remains in the Biblical heartland, confronting fearsome fist-sized spiders, shivering through desert snowstorms and running the gauntlet of unreliable or non-existent plumbing on sites devoid of the cosy trappings of a standard 21st-century workplace.
His research into a reported French claim to land in the 1700s and a Dutch vessel’s 1841 wrecking on Dirk Hartog Island off the West Australian mainland is recounted, as is his month-long project in 2008 to excavate Annie Jones’ inn at Glenrowan where the Kelly Gang, when surrounded by police, staged its last stand.
Ford delivers a tale that is simultaneously a jaunty, entertaining and irreverently humorous travelogue and a potted history of archaeology’s emergence as a modern-day academic discipline of global significance. Now in his third season hosting Who’s Been Sleeping In My House? for the ABC, Ford outlines with more than a pinch of mirth the chain of good fortune that helped create his media career.
His summary of the colonial penal system is of particular relevance to Victorian readers; Bendigo stars in his search for everyday goldfield remnants around Golden Gully, where a man’s leather hat is found to have survived more than a century and a half underground.