Purveyor of Bollocks to the Crowned Heads of Europe
Tuesday, 8 March 2016
Cups and rings
I'm always saying how much I seek escapism, but I am running out of places to escape to. I think the Far North might be the only option left soon. What a shame that Scotland never became independent, but if they had, they might not have let me in anyway.
I'm always beginning sentences with 'some years ago...' too, and here is another 'some years ago...' beginning. I think I have at least a bit of a future, though I'm not sure what shape it will be.
Some years ago, I drove up to Scotland in a Volvo even older than the one I have now, and it broke down on the Shap Fell Pass - or the motorway section at any rate - a few days before New Year's Eve, with only one lane open because of snow. It was late at night too.
We got towed into Carlisle then carried on up by train the next day. Even further by bus, until we arrived in a remote area of Argyle on foot. The first thing we did was light a fire in the huge, rickety farmyard caravan that was to be our home for a week or two. 'The Galley o' Lorn' pub was to be our kitchen for the whole time we were there.
A longish bus-ride and a longish walk takes you to a rugged and wind-swept stretch of moor (Kilmartin) once peopled by early Christian, war-like clans, whose huge grave markers cluster together under a makeshift canopy that sits like a bus shelter in the middle of an unmetalled path to nowhere, but with no buses. The huge Crosses carved on them are - on closer inspection - inverted swords.
Walking in the Highlands, for about ten months a year, involves getting soaked to the skin one minute, then dried out by a watery sun and stiff breeze (understatement) the next. The other two months involve getting eaten by midges, or so I am told. I have only ever been to Scotland in the Spring and Winter.
For square miles in every direction, the hills and glens of Argyle have huge rocks dotted about the landscape, nestling in the heather where they have been since the Ice Age. I stopped and inspected every one that we passed, and they all had 'cup and ring' markings carved into them somewhere.
The only thing anyone knows about these mysterious carvings is that they were made a few thousand years before the early Christian clans arrived. That's it.
Whatever society which had cups and rings as a constant motif on their rocks, it was a very large one. Cup and ring carvings stretch all the way down to the Northern parts of England.
I suppose they could have been a well-travelled group of people - up in a remote area of Iceland which also has cup and ring carvings, they found Minoan pottery in a prehistoric burial mound. Maybe I could go back to Crete this Spring.