Monday, 15 June 2009

Roadtrip revisited.

Almost exactly to the year – I decided to take a few days off for a road trip again.

A couple of days with some friends who have abandoned life in the city for a smallholding-come-Harley-workshop in the fens. On the face of it a 250+ mile round trip is a long way to go for a bike service. But they are some of the nicest people you could wish to meet and there’s nobody else I would rather have working on my bikes.

Their lifestyle would not be for everyone – it’s not quite self-sufficiency but it’s not too far off, with a bit of barter with the neighbours thrown in, and some localized wage labour here and there too. There’s a lack of security and routine, and they’re never away from their work but - as I thought when I rode in this morning on the same route that I’ve taken for almost 20 years - there’s also no commuting and no corporate bullshit.

It’s actually a very old fashioned way of living and would be recognizable – if you substituted maybe a blacksmith’s forge for a Harley workshop – to our ancestors for many centuries.

So it was appropriate that on my very roundabout journey home I took a detour to visit
Grimes Graves. The only visit-able Neolithic flint mines in Europe. Flint was as important to the stone age economy as oil is to our own. And for these early miners to sink shafts into the hillside must have been a terrifying step into the unknown – the equivalent to astronauts in modern times.

The hillside is a rabbit warren of shafts and galleries – only one of which can be visited after a 35-foot descent on a vertical ladder. From the bottom of the shaft you can peer into the radiating galleries – each about three feet high. Even with modern tungsten lighting it’s still claustrophobic and oppressive – and easy to see how our ancestors thought that caves were the gateway to another world.

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