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Showing posts from April, 2018

Spring, again

The boulders sit on a small wooded alp under the crag overlooking the Achray Water sliding by below, a ribbon of invisible clarity full of spring's snow-melt. It's early April in Scotland. A dipper's song rings out as it scouts downstream, a metallic squirt of noise like a kid's water-pistol. It's a religiously regular little corner of the bouldering world for me. The big beech tree beside the boulders is still in penitential winter garb, its bare limbs pale and its buds still tight-lipped whorls reluctant to sing any green matins just yet. Wild goats and their kids meander out of the forest onto the road, crossing the bridge in a slow pilgrimage, stopping traffic.

I sit on the mat feeling the familiar hot-ache tingle from the cold morning rock, my tendons tuning up and vibrating in their parcels of flesh. Bouldering can feel very organic at times. Especially in solitude when you're working a problem or two: the adrenaline pump of a sudden tumble onto the mat;…

An Eye for a Stone

The finding of a hand-axe, a flint arrow, or any 'lithic artefact' wielded by our ancestors fills the lucky finder with an overwhelming sense of awe and often a rarely experienced emotion of kinship mixed with the vertigo of time. It overwhelms feelings of territory and colony, much like the astronauts report on first viewing our little blue planet from space. Even lifting them from academy storage drawers, or gazing at them behind museum glass, they command awe, respect and a light touch. They prefigure everything: survival, craft, art, technology, and we grip in our hand a stone-age hand axe exactly as we would an iPhone.



The first people to arrive in Scotland after the intermittent Palaeolithic ice ages crossed into Britain across land bridges from Europe, or simply followed the coastlines up the east and west in simple seacraft, chasing rich and uninhabited territories that had recovered an unexploited flora and fauna after the ice ages. The end of the last major ice age …