Tuesday, 15 August 2017

The Bronze Age

I'm loving all this research into the distant past. having been camping in our tiny caravan recently, I'm very conscious of the basic human needs of shelter and water, access to food and other people. Our society has become increasingly reliant on wholesalers and retailers, communication technology and manufactured housing. I know this isn't all a bad thing, obviously we're not all squatting in roundhouses in the dark after a day of trying to harvest enough food to keep us alive for the whole winter. Life is potentially enormously better (although I'm aware I'm not speaking about everyone's life here - abject poverty still haunts large swathes of the world's population, as we know).

But imagining my character's journey through actual cold and hunger has made me very grateful for what we have what we take for granted. Our ancestors may have had bronze technology but most people relied on stone tools, the familiar animals we use now for food were lean, half wild creatures whose needs we had to place alongside our own. Dogs were only recently tamed from wolves, as wild and dangerous as gold rush huskies. All strangers were potential enemies. The woods were literally full of wolves and bears. We had to tread a fine line between high levels of vigilance and being paralysed with terror. The only thing between us and predators were spears and fire. There's evidence that if we did kill a predator, we ate it. Ate every part of a bear including its bone marrow and rendered fat. Winter was profoundly dangerous, and a lot of the work of the year was about filling that hunger gap and ensuring enough shelter, clothing and wood for burning. Life was short and incredibly hard work.

Meanwhile I find a tiny shiver of the past sitting outside until the light goes, the cold already creeping into me, the dew dropping onto my face. If I get my clothes damp or get too cold I won't be able to sleep, I'm so pampered. Sitting out in the dark of a campsite miles from a town brings out millions of stars, but every sound seems magnified. We don't have predatory animals anyway, just the odd human. But I'm scared of the cold, damp, dark, it's hardwired into me. I long for a warm hut, a wood fire, a couple of guard dogs and spear carrying hunters. This is the view of a roundhouse at Lower Merripit, where Russell did a workshop. When the fire is lit the smoke fills the roof so you have to sit down.

Tuesday, 8 August 2017

Green gatherings

I've just come back from the Green Gathering, a solar powered gathering of people who want to live a bit lighter. The food was mostly vegan (although the grill cheese stand and wood fired pizza places did a brisk trade) and all veggie. Recycling was amazing, they had places for everything. There wasn't a piece of litter from start to finish, no drunks, few drugs, lots of happy, co-operating people. We needed help moving our caravan to help our neighbours, four stewards appeared and sorted it. The medical tent had staff herbalists. There were more than enough loos (always a potential bugbear) and they were well kept. Without cars, kids ran free and clambered through trees, enjoyed all the music, fell asleep to the sound of great music. Two mini thunderstorms entertained. We heard new music, new poets. We enjoyed art and dance, there was every kind of free workshop from campaigns to laughter yoga. We watched the sun go down, we talked about the world and our impact on it, we shared stories and songs. I can recommend it. Sometimes your soul needs feeding more than your mind or your body. Music for fourteen hours a day and the odd plate of bhajis (courtesy of Lalita's South Indian Street Food), heaven. We fell in love with a  new singer/songwriter (Bea Everett) and an amazing didge player (Sika). We laughed at the Antipoet. I met up with a writer friend, Russell with songwriting ones. 

The architect of this new freedom is our elderly, tiny caravan, which we have lovingly painted with left over turquoise emulsion and made curtains from old upholstery fabric, dyed deep orange and fuchsia pink. We've padded the beds, created a tiny bathroom, filled the lockers with essentials like tea bags and hot chocolate and put a tow bar on the car (which nearly cost as much as the caravan). So far, it's enabled my elderly lumbar spine to enjoy camping four times, and it's been lovely. Russell installed a solar panel and a 12V circuit of lights and chargers (for laptop and phones) so I can camp away from the campervans with their satellite TVs and wetrooms. Instead, we can sit on the edge of a field, under a hedge, by the stream. Lovely. I look forward to more Green Gatherings.