The difference between archaeology and criminal damage seems to be measured in years rather than yards of spray paint. For most of my route today, I was interrupted by these standing stones. First lifted by the Vikings, they were covered in scrawls of graffiti. I have no idea what they say, but I understand there is a website that has catalogued all of these standing stones and translated them. It would be nice if one of the many stones I photographed today had a personal message on one of them. Like the carving discussed in Simon Schama’s ‘A History Of Britain’ where a Viking marauder broke into a tomb and inscribed a message on the stone calling his partner ‘one horny bitch.’ This stone looks enigmatic, poetic, ancient and mysterious. Imagine if all those runes spelled out ‘My cock is the biggest in the Northern Hemisphere.’
Today was an adventure into the unknown. I went out onto the moors armed only with food, a keyring compass and a map. A chance to escape humanity whilst seemingly reconnecting with echoes, constantly. By the time I left, I knew every footpath and bridleway in my little corner of Bedfordshire with my eyes closed. Here, it was more fluid, wondering what sight will assault my eyes over the brow of every hill.
These aren’t Viking, of course. Etched into the stone; I’m guessing that they are a record of how many times ‘F.C’ have walked this route? Thirty one walks and still not bored. That’s a good sign.
Oh I know. The worst kind of selfie. The ‘I Had No Idea This Was Being Taken’ kind of selfie, with a self-timer. I could lie and say that a friend of mine took this as I soaked up the view. But it was all me. I hope you will excuse me my Casper David Friedrich moment though.
I’ve said before that it is naive to romanticize nature, and so it proved. As I sat on the lip of that hill, I experienced a total silence of man-made sound. No cars, no machinery, no aircraft flying overhead. Just a deafening silence, soundtracked by the twittering of birds and the low hum of the occasional bumblebee. Even in the most isolated parts of Beds, Herts or Bucks, you were never far from a flight path, a motorway, an ‘A’ road. I lay back, closed my eyes and drank in this clear wave. Transparent in luminosity.
And then, rising up from the farm several hundred yards below me, the lone rasping voice of a thick Yorkshire accent.
“GET IN TAE YA FUCKA. FUUUCKKK YOU. YOU BASTARD. GET I’ THERE YA FUCK.”
(A farmer in dialogue with his sheep)
(Yes, I did laugh)
Onwards I trekked, at one point climbing up the side of a waterfall. There were cairns and barrows dotted everywhere, along with the standing stones. it is a surreal feeling to walk in the footsteps of a millenia.
This is where editing of photos comes good. When I took this long shot, I wanted to capture the long road winding behind me, set against the faintest little wart which is a ruined farmhouse. I had no idea this face existed. It still freaks me out now.
The old mine. I am beginning to learn that photographs don’t tell the truth. It is a long, and well acknowledged, lesson, but one that I am taking in. Photography couldn’t capture the glittering sandstone beneath my feet, but it did find a face in the sky.