Tuesday, 25 May 2010

Directions to Mesolithic rock art, Northumberland

1. Head out of the tourist office in feverish joy and anticipation, clutching a photograph to your bosom. (1 min)

2. Jump into the car excitedly and drive around enthusiastically searching for some woodland and a rock. Say it doesn't matter that we don't have a map. I have an A level in geography, and that is just as good. (1 hour)

3. Screech to a halt near some woodland on the basis that it is on an incline like in the photograph, and you are sure you saw some rock near it, and there is a path. (30 secs)

4. Force everyone out the car shouting Come on! Let's find rock art! (30 sec for the shouting, 10 minutes to lever everyone out the car where it is nice and cosy warm)

5. Follow the path up the hill. (1 min)

6. Cajole everyone to start walking across a field in the direction you saw some rock. (20 minutes, with a lot of sulking)

7. Merge onto the rocks and have a big argument about who is allowed to climb the rocks, who saw the rocks first, and whose turn it is to see the rocks next. (20 min)

8. Shout Shut up everybody. Now go and look for rock art. Prod everyone to clamber about all the rocks in different directions. No one knows what they are looking for because you left the photo in the car. Just describe it by waving your arms about. Remind everyone that you have an A level in Art therefore are qualified to be leader of the Mesolithic art expedition. (30 mins)

9. Decide it is the wrong rock. Never mind. Look on the bright side! It must be the rock over the hill. Set off across the field with the dead trees and continue in that direction until the path runs out. (1 hour)

10. Climb over the gate. It is just a ruddy gate. Do not look at the rotting sheep carcass on the other side. Yes, I am sure this is nothing unsafe and there is not really a panther on the prowl. (10 mins)

11. Continue across the field for quite a long way. Wonder about giving up when you find the chewed remains of more skeletons, piles of feathers, broken eggshells, and general wild carnage. Laugh it off. Tell everyone the rock is just over here. (Seems like eternity)

12. Become mildly diverted by a bog. (15 mins)

13. Turn right at the bog. Cross the next field where you are spooked by horses. You wonder if they are flesh eating horses and had a part to play in the dismemberment of the sheep. (Move very quickly across that field, actually)

14. Find more rocks! Run at them, shouting We've found the Mesolithic art! (5 mins)

15. Decide they are the wrong rocks. However, by now, because the mood is turning ugly and there is likely to be a rebellion, claim that if you were a Mesolithic hunter gatherer, these are the very rocks you would choose to carve pictures! (40 mins, and some false laughing to deflect the rising tide of resentment and the questioning of the authority of Mummy Grit as equipped to be leader of the rock art expedition)

16. Decide to take the quickest route back to the car before there is real trouble. (1 hour)

17. Phew! Thank goodness! Climb back into the car. Drive back to the last village where you saw a Post Office and public toilets. (20 mins plus an argument about who uses the toilet first)

18. Nonchalantly stroll into the Post Office, hiding the real intention: to pump the old woman for information. She surely must know the location of the finest Mesolithic art in all England! What do you mean, you've never heard of it? But it is around here! She must be keeping it secret. Consider tying her to a chair and torturing her with letters and stamps until she confesses. Buy some scones instead and leave slowly, sulking, before she calls the police. Put the scones in the bin outside when you actually read the label and discover they are made with animal fat. What is it with these people? Can't they just stop chewing on raw dead meat for an afternoon? (1 hour, 15 minutes)

19. Get back in the car. Declare everything is hopeless. But we are not bloody well giving up. Stare, wildly. Frighten the children slightly. Point to some hills. Shout SHUT UP. Now let's drive back around the other side of that field! (30 mins)

20. ROCKS! SEE ROCKS! Jump out the car. Force everyone up the world's steepest hill. STOP WHINING. I know your legs ache. So do mine. Think of the rewards! Soon you will see rock! Carved thousands and thousands of years ago by our ancestors! (45 minutes, plus time to lie down half way up hill and wish for defibrillator)

21. Discover this is the wrong rock. Shout RIGHT. THAT'S IT. I AM SICK AND TIRED OF LOOKING FOR A BLOODY ROCK. But I am not giving up. Get back in the car. We will drive around a bit more. Come down off that rock and stop arguing. Thank you for your co-operation. I have a chocolate bar. (1 hour)

22. Drive along a long, long road into the middle of nowhere. Suddenly see rocks again. Shout I WANT TO SEE THOSE ROCKS. Jump out of the car while it is still moving. Hear the sound of children laughing in shock. They do not realise you are actually a driven woman and you are going to find those rocks or gnaw off your own legs. (And who cares how long it takes? This is Mesolithic art we're talking about)


24. Spend an hour gazing at the lovely ancient fantastic amazing rock art, before setting off, past that hill, over that stream, through that wood, past those sheep. (timeless)

25. Scramble up that cliff.

26. Find the primitive animal carvings. Are they deer? goats? horses? Are they Stone age? Modern? Who cares? After a ten hour search I'm claiming them for the Mesoliths.

(Now you seriously did not hope to discover the actual location of the fantastic rock art and stone carvings, did you? Not bloody likely. You can have the full Grit experience matey, and put in the legwork.)