Yuri points out, ‘You know another good thing about this place? No advertising.’
He’s right. No roadside billboards, no flyers plastered to lampposts and buildings, no shopping centres flashing neon propaganda. No shopping centres at all. Not for a hundred miles. And back home you get adverts for the mall you’re already walking around.
Thank you for shopping at Westgate.
Don’t thank me. There’s no need. You attribute to me a choice in your favour where no such choice exists. Not really. Convenience and a distaste for Amazon bought me here. When every temple of commercialism is the same you may as well go to the closest.
Thank you for shopping at Westgate, really, that’s just, Thank you for contributing to our bank accounts at the expense of your own.
I live better without the constant subliminals.
On the 9th, we toured Smoo Cave. It starts with a huge chamber at the end of a long, narrow inlet. The water leading toward it has the green colour of the weed below. Once, the cave would have included a lot of this inlet too. You can see in places fragments of the old ceiling, now covered in grass and used as canvases by visitors to mark their names in pebbles. To get to the cave you have to take a large staircase that follows the contour of the cliff wall as it turns in on itself and out again before reaching sea-level. The site is unique in that it’s entrance was formed by seawater while the rear chambers were carved by fresh water from the mountains.
This cave has been a communal site for humans for possibly as long as 10,000 years. The Vikings landed here and used it when the whole island was a gamble and a mystery. Before them, the hunter-gatherers who settled in the country, possibly taking a now submerged land bridge from France—the Weald-Artois Anticline—and working their way to the distant north over subsequent generations, did the same. Archaeologists have found the cracked nut shells and arrowheads those people discarded, as well as charcoal and animal bones. Ancient man took shelter here and cooked his kills.
The tour was led by Colin. He was a self employed tour guide, geologist and archaeologist who left a great impression on us. A portion of his life consisted of exploring beautiful caves, finding what secrets they held. He was almost Indiana Jones. As he took us into the cave on a dinghy he told us about his suspicions that centuries ago many more caverns and tunnels were accessible but due to flooding a lot of it is underwater or filled in. This seemed to be his main area of intrigue, he wanted to chart those unknown parts of the cave system. There was an air of excitement about him when he spoke of his discoveries and the ongoing work to excavate deeper. His enthusiasm spread to us quickly, although inside the cold interior of the Earth, surrounded by its million year sculpting projects, little encouragement was necessary.
Inside the second chamber, where you board the boat and move into the cave-proper, there’s a waterfall that keeps a carp pool filled. Colin took us to the centre of it, maybe about 5 metres from the cave walls on either side, and threw some food into the water. For a second the water was alive, sleek black backs appeared in the beams of our torches, and then disappeared again.
Getting further into the cave meant taking a small boat and ducking under low arches of rock. The walls felt like ice and emitted cold but the air seemed strangely fresh, the smell damp and musty but clean. We could have spent hours there.
Just for the record, Camera Thief by Atmosphere, Lotus Flower by Radiohead and Aurora by Bjork are going down very well this trip. Bjork sounds good in any cave. We’ve tested it in a few now.