Got all tangled up in touring for a bit there. But we’re back on it now.
We Trouts are in France, beleaguering the gentle & undeserving populace with our old show Famous Puppet Death Scenes. However, we just had a bit of time off, and managed to orchestrate a field trip to Les Grottes de Niaux, in the Ariège Department in the Pyrenées. The whole area is lousy with caves – in fact from the caves of Niaux there’s another prehistoric residence a few minutes walk down the mountain and another visible across the valley. They must have peered suspiciously out at night at the glow of each other’s hearth-fires. Maybe the caves were kind of like hereditary strongholds, like the old ruined castles which sit on top of every mountain, it seems, around here.
Although the nice cave guide seemed to be telling us that people never actually lived in caves at all. That’s just a charming and evocative 19th century myth that, to be honest, I’m going to keep believing against all evidence.
Although the truth seems to be even more evocative: they didn’t live in caves, they only painted in them. They made arduous and surely terrifying journeys into the pitch darkness carrying grease lamps for the sole purpose of painting. We don’t know why.
There are various theories, of course. Me, I’m inclined towards this one: in those days, there was still profound magic in the act of ‘calling something to mind.’ That is, summoning the thing, half-real and half-ghost, into existence, by naming it, by making a mark with a stone that parted the veil between this world and another world, dimly evident inside our own cave-like skulls, an intermingling of dream and reality. We were just beginning to be able to imagine things that weren’t there, and this was such a shattering revelation that it could only be hidden in the deep and dark, only perceived by flickering flames. From that newfound and terrible ability sprang everything else – the ability to think ahead, to imagine a future that might be, or that might not, thence to theories, ideals, politics, philosophy, demons, ghosts, and angels.