Picking and choosing at the Farmers' Market.
As I watch the BBC TV documentary about the origins of Homo Sapiens, one point in particular strikes me as reassuring. The presenter, Dr Alice Roberts, is focusing on the arrival, around 40,000 years ago, of the first Homo Sapiens in a Europe already occupied by Neanderthals. "The Neanderthals, were intelligent, technologically up to scratch, like Homo Sapiens (ie made stone tools). What is more they were aclimatised to the cooler northern climate. Yet the Neanderthals became extinct, while Homo Sapiens, which had emerged more recently from the warmer African climate, survived". Why was this? "The capacity to create works of art such as carvings, cave paintings and figurines, developed", she says, "in human not in Neanderthal culture. And this gave us the edge, defined us, set us apart and helped us define territory and identity."
Art sometimes get a bad press nowadays. It is seen as a spare time activity, an indulgence and, when professional, sometimes eccentric and hard to understand. So it is good to think that in the early development of the human race, art played so important a part in our survival. During the Ice Age, which nearly killed off early Europeans, the artists who occupied the caves of southern France and the Iberian Peninsula, produced such astonishing paintings, were fulfilling an important social function. Something, which artists today, no one should doubt it, still fulfill in an age, no less scary than the Ice Age.
In the High Street, despite thumping amplifiers in Chapel Place, celebrating the bank holiday with deafening rock music, I hear the wild, shrieking of swifts, overhead.