Stonehenge – Monday 20th August
We queue on the road outside the Stonehenge visitor centre. During the summer months English Heritage charge to use the official car park. They do reimburse if you pay your entrance fee but
explaining this to each vehicle pulling in takes time. And so there’s a queue on the road. It’s a bit mad.
The Cursus barrows have people on their summits; the byway on both sides of the road is lined with cars. It’s sunny and breezy and a good day to visit the ancient monuments.
Up by the stone circle we hear a voice drift from the staff walkie-talkies, “49 Chinese on their way up”.
The skies are busy. Two Merlin helicopters, or are they Pumas? And a Chinook chase along the Cursus.
A young Chinese visitor loses her entry leaflet over the rope near the Henge ditch on the west side. She has a hasty discussion with her friend then nimbly leaps the rope, collects the errant flyer and leaps back.
Mark is setting up by the rope on the western walkway. Another pen and ink study today. He’s found a language for doing these studies and it hasn’t taken too long considering. This particular exercise is not to make pleasing pictures but to gather information. He’ll use these studies to work up other work back in his studio. Every project demands its own particular vocabulary. It’s never a case of just drawing things the same way. Though I do think Mark has a recognisable ‘voice’, the method and accent of each drawing project is quite distinct.
He’s hardly started and the cameras arrive. A South American couple stand and video him for a while, then the young Chinese visitors start photographing him, but it’s grab-and-go. So far no one is disturbing him. The first half hour of a new drawing is especially critical. He needs to concentrate. A teenager in a green hoodie stands and watches Mark work for ages.
I hear a mother explaining to her children how the government decided that people can’t go up to the stones because of in fighting between groups claiming that Stonehenge was exclusively their special place. She says that it’s odd for her to be outside the stones because as a teenager, she was free to walk amongst them. Low pulsating beats fill the air and the Chinook flies back along the Cursus. A small child starts to scream. Not the noise that suggests genuine distress, but that forced, loud kiddy-din of a child trying to force a situation. His mother gives him an audio guide. He shuts up. Result. As the family walk by, the child is holding the audio to his ear and shouting, “Hello” into it. “Hello” – a new kind of hell, but happily not for me as they walk on, past and away.
Some kids are playing with a flying hoop along the walkway. It flies over the rope and one of the boys follows it. They’re having enormous fun, but obviously couldn’t care-less about the iconic monument a few yards away.
Along the chain link fence people line up and poke their camera lenses through the holes to get a shot of the stones, and still more vehicles arrive to try their luck in the car park, or on the byway, or on the side of the road. A remarkable number of campervans today, many with European number-plates. The stones are wrapped around by an everlasting line of visitors.
A crow sits on crow perch and a couple of jackdaws hang about the shady parts of the Trilithons. A Spanish family ask me to take a photo for them in front of Stonehenge and then offer to take one for me on my camera. International Tourist Etiquette, it’s a code in regular use in these parts.
A biker crouches to take a photograph of Mark. A father sits down close by with his child who has a small digital game console with him. I guess it’s a shooting game because the persistent irritating audio effects suggest that. A little’un in a bright red top runs under the rope and races towards the ditch. Luckily his father is also fast and fit and rugby tackles the toddler to the ground, scoops him up, and passes him over to his mother.
It’s teatime, the crowds just keep coming and the helicopters re-trace their flight path along the Great Stonehenge Cursus.