Stonehenge – Monday 13th May
Today we have our first journey around the brand new roundabout by Airman’s Corner. The highway folk are really moving along with things. It won’t be long before the memory of the old grass verges and open fields has faded into some nostalgic haze.
Unfortunately it has also just started to rain. Stonehenge is well peopled and as we approach, umbrellas are going up around the walkway.
We arrive in the car park just as a severe shower pelts down. It is though still very bright. I’m scouring the skies for a rainbow.
A couple are standing close up to the large display board near the entrance, sheltering against the wind and gusts of rain, others are running back to their vehicles.
After a few minutes the rain subsides and we head up to the monument.
Along the path by the chain link fence, a woman is lying flat on her stomach taking a photo under the guide rope. Surely the ground is wet there. But this is how it has to be if this is your once in a lifetime opportunity to get exactly the right picture.
Mark settles in his spot in front of the trilithon and continues with the silverpoint drawing. It starts to rain again, gently, and he leans over his board, sheltering the paper from the wet. It’s actually a very effective technique. The rain is hitting him square on his back the drawing in front is kept dry.
Waves of coach parties are coming and going. It looks as if they’re all on tight schedules; they’re not hanging about for long. The rain subsides.
A portly bald tour guide heads up the tarmac path, a crocodile of visitors behind him. He looks at the artist sitting and drawing, points at him then stops and gathers his large group of people around him. They cluster each side of Mark, engulfing him, to listen to the tour guide doing his thing.
I’m amused that this man is being so territorial, this path is long enough for Mark to be where he is and for several coach parties to gather in separate groups there, but no, this man deliberately chose to be exactly where Mark is.
I’m wondering if he’s going to include Mark somehow but the guide embarks on his own particular history of Stonehenge.
“How do we know this? It’s quite simple. It’s called professional archaeology. Science.” He proclaims.
“ Experience tells me that at that stage there was very little difference between male and female socially, politically and economically. So I would suspect, as females give birth, they’re in a separate religious area and that’s the current thinking in modern archaeology.” He says.
I’m thinking this doesn’t sound very scientific to me. What experience?
“But why haven’t we found it then?” He continues. “Well this is military land, they don’t want you going around with a metal detector or radar and examining things. It’s simple as that.” He tells his group confidently.
This is obviously his USP. It’s certainly not stuff I’ve seen in any guidebooks. Well not yet anyway.
When he’s finished his talk, he organises a photo opportunity for the individuals in his party, him playing photographer and director. Unfortunately he’s directing people to step backwards towards the seated artist. They aren’t looking to know how close they are to Mark. Suddenly, the custodians are there, expertly negotiating territory on behalf of all visitors and they ask politely but firmly that people just stay aware of Mark sitting there and give him a bit of space. It’s completely unprompted. They saw a situation developing and stepped in and at that moment I want to hug them. I don’t, but it’s tempting.
After a short while, it starts to rain again and Mark covers up his drawing and comes to. He says the tour guide reminded him of Al Murray’s comedy pub landlord, all bombast and self-importance. He did however find it really tricky trying to concentrate feeling that someone’s rucksack was about to nudge him at any moment. We’ll try again tomorrow, if the weather allows.
As we climb into the truck in the car park, a fabulous rainbow is straddling the east end of the Cursus.