Stonehenge – Monday 15th April
It’s the afternoon and for some reason we think that by visiting Stonehenge later in the day we might avoid the excessive crowds. However, the car park is alarmingly full of coaches and, judging by the visitors we can see, most of them are school parties.
Sitting on the wooden fence along the path to the entrance are a group of lads. Hard to tell exactly how old but I’d say early to mid teens. One of them is openly and defiantly smoking a cigarette. The others are just hanging with him hoping to look hard by association. The girls walking by are flirtatiously both appalled and impressed.
Up by the monument a jackdaw is on the grass wrestling with a large uncooperative twig. It’s nesting time.
Mark finds his spot quickly today and gets his head down to the business of silverpoint drawing.
Siobhan, cloaked and garlanded, goat-head staff in hand, walks along the tarmac path and says that she’s had a difficult encounter with some rather unpleasant Dutch kids followed by a surprisingly pleasant one with some French kids. A Chinese woman asks if she can have a photo with her. It’s a negotiation done with mime rather than words but Siobhan gamely poses with a complete stranger while one of the EH custodians wields the camera.
There’s a swell on the path and a party of 40-50 French teenagers floods in front of the monument. They’re incredibly noisy. The girls are play-acting kickboxing on the boys and the boys are shouting and running up and down. “They’re a lively bunch.” Says one of the custodians dryly. The custodians really are so polite. I can think of several ways of describing this bunch of teens but hadn’t considered ‘lively’: though indeed they are. They cluster around Mark and I stand quite closely behind, ready to pounce if any of them decides to ‘do’ something. But I needn’t be concerned. One young lad pulls his unruly classmates to order, instructing them to be quiet around the artist and not to disturb him. His mates move off; he lingers to watch the artist conjuring an image on paper from a trail of silver.
One of the EH staff accompanies the group along the path, just in case.
The jackdaws are building in earnest. I watch one’s routine. He or she, arrives on top of one of the trilithons with a big twig, then juggles for a while before flying down to one of the smaller blue stones, where more juggling happens while he readjusts his grip on the ambitious stick. Then with a mighty heave, he launches upward off the blue stone and directly into a hole between a sarsen upright and its corresponding lintel.
Another school party arrives on the path. Mark is surrounded again and it seem this bunch are French too. They’re not the least bit interested in Stonehenge, but they also aren’t taking endless photos of themselves.
Four young Indian men stand nearby to take photos in front of the stones. One of them drops his smart phone. It bounces off the hard path and splits in two, the shiny white back separated from the screen.
His friends briefly mock but quickly sympathize, congregating to give even briefer technical advice and assistance before continuing the all important photo opportunity.
Once again, we arrived in intermittent sun but the cloud has moved in and brought with it the familiar cold wind.
Along the A303 cars are travelling with headlights on. The odd camera flash explodes across the stone circle.