Stonehenge – Monday 17th June
It’s cloudy but warm, breezy but not gale-force. Perfect weather for a Stonehenge visit. We head into the monument and Mark unfolds his stool and sits for another few hours work on the silverpoint trilithon.
It’s not too busy up here. Constant but not mad. People stop to photograph the artist and his work but it’s reasonably chilled.
One of the Custodians is approached by a couple who sound Scandinavian, “Would you be able to make a photo for us?” The Custodian takes the camera and chats nicely while he makes the photo. The next time I see him he’s politely acting as audience. “And this is the view from my bedroom. This is where I live,” says the Scandinavian man. He’s showing the Custodian the digital display of his camera. “And this is an old aeroplane of the Second World War.” He could be there for some time…
A little girl carrying an English Heritage plastic bag wanders next to Mark. “Mind that bag,” says her father as she swings it towards the seated artist. Then she hoists the guide rope up and over her head knocking Mark’s drawing board in the process. Her mother grabs her and lifts her back tourist side.
The bridge in front of the Heel Stone has gone, one of the subtle changes happening here for solstice. It does mean that the walkway passing in front of the Heel Stone is closed. The pattern for the trail around Stonehenge is a giant horseshoe rather than a circle and people backtrack to get to the exit. It means that tourist traffic is a two-way affair along the tarmac path and at times it is a little cramped. Mark is sitting right at the centre of the busiest stretch. If people didn’t stop to peer over his shoulder on the way round, they seem to be stopping on the way back.
A group of young starlings flies onto the trilithons and begin picking at the lichen. A bug lands on me. A shiny red and green beetle type thing and I brush it off. No spiders at the moment, but the birds are all over the site, pecking in the grass as well as on the stones. There could well be a feast here right now, and how convenient for all the tourists. The birds eat the beetles and keep us all bug free.
A woman walks by me and looks over my journal. “Oh, you’re journaling!” she says. “I wasn’t sure if you were drawing.” We have a brief chat and I learn that she’s here with her niece from mid-west USA and she’s an old hand at Stonehenge, been here several times over the years. Apparently her last visit was as recent as February but strangely, despite repeat visits she’s slightly suspicious of Stonehenge. She tells me she doesn’t really get the spiritual stuff here. “I’m from the mid-west,” she says. “We’re very practical people. We grow it, we eat it!” And there’s just no argument to be had with that.
Siobhan and her goat’s head staff warmly greet me. She tells me she’s met some amazing people here today. I’m guessing the experience will have been mutual.
I walk round to the Heel Stone, to the end of the available walkway and read the notice apologising for the closure of the path. The Heel Stone looks magnificent. I’m so used to looking at it partially obscured I’ve stopped noticing it in its full glory.
This place is nuts. How did someone come up with the idea of dragging these enormous rocks to this site to arrange them on their ends, and how did they persuade all the people needed to labour on the project over generations? Maybe it was a dictatorship and the population were all slaves. So many questions…But whatever, this place is a bit bonkers and I haven’t yet stopped being amazed by it.