Stonehenge – Monday 29th October
Driving along the rural roads of Wiltshire on the journey into Stonehenge, the colours are truly spectacular. The trees move from shades of palest honey yellow to deep purpley reds. The countryside is aflame with Autumn. The hedgerows shimmer with glossy berries. There are hips and haws in abundance. The rough winds of this last weekend have taken their toll. The roadsides and verges are littered with leaves and some trees have been stripped completely. Winter-ready skeletons.
Airman’s Corner is busy. The shape of the new visitors centre is becoming clearer. There are now two metal frames up ready for cladding. The roads are full of Highways Agency workers. Lots of vehicles, lots of men, and even they reflect the autumn hues of yellow and orange.
The Stonehenge car park is chaotic. It’s surprisingly busy and visitors are getting agitated, waiting for a space as some people park greedily, taking up way more room than they need and others take an age to negotiate their way out of extremely tight muddy spots. It’s a beautiful day but tempers are short. It must be half term. Weekday family visitors are back.
Walking through the tunnel on the way up to the field I hear a couple of American women discussing the weather.
“Today, we’re being British in our attitude. We’re going to Stonehenge WHATEVER the weather!”
“Yeh, but I’m so glad it’s not raining…”
That’s something about the British character I hadn’t realised defined us. I don’t actually like the rain either. Maybe it’s a reference to our stiff upper lip? But in a land of perpetual winter we don’t really have the choice except to go out into it. So we go, and moan about it. I’m guessing these ladies must come from one of the warmer States.
The sky is a perfect mixture of slow moving clouds and sunshine. The light on the stones is dramatic.
Mark sits up to the guide rope with his drawing board on his lap. He’s completing a study at 360° in pen and ink. The flow around the monument is reasonably calm and well paced, mainly small family groups rather than the larger school and coach parties. Children are particularly drawn to look at what the artist is doing and the grown-ups follow on. The usual photos are taken of the artist and his work, the artist at work, the artist and Stonehenge.
The clouds above us are suddenly much darker, stormy even. We need a coffee so decide to retreat to the truck for caffeine and cover. On the way out we spot a man standing and drawing Stonehenge from the tarmac walkway. I wait for him to finish then accost him by asking if I can take his photo. He doesn’t speak any English and I’m at a complete loss to even recognise the sounds he’s making. I resort to mime. Camera, photo, him, his work. Ah yes, he understands me, reopens his sketchpad and happily strikes a pose. Then Mark gives him a card and the word ‘artist’ is recognised. “Yes. Artist”, says the man and pulls out his own card.
This is Ortikali Kozokov of the International Kurash Association. (Kurash, I’ve just learned, is a martial art form based on traditional Uzbek wrestling.)
Mr Kozokov is the “General Director of the International Museum of Kurash” and a “Distinguished Artist of the Republic of Uzbekistan”. Thank goodness for business cards. That would have taken some doing in mime.
He’s sketching in felt-tip and his drawing is fluid and fresh and incredibly fast. It’s thrilling to witness a completely unknown hand make a brand new image appear.
A grey helicopter appears overhead and flies in circles quite low over the car park and the monument field. I’m trying to see if that’s a camera on the front. It’s unusual to have one flying so low over this area. It turns and flies in a straight line directly over to the Cursus barrows, then turns again and flies straight back, stops and hovers like a giant raptor above the A344, directly above the visitor tunnel.