Stonehenge – Saturday 13th October
Mark sets up by the chain-link fence. He needs the morning light on this side of the stone circle for his drawing and so we’re at Stonehenge for opening time. It’s quite peaceful first thing. But we know this won’t last long. It’s Saturday and it’s not raining.
The earliest visitors are in, not too many, but outside the fence there are coach parties of Italian youth. Why they’re out there and not coming in I really don’t know. I believe education parties get a huge discount on the entrance fee. They have a tour guide with them who gives a fast flowing monologue, I presume about Stonehenge, and the hordes take photos through the holes in the wire.
Half an hour in, and the coach parties arrive in the monument field. Oh yes, it’s going to be busy. People do exhibit the strangest behaviour when they see Mark drawing. My favourite is when someone spots Mark then stands directly in front of him to photograph Stonehenge as if it was his view. He gets a complete view of their back, none of Stonehenge. I’m guessing they think because an artist is drawing this view, it must be particularly picturesque. They don’t realize he’s drawing all angles of the ancient circle, even the less attractive ones.
This view is tricky because of the light shifting so quickly this time of year. The day is condensed; the sun isn’t hanging about but marching across the sky. Within a two-hour period it is no longer illuminating this side of the stones and details of the sarsens creep back into shadow.
From this position we can see the crowds on the tarmac walkway as they enter the site. They bunch up on their first encounter with the mighty stones and greedily gather photos, heady with the introduction. As they get to this point of the circuit, they’re watching their clocks. On the whole, they stop for a quick look or photo and then they’re off. By this stage they’ve been there and seen it and are ready for the next experience.
The clouds are gathering. There’s a flat grey-ness edging in. It’s chilly. Young pretty Asian girls walk round in high fashion urban wear, European students in jeans and hoodies. The older visitors are of course, more sensibly dressed for the climate, wrapped up in fleecies and waterproofs. But the temperature on this hill is significantly colder than even the car park a few metres away. Most people look cold.
A group of young Italians walk by and a sparkly girl in a pink beanie hat appropriately shouts to Mark as she passes by, “COOL!”