Stonehenge – Sunday 26th August
All is still at Airman’s Cross but they’re cracking on with the works. Big piles of earth sit in the corners of the main site and across the road wide channels of chalk earth are exposed.
Because it’s bank holiday, the weather forecast is for rain, but today it’s warm, sunny and of course, windy. The car park is a beep fest of reversing vehicles.
On the byway there’s a stall selling English strawberries and cherries, an abundance of tempting summer fruits, and nearby another stall for the Open Access to Stonehenge campaign.
The crowds are arriving and a man in a brown hooded robe with a long staff passes by.
Mark is attempting a study at the edge of the newer grass walkway at 160°. Unfortunately his view looks over the tarmac towards the stones, so although the top of the circle is visible, the bottom of the stones is obscured by people standing in front of them. This is the lot of the artist working in a popular tourist destination. It’s a challenge!
There are some serious photographers here today. I spot several people with expensive kit. Big lenses, heavy weight tripods and the more extreme end of digital SLRs. One chap has a whole heap of gear stacked up on a backpack on wheels. And topping the lot is an American film crew, up here in force. It’s a documentary. As I walk by I hear the female director telling one of the presenters to go from, “Here in England, where Stonehenge, a sun-worshipping…” I don’t feel it’s polite to stand and stare.
A young Japanese woman performs a slow perfect headstand for a photograph. A young man cartwheels, his brown stomach exposed as he turns upside down. Lots of people are jumping and there’s the careful-positioning-of-hands-suggesting-Stonehenge-being-held-up shot. On the whole, people are enjoying themselves. It’s getting cloudier, but it’s still okay. A bit chilly for summer frocks and shorts, but most people are now in post-summer wardrobe.
Across the road, the cars have spilled onto the field and are spreading. The farmer is driving around the field in his 4X4 checking up on his flock of sheep. The road is rammed. Cars towing caravans squeeze past coaches attempting to leave. As we leave the monument field, the queues of people waiting to get in trail way along the paths towards the car park. The pic-nic tables are fully populated. And still they keep coming.
Tuesday 28th August
It’s late afternoon and there’s a different kind of activity up at Stonehenge. A film crew, but a serious film crew are in town. Tall floodlights have been erected on the byway and various trucks are gathering. Any unit that has a catering truck has to be serious! I’m guessing they’ll be filming in the darkness or early light, the only way they’ll be free of people and traffic.
Mark is completing his studies from the western walkway before it disappears. Right now it’s not too busy so the chances of drawing in the bottom of the stones cleanly without people’s bottoms in the way, is pretty high. He settles himself in front of the Station Stone then fights with his paper to secure it to his drawing board. Yep. It’s windy.
The valiant starlings are doing team aerobatics but keep losing form.
Mark is videoed by a hip young man in shorts and a hoodie. He looks quite groomed and gleamy. Of course now I’m looking at people and wondering if they’re from the film unit and if I might recognise someone.
A mother stands for her son – or am I witnessing an older woman with toy-boy – I do hope so – anyway she stands for him to take a photo but her hair won’t co-operate. It’s like standing in front of an extreme wind machine. Not so much wind-swept as completely dishevelled.
The young man then walks up to Mark and starts talking from a distance. Mark answers but doesn’t actually look up. He’s a working artist. The man takes the hint and leaves him to it.
A little girl in a floral skirt walks up and down running her hands along the guide rope then starts practising spinning jumps.
Outside the chain-link fence a woman in a pink sari flutters in the wind. Everything is moving. Two boys on bicycles pull in. They stand on their pedals and hang onto the wire while they reach up and hold their cameras above the fence for a clean shot of the stones.
On the road, more vehicles for the film unit arrive: dressing room pods, a dining bus and double decker sleepers, outsized white trucks, conspicuous in this rural landscape.
A small boy in a turquoise t-shirt has a quick look over Mark’s shoulder then starts doing aeroplanes, running into the wind with his arms outstretched along the grass path. And to accompany him, two helicopters fly along the Cursus.