Stonehenge – Thursday 23rd May
It’s not even funny. Today we’re back into thermals and waterproofs. Will it ever be warm in England? And today it’s seriously windy, especially so up at Stonehenge.
As we walk through the entrance tunnel we’re accompanied by a strange rhythmic tapping. Mark quips that English Heritage has installed a sound piece consisting of primitive drumming, a creative compliment to the illustration of the Neolithic men forever hauling the mighty sarsens up the entrance slope. But actually, we think it’s either wind or electrics.
Up at the top of the slope a nun is removing a warm fleecy to stand in her black habit, a bright pink rope tie around her waist, and smiling serenely while a companion takes a photo of her with the ancient stones in the background.
A large group of French school kids is gathered near to Mark’s spot. He wriggles through to his position and unwraps the silverpoint drawing, instantly upstaging the educational leader. The kids all cram around the seated artist to see what he’s doing.
Once they leave, other visitors move in to photograph and video him. Some Indian boys have a brand new toy, a small compact video camera with a fold out screen. The stickers proclaiming ‘Full HD’ are all very shiny and intact, though one is fluttering from the edge of the digital screen and threatening an immanent escape.
A man crouches behind Mark to get a low shot of the artist at work then stands and very loudly says, “That’s Amazing!” Mark thanks him quietly but doesn’t move.
I go for a walk around the encircling grass walkway.
A Japanese family are having a photo shoot, Dad playing photographer to the mother with her babe in arms. Quite ingeniously, he’s using the pram as an extended tripod. He’s wrapping a small bendy device attached to the camera around the pram’s handle – proof that children’s paraphernalia can be useful beyond the obvious design.
The French school party come along and sit on the grass in a large horseshoe arrangement while their teacher asks them questions. They look cold; sitting huddled, hands in pockets, hoods up where possible.
Another couple are having great fun taking photos of each other. “Uno – Dos – Tres,” comes the command from him as she giggles and jumps.
Another jumping shot is being taken further along the guide rope, five young women trying to coordinate timing for their photographer. They’re failing completely and loving every minute of it.
There is a little blue in the sky, the clouds are moving rapidly because of the ferocity of the winds, but unfortunately there appears to be an endless supply of them.
The sheep have definitely gone from the meadow, but people stand and take photos of the landscape anyway. It’s very green right now, with patches of vivid yellow where oil seed rape is in flower. In the brief moments when the sun hits those fields, they actually glow.
A substantial group of late middle-aged people follow a woman carrying a lollipop inscribed with the number 29.
I head back to the car park looking forward to the shelter of the truck. A little girl is being carried on the hip of her carer and she’s screaming. I walk behind and see large tears and a copiously runny nose but she looks directly at me and I know that whatever the trauma, it’s now over. And she knows that I know but she’s made such a commotion, it’s not yet quite the right time to let it go.