Stonehenge – Thursday 24th January
There’s a slight melting of the snow. Patches of earth are starting to appear through the white stuff. I don’t know if it is just typical for this time of year or what impact the weather is having on tourist numbers at Stonehenge, but it isn’t very busy.
As we pull into the car park it’s sparsely populated but right behind us are two coaches, well laden.
As we walk towards the turnstiles a coach driver and, I’m guessing, a tour guide pass us as the guide proclaims, “That was an INCREDIBLE piece of driving”.
We mingle with the other visitors on the tarmac path and Mark grabs his spot, sets up his stool and sits with his drawing board clamped to his lap. He might just finish his drawing before the month is out, but it really is painful sitting for too long in these cruel temperatures.
“We came. We saw.” Says an American youth to his friend as they pass me by and head for the warmth of a vehicle.
Siobhan is here, gloveless. It’s too bizarre to me that she can stand and chat happily in such extreme cold with bare flesh exposed. An Indian woman reaches for the goats head staff and asks if she can hold him for a photo. Siobhan says of course she may.
A couple of crows sit atop crow perch, seemingly unfazed by the weather. A couple of visitors are eating bread rolls as they walk along. I think the birds here are well fed whatever the season, they’re probably waiting for that opportunity now, watching the ‘eaters’ every move.
In the background, behind the noise of the traffic, I can hear persistent firing. The military are hard at it, rehearsing for the next challenge.
I watch a round young man scoop up a large handful of snow from under the guide rope and form it into a generous snowball. He works it, compacting it until it looks quite solid, and then he just tips it back over the rope. He scoops up more snow and forms another ball. This time he draws his arm far back and lobs the ball with great effort into the air across the snow covered Henge ditch. The snowball sort of hovers, then plunges unspectacularly, disintegrating on impact with the ground.
An older man stands with a sketchbook on the tarmac path. He’s tall and smartly dressed, winter clothes but city clothes. He’s noticeable because he’s not wearing the usual mixture dominant here, of winter sports and country wear, and because he’s still. He concentrates on drawing but every now and then does a little dance to keep his path of vision clear and peer around other visitors standing directly in his way. I wait for him to finish and as he’s putting his sketchbook away, I introduce myself and ask him if I can take a photo.
This is Torgny Fredrickson visiting the UK from South Carolina. He’s a retired veterinary pathologist so this is a man who’s used to looking at things in detail. He tells me that in retirement he’s grasping the opportunity to improve his drawing but considers himself an amateur. He’s been drawing at the British Museum and shows me his sketches. They’re good. Torgny tells me that it’s unusual for him to be approached while he’s drawing and normally he’s treated “somewhere between a drunk and a leper”. It seems in his experience people are suspicious and afraid of people wielding pencils. And maybe they should be…