Stonehenge – Thursday 27th September
OMG! Stonehenge is busy. The tunnel entrance is log jammed. Visitors are faffing on their way through. Someone has not picked up their audio guide, someone is arranging to go and get audio guides, someone doesn’t know how to turn their audio guide on – and so everyone has stopped to discuss and to block the way in and out of the monument field. Oh boy.
The walkway is a solid mass of people listening to audio guides, taking photos, wandering round – lots of German and Australian voices immediately apparent.
The skies are active, a Chinook, two other different types of helicopter and a regular passing of green army vehicles along the A344. We are in a military zone.
Mark is doing a second session on the study he started yesterday. It’s not a bad place to sit, niched into a corner of the guide rope on the walkway out. People can only get to him on one side and by this point in their visit, most are losing interest.
The light is spectacular today. Clouds lazily drift in front of the sun in an azure sky. The stones, bathed in a cool glow then sculpted into their individual figures, nooks and crannies exposed as the shadows shift across the circle.
“They’re going to build a tram!” a woman says knowingly as she passes on insider information to her group. I guess she’s referring to the new visitor facilities. Is there going to be a tram?
A couple from the North of England sit on the bench next to me. Retired, overweight folk, totally focused on being here.
“It would have had a complete ring on the outers but on the inside it would have had gaps. Do you know what I mean?” he says.
“Yeh.” She says
“You’d have thought if it had something to do with the Druids they’d have had it written down somewhere.”
“Have you got to number six yet?”
In the distance I can hear gunfire and some louder booms. Could be tanks on manoeuvres.
A petite elderly Japanese couple ask a statuesque young German student if she’ll take a photo for them. They all adopt correct polite English in very short sentences, and with smiles all round, the transaction is complete.
A group of Canadian students walk by. A tall dark young man says, “I didn’t bring a camera on the whole trip.” “What?” says a girl. “Well I didn’t want to be a tourist.” He says. “But we’re all tourists.” She says.
A toddler in a stripy hoodie walks by with her parents, the audio guide round her neck on its long orange cord seriously impeding her movement by dangling between her legs. Her mother tries to take it off her to allow them to all move round a little quicker. “NOOOO,” the little’un screams. And so they all shuffle awkwardly along – Mum pushing the empty pram – Dad acting as a herder of one behind. A few yards along and Dad picks her up. Result.
The crowd subsides as we move towards lunchtime, but it’s still steady. A large crow chases a small jackdaw in and out of the stone circle. Most of the time they seem to get on.
A young Asian boy sits on the ground by the guide rope and wiggles it vigorously. The ripples flow all the way down the walkway towards the Heel Stone.
“That one in the middle looks like Dum-Dum,” says an Australian father to his two small children. He gives the girl his camera and she takes a snap. Who is Dum-Dum? He’s definitely referring to one of the stones.
At this stage, I do realise that Stonehenge is whatever you want it to be and no one can really tell you that you’re wrong. Of course they’ll try…