Stonehenge – Thursday 2nd May
I haven’t seen this much bare flesh at Stonehenge for a long time. Shorts and t-shirts are in abundance. The wind, however, is persistently chilly.
Mark removes his long waterproof before he sits to continue his silverpoint drawing but he’s still wearing a jumper under his jacket. I’ve not yet plucked up the courage to venture up without a vest.
The sky is almost cloudless, punctured by a small black dart flying overhead. It isn’t the only military presence, the odd boom of battery fire ripples the air.
It’s remarkably calm around the stones today. The warmer weather has that effect. People can linger, take their time and just wonder.
Several people are sitting on the grass walkway. I’ve not seen that for quite a while; couples and family groups enjoying this ancient place and the welcome sunshine.
Mark is largely being left alone, which is good. He reckons he has at least 40 hours of drawing to do on this particular study of a trilithon. He can’t do more than about 2 hours at a time, it’s too intense, but people are beginning to be amazed by the image gradually seeping across the paper.
“Education party on the way up!” A voice floats from the staff walkie-talkies. I think this is a warning for the custodians to be on their guard. An education party usually means a sizable group of teens – and teens will be teens. This lot are French and they’re in no mood to hang around.
People are jumping for pictures, posing nicely with arms around each other and smiling widely.
I watch a girl with a camera hovering by the electric fence attempting to capture the perfect rural composition with sheep. One particularly bold sheep looks at her defiantly, squats slightly and pees as the girl presses the shutter.
A couple carrying helmets and tank bags walk by followed by a couple of Japanese boys pulling along large wheelie cases.
I sit on a bench and a man asks if he can sit on it too. I tell him of course, it’s not my bench, but he very sensitively says he feels I’ve built a little zone around me and he didn’t want to intrude. I’m still writing but he interrupts anyway to tell me that in 1974, on Christmas Day, he came up here with a young lady from Santa Cruz and they shared a vegetarian Christmas dinner sitting on one of the fallen stones in the centre of the circle. He says it was a beautiful day and there was no one else around. It’s obviously a really lovely memory and it’s hard to imagine that happening here ever again. The constant flow of people continues round Stonehenge.
One of the English Heritage staff is moving the guide rope round the grass walkway. He’s fantastically expert at handling the slender steel posts and the rope, everything happening in a rhythm he must have rehearsed hundreds of times. His technique involves loosening the rope from the metal eyes for about 20 metres, then plucking five or six of the metal posts out of the earth and walking towards the stones with a fistful of clanking rods. He then throws the metal spikes into the earth as he walks, pacing an even distance between each one. He loops the excess rope in a generous coil, and deftly reaffixes the exact required length to the eyes at the top of the metal uprights. It’s a very smooth operation.
“These sheep must look at people all day.” Says an American man as his partner takes a photo of them. I haven’t considered it that way round before. Then a Russian man ‘baa-as’ at them and a sheep replies. The Russian finds this hilarious and rushes to take a photo of the flock or the talkative one at least. The sheep ignore him.