Stonehenge – Tuesday 11th September
It’s after lunch and following my observations yesterday, today, Stonehenge is rammed with school parties – young teens from Germany and an English junior school. So not really rammed, but their presence is felt. The teens are underdressed and keen to get on, the younger kids are talkative and animated and well corralled. One of their teachers says, “Can you come over here, please. Those people are drawing”, and the sizable group are gathered by the guide rope and sat down for a very brief history lesson. Barrows are mentioned, they turn to look at the mounds behind them, then they’re off.
It’s another day of dark clouds and bright sun and a serious wind.
A couple with a giggly toddler are ambling around the grassy walkway. They’re all enjoying being in the open. The little one keeps hitting the deck and rolling around. He’s very talkative but it’s not a language as such. His father hoists him onto his shoulder while he continues his stream of happy nonsense.
One of the teenagers is wearing a large pair of headphones round his neck, the exposed speakers blare out a pop song. Outside the chain link fence some other young men make baa-ing sounds to the visitors inside the monument field.
People walk round in correspondence to their dress. If they’re wearing too little, they keep going. If they’re protected from the wind, they linger to listen to their audio guides and ponder the ancient stones.
I’m amazed how many people walk round with English Heritage shop bags. Not do much ‘exit through the gift shop’ as ‘enter’ through it. Another coach party trudges round. More young Germans, not particularly interested in Stonehenge at this stage of the walkway. Maybe they peaked on the tarmac on the way in and have just past full. We are on the eastern grass walkway not too far from the Heel Stone. As far as the tourist-trail goes, we are about ¾ of the way round.
Students briefly surround Mark. A girl with long blond hair is particularly keen to get a photo of the artist and a couple of her friends wait with her while she gets the picture she wants. Then they move off and are replaced by a middle aged couple and a party from Asia. Then he’s all a lone again, just sitting and concentrating on his drawing.
A green army truck goes by on the road. It toots its horn as it drives past, echoed by two cars following. A brief symphony of beeps, then the sound of the wind, and some digital camera dings, and a car alarm drifting over from the car park.
Thursday 13th September
As I get to the top of the slope on the way in to Stonehenge, my first image is of a couple of cool, steam-punkish young Asian guys standing by the big black litter bin, right next to the ‘No Smoking’ sign, dragging hard on newly lit cigarettes.
It’s a lovely day and it seems the world has come to visit – Italian bikers, Chinese grandmas, American and Canadian middle-aged, Australian, German, French and on and on with the different languages. There’s a gentle breeze but the sky is blue-blue and fluffy clouds are drifting casually across.
A Chinook flies low along the Cursus. I overhear someone say, “I wouldn’t go in one of those, they’re just held up with art.” And they do look very unlikely as things that can actually stay airborne, no matter how many times I see one.
The woman with the goat head staff is here today and we end up quite near to each other as she’s stopped by a visitor to chat. I overhear some of what she says. She’s explaining about dowsing and using her staff as a way of accessing some of that energy. She has a theory about the magnetic forces around Stonehenge and the surrounding landscape. Well, Mark has certainly had some strange experiences with his compass!
An American woman stops and asks Mark if she can have a look at his drawing. He says, “Of course”. “That’s beautiful” she says, “You’ve captured it perfectly. Thank you.” “Thank you,” says Mark, and she continues round.
“I never thought I’d come to England to see these sights. I never thought that would happen”, says an elderly American gent as he walks by.
It can be so different up here day to day. But right now it is lovely to be here. I wonder how much that affects people’s memories of their visit? Maybe you remember it just as well if you got blown to bits and drenched as much as if you hung out on the grass and picnic-ed. Today people are definitely enjoying the experience.
A convoy of large green trucks drive along the A303 with sand coloured armoured cars on their backs. Are they coming or going? And there’s a large plane flying low along the horizon, another type of military transporter.
Mark is surrounded by people of a certain age all taking shots of his drawing. “Let’s head off to Windsor Castle”, an American lady sings out exuberantly. She’s obviously far more excited about the monarchy than the ancient Brits.