Stonehenge – Tuesday 16th October
On the journey in to Stonehenge we are passed by three large green flat bed trucks carrying desert camouflage tanks – getting out of our truck in the car park, we hear the artillery. Guns.
It’s windy. It’s going to be much more severe in the monument field.
Another crisp cold day but the sun is out. There’s a vehicle actually on the grass by the Henge ditch, a tractor slowly driving round pulling a mechanical spiking device. They certainly look after the grass here.
A tall Asian boy asks me to take a photo of him as if he’s next to Stonehenge. He gives me instructions as to what I must focus on and how much of Stonehenge he wants to see. He shows me how to operate the camera then hands it to me. I carefully compose the shot, press the shutter and show him the result on the digital screen. “Your composition is very good but I need more sky”, he says. So I do it all again.
I’m sitting on a bench and a posse of teenage German boys come and sit next to me while another takes a photo. I smile, just in case.
An English education group walk round, barely looking at the stones but they’re all well wrapped up in padded jackets and furry animal hats. It feels like winter is almost upon us.
Mark is back by the chain-link fence completing one of his morning studies. I watch a young woman in a khaki jacket stand next to him for some minutes, her eye on the drawing, her ear on the audio guide. The usual photos are being taken, both of the artist and of Stonehenge. People attempt the jumping shot but perhaps the wind is too fierce to invite any extreme posing. Every now and then a paper leaflet hurtles across the grass.
A couple of middle-aged men walk past me. “Would you like me to take your picture?” one of them asks me. I thank him but say no and ask if he’d like me to take one of him. He says it’s OK he’s here with his brother. “Together?” I say. Good call. Peter and Mark are over from Australia. They’ve been to Amsterdam, Kent, and now they’re here at Stonehenge. They’re very bothered that I’ve left my camera by the bench but say, “Don’t worry. We’ll keep an eye on your camera.” I’m not really worried. Someone’s got to run really fast if they want to leg it with my stuff. I don’t feel Stonehenge attracts that type of tourist, but obviously these boys are very security conscious. We actually have a discussion about British police. I find myself big-ing them up. I seem to be becoming my nation’s representative.
I disturb Mark for a cup of flask-coffee and he tells me the German boys who sat next to me for a photo were wonderfully cheeky when they came by. They stood in front of him and suggested that Mark should draw them in the foreground of Stonehenge. “And why should I do that?” asked Mark, “Because it’s a good idea!” said one of the boys. Cheek in a foreign language. Impressive. A group of Dutch teens had been round and asked him about the drawing, then hung around watching, taking photos. Then the English group came by. No one stopped, or looked, or photographed. I tell Mark I noticed they weren’t even looking at Stonehenge. “When did our teenagers stop being curious?” asks Mark.
As I leave the monument field, the woman with the goat’s head staff is talking to a group of four young adults, they sound Dutch. One of them is holding her staff, facing Stonehenge and delicately tracing the contours of the carved goat’s head with her finger. I hear the owner say, “Yes, but one does have a responsibility to reality…” I’m guessing those tourists are having a really fabulous visit to Stonehenge.