Stonehenge – Tuesday 18th June
The air is alive with flying insects. Yesterday the beetles seemed to be largely in the grass, the odd one flying up to head height. Today, they are everywhere. They’re called chafer bugs and don’t bite or sting or anything harmful but they do fly at you and land if they can. People are swatting the air madly around them.
The starlings keep flying in and landing across the lintels, chatting for a while en masse then taking off again in amazing murmurations.
The jackdaws look bemused but have no choice but to tolerate this behaviour. They are completely outnumbered.
Mark grabs his exact spot and settles to continue the trilithon. We’re lucky with the weather but the atmosphere is thick and feels as though we might be in for a thunderstorm.
“It’s here in this landscape that the boundary between the dead and the living is the thinnest”, says a tour guide to his substantial group.
A helicopter flies in and makes a slow deliberate turn around the stones, banking as it goes. It’s a private helicopter. I’ve no idea what it is but suddenly the staff walkie-talkies are alive with voices trying to identify it. Apparently there’s a no fly zone over Stonehenge, but this helicopter is doing it anyway. It turns and makes a further circle back around the stones. It’s incredibly noisy. A military helicopter appears to the East and the intruder slopes off.
Mark is photographed and videoed constantly – the Chinese visitors in particular getting really close for a viewing. Mark just keeps drawing, his gaze constantly moving between the trilithon and the point of his silver pencil.
Siobhan is here with her goat and a smudger of pale feathers. She chats to a small group of young Chinese women who are trying to understand what she does. “Qi”, she says. “Qi”, comes the reply. “Energy”, she says. “Energy”, comes the reply, as though the echo will make it clear.
Luckily I’m being left alone by the bugs. They seem attracted to folk in more summery colours than I’m wearing, and although I realise they won’t hurt, they are of a size and continue to alarm certain visitors.
In the distance I can hear the low ‘thwump’ of artillery fire, and of course the traffic on the A303 is constant. Any one who believes the countryside is peaceful has only to spend a few hours here and that particular myth will be dispelled.
The byway is however, unusually empty of vehicles. I’m assuming it’s been cleared by the police ready for Solstice.
I watch a small Chinese boy wearing glasses and a yellow top, sitting on his haunches and digging in the grass. His parents’ attempts to interest him in the ancient monument are fruitless. He’s only interested in the life in the grass. I’m pretty sure he’s bug hunting. Then he stands, but he doesn’t look at Stonehenge, he starts an enthusiastic dance of kicking and jumping. I’m pretty sure he’s now on a killing spree.
The starlings fly into the meadow outside the walkway and in alarm, the skylark takes off and begins to sing.
A South-east Asian man leans over to Mark and asks him how long he’s been drawing this image. Mark tells him it’s close to a hundred hours. “Wow”, says the man and pats him on the shoulder. “Good job. Good job!” As he walks away smiling broadly, he lurches oddly and I realise he has an artificial leg, swinging it through by leaning towards his real leg. No sticks, no support and I’m guessing he’s doing his grand tour of Europe.
Back in the car park, half a dozen shiny matching caravans are clustered at the far end. The English Heritage Solstice HQ is being prepared.