Stonehenge – Wednesday 15th May
This morning on Radio 4 I hear Lydia Corbett, a French painter in her 70s who was Picasso’s model for his series of portraits of the girl with the ponytail, talking about her life in art.
She tells a story of how, during WW2, as an eight year old, she watched a young soldier drawing. She was entranced. Since then she’s discovered that he was a surrealist painter of some note but believes that her experience of watching him scribbling away on a piece of paper has informed her own life as an artist. The experience stayed deep within her and when she was 45, she began her own career as a painter.
This has made me reflect on the children I’ve observed watching Mark drawing at Stonehenge over the year. I wonder if there might be a child who keeps the experience of seeing Mark Anstee drawing close to heart and, one day, becomes an artist too?
It’s one of those days when the best that can be said of the weather is that it’s ‘unsettled’. Mark really needs to get some time on his silverpoint; there are only five weeks to go before the end of our year at Stonehenge.
Yesterday was too wet, but today we’re going to risk it.
As we gather our things from the back of the truck, I see a Chinese man walking along the car park path do a rather spectacular spit. A large globe of spittle arcs through the air momentarily lit up like a mini disco ball, and lands some feet in front of him. I don’t know whether to applaud or just be disgusted.
The clouds are gathering as we arrive up at Stonehenge, but over to the West the sky is blue and the light is beautiful.
Siobhan is here, standing on the tarmac path with three petite Southeast Asian visitors. They’re deep in conversation, one of them holding the goat headed staff.
Mark sits on his stool, unwraps the drawing and proceeds to work. A steady flow of visitors passes by, some of them lingering to peer over the artist’s shoulder.
After barely ten minutes it starts to rain. I scrabble to put my camera away and in that time the rain has become hail. Mark is covering his drawing with an English Heritage plastic bag and hailstones are bouncing off it, his head, and his shoulders. But there’s no shifting him.
I start to feel hail stones entering the tops of my boots. Time for me to leave. At least we’re wearing our waterproof coats but it’s not what we want.
Siobhan has put the hood of her cloak up, the custodians have put their hoods up, visitors are bowed beneath umbrellas.
As I enter the tunnel that passes under the road, crowds of visitors are sheltering there, people from all over the world trying to escape the English weather, people from China, Eastern Europe, Canada and the US. We all know this will pass, but how wet does anyone want to get in the meantime?
I climb into the truck and remove my dripping outer layers. I’m nowhere near as hardy as the artist.