Stonehenge – Wednesday 28th November
The temperature has dropped several degrees. It feels properly wintery. The sky is full of cloud and the light is flat.
As we walk up to Stonehenge an excited dog barks the whole time he is walked along the outside of the chain link fence. I’ve witnessed this quite frequently throughout the summer; the whole family, dog and all, comes up to Stonehenge for a visit but, the dog is denied entry so someone ends up walking the family pet outside the monument field. Still, there are lots of places for a dog to run about here. I’m sure they don’t really mind they’re not walking around a large Neolithic stone circle.
Mark is continuing his silverpoint study of the big trilithon. He unfolds his little stool and puts his drawing board on his knees. I wonder how long he can draw before the bitter cold freezes up his fingers.
I’m sitting on a bench just onto the mown grass. There’s a sprinkling of visitors here, and inside the forbidden zone are two English Heritage staff. They seem to be surveying the area. I watch them casually step over the guide rope and wonder why I don’t see more people doing it. It’s remarkably easy.
People’s cameras are flashing because of the lack of light and it’s only lunchtime.
A baby is wheeled round in a purple chair. I’m guessing it’s a little girl from her bright pink ski-suit. She’s so bundled up her arms protrude stiffly like rods out of the top of the heavily quilted pushchair pod. Luxury. She’s the toastiest person here.
A large flock of jackdaws flies over then settles in the field over the A344. Today they’re patronizing the National Trust rather than English Heritage. The borders meet. Geographically, the Stonehenge monument field is a little like old Berlin. One state surrounded by a landmass of the other.
The sheep are close behind me, nibbling furiously, bleating occasionally.
A man in a hi-viz vest is on his knees on the tarmac path unscrewing a manhole cover. I’ve walked over it many many times this year and I’ve never really noticed it.
In the distance, flares speckle the sky. Bright explosions of light followed by a plume of falling smoke. This is definitely MoD activity. Somewhere on Salisbury Plain a massive military exercise is happening. Helicopters rumble continuously in the distance and sporadically a deep boom, something exploding, filters through the airwaves.
My fingers are seizing up. Mark is persevering, but I’m heading back to the truck for some shelter. I walk round the grassy path to do a full tour of the stones. As I walk over the low bridge by the Heel Stone I meet the crows drinking from the muddy puddles along the exit path. It’s stopped raining, but it’s still very soggy here.
In the car park a small grey bus pulls in, an executive coach. A man gets out dressed in a sharp suit and dickie-bow, a long black woollen over coat and a smart black trilby. A traditional dapper gent. He’s followed by a rag-taggle group of tourists, so I’m guessing he’s a tour guide. He’s got a good look going on. It strikes me as funny that this image of England is being sold and so readily bought – a throwback to the 50s, a character from a Ealing caper leading a group of foreign visitors to an ancient British Stone Circle.