1. Stonehenge – Wednesday 5th June


      Mark drawing 5th June

      Mark drawing 5th June

      It’s strangely calm at Stonehenge today. It’s busy but not overwhelmed by visitors and everyone seems fairly chilled. The warmth of the sun is tempered by the wind but at least it’s out. It isn’t quite warm enough for shorts and t-shirts but this is England and it is June, and when did temperature rather than season dictate what people wear?

      Mark uncovers his silverpoint drawing and quietly, studiously, continues the process while other visitors trawl by.

      “It’s too bad you can’t walk in there”, says an American man.

      “Back over!” says one of the custodians beckoning with her index finger to a visitor who has dared to step over the guide rope towards the stones.

      A voice floats out of the staff walkie-talkies, “Your Japanese speakers on the way up now.”

      An older lady in a blue and white striped top stands next to Mark and leans over to better look at his drawing. She lifts her audio guide to her ear as if it might tell her something about the artist.

      A tour guide arrives on the tarmac path holding aloft a green umbrella with eyes on top and a smile painted underneath; a frog umbrella leading Russian visitors around Stonehenge.

      A very petite Japanese lady leans in close to Mark and emits an elongated “aaaaaah” very close to his ear. I think it’s an “aaaaah” of approval.

      A man in a turquoise polo shirt and baseball cap stands behind Mark and videos him with a small compact camera. As he watches the screen displaying the artist drawing, a woman barges past and in front of his shot. He ‘hurumphs’ and throws her a seriously dirty look to which she’s totally oblivious. He watches the playback, then begins filming the Stonehenge Artist again.

      Stonehenge Artsist and Visitors

      Stonehenge Artsist and Visitors

      “Your next group is 16 mixed English, Spanish and Italian”, says the voice from the walkie-talkie.

      Five bikers arrive to stand next to Mark. They’re wearing similar leather sleeveless tunics, elaborately decorated with the words ‘Westsachsen Chapter Germany’ embroidered in an arc over the shoulder blades.

      A small flock of starlings flies in and settles on the grass nearest the Henge ditch. It’s a mixture of parents and their young. The adults peck about the grass busily while the light brown fledglings follow them closely all the while demanding to be fed. They’re very noisy.

      A Japanese man dressed head to toe in beige stands close up to the guide rope, raises his left leg, and gently but deliberately kicks a metal support. Seems to be in order…

      Still drawing

      Still drawing

      I walk past the Heel Stone along the low metal bridge. Recently small laminated signs have been attached, ‘Warning: Please do not lean on the ropes or the netting’. Something for the English speakers.

      One of the custodians is standing at the end of the bridge and she’s approached by a visitor offering up her audio guide; “Do you know how to make this speak German?” she asks, “I have been listening all the time in French”, she says in impeccable English. I’m impressed. The custodian presses some buttons and hands the audio pod back. “There you are. You’re on number 6 and it’s all in German!” “That’s great. How did you do that?” says the grateful visitor. “Ah, it’s magic”, says the custodian, wiggling her fingers towards the stones as if she’s playing an invisible piano. “The magic of Stonehenge.” And the two women stand and laugh together in the soft sunlight.