Stonehenge – Wednesday 8th May
The field of rape opposite the new visitor centre site is now the brightest, sharpest, lemon yellow and the sweet sickly scent of the flowers stays with us all the way to Fargo Woods.
Stonehenge is busy, the walkway around the monument tightly packed. It’s cloudy with hardly a hint of blue in the sky but at least it’s light and the temperature mild.
Mark is sitting in his usual place, the chosen trilithon directly in his view, his drawing board on his lap.
Three South-east Asian boys come by and look over his shoulder, one of them gets his camera ready while another of them bends down close to Mark and puts his thumbs up. His mate takes his photo then ushers him away to get a clean shot of the Stonehenge Artist and his silverpoint drawing.
The other side of Mark on the tarmac path, three Russian girls are trying, trying, trying to get the perfect jumping shot. They count down, jump, then cluster around the camera to review the image immediately. They’re having great fun but clearly failing to get a picture they want. I wonder if I should suggest the photographer goes low and takes a photo looking up at them? It’s a trick I’ve learned this year, the way to get clear space between feet and the ground, but I leave them to it.
One of the custodians asks me if Mark and I have been to Old Sarum to see the Neolithic type huts they’ve been building as prototypes for the new visitor centre. We haven’t, though we’ve spotted them from the road. Plans for the new visitor centre include a kind of reconstructed village with huts and people. I can’t get the image of Raquel Welsh in ‘One Million Years BC’ out of my head, all bouffant and eyeliner with some serious support in carefully tailored chamois leather. But it’ll probably involve people dressed in linen. I met some Viking re-enactors once who were also Roman Centurions some weekends. I’m sure the costumes played a significant part in their choice of historical period.
Outside the chain-link fence, a man is giving a woman a piggyback so that she can get a clear photograph of the stone circle over the wire. Inside the fence, another tourist spreads herself wide into a star shape.
One of the custodians takes a bundle from his pocket and unrolls a pair of waterproof trousers. He proceeds to climb into them. Typical. Mark must have smelt the rain and is wearing his waterproof coat but I came up without mine. The sky grows blacker and I beat a hasty retreat back to the car park and the shelter of the truck.
Through the back window I watch the rooks squabbling over a substantial piece of apple someone’s thrown into the field. One of the larger birds actually picks it up and hobbles across the grass, the apple dangling from its beak.
There appears to be some order to who gets a turn at the core, but before long, it’s completely consumed and the birds scatter to find more cast offs.
A large black coach drives through the car park announcing London to Bicester Village. The afternoon is getting on. If it isn’t late night opening at the shopping village this coach load could be very disappointed. Or maybe they’ve already been? Retail therapy and a bit of heritage culture all in one day… Exhausting…