Stonehenge – Sunday 1st July
Arriving in the car park it is evident that today there will be a great number of Chinese visitors at Stonehenge. A team of mini-buses are disgorging their young cargo. They are boisterous, loud and underdressed. Most of the girls are in shorts. Haven’t they been warned? Today it’s windy again. They look perished. Shoulders hunched, long sleeves being pulled down over their hands. The boys also look freezing. But despite this, they’ve already started taking photos of each other.
Today I’m wearing jeans and leather boots, a t-shirt, a thin jumper, a body warmer, scarf, leather jacket and I’m taking with me my full length water-proof wax coat and waterproof hat. This is Stonehenge.
The clouds are grey and heavy but there are patches of vivid blue between the gloom. Mark sits and starts to work. On the road close to the Heel Stone a car impatiently hoots as those unwilling to pay the entrance fee park up on the side of the road to take photos through the chain-link fence. Some tourists are dressed appropriately to the climate; hats, waterproofs, lots of hoods. And then there are those sporting bare legs and flip-flops. People trudge round seeking the exit.
A young man sets up a tripod and carefully kits out his camera, lens, filter, hood. And then waits anxiously as he looks up. The wind seems to be blowing more clouds over. He picks up the camera on legs and walks back to a new spot. He looks up at the sky. His girlfriend looks cold.
Outside on the road, coaches line up for the official car park. It’s going to get very busy up here. A young Japanese girl sits next to me on the bench and takes out her iPhone. She plugs in her earpiece and touches the screen. As she talks to ‘whoever’, she walks towards the stones holding her phone up, the digital screen illuminated by the camera’s moving image. She’s sharing her experience in instant time. I hope it’s with someone in Japan. Unfortunately I can’t understand a word she saying.
Raining again. It really is grim and people with umbrellas cluster on the walkway. The English Heritage attendants, wet despite their overcoats with hoods up, still manage a genuinely cheery greeting.
An older lady with a strong Australian accent is having trouble with her audio device. One of the staff tries to get it working but it’s not playing. The woman has a walking stick in one hand and a limp umbrella held above her head in the other and says if she can’t hear the guide she might as well go back to the coach because without any guide, “It’s just a bunch of old stones”. So while someone goes to get a replacement audio guide for her, another of the staff launches into a potted history of Stonehenge. And it’s absolutely brilliant. Detail, but not too much. Dates, but not too heavy on them. It’s told with such panache I’m totally riveted. And I’m just eavesdropping. I chip in that this guide is much better than the audio. And I believe he is. The audio guide is clear and informative but in the end, you’re listening to people reading stuff. Getting this in the flesh is altogether different. The individual staff here seem to love this place. Their incredible knowledge coupled with a deep enthusiasm for the wider subject of Stonehenge is an irresistible combo. The Australian woman is thrilled. She tells me this has been a really good experience. Tomorrow she’ll be in London. Tussaud’s is on the itinerary, but really, she’d just like to go to the shops.
The drizzle continues. I walk round and another Australian visitor asks me if her eyes are black as she tries to take a self-portrait. She’s bothered about running mascara, but she looks fine. She tells me that the crows here are much smaller than the birds at the Tower of London. The wetness doesn’t relent so we give up. It’s too wet to write or draw so we go for a walk instead to the Cursus Barrows.
It’s raining. Too much for me but Mark insists he can do something up by the stones. He’s a determined artist.
I take a tour once around with people and umbrellas and then head back to the truck to shelter.
It continues to drizzle lightly then tips it down. Mark appears with his drawing. It sort of melted. But I rather like it.
Pelted down most of the day. We decided it wasn’t worth going. There’s an incompatibility between paper and water for our particular purposes.