1. Stonehenge – Thursday 16th August

      Thursday 16th August

      The flattened areas of the Airman’s Cross site are spreading. It’s morning and the roads around here are busy as people rush to wherever it is they’re heading.

      We follow a minibus into the Stonehenge car park already occupied by a slew of coaches. Up on the monument field we are heckled by a young crow who sits on one of the low uprights holding the guide rope and shouts at us. Don’t know what he wants, or what we’ve done wrong. It’s windy (again) and the birds are having a hard time keeping steady in the air. A few crows peck about the grass inside the ropes. It’s like they know. Walkways for people, protected areas for crows.

      The weather has confused visitors again. People’s summer wardrobes are supplemented by whatever is at hand to add another layer. Fashion-wise, it’s all a bit of a disaster, but so far we’re missing the young Japanese who astonish in their determination to look stylish whatever the weather. I watch a girl remove her purple cagoule, hand it to her boyfriend while he takes a photo, then put it back on immediately afterwards, hood up and all.

      Mark is on the west side getting on with an ink study at 100°.

      The Artist’s work station

      A mother chases her energetic toddler to retrieve him from just inside the protected area. He’s really quite small and just hoicks the guide rope over his head and steps under. He has a dummy in his mouth and an audio guide to his ear. And he’s fast. A teenager walks by then crouches down behind Mark to get that artist-drawing-Stonehenge-shot. His father joins him and they discuss the composition in the camera. It’s so windy I can’t really hear the language they’re speaking. I don’t think it’s English, but the noise of wind and traffic is so incredibly overwhelming it’s difficult to hear anything specifically even at near distance. The air traffic gets through the wind. We’ve already had a helicopter (must learn the differences) and just now a small plane is flying over.

      A middle aged Chinese man in a grey tracksuit marches straight up to Mark and stands, hands behind his back, and watches. Four 20 somethings walk by, one with a polished, inlaid mandolin slung across his back. He’s carrying a carved staff in one hand and his shoes in the other.

      In the field across the 303 a green tractor is dragging a red rectangular device over the remnants of the harvest, the golden stubble transformed into a wake of brown earth.

      The tarmac walkway is particularly busy. I’m guessing it’s a cruise day. Caucasian people of a certain age in a certain type of loose fitting clothing. Comfortable. But amongst them all is a collection of south-east Asian teens. I can’t tell where they’re from, but they don’t seem animated enough to be Chinese or cool enough to be Japanese. And I’m slightly appalled at myself for stereotyping in this way, but it does have some validity. There are certain national characteristics, and I know other nations recognise them too. I was told by a fellow visitor recently that I don’t seem typically English in that I’m not fat! I didn’t know whether to be offended or flattered but on very little consideration, I’ve decided to lean to the latter.

      Study 16th August

      A man on crutches makes his way towards Mark then leans for a while watching him draw. His companion, a lady in a red and white striped top, taps him to encourage him away. Someone will always stay longer if only they were allowed. I see this so often now. Some people actually like to slow look, a relief in a constantly and fast moving world.

      I take a walk around the stones. I hear Italian, French, German, Japanese and Spanish voices and other languages that I can’t recognise but must be from Russia or the Balkan countries. One man is helping me out, I know where he’s from, he has a Brazilian flag draped around his shoulders.

      Friday 17th August

      Mark and Astrid

      Today we are visiting Stonehenge with friends. It’s supposed to be a day off but it proves too tempting for Mark and he draws anyway. Today he has company, Astrid (6+1/2) who is very much in the Stonehenge mood in her Solstice t-shirt, painted by hand, by the artist Mark Anstee.

      Astrid (6)