Stonehenge – Thursday 26th July
Sunny and a bit hazy, but warm today. We arrive first thing as people who’ve been in the circle early for special access are just leaving. A Chinook hovers high above us.
Up on the monument field, crow perch is occupied, as are the lintels of the Trilithons. There’s a light breeze and people start drifting up in summer wear, audio guides clamped to the sides of their heads.
Mark sits and organizes his drawing kit. The traffic on the A303 rumbles by. So far this morning, I’ve seen countless cars, haulage trucks and vans; a car carrier with double-decked rows of cars stacked on it and a rescue truck with just one on it’s back. Fuel tankers and coaches, caravans on tow and a ship-lapped home on wheels, destined I presume for a holiday park. The farmers are busy. A solid rectangular block of large golden bales drives by.
People start photographing Mark. He texted his mate last night, artist Simon Callery, who’s in the madness of preparing for an exhibition, and told him he’s become like a wax-work exhibit at Stonehenge. Callery texted back, “Charge ‘em!”
The first coaches arrive within 20 minutes and people surge onto the walkway. A large South American party walk up. A young girl poses for a photo and pouts. Not sexily, but with real hard-arsed attitude. Her father barks an instruction and she smiles, reluctantly, with similar arsey attitude, as her mother takes a photo. A baby in a pushchair announces his arrival by screaming continuously. His flustered parents throw a blanket over him, shove a dummy at him, a row of bright plastic shapes, then, wheel him by. His unhappiness continues along the walkway.
Apparently, Stonehenge is a favourite trip out from the cruise ships stopping in Southampton and today there are loads of people wearing large round white stickers with a blue star. I’m guessing these are ‘cruisers’. People, mainly men, crouch behind Mark to take a shot of him in front of the stones. They’re not put off by the lack of a clean shot of the stones, they choose to have this unknown figure seated in the foreground.
There are so many people here now, and they keep coming. They crowd around Mark, too close I think. But he’s sitting right up to the rope guide. At least they can’t get in front of him. A girl stops to take some video footage of the artist at work. She’s wearing an Ohio University T-shirt. I have a chat to her and her supervisor. They’re part of a group of student journalists over here to cover the Olympics. They’re wonderfully excited to be here. I guess this particular year of students lucked out!
A party of Germans arrive. Loud shouts of ‘Danke Schöne’ echo about as they take photos for each other of each other. A man with an iPad hovers to take a photo of Mark’s work, looks at me, and then decides to take a photo of the stones.
A tour guide walks by – he says that the bones of the skeletons dug up round here were diseased. This suggests that Stonehenge was a type of hospital, further evidenced by the first stones here, the blue stones, having come from Wales, 250 miles away, from the site of a holy spa…
It’s getting very busy again. A wave of groups pours in. Various tour guides holding signs on sticks encourage their people along the walkway. In, round, out and off to the next attraction.