1. Stonehenge – Thursday 9th August

      Thursday 9th August

      It’s incredibly muggy today. The air is thick. Passing Airman’s Corner there’s a diggers’ ballet taking place. Orange machines swivel on their caterpillar tracks, their long arms reaching and scooping.

      The car park is really busy and as we pull in and queue, a posse of young soldiers, men and women in fatigues, walk out with ice creams.

      Up at the stones we are greeted by the most amazing sound of singing. We get closer and see that there’s a large choir here and from their song we know they’re South African. Absolutely fantastic and strangely moving. They finish their gospel-influenced song and, as though the whole site stopped to listen it now bursts into spontaneous applause and cheering.

      In response, a group of Italian tourists, not a choir but a good coach load, similarly line up on the tarmac and sing an Italian folk song. They’re a bit chaotic but in fine voice, even if not all of them can remember the words, and it’s joyous and funny and fully appreciated by the South African choir and everyone else. What a treat! I can’t imagine this happening anywhere else.

      Mark with brush and ink

      A helicopter flies over. People variously stroll on the walkways or loll on the grass. It’s lovely.

      Mark is sitting west of the circle attempting a new pen and ink drawing. A Chinook flies past, then a light aircraft. The skies are busy today. The crows are bullying the jackdaws for positions on the lintels and the starlings fill the gaps in between. The pecking order in action.

      It’s a proper summer’s day today. Summer frocks, linen trousers and shorts, t-shirts and sun hats. And it’s not too windy for a change. The sky is cloudy, but it’s a relief to have a little shade from the full sun.

      An Italian family are playing on the grass, mum and small daughter cartwheeling in front of the stones while dad sits on the grass with his iPhone held up. An American visitor tries to encourage them, all three to do cartwheels and she offers to take their photo. Dad isn’t game, but this easy, friendly communication between nations is something I’ve seen a lot of up here. People who communicate in small snippets of broken English – taking photos for each other.

      Nearly completed study

      The starlings fly in and decorate the cross lintels fully as the bigger birds vacate. Another helicopter flies high but directly over us. On the tarmac walkway a man in a vivid red tracksuit is performing arabesques in front of the stones. I think he’s Chinese. He isn’t young but has impressive agility. He smiles, balancing on one leg and waits for his photo to be taken to the satisfaction of the photographer.

      The reds are really vibrant today and there is a bright sprinkling of them around the field, t-shirts and baseball caps, rucksacks and shorts. A Japanese man stands with his tablet and photographs Mark. He has the camera sound pegged up and a loud digital shutter noise rings out as he captures the image. The sound of a super fast jet echoes across the skies, and a small dot, way up in the air, lazily scoots by. A couple unfurl an American flag and hold it up, across their shoulders for a photo – Olympic stylee!

      There’s a gap in the flow of tourists and three young men casually step over the guide rope and head for the stones. One of the EH staff glides in, quickly stops them and calmly escorts them off the premises. No protests permitted. They just leave with her. Amazing. The EH staff are truly guardians of the stones.

      A large lorry dives along on the A303 honking the whole journey past Stonehenge. A happy trucker!

      The artist’s hat casts a shadow