Stonehenge – Wednesday 8th August
It’s a humid cloudy afternoon. As we pass Airman’s Cross there has been considerable development since last Friday. Huge trucks are delivering aggregates and two large pits have appeared near the perimeter fence of the site.
There is a single coach in the car park but loads of cars. Number-plates from all over Europe as well as the UK. We’re in the summer holidays. Arthur is here with his campaign posters tied up to the fencing by the entrance path. A plane flies over, conspicuously low. Is it a Lear jet?
As we reach the monument, the EH staff are asking some visitors, young people with beer cans, if they have tickets. Apparently not. One of the group, a slightly older bloke, makes a dash across the field towards the byway, leaping over the guide ropes like some mini hurdle course. He looks quite comical.
The starlings are up here in numbers, half in the air and half on the ground catching thunder flies. And now they’re lining the tops of the Trilithons, rows and rows of starlings atop the stones.
There’s a substantial group of visitors in black t-shirts with white writing across on their backs – ‘sport verbindet London 2012’. They don’t look like athletes.
Mark sits on the tarmac walkway to do another session on his silverpoint. It’s a long drawing this one. A man with a tripod stands in front of him trying to get the same shot of Stonehenge. Then he picks up his kit and walks about 10 metres further round and resets the shot.
As I write, small spiders are clambering over me and across my notebook. Where do they all come from? The atmosphere here is quite relaxed today. Family groups wander round taking photos but I notice it’s mainly dads who control the cameras, dads and bossy daughters shouting instructions.
People are quite chilled about Mark today. They look as they walk past but no one is hanging around him or crowding him or even photographing him. It’s nice. Like it’s the most natural thing in the world to sit and draw. And to him it is. And just as I’m writing this, a man has crouched next to Mark, and although he looks interested, he’s stopping him working. As he leaves, a family group, father, mother and little boy step up to peer at the drawing. It’s the tennis match; heads look down at the paper, then up to the stones, down and up, except for the little lad, who just watches Mark drawing.
There’s a party of American visitors sitting on the grass nearby with a baby amongst them. Someone changes the baby’s nappy and everyone joins in the conversation, “Ooh, that’s a terrible colour. It’s yellow ochre.” Might they be painters? Someone is charged with running the nappy sac to the ‘garbage’.
The photographer with his tripod returns to set his shot once again in font of Mark.
A young boy in a blue and white striped top, Denise the Menace, has brought his scooter with him. He repeatedly scoots up and down the tarmac path just where there is a slight dip. He’s reluctant to move with his parents onto the grass. A man is on his phone talking loudly to someone about “insurance companies” and a “well known loss adjuster” and the “AV people”. A small boy wearing a full Man U football strip, no 10 Rooney, walks round listening intently to his audio guide. The quiet is disturbed by a large military plane flying very low and very close by. Excited cries of “Dad! Dad! Look!” alert everyone who wasn’t already looking to the spectacle.
An Indian mother berates her children for not listening to their audios, “You need to learn about them then you can impart knowledge,” she says. A little girl starts crying, saying she doesn’t want to go home, she wants to stay here. “And do what?” her father asks. “Go in there”, she says pointing to the stones. “We can’t go in there”, “But I don’t want to go home”, “OK, OK, we’ll stay here”, he says, and the child calms down.