Stonehenge – Wednesday 1st August
Today we’re back in our wax-proof coats. A front has come over Stonehenge. It’s the afternoon and pleasantly un-busy on the walkway round the stones. Peopled but not mobbed. Lots of rain gear, hoods up. And there’s a sprinkling of the Olympics here. It’s quite useful that people wear official clothing with their country’s name emblazoned across the front or back. It saves guessing. So far I’ve seen a man from Kazakhstan, several people from Canada and a lone Russian in his red and white tracksuit. I’m sure he must have some friends with him; I’ve just missed them.
Someone has obviously abandoned a packed lunch and the crows and jackdaws tread wind with ambitious beaks full of white bread sandwich. Every now and then the sun lights everything up, but much of the traffic on the 303 is traveling with headlights on. It’s a very cloudy sky and very windy. The starlings start a group display, throwing air shapes en masse, then settling on the cross lintels of the Trilithons.
A young man in pale pink trousers sits cross-legged and closed-eyed on the grass. He’s taken his shoes off. I can hear a helicopter but can’t see it. It’s somewhere behind the cloud. A flat backed truck loaded high with bales drives past and the sun briefly illuminates a field of ripening wheat.
Mark sits on the tarmac walkway, he’s working in silverpoint today, his damp day standby medium. It’s quite a magical thing silverpoint, a thin wire of silver that leaves a trail on prepared paper. The style of drawing is different from the ink work. It’s ordered and precise, seemingly obsessive when compared to the more expressive ink washes. And Mark is still discovering his preferred way of depicting Stonehenge, of capturing it in a way that lets others know what it is he’s witnessed. We’ve only been here since Solstice and already the task seems impossible some days. It seems such a straightforward and simple task – to draw Stonehenge – but the more you look at it, the less you know it.
A little girl in a pale blue fleecy runs over to Mark and peers over his drawing. Her father comes and taps her on the arm then drags her away.
I can see the helicopter now. It’s in the distance and it’s a Chinook. As it flies over, the people and the starlings stop to watch it.
A young boy comes and sits on his Grandma’s lap on the bench next to me. He’s impressed with the big rocks and talks about climbing up them. His mother comes and takes a photo of him and he obligingly and sweetly shouts “Chee-eese” while she clicks away. The two women comment that this is weather they would normally be picking a Christmas tree in, or at least a pumpkin. Yes indeed. It feels like autumn this week. The sun still manages brief moments of glory before being beaten back by the fast flowing clouds.
Friday August 3rd
Today as we drive past Airman’s Corner there is activity on both sides of the road. There’s obviously a huge ground-working phase happening before any building starts. The main site appears like a earth racetrack round a green inner field.
On the overspill field by the car park there’s a bride and groom posing in the landscape. She’s in a serious meringue; white fluffy layers. He lifts her and holds her while the photographer rolls on his stomach to take the shot. I can also see a couple of shiny expensive looking sports cars parked near to them on the grass. It’s a photo shoot – but not by the stones? Whatever.
Up at Stonehenge there’s a new grass walkway leading off the approach path and wrapping round the western side of the Henge. It’s a view we’ve only had when we’ve come at Solstice or for the Fire Garden. It does something different to the site, opens it up. People are lounging on the grass and taking time here. It’s windy (as per) but not cold. Dust rises like smoke from a field over the 303 as the harvest is underway.
I don’t know what’s in the air today but the site seems to be full of crying. And oh boy can they scream! A little boy in a blue and grey striped top is having a serious tantrum, his face all tear-stained, bloated and red. His parents wait for him to calm down. A little girl in a red coat falls dramatically screaming to her knees and refuses to budge. A baby in his mother’s arms starts off. She walks briskly bouncing him out of his unhappiness. Then, as if synchronised, they all stop. Relief.
It’s cloudy so the light is shifting massively and rapidly. The wind catches a woman’s entry leaflet and blows it over the guide rope. She reaches for it but it’s too far away and she doesn’t dare step over.
Mark settles on the new mown walkway. It’s the first chance he’s had to draw this aspect.
A young boy swings his audio guide vigorously around his neck. He looks like he might clonk himself with it any moment. A couple stand in an embrace for a photo, or three, or four. Today there are family groups visiting the stones, and despite a few grizzling children earlier, people are smiling and strolling happily around the walkway.
The photo-shoot has come up to the stones. The models are a petite and glamorous Asian couple. A large party of teenagers, all in black windcheaters with gold embroidery across their backs, stand in the photographer’s way, listening to their audios. People take pictures of the photo-shoot. The teenagers dwarf the models. It’s all very bizarre. The shoot over, the pretty dainty bride throws a luminous pink hoody on, hitches up her almighty skirt and slips into some sensible footwear. Holding the bundled fabric above her knees, she walks with her groom back to the tunnel.
Mark is drawing in pen and ink. Nearby on the same stretch of grass, a man has set up his tripod and has his camera on a timed exposure. Every six seconds or so, it clicks. The cameraman lounges on the grass leaving his equipment to it.
Purple and white clover flowers dot the field and just a few feet away from us a lone bumblebee is blown from bloom to bloom.