Last Sunday K. and I went to Stonehenge. I started off planning to provide a running commentary on a pootle round the houses: our shared driving instructor swears by this as a way of helping someone to learn to drive. We eventually remembered the dare we’d made each other the night before to go all the way to Stonehenge. Apart from roadworks, and taking the wrong turning at the junction with the A303 and nearly coming all the way back, we had a rather straightforward journey, although I stopped talking when I realised I had to navigate my way round the outskirts of Swindon.
Rounding the corner at Amesbury and seeing the stones is an astonishing experience, not particularly marred by the crowds of traffic and people. It looks remarkably similar to Stonehenge’s pictures on Google Earth: like something that has just landed, creating ripples on the ground, but which at any moment might take off again. No wonder Erich von Daniken is quite as odd as he is. When the hengers have their way and the A303 and A344 run through tunnels, with the only spoor of the paths they once took a couple of bridleways, it will be wondrous indeed to witness.
After a while spent round standing stones everyone starts talking like this. It rubs off, like lichen.
We were given the usual guff on audio handsets about alignments and “from the beginning of time…,” but we didn’t let it detract from the experience. Nor could the hordes of tourists ruin our enjoyment. That’s the wrong word, though, because the presence of the stones didn’t really permit enjoyment. They were tremendously unsettling in their passivity. My mum told me that she’d driven past them a couple of times on holidays to Cornwall, and late at night they’re dead eerie, but schlocky mood lighting in this case only served to highlight something that was already there. The stones might be enigmatic, but they still convey the sense of their waiting for something. They’ve stood relatively sturdily while our empires have waxed and waned. They’ve seen us chip them for souvenirs, and rest and rely on them for atmosphere and art, and rope them off to prevent both of those things from happening any more. And now, now they’re steady again, they’ll see the back of us yet.