MIDSUMMER'S EVE AT STONEHENGE
Although I have titled this Midsummer’s Eve, technically that is not for another three days. Rather like Christmas is three days after the Midwinter Solstice. I assume by then it is possible to see that the days are lengthening/shortening. I imagine how it might have worked in the past. The Priests in Charge would have said something like ‘The sun is dying, but we, with our prayers and magic, can make it come back. Just come along on the 21st and bring plenty to eat and drink, plus ten percent of your year’s produce, and we will do our stuff and make it all right again.’ Things don’t change much, except that our ‘Wise Men’ seem to need a lot more than ten percent to keep our world ‘right’.
We are always meant to feel sorry for the Jews in the Old Testament who escaped from the injustices under the Eygptian Pharaoh. I think the system there worked something like this. Pharaoh let you have the land and the seed corn. You planted the seed and tended the crop then gave Pharaoh ten percent of the harvest. Sounds like a good deal to me compared to life in the EU.
Anyway back to 2014 on Salisbury Plain. Using the Lovely Lift was a dream. All I have to do is put in the key, turn it and click the switch for down. The four integral straps have large, strong, easy clasp hooks, with a strong, self winding spring on the strap for each one. The cover is still a nuisance but I will look at getting something better.
Driving down to the newly constructed Visitor Centre and entrance, they told me that the stones were one and a half miles further on and I should take the bus, but I was confident in the scooter’s abilities, especially with two new batteries, so off we set. The scooter fairly whizzes along, and it was a beautiful day so I enjoyed the larks singing, and the butterflies flitting between the wild flowers on the verges and field margins. Once there I could drive around at my leisure, with the luxury of being able to sit down and really enjoy the views of the stones, and also take the absolute age waiting for the odd moments when any photos I took would be not thronged with people, though you will notice I have still had to crop the photos severely. Apparently they have about one million visitors a year to Stonehenge, and were expecting some thirty four thousand that evening alone
They keep you well roped off from the actual circle, as well as all the surrounding banks and ditches; you are not even allowed to walk all the way round, so the experience is slightly underwhelming, especially after all the stone circles I have seen I the last few months. I had already been told that it is "smaller than you imagine" - which is certainly the feeling when viewing from behind the ropes.
Getting back I put the scooter on charge and cooked myself something to eat, and though it was terrifically hot and sunny there was now the luxury of properly working air conditioning to cool us down. I had intended to get some sleep in the afternoon, but without the air conditioning on it would have been too hot, and I thought it fairly unlikely I would sleep with the generator running, so by the time I headed back for the stones I had already been awake for eighteen hours, with only about five hours sleep the night before
I wanted to drive back up the walkway at the side of the road that I had used earlier in the day, but the marshals seemed keen that I went across the fields so that is what I did, though in the event driving over the rough grass surface played havoc with the batteries, even though I only used the headlights when absolutely necessary for the safety of others.
On my first trip to the stones I had seen masses of floodlights on stands and had wondered if there was to be some sort of light show, but now realised it was to light the way for the thousands trudging the one and a half miles across the fields in the dark. More than once I heard some weary walker say to a companion “How much further do you think it is?” - and I had several envious enquiries as to how much I would take for the scooter,
Arriving at the main field there were lots of folk with sleeping bags already encamped on the turf, and the centre of the circle was packed to capacity and more. Every so often a cheer would go up as some intrepid guy, and occasionally gal, managed to make it up to the top of one of the lintels where they performed various antics to the amusement of the crowd below. Someone must have had a spotlight and generally played it on the act, though it was abruptly turned off if it turned into a striptease which it often did.
All night long there was a deep rhythmic drumming and the eerie sound of rams and bulls horns being blown, mostly from the heart of the circle, but accompanied by many, many more scattered throughout the waiting throng, as well as bells, cymbals rattles and goodness knows what else
There were lots of folk in"Druid" garb, with cloaks and "wizard" staffs, and the obligatory flowing white locks and beard, though at least that was only the male of the species. Well mostly anyway.
And lots of beautiful people. As it was a mild evening they had been able to dress up for the occasion, the girls with lovely face paint and wreaths of flowers in their hair and drapey clothing.
The police and security people had,quite literally, turned out in force, but the whole of the evening seemed good humoured and trouble free. There was the occasional drunk, or those a bit the worse for wear from some mind altering substance be it alcohol or whatever, though they always seemed to have some sort of responsible 'other' as a minder, so the evening as far as I experienced it was trouble free. And I have to say I was courteously treated throughout, with folk making way for me to the extent I almost felt rather embarrassed. I was often asked if I had been there in the eighties, though I didn't like to say I was working hard at my career by then, and if I had have gone at all it would have been in the sixties or seventies.
By about 2 am I was feeling the cold, especially in my arthritic knees and though I had intended to stay up there till sunrise I chickened out and headed back to Thebus for a warm up and possibly a bit of shut eye before daybreak
I had been reliably informed by a passing wizard that sunrise was at 4.50 so setting the alarm for 3.30 am I decided to try and grab a bit of sleep, though not before having a warm drink and feeling in desperate need of something sweet - I have heard via the TV of 'the munchies' so I presume that is what it was as I ate a kit-kat, then couldn't resist another, nor even a third one.
I have never been into the 'drugs scene' apart from eating someone's ‘stash’ by mistake back in the sixties, though it had no effect on me whatsoever. Then a new boyfriend in the eighties, trying to impress, persuaded me to smoke some, which, as smoking anything was never a habit I acquired, was not something I really wanted to do, so he rigged up some sort of pipe thing through an apple. Once again it had no affect in me whatsoever, though he, who had not been involved with that sort of thing either, reckoned he was affected for at least two weeks afterwards if not more, with flash-backs and recurrent after affects! And up at the Stones I had noticed a curious, and all pervading smell, somewhere between warm cucumber salad and a Cardomah Coffee house in the sixties. So I am not sure if it was illicit substances, or just the lingering aroma of a lot of slightly sweaty bodies pressed together on a warm summer evening, or maybe a lot of vegetarians having a coffee after their supper.
I have to say as I wandered round the spread out crowd on the outskirts of the circle - the vast a majority of the folk having elected to stay with or near their vehicles during the early part of the evening - that it was had to imagine there might be thousands of us there, but on the way back next morning one of the organisers was there and had just been given the latest attendance figures of just over thirty six thousand!