SOLSTICE SUNRISE AT STONEHENGE
I had put the scooter on charge, and run the generator but noticed that it had not done anything to improve the batteries, and they were still looking low when I got up before dawn, so I walked down towards the guard on one of the exit gates to ask if the buses were still running up to the stones, and after consulting someone on his walkie-talkie it appeared that - yes they were - for the disabled. I have recently found out that there is no such thing as ‘registered disabled’ and that either you are or you aren’t. So as I definitely am, and more so than the majority of those with the Blue Parking Badges, I was happy to head for the bus, though I still wondered about my ability to walk round till sunrise. In the event I think the Cumcumber Salad Fumes had a beneficial affect on my knees as I managed to keep going from before four till well after seven.
The cars were still arriving through the gates in a constant stream, and the parking in the fields extended from the field next to the stones, to almost up to the hedges by the approach road.
The bus going up only had a few on board, including a couple of uniformed St. John’s Ambulance ladies, and a few assorted Wizards, plus we stopped to pick up a couple more in Priestly Garb on the way up. They were greeted jovially by those already on board, and the group were soon discussing which bits of the various Ceremonies each was going to perform, and complaining about Bill always being late.
The crowd had certainly filled out, and continued to do so as the day gradually lightened prior to sunrise. The folk inside and near the circle were packed like sardines, and I made no attempt to get anywhere near, but positioned myself on the East side of the circle and managed to find a spot by some really tall young men, so if I stood in front of them on one of the banks I was fairly secure in being able to see the sun come up, and I was not going to interfere with their viewing as they were a good fifteen inches or more taller.
There was a definite sense of excitement and anticipation as the moment drew near. I know it is silly, and I heard someone grumbling nearby about the fact that the sun did this every morning, so he couldn’t see why it had been worth spending the night in a cold damp field, but I found it quite moving, thinking of how many thousands of years people had stood in the same place to watch the same star ’nearby and bright' appearing over the horizon in a blaze of glorious red.
Standing there the lines from a Clive James poem set to music by Pete Atkin went through my head
A razzle-dazzle kind of glamour in the sky
Than just the glimmer of a star nearby and bright
I've seen it turn the trick a thousand times
And send the millions wild with joy
Whereas for me it's just a toy
That flying horses dragged up from the sea
I think we were lucky as well. The guard who had checked on the buses for me said he had been at the same gate for the last ten years, and had only ever seen one sunrise, as most of the years it had been wet or misty or generally overcast. But this morning it was perfect
The sun took longer to appear than the wizard had predicted, perhaps Bill had something to do with it. Also it looked as though a biggish wood was now full grown on the horizon which delayed things for a while, but appear it did. First a redness in the streaks of morning cloud low in the sky, then a sliver of simmering red, and soon the full orb. Even the grumbling youth stopped to admire as it appeared, and there were gasps and cheers as it came up higher and higher.
The watchers inside the circle were waiting for it to appear over the marker stone, and when it did there was another louder cheer accompanied by lots of drumming and ram’s horn blowing, and shaking of shakers, cymbals and bells.
After quite a short while the crowds outside the stones began to thin, and gradually I found I could work my way inside, though it was still ram packed with folk. Every available fallen stone was filled to absolute capacity with people. To move anywhere one had to wait for the person in front to move before stepping into their place. Goodness only knows what it had been like in there before everyone started to leave
By about seven one could begin to walk around a bit and look at the stones themselves. They were warm and smooth to the touch. Whether that was the warmth of the preceding days, or whether from the warmth of the close pressed bodies the preceding night I am not sure, but they certainly had something about them. And though it is true that Stonehenge looks small and not very impressive at the distance they now fence you from the circle, when close up the stones are massive. There is just about space for a person to get between each of the pairs of giant uprights, and once some of the folk had gone, I too, managed to have a sit down one of the fallen ones in contemplation of the sunrise
The drumming was still going, and I found it added to the experience, and they were still going at full pace when I wearily made my way back to Thebus at gone seven