Friday, 5 November 2010

Stonehenge and history repeating...

So What to say about my Stonehenge Globe?

Firstly - my daughter Cloe bought it for me when she visited Stonehenge on a school trip. Funny how history repeats itself, I once went on a school trip to Stonehenge.

I won’t ramble on about what Stonehenge might be – a calendar, a gateway to another world, a temple, a landing marker for flying saucers. Nor will I talk about who used it - Druids, the lost tribe of Egypt, hippies, beings from the planet Zork (you can Google all of that should you wish). I’ll just write about what I always seem to end up writing about – how much simpler things were once upon a long ago time.

When I visited Stonehenge the world did not yet view every blade of grass as dangerous, nor did it worry that hard stone, having braved the elements for thousands of years, would be damaged by the abrasive hands of small children reaching out to wear it away with their puddingy soft fingers.

I ran through the stones, touching them. I even stood on some of the smaller ones and had my picture taken as I did so. I remember standing there on the Slaughter Stone, all huge smile and pudding basin haircut, as my grey overcoat and the yellow Hessian knapsack (made by each of us in the colour of our house, yellow for Windrush, blue for Thame, green for Isis, red for Cherwell) flapped around in the wind.

It was such a cold and windy place, this Salisbury Plain on that day of the trip, particularly for April. A few flakes of snow fell as we climbed down from the coach. It was like all the gods and demi-gods worshipped by those very ancient druids were assembling, all at once, and ready for a sacrificial ceremony. Even after over forty years I remember the names and colours of those junior school houses, each named after an Oxfordshire river; even after forty years I still remember looking at the Slaughter Stone and being convinced that I could see the long dried stain of sacrificial blood. Reaching out I touched it - and was sure I heard a distant scream.

I enjoyed Stonehenge very much, I think that it enjoyed me. But by the time my daughter got to visit the circle it was fenced off – a ‘don’t touch’, ‘stick to the path’, ‘don’t climb’ sort of place, almost as plasticised as the model Stonehenge in my snow globe, and not at all the bleak mysterious Stonehenge I'd visited as a child.

I spent hours after that trip building a small, not very accurate, imagined model version of Stonehenge from balsa wood, moss, and glue and paint. I used an old white pudding bowl as a base. It stood proudly on my bedroom windowsill for years and then one day I picked it up and threw it in the bin.

Each time I look at this globe I remember my trip to Salisbury plain. I taste and smell the packed-lunch egg and cress sandwiches that my mum wrapped in my knapsack, I feel the wind watering my eyes, I remember the touch of those ancient stones beneath my small abrasive fingers – and sometimes I’m sure I hear a distant scream.


  1. I've never been to Stonehenge but by your description I don't think that I would want to visit nowadays. Your post brought back memories of school trips that I had - inspired me to include it as a post on my blog!

  2. I remember that trip. It was really windy.

  3. When we went they told us terrible stories of pagan sacrifice, semi-naked virgins, druidic magic and we had to stand around looking suitably disgusted at these heathen tales whilst all secretly wishing that we could have been there to watch. At the age of ten the sacrifices held more of a fascination. Then, as the hormones took hold, the virgins enthralled. Now the sacrifices once again take my fancy. Funny, that you can travel so far and end up back where you started.