Journal 8 June 2013

Yesterday’s shock hanging over me, Saturday was another day of excursions, driving for the school. Before setting off there were many well-wishes, “I heard about the news yesterday”, and “Did you sleep okay?”. I don’t know if it was the novelty or what but a lot of the students wanted to travel in my minibus. Perhaps because I didn’t say no to music being played. My only rule was “don’t have it so loud your crappy dock speakers distort” as they are fond of doing to foist their tracks as much as possible. So to a soundtrack of some kind of hispanic trance pop, pop and dance we headed towards Andover and Tree Runners It was easy to find, just off the A303, down a bumpy track into the woods.

I hadn’t expected to be able to join in due to numbers, but after chatting to one of the staff I asked if Petter and I could join in. No worries. We were fitted into our harnesses and then taught the clipping in system at ground level. The owner wanted me as a hand model and took close-ups of their system. Having been to a Go Ape before, it seems they have gone one step further with a clutch mechanism that ensures one clip is on the safety wire all of the time. It’s an easy system and reassuring. Just as well when you are meters up in the trees.

The courses are graded like a ski resort, easy to hard: green, blue, red and black. I never made it past the blue stage myself, but that was fear aplenty after yesterday. Good fear though, testing one’s mettle, yet entirely safe (although Petter did end up with some kind of heat graze). Everyone really enjoyed it, it seemed, and the students were having a great time on the red and black course. For me the zip wires were the best, way longer than at Alice Holt Go Ape, speeding deep into the forest to land on a padded platform. There’s some novelty sections too, like a snowboard and a bicycle. Perhaps the most scary is the leap of faith at the end of each run, where you step off the platform trusting the friction mechanism to lower you safely.

We ate lunch in the woods then went to Andover to kill time before our group booking at Stonehenge. I didn’t see more than the Lidl car park, not fancying a Saturday town centre. Some other students didn’t go far, preferring to get high on ice lollies.

Now to the unexpected quality of Gang Starr, we headed to Stonehenge not too far away. I’d been a few years before with my girlfriend’s brothers so knew what to expect of it these days. In the early 2000s I went to one of the summer solstice’s where you can go amongst the stones (and the thousands of people). Although back then it wasn’t such a popular and festival-like thing to do. When I was young, still in the 1970s, one could always walk up to the stones, but with more than a million visitors a year this is no longer possible. On the solstices they have to open it up as to try to keep people out got too violent.

Thing is with stonehenge, there’s not much to see if you don’t look and wonder, and if you are not careful it’s over in minutes. We had two hours before due to meet back at the vans. I wondered slowly around, taking some photos, struck at the openness of the site, marvelling at the fact the stones came from 150 miles away, appreciating the Lego-style blobs on the tops of the standing stone to fit into hollows of those on top. We also took some obligatory group photos. I’m on the left doing something or other:

Then while most of the group played around at making human henges and such, I sat down to while the time away, in the bright sunshine and stiff breeze. I was drawn to sit on a bench where a well-dressed lady was writing and observing the scene quite intently. Her attention was caught by our cheerful group, by this stage jumping into rows of arms. I said “I’m with them” and we got to talking about the school, a bit about Krishnamurti, and then about what she was doing there. Earlier we had passed a man doing very detailed drawings of the stones, in a kind of silver pencil. Very impressive work. It turns out the artist is her husband, Mark Anstee, and they’ve been coming to stonehenge for a project lasting for a year. He’s a well known artist and she works in television production I think she said, and also writes. Here’s their web site.

Gabi and I spent over half an hour talking and it was very pleasant and interesting, and relaxingly down-to-earth after yesterday. We talked about how stonehenge was, how it will be with the new visitor centre and side road closed, about who comes to visit and their habits, about their work, and about a man (or was it a woman?) I’d seen earlier in a robe and band of flowers around their long hair. I thought it was a man, some students thought it was a woman. Gabi told me s/he is transgender and designed the country’s air traffic control system(!) and is a leading scientist. On weekends s/he likes to come to stonehenge and is some kind of shaman.

This is exactly what I saw Mark working on on Saturday:

I just looked up their blog and Gabi wrote this about our group:

“A large education group of young people arrive on the grass and have the idea of recreating Stonehenge using bodies. They organise themselves into threes and attempt to build trilithons with two people holding someone planking above their heads with mixed results. They swiftly abandon this plan and go for another picture opportunity with five boys lining up with their arms outstretched while another takes an almighty run-up, and with an impressive leap, twists and lands accurately on the platform of arms. These guys are having the best time here.”

I like it when two blogs meet.

After quite some time I was cold and most of the group had completed the circular tour, so I moved on. There’s a ridiculously small visitor centre (=gift shop). I hope the new one is several hundred times better and suits this unique site. I wonder how the plump tourists will travel the mile from the new one to the stones.

Then it was time for a more mellow musical drive back to Brockwood and home for a quiet evening. I was in bed before 2030 and asleep before sunset.

Here’s some photos I took of the stones:Stonehenge 6

Stonehenge 7

Stonehenge 8

Stonehenge 3

Stonehenge 4

Stonehenge 5

Stonehenge 1

Stonehenge 2