Sunday, May 31, 2009


Enforced radio silence in the highlands has left me a few days behind, so without further delay....Stonehenge.

Our first view was from a distance, with the familiar silhouette on the hillside, shockingly close to a major road.

The second was through a fence, the only way the formation can be seen without special permission.

This is a national and world heritage site, and to gain private access, one has to apply well in advance, and complete all the appropriate paperwork. Access is granted only before the site opens in the morning, or after public closing time. We were lucky enough to gain an evening entrance.

Our guide to the stones was Carol Druce. Carol has lived nearby -- in the shadow of the stones -- for a quarter of a century, and was an incredible font of knowledge. The bag you can see her carrying here was chock full of interesting material (including diagrams and dowsing sticks) to add life to her commentary.

Just have to pause here to say that if you are going to travel to Stonehenge, it is entirely worth the additional effort and expense to have a private viewing with an expert local guide. Carol [apologies in advance....] totally rocked.

Of course, it didn't hurt her credibility that as we stood near the entrance going through introductions, she managed to conjure up this rainbow above the giant stones ....

[Ed. note: A bit hard to see the rainbow when the pic is this small -- check out better version at my Flickr page HERE.]

From a distance, the stones are mesmerizing.

Up close, they are magical.

The magestic bluestones were brought 2400 BC (and some say as early as 3000 BC) from Wales, a distance of around 400 km. (Recent theorists postulate that the stones may have travelled part of the way as part of a glacial deposit.) However they got to this spot on the Salisbury plain, there is no doubting their neolithic origins, nor the incredible amount of calculation needed to erect a formation of this size and complexity.

Anyone who is interested can find reams of material on this incredible site. There is certainly no shortage of reading material. Personally, I find it very hard to do justice to this experience on any kind of a practical level.

It was almost beyond words.

I guess it's lucky I believe in magic....


Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Wonderful Wiltshire

More on our weird and wonderful day in Wiltshire...

In addition to our experiences in and around the stone circles, we also had a chance to visit some of the other mystical and magical sites in the area. Less than two miles from Avebury, several other sites called to us...

We toiled up a long hill for the chance to peek inside a neolithic long barrow. The West Kennet Long Barrow is an ancient tomb, thought to have been in use for over 1000 years, until it was finally sealed up by the Beaker people -- among the ancient first peoples of this area.

This is the entrance to the long barrow.

The barrow goes pretty far back.

A ghostly glimpse of the inside.

At the very back, water trickled down a wall. In this picture you can just see the posy of flowers left on the floor of the site by the travellers who sometimes sleep there.

We prowled around the nearby Silbury Hill, a man-made mound created over hundreds of years for a still-unknown purpose.

We trekked through the Roman waterworks at Bath.

A lot of roman statuary about, but my favourite was this bearded Celtic laddie.

Outside the baths, we were charmed by this elegantly-clad street performer. (That's a 8' unicycle behind him, and of course, he's wearing his safety net....)

This is a shot of Woodhenge, the remains of a bronze-age wooden structure similar in shape to Stonehenge. The timbers are gone, of course, but the pattern remains, marked by concrete blocks. The posts would have aligned with the centre aligned to mid-summer sunrise.

The mound in the middle marks the resting place of a small child.

We had a chance to ramble through the beautiful cathedral at Salisbury, home to a copy of the Magna Carta, Wordsworth's final resting place, and ...

Some very decent gargoyles. Check out these evil little sprites, gnawing on this poor sinner's face.

Salisbury Cathedral also houses this remarkable 14th C face-less clock, once housed in a separate bell tower:

Nearby, the mound and stone remains of Old Sarum (the Roman name for Salisbury) are atop a hill.

Throughout the day, as we drove around the region, we were lucky enough to spot some of the chalk horses on the hillsides.

There are seven in total, and we managed to spy three. Much of the area of Wiltshire is chalk, the result of once being at the bottom of a vast, inland sea. These hill figures are created by scraping away the surface layer to uncover the chalk below.

The Cherhill White Horse, carved circa 1780.

The Westbury White Horse. This one appears to be smiling, but in fact the smile is just a person walking along the edge of the feature. Gives a bit of a perspective as to the size...

And to finish? A beautiful descendant, perhaps, of the earliest models for the Chalk Horses.

Next post -- Stonehenge.



I am aware that this blog has devolved into a bit of a travelogue of late, however, as these visits are part and parcel of the stuff that makes up the internal dreamscape from which I draw my work, I feel justified on reporting some of the wonders to which I bear witness.


Okay -- rationalization over, today I've brought you a taste of Wiltshire, as experienced under the able guidance of Vic, our driver and guide for the day.

Here's Vic. He is wonderful -- a retired RAF gent who kept us hopping for 12 full hours on an unforgetable 131-mile tour of Wiltshire.

Here's his website.

To begin...Avebury.

Avebury is the site of an ancient henge -- older and much larger in scope than Stonehenge. The stones are not so imposing as those at Stonehenge, nor linked with lintels, and yet it is an amazing site. The mammoth circle runs through the village, surrounded by an enormous ditch that may have been far deeper in ancient times.

The first sight of Avebury comes with an avenue of stones leading to the site. Many of the ones closer to the village were stolen in Victorian times for use in building, as this area is all chalk, and building stones had to be brought from far away.

Due to it's size, I couldn't get a shot of the whole site -- the massive ditch that rings the site contains a circle of stones, and within that two further stone circles can be found.

Avebury is also different from its more famous sister in that it is fully walkable, without any special permissions. In fact, a part of the small village of Avebury is enclosed within the outer circle, including a pub.

We stopped and had a lovely tea at the community hall, where the local ladies provided home-made sandwiches and cakes in a not-at-all mystical setting.

The stones each have a personality and every face is unique. The neolithic age of the site has led to many theories, of course, including one which indicates that the tall stones are representative of males, and the short, squat stones of females.

I hesitate to offer an opinion.

We spent some time in the churchyard of Avebury St. James, located just beside the outer circle. The church dates back to Norman times, circa 1000, and has a Norman-era square tower and a lovely lush graveyard.

Many of the stones are too ancient to read an inscription, but the local people take care to keep the graveyard in good condition.

There were also a number of wonderful crypts, including this one, an austere little number with ivy growing out of its interior and cascading down the sides. The inscription was too worn to read.

Not all the graves were totally ancient -- this one belonging to a member of the Paradise family [quite populous in this graveyard] was dated a relatively modern 1898.

In addition to the Paradises, I also found several Crooks -- which I read as a sign that the graveyard was home to members from all elements of the religious and secular spectrum.

To finish, a more lively [and amphibial] Aveburian hopped by to wish us well in our travels.

More on our day with Vic in the next post.


Sunday, May 24, 2009

More London

A few more jam-packed days, complicated by difficult internet connections, results in this mostly pictoral view of this amazing city...

We awaken to an admittedly hideous view from our window...

...but it does mean that we are spared the noise from Oxford Street and the nearby pubs.

Heading out, we hit the Underground, and...

travelling through many a tube tunnel...

...on and off a few trains....

leads us to find a few secrets of the city.

We got to visit the ravens at the Tower (not as big as the ones we have at home, but lovely all the same),

as well as the lads who guard the ravens (and other denizens of the Tower of London).

Today, we peered through the window of this cheese shop in Marylebone...

en route to a Farmer's Market with the most astonishing variety of meat being sold (unrefrigerated!) from the stalls...

And on to the breath-taking Great Hall of the British Museum.

It was a brief visit, due to an injured traveller, but we had a moment to enjoy the sight of at least one individual on the premises who didn't have sore feet.

And a final ride back to the hotel on the tube, accompanied by someone who seemed to have lost his Death Star...

More soon -- tomorrow it's out of the City to seek out the secrets Salisbury and the wyrdness of Wiltshire.


Thursday, May 21, 2009

London, 2009 Day One

As you may have noticed, this week I popped into my Tardis,

and made my way across an extremely large land mass, followed by a rather broad body of water,

only to find myself in the land of...

chimney pots against the sky,

brilliant and buxom statuary,

and very tight spiral staircases.

London has welcomed me (and my boy) back with open arms and traffic jams.

Today, I witnessed an anti-Chinese Falun Gong protest (tiny), a celebration of the new governmental acknowledgement of the rights of Gurkha soldiers (much larger), and an anti-Sri Lankan demonstration right in the road that was traffic-stopping in its intensity.

Also, the fine workers of the London Underground struck today, with the principle victim being the Victoria tube line, ultimately shut down for the day.

Nonetheless, we managed to take in great whacks of the City, and I have worn my poor boy ragged with my high-speed delerium at being back in this wonderful place.

My favourite jaunt of the day? Here is a hint:

Can you guess? A bit hard to tell from this picture...but,

this wonderful sculpture can be found suspended from the ceiling of the teeny Operating Theatre Museum near Guy's Hospital. My favourite museum in the city, without a doubt.

It's very late here now, but I will put up a link to my flickr account and will post more pictures tomorrow.

Ta, mates.