Thursday, November 17, 2011

Sydling St Nicholas, day three

We started late today (hooray!!) under blue skies. The blue here is really blue, and the sun burns. Sunglasses are powerless. It's funny because in those English novels I go on about, they speak about the continent being very light. 'Very light, isn't it?' says Fanny to Polly in Love in a Cold Climate. But England, when she puts on her dress, is the lightest I've ever seen. Because the weather was good, we thought we'd do outside stuff, so Stonehenge and Glastonbury. I couldn't find Stonehenge on the map (I did find Woodhenge, who knew?) and it wasn't in our GPS either, so it was off to Google (what did we do before Google?). And then we set off. The GPS took us through the tiniest and most winding villages in the world which was great because if I had been in charge (rather than Samantha, who is our electronic guide) we would have gone freeways and motorways and seen nothing. Lots of narrow streets and tiny houses (with enormous manor houses looming on the hill in the background. No fool the Lord. He was right away from the traffic ...). Myles lost him mind driving. Lorries (I've adopted that term, I like it more than truck) don't stop or slow even in the narrowest of situations. (And why not me behind the wheel I feel you asking? Cost too much for two drivers ...). And then, as we were gliding along a motor way - Samantha finally gave in and put us on a wider road - Stonehenge. Sitting between two busy roads. A little disconcerting, I have to say. My heart sort of dropped. From the hyper-reality of the villages yesterday to the somehow hypo-reality of this. We continued to sail past. We had to go into town for a snack. For those of you not quite familiar with Myles and the children, snacking is something that must be done on the hour. Feeding this family has created a kind of panic in me. I watch Paris in a bakery and I fear for the lives of the people serving on the other side. So into Amesbury (I think, I'm doing this from memory). There was a rather nice bakery. There was not much left when we left. And then back in the car for Stonehenge. I was hoping to get mystic. It kind of worked. A little.
We took the audio tour. Niccolo was so into it he did it twice (and then jogged around Stonehenge for a final florish). It was pretty interesting (but there was a whole lot of 'But what is it for?' at the end of each bit of information). And up close, it did become mystic. You could kind of block out the traffic and engage with the stones. And it is much bigger when you are out of your car and on your feet. In the car, it kind of looked little. There are sheep that guard it. With their smell. We loved the sheep. I took photos of the sheep. Actually, they don't care about Stonehenge. They were much more interesting in solving the mystery of the shed in their paddock. Several of them were head butting it. I think it might have had food. But I don't know. What was it for? There was a Druid (at least I think she was a Druid) wandering about with us with a kooky walking stick and a long cloak. There was also a few vans off in the distance soaking up the atmosphere ('Vanhenge', said Paris. 'What about Sheephenge?' I said. 'Too unstable', he noted with some authority).
I thought about Hardy (of course). I had always wondered about the stones and Tess. And here was something. The stones in Stonehenge are warm. That's why they chose them (quoting the audio tour now). We were there on a sunny but freezing day. And when you touched the stones (there are some to touch outside the barrier - the stunt stones - they were warm, you could cosy up to them.
The gift shop (that Hardy never wrote about) was full of Stonehenge the tea towel, and Stonehenge the chocolate, and Stonehenge the shot glass, and Stonehenge the jumper. Niccolo bought Stonehenge the necklace (and lost it later in the day).
We then ummm and ahhed about what to do next. And decided on Glastonbury. We arrived at about 1pm but it felt like about 4pm. The sun does something weird here and is hurrying to set at around lunchtime. It is very disconcerting. We walked around the Abbey (the kids played tiggy) and looked for badgers and ducks, and stood reverently at the tomb of King Arthur (well, I did. I had a thing for Arthurian tales when younger. I managed to pass on a lot of my reading tastes to Paris and Zelda, but not that one. They had no idea who he was). Niccolo did a brass rubbing of a knight.
Then to the Tor.
The Tor is a rather large and very steep hill with the remains of a church on top and the myth that under the church is the gateway to fairyland. It is also supposed to be the Isle of Avalon, where King Arthur was taken by the Lady of the Lake after he was wounded in his last battle. And up we walked. It was about a mile from the town to the bottom of the Tor (through pretty steep paddocks and old, old orchards). Then up the Tor. It was steep as steep, I did have some concerns that the kids, who were galloping about like puppies (do puppies gallop?) might fall and break their crowns. Niccolo did become a little worried about this himself and had to hold my hand for the last part of the walk. At the top is was windy and cold and amazing. You really felt like you could see the world. Paris and Zelda went and sat at the edge of the Tor and then Paris rolled down the steepest part of the hill. It hurt apparently. On the other hill, someone had mown a heart into the grass. Niccolo was impressed. The sheep (that guard the Tor) didn't want to be patted (but I guess we are their natural pretators). We made it down in one piece. It was getting dark (at about 4pm).
Glastonbury is the kookiest town we have yet seen. Every shop is dedicated to the gentle art of mysticism - alchemy, apothocary, natural healing, tarot readings, thick knit cardigans (yes, a kind of mysticism) and organic food up the wazoo. I loved it, right at home. The kids were hungry and wanted pizza. Not quite the right town for this.
Myles, by this stage, was getting a head cold and was not in the mood to be charmed by olde worlde shoppe and nutty clothing. So we ended up in the very hard headed supermarket and bought supermarkety stuff. And went back to Sydling St Nicholas with the voice of Samantha gently talking us through the pitch blackness.
I'm having trouble loading up photos to this blog. There are none today, but I'll try again later.

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