It was the end of a harrowing journey filled with drama but somehow on time. Bernie and I communicated back and forth about the exact time that I would arrive. There was some confusion due to all the trouble that the SouthWest trains were experiencing due to the incident at Earlsfield. The whole system was messed up and when I finally arrived in Salisbury it was just around the time I planned on being there.
Bernie shook his head in disbelief and laughed at the way it worked out for me. I arrived on a train that left Waterloo thirty-three minutes late from it’s scheduled time but it left the actual station precisely when it was scheduled for my departure. Bernie was waiting for me at the station. He said that the station was crazy as the previous train arrived with all of its passengers. That train prior to mine was probably the first train to arrive from Waterloo to Salisbury. He said that there were many tales of woe as passengers met with their awaiting parties. I sauntered off the train as if the chaos all around did not affect me. It was nice to see him and we chatted about our recent and upcoming events in our lives as we drove out into the countryside along dark winding roads towards his house.
It was nice to see the rest of his family as we chatted while eating. Polly is cheerful despite almost being due. The kids are basically asleep and she is tired and soon Bernie and I went to his little hideaway in the garage where he has his studio/hangout space. It’s his man cave and is filled with the things that make melodic noise. What do olde friends do when they haven’t hung out in a while? We listened to tunes and drank conveying our experiences and the changes that have happened in our lives over the past year. We met three years ago when Rita and I needed a third person to go in on a flatshare. There was three of us occupying a two bedroom flat with the lounge becoming my bedroom. All we had was a tiny kitchen to hang out in with a tiny garden in the back through the washroom. After Rita and Jaco got together we decided to branch out on our own and found a flat near Earlsfield. Over the time that we lived together we became good friends and influenced each other as we pursued our respective creative outlets. There was a lot of music played and created. This blog wouldn’t of have happened if I wasn’t inspired by Bernie’s own passion for creating music. It’s done for the pure joy of creating without the thought of some kind of reward. Creation has it’s own rewards as I have learned too. Over time that we have known each other we become good friends and hanging out like in his space was how we spent time when we were flatmates.
We drank and talked about many things way past midnight. Before we got too mullered we bought some tickets to Stonehenge. It was going to be an early morning start. Bernie has been at Stonehenge a few times now and each time was marred by inclement weather. He prophecised rain and wind and when I looked at the weather report on Friday I concurred with his assessment. The pile of rocks arranged in this field a long time ago has held the fascination of its inhabitants for a long time. It predates history as we know it our only knowledge coming from an analysis of the available evidence that has been dug up and inferred from the results. The way the area around Stonehenge is managed has evolved as the amount of tourism has continued to grow. we had to pre book tickets for some reason and picked a time early in the morning soon after the site opens to the public.
When that start finally came in the morning it was alright. It wasn’t a terribly cold day and it wasn’t raining yet. We managed to be on the road at nine and we drove the route that Bernie usually takes to work. This half hour drive to Stonehenge represents a quarter of his journey to work. The treachery that he experiences daily on his commute were not exaggerated. To me these seem like quaint country lanes but in reality they are the paths that get people to their destinations daily even if two cars can’t pass each other heading in opposite directions because the road is so narrow. There is no shoulder to pull off onto in case something happens and no lights to illuminate dangerous areas. So much for the Health and Safety rhetoric that permeates all aspects of British life. If only there was a direct route to work…
Why would anyone build something like Stonehenge here in this place? This area has a lot of energy according to some as it lays at the intersection of powerful energetic lay lines. Today as we walked past the visitor centre the wind blew with some ferocity over the exposed hill. The clouds stirred and for a few minutes the sun shone and illuminated the stones in a magical light. There weren’t many people here and I was able to capture many views. Bernie again laughed and shook his head in bewilderment as he saw the conditions. Sunshine basked the stones for a precious short time and we watched and felt the incoming rain and clouds move in changing the landscape from a mystical beautiful scene to a darker somber one. “Lucky Bastard!” he said to me.
The visitor centre is a place that neither of us have been inside. This place talks about the history of Stonehenge as far as archeology can tell. Stonehenge is a part of a larger constellation of earthworks and megalithic arrangements found in this area. It is thought that it began as a circle of timber posts and eventually stones from quarries far away were transported and arranged here. The obvious observation is that it had to do with ritual and the passage of seasons as the stones are arranged so that they align with the solstices. The sun rises and sets aligned to spaces between the stones on those significant days. The stones themselves are big and it’s a marvel that almost five thousand years ago people collaborated to build this monument. There are other mounds and ancient stone circles in this area. The meaning of all of this will never be truly known completely as the traditions that built them are no longer a part of our culture. This visitor centre houses some artefacts from these neolithic times showing the ingenuity of those people living back then. They were just like us except they didn’t have our technology or knowledge but we lack the understanding and perspective they had regarding the land and time they found themselves in.
We drove to Salisbury to go and check out Salisbury Cathedral. The town is fairly large and the core is lined by old buildings that crowd the narrow streets. The city is not automobile friendly and we had to park at one of the local parking lots and walk through the town. There is a little creek that snakes through the town and the little alleys lead us through an outdoor market where a deep voiced vendor shouted out prices for flowers he was hustling to get rid of. Some of the town has retained some of its olde buildings. With age they have sagged and twisted into trippy looking buildings as they contrast to the straight right angles of their younger brethren.
Salisbury Cathedral is a great big building. It’s tower shoots up into the air proclaiming its special place in this landscape. The grounds have a wide expanse of grass that today housed sculptures scattered about expressing something. As with a lot of art the motivation for creating differs from the interpretation that a person may have upon viewing them. In any case their size fit into the land enhancing the experience of viewing them in this setting. Both of us were somewhat in a daze having had little sleep and only caffeine to keep us going. This may have contributed to the surrealism of the scene as the modern sculptures contrasted with this ancient building. I had a hard time fitting it all into one picture as the spire is that tall. Entering into the building felt like stepping back in time. The stones are worn from hundreds of years of use. Inside the building there is a small plot of grass in the middle surrounded by an arched hallway. We walked around this area and ducked into a room that housed the Magna Carta. I had a brief look at this ancient parchment that represents the beginning of modern political thought regarding the rights of individuals and limits of government power. There was no photography allowed so that this original document is preserved for future generations. There were pillows all around the room which was used by clergy to discuss whatever topics deemed to be important enough for this setting.
We left the room and walked towards the cathedral under the arched hallway. Bernie pointed to the exit doors of the cathedral and we walked through the automatic doors into the space. There is an immediate sense of vast space created by the vaulted ceiling. The cathedral is laid out like a cross and we entered one of the shorter portions of the cathedral. It is an offshoot from the main length of the cathedral chamber. There were a few people inside admiring the space. A custodian lead a small group of tourists through the building pointing out and explaining the various historical details found within this space. He pointed to things with a green laser pointer that immediately jumped out against the historical hues of wood and stone. It is an impressive building as I’ve said before. There was a sense that a lot of care has been taken over the years to maintain this building. This preservation and history has given this structure a certain amount of prominence and it is worth visiting if you happen to be into this kind of thing. As Bernie remarked there isn’t really much more to this place. We managed to tour through two of the biggest attractions in this area before lunchtime.
It was time to head back as the parking ticket was due to expire soon. We observed how the shops downtown in the area were the same brands as were found in other areas. Is there a McDecimation of diversity due to the lack of variety in the retail environment? We contributed to this by heading to a cafeteria that we knew served a certain type of food with flavours that we knew and kinda enjoyed consuming. They are also fast at getting you what you need. We didn’t have a lot of time or we were in a rush. Modern life necessitates quickness and efficiency because we don’t have the time…
Another topic that came up was the movement in Britain to encourage exiting the European Union. When we got back to the house we watched the Prime Minister announce a vote on June 23rd. This will be a vote that will decide weather or not Great Britain should remain in the European Union. Is it a good idea? Who will it benefit and who will lose out? The side that wants to exit the union cites greater autonomy and freedom to pursue national interests in its own way. There is a deep distrust of Brussels where the European Union is headquartered and the decisions of its tribunals and courts which can overrule British Supreme Court as well as parliamentary decisions. The side that favours remaining in the union notes that the economy, freedom of movement and security is more likely benefit Britain if it remains in the union. Britain will be in a better position to influence the way that decisions are made in the EU by being involved in it. The Prime Minister has lobbied hard to get some kind of a special deal on which to announce a referendum. The ruling party is split between those wanting to remain and those wanting to #Brexit.
We said our goodbyes and soon I was left at the station waiting for my train to take me back to Stafford. The train arrived late and it moved slowly towards Bristol. There was a connecting train that I had to catch to Stafford from there. In Bath a huge influx of passengers crowded the three carriages of this train. As we approached the Bristol I was anxious as it was already time to get onto the next train. As the passengers streamed out of the train and down the steps I became one of those people that weaves through the crowd in a rush to get somewhere. I narrowly avoided a child running around oblivious to his surroundings and ran up the steps to the platform housing the train that will take me to my destination. Throughout this journey I tapped away digesting my experiences appreciating the fortunate coincidences that synchronised beautifully throughout my journey.