5287068413_e61eb00e91_o.jpgPicture the Second.

What they don’t tell you, in all the films and on all the publicity blurb, is that there is a road runs by Stonehenge.

The A 303 can grind to a halt, and you can take pictures of Stonehenge on one side and a pig farm on the other. Thus, photographing these world-famous monoliths is a matter of telling the driver to take it easy while you point-and-click.

I have parked in the car park and walked all the way round Stonehenge with a punishingly sulky eight year old, but one can’t touch the stones these days, and I’m a tactile sort at heart. It is strange standing goggling at them without being able to run one’s fingers over the rough stones hewn thousands upon thousands of years ago. How the druids manage not to touch them is beyond me.

I am reminded, incidentally, of a set of grey stones on my windowsill. Whenever I go to the sea I find them: slate stacks and smooth pebbles, millions-year-old-keepsakes which have seen who knows what?  Every gracious ridge and layer speaks of aeons of time taken in the creation. They are time-chroniclers, speakers of a scale of creation which makes us men seem like so many scurrying ants. Did the Stone Age ever end, really?

When it comes to it: what is the difference between the great monoliths hauled onto a hill near Salisbury, England, and the keepsakes on my windowsill? The difference is that this age has created such celebrity for these standing orthostats they are no longer open for man to touch. And I would venture that touch is one of the reasons they were positioned as they are.

Give me my windowsill-stones, and the great natural menhirs of the Cornish coast, any day.





24 thoughts on “Untouchables

  1. Touch means so much. Even if I’m reading a book, looking at a calendar, picture, I need to touch, in fact the need is so powerful I do not realize I need to touch until I am doing so.

    1. I am the same, Lori. Tactile to the core. I have to have a diary which is a book: I kept missing appointments when it was online because I couldn’t feel the weeks passing under my fingers as I turned the pages.

      1. Oh, Kate…I’m so glad you said this. I double-book all of my appointments by listing them in my phone and penciling them in a calendar on my desk. Receptionists and family members snicker at my redundancy, but BY FAR, I use the calendar more often to stay on track. I’ll be hiking the Cotswolds this summer and looking forward to a side trip to Stonehenge and Avebury. I’d already started prepping myself to be disappointed by the fence and distance at Stonehenge. But you’ve given me something else to look forward to… maybe the pigs will be out!!! Hoooboy!

  2. I used to drive past them on the way back from Somerset and being from NZ I expected to be deeply impressed – but having the actual stones surrounded in wire with a please don’t touch EVER sign on the fence kind of killed it for me. I know what you mean about the stones on your windowsill. I have some old old marble tiles that I found on the beach in Amalfi, Italy. I love them a lot and can fit them in my handbag when I shift about. I think it is the STONE. No matter where we find it – our fingers long for the stone – there is a link between stone and blood i think. We need to be able to touch. Love love.. and lots of touchy feely – c

    1. Celi, of course you are right. When pressurised enough, stone becomes molten. It feels like the life blood of the earth, and it works on a different time scale to ours. I shall be thinking about your comment for days to come.

  3. I remember going there as a child…you could walk everywhere -and you could touch and wonder.

    The same thing has happened at Carnac…another no touch site.

    Leo has a small collection of stone implements he found in the Thames mud when he was young…touch those and you feel kinship with those who made them.

  4. I can understand the “do not touch” rule. But it saddens me to learn it has come to pass. If I ever had the chance to visit the site, I would quite naturally want to wander among the stones, touching them and somehow connecting across the centuries. Haven’t there been times in the past when crowds gathered there to celebrate the solstice? Or something like that. I hope they appreciate the opportunity they had to experience what is now denied to everyone.

    1. PT, they still gather every solstice, and it is a huge event. I think Druids might be given special access. There are nearby standing stone sites including Avebury which are still more accessible. I plan to visit Avebury soon!

  5. I recently saw an episode of something on television and for the first time noted the highway alongside these famous sentinels. I was amused at the juxtaposition, caught between modernity and ancient civilizations. That they’ve completely survived at all is still something quite wonderful, even without being able to get too close. But I’m like you in that I really want to touch and create that connection. I like my little rock collections, too. I have a beautiful piece of petrified wood, ill-begotten from the days of my youth when no one spoke of protecting any resources! I suppose that makes me one of the reasons we have to have the “no touch, rule.” I’m sorry Kate!

  6. I am glad that my first visit was when one could still get close and personal with the stones. The second didn’t seem worth the effort. We got far more atmosphere from the Avebury Ring.

      1. It is excellent exercise, too. Once one has hugged the stones and walked the good distance round the main ones, some hill climbing is necessary to get a full vista of all of them.

  7. It’s a shame we cannot touch anymore. Can those pigs get close enough to touch. It just occurred to me that Celi’s best pig Sheila could ride us over to secretly touch. I know. Doesn’t make much sense and obviously it is time for me to go to bed, but I just could not resist the silly thought.

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