070623.Stonehenge, The Devout, Conventional, and Worldly Hengers

June 23, 2007 at 11:18 PM | Posted in Actors in Period Costumes, Architecture, Chisel Marks, Gardens & Parks, Monuments and Memorials, Overcast, people, Ruins, Salisbury, Sculpture, Wiltshire | 7 Comments

Stonehenge Solstice 3/3: [One], [Two], [Three]

So who was there?

It’s hard for me to break down and categorize the individuals at the Hedge, due in large part to the vast diversity present. I’ll rely on my old undergraduate dissertation crutch and conform the myriad of groups into three relatively irrelevant entities: the devout (authentic Druids, New Age-inspired magicians, and the heavily intoxicated, most reverend at these events), the conventionally pious (LARPers, Aging Hippies), and the worldly (flat-out tourists). Since I’ve been out of the liberal arts loop for over a year, my classifications are not up to snuff. For the official, if now outdated, list of terms, check out the various joke guides that all play on the pseudo-scientific classification of subgroups [1] [2] [3], but I’m just breaking down the groups to decide the order to post my photos.

First, a brief word that the “stewards” of Stonehenge, the security detail there that searched bags at the entrance and confiscated any glass bottles really controlled events brilliantly. The only serious incidents that occurred resulted from people accidentally falling from stones and suffering mild concussions. They were all quickly attended to. From my vantage point toward sunrise, I saw the security detail go into overtime and escort numerous people out for various infractions, including perching on higher stones….
Unfortunately, there were many people dressed like stewards who were not in fact stewards or had anything to do with security.
There didn’t appear to be any serious theft at the site, personal property was reasonably secure and there were few, if any, altercations between individuals.

The Devout
Overheard Conversation from this Idio:
“This is a once in a thousand years event! (Even though it’s every year…)”

-Druids [see previous post]
-Possible Druids/ New Agers/ Grieving Family Members Illegally Disposing of Human Remains. Not sure what type of ashes these women were scattering over the crowd, but they got them on hundreds of people, and then proceeded to sprinkle them on the rocks too.
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-Musicians in the Sacrificial Mosh Pit
-Industrious People on our former rock who raised a crystal rod to try to catch the sunbeams…sadly, there was no sun.
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-the Disabled, this might be a bit un-PC to single them out, but I was shocked and impressed at the number of people there in wheelchairs and with walkers at the site. These people were camping out like the rest of us and I saw them touching the stones, making me wonder if they made this pilgrimage expecting something. That’s intense, especially because I often mistaked their walking canes and gray hair for cheesy wizard costumes.
-Long Distance Tourists/ and the extreme version: long distance tourist families.
-Witches burning basil/other herbs and shoving it into natural holes in the stones. Is it legal? This is a Grade I Ancient Monument – defacing it is a criminal offense.
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The Conventional
Overheard Conversation from this Idio:
“So what do you think? Yeah, I guess it’s cool, kinda like a rave without electric.”

 

 

-Those surrounding the musicians in the Mosh Pit who cheered and snapped their fingers like they were at a lame poetry reading. I don’t know what they should have been doing, I was nearby and trying to sleep…
-Photographers going to the extra length standing on others shoulders, climbing the large post sarcens for the excellent picture while risking expulsion, bringing your own tripod… (I saw others who climbed great heights just to drink…maybe that’s in devout category, but it’s also stupid, should have brought a camera up there…)
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070620.456.WI.Salisbury -Artists of various sorts, their paintings and other work might not be spectacular but they can claim they did it from life and up close.
-Families: it takes guts to allow your kids to jump around on crowded slippery wet rocks over five feet high, while among the craziest members of society.
-Roving bands of costumed musicians, or simply the processional possessed.
-Political Message Mongerers, a***oles who brought banners to unfurl in the center of the Hedge at sunrise….they didn’t make it to the core, I think they were driven out in fact. “Save [Something]…” No idea what there message was since it was too packed.
-Stay still, you have Merlin on your neck! The beard here was real. It’s debatable if full beards and pointy hats should be added to the devout, I doubt that he grew it to fit in with this crowd…

The Worldly
Overheard Conversation from this Idio:
“Could all of you just bend your necks to the right, I NEED this photo…”

-Casual photographers, I can’t stand seeing so many people taking pictures with their cell phones. This ticks me off. They’ll claim they don’t have the cash to get a real camera, but then they’ll spend the rest of the day calling international talking about trivial things. These are people who need to have cell phones with them at all time, they need to be in touch at all time. Where’s the fun in camping out at the Henge and not being isolated from modern society. The photos is not going to come out, either, so why do they try?
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-Posers, tourists who posed near the costumed folks…like this guy next to a warlock with a dead ferret on a stick.
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-Tourists more interested in getting a group photo up close than with anything substantial in the background. A photo isn’t a photo unless it has a good structure somewhere in it. Why don’t these people wrestle back in their suburban homes?
070620.509.WI.Salisbury -There’s nothing better than having reserved great spots and then contently sleeping through sunrise while occupying triple the ground area needed. It was so packed with people trying to get this close, that no one woke any of the multiple sleeping couples up out of spite for the space they continued to take. Who suffered there?
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-People who quit the wait around the stones for the allure of the charcoal fire (no questions on how I have a photo of said fire.)

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070622.Stonehenge, Druid Woodstock From Dusk Till Dawn

June 22, 2007 at 11:19 PM | Posted in Actors in Period Costumes, Architecture, Chisel Marks, Gardens & Parks, hippies, people, Pilgrimage, Salisbury, Sculpture, Supernatural, Wiltshire | 6 Comments

Stonehenge Solstice 2/3: [One], [Two], [Three]
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Our position throughout the night looking east, high up in the inner circle on one of the fallen slabs. This was near the center of the sacrificial mosh pit, where there was a nightlong drum banging concert. Maybe it was music, maybe. It was cheered and had many replacement musicians. The final twilight shot includes the ominous cumulus cloud that here forms a lintel but soon joined with other clouds to block the sun.

Sunset: 9:26 pm
Sunrise: 4:58 am

With that said, I will state that my group was running late…. The bus dropped us off after nine and a good mile or so away from the Henge, nevertheless, we could see the pink-glowing stones. Having now seen the Henge on several occasions and in different lights, I’ll tell you it is like the Taj Mahal, which continuously changes color during the day. However, this being England, the stones are mostly gray due to the overcast climate. Sure enough, before we could get a good shot of the pink stones from afar, a cloud moved in and blocked the sun. This became a theme of the experience: relatively cloudless skies skewered during the final moments by a streak of clouds. Why the ancients ever decided to build the monument dependant on sun-caused shadows in England beats me, but they did – and I came.

Getting There:070620.513.WI.Stonehenge

While walking with thousands of others through the fields to get to the Henge, I began to familiarize myself with those in attendance. There was a good number of students, many parents with children, several elderly and disabled individuals, many adult tourists/hikers, an overwhelming number of twenty/thirty something New Agers, with the rest of the large cast made up of adolescents with Lord of the Ring or Dungeon and Dragon inspired consumes. Also, I met several tourists from quite a far ways away in the US and Canada who came with large families for this event.
Were there any Druids without these pop-culture inspired robes, frills, and walking sticks? Hardly. Somewhere in that mix were the Emos, Goths, Hipsters, and Punks. It’s fair to say that every single person in England who had a shaved head or mohawk was at this event. And one in every two people in attendance had dreadlocks. This will be better detailed in tomorrow’s post on the people there.

Because all of these subgroups were all English, (I assume), they were all quite polite – even the excessively moody ones. One robe-wearing girl (or young woman) with gnarly walking stick, who appeared to be quite old from behind stammered out a thank you when I held a sheepgate open for her. Those words looked like they were killing her. She was supposed to be an elf, or witch, and supposed to be deeply lost in thought – but she yielded to the civilized culture. Very odd.
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Druids:

Early on, the Druids were kind of lame [Lame, Better, Nice]. I saw one solemn adolescent Druid in a brown Franciscan robe with cord being escorted around by his decidedly middle-aged, ordinary, and slightly embarrassed parents. I explained that many of what might be considered Druids at the event owed more to D&D or LotR, and others were more like aging hippies, but I don’t know. The ones that were there had banded together to chant and play on small drums or recorders, truly the devil’s instrument. One group, reduced to hyping modern tourist gimmicks, tried to get folks to vote for Stonehenge as one of the Seven Wonders of the World. Only later did I see Druids throwing (hopefully non-human ashes into the crowd) and sprinkling them at the base of each stone. That seemed cool (largely because I avoided being hit with the suspect ashes.)

There’s too many photos to post here, so I won’t try even uploading that many. None were great.

Music:

The center of the Henge had one or two bongo/drum players at all times. There was sometimes a recorder or horn there. These were not Druid musicians, who were forced outside of the Henge with their screeching animal horns. Whenever a musician handed over the bongos to another, there was clapping but no audible change in music. I stayed in the center perched high on a slab for most of the night; the night was clear and the stars were incredible from inside the Henge…and the outside of the Henge glowed blue from floodlights set up by the authorities for that night.
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There were bands of Druids roaming outside with horns and other small drums, but the funniest other musician was a lone bagpiper outside the Henge for a long time. Not one person was listening to him, it was extremely sad and he eventually quit.
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Sunrise:

At twilight, it began to rain lightly and then quit, just God’s way of washing Druid-hippies. I usually hate umbrellas but here they looked interesting in profile and in shadow. It had been clear, if quite cold, all through the night … but as sunrise neared clouds suddenly moved in. It was like a race between the sun and the clouds. Everyone knew when the sun would rise over the hill and they could figure that the overhead clouds’ speed meant that there was no hope in seeing the sun unobstructed. Some left, but others continued to hope since they were only minor clouds….nothing happened. More clouds came and what had been a clear day turned into one that was completely overcast. Thank you England. Twenty minutes after sunrise a very small hole in the clouds cleared that allowed the sun to be seen, if not shine through. It disappeared before I had zoomed in on my third picture.

If I can manage it, I’ll post some videos….and more photos tomorrow.

070621.Stonehenge, Summer Solstice

June 22, 2007 at 12:12 AM | Posted in Architecture, Chisel Marks, Light and Shadow, Monuments and Memorials, Overcast, Ruins, Salisbury, Wiltshire | 7 Comments

Stonehenge Solstice 1/3: [One], [Two], [Three]

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Camped out last night/this morning for the Summer Solstice at Stonehenge. It was quite an experience as there were thousands of people (as tomorrow’s post will detail) there and it was actually chilly. Normal visitors are not allowed to go near the stones while we camped out on them, so it was worth it to go just for that reason — I have now touched all the stones (and others did much worse). Below, an image the Druids might think was magic — all the cell phone cameras and digital camera screens glowing amidst the twilight and the ancient monument.

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070613.Monkton Combe, Muck-Stuck Duck, Qu’ck!

June 13, 2007 at 1:02 AM | Posted in Architecture, Chisel Marks, Ducks, Monkton Combe, Overcast, somerset, Wiltshire, Window | 3 Comments

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Another blinded window, although this one wasn’t designed as such. Someone’s lost their window privileges above the Mendips Fireplace Factory, which is really quite an interesting stucture above a stream, but the water is stagnant and seemingly lethal. What lowly fireplace factory worker is stuck in the windowless room? Since when did fireplace factories occupy telephone buildings? Since when have fireplaces been manufactured in factories?
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Don’t worry, both are alive (but probably sending out S.O.S messages in bottles).

070314.Bath, No Tulips to Tiptoe Through Yet

March 14, 2007 at 2:26 AM | Posted in Bath, Bathampton, Bradford-on-Avon, cemeteries - churchyards - and tombstones, Claverton, Claverton Down, countryside, Flowers, Gardens & Parks, hippies, Light and Shadow, Overcast, somerset, towns, Trees, University of Bath, Wiltshire | 7 Comments

Considering it was the only reason people know “Tiny Tim,” statistically it’s no surprise that that was the last song he ever performed. Seriously, he suffered a heart attack while singing it at a Gala Benefit for the Woman’s Club of Minneapolis. I have a lot of flower photos I want to unload to prove to everyone that it’s spring. This has taken a lot more work than I thought it would. Maybe I’ll have more but if you don’t hear from me again, you, you dear audience are my Woman’s Club of Minneapolis.
Someone knowledgeable about flowers told me the following: “The larger dark blue/purple are primroses. The smaller blue are scilla, the very small white are wild cyclamen.” Someone less knowledgable told me if I ever go back in time that I shouldn’t step on anything. Photos presented chronologically with most recent on top.

Below: Claverton Down, Bathwick Hill Road wall with “I think (not sure) it’s creeping phlox — a particularly strong color. Usually creeping phlox…is pastel — pastel white, pink or lavender. This is a really strong color so it might be something else.” The second photo is the view from my window.
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Below: Claverton Down, University of Bath
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Below: Bath (Twerton?), High Commons, Commune Garden:
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Below: Bath (Twerton?), Royal Victoria Park’s Botanical Garden (5Mar07): (with the exception of the night shot in Claverton Down)
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Below: Bath, Royal Victoria Park (5Mar07):
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Below: Bathampton, St Nicholas’ Cementery back on the 26th of Feb.
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Below: Claverton, St Mary the Virgin’s Cemetery back on the 26th of Feb.
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Below: My first flower shot of spring(?) in Bradford-on-Avon, Wilts. back on the 30th of January!
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070309.Limpley Stoke, Base Bed, Bath Stone and Beyond

March 9, 2007 at 12:04 AM | Posted in Chisel Marks, Conservation, Limpley Stoke, Wiltshire | 10 Comments

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Stoke Hill Stone – just give me the stats – pronto:
The Stoke Hill quarry was first mentioned in 1584.

Once, there were fifty mines around eighteenth-century Bath but today there are only three. The mine operated for a time, however, during the Second World War, the Ministry of War took it over and installed the supporting brick piers, which are unnecessary since the mine leaves 20% of the quarry stone as interspersed piers.
(below left: near the entrance of the mine is the only clamp. It looks rusted and unsafe, and is certainly useless today. below right: brick pier, c. 1940s)
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Bath buildings from the medieval period until today (with the exception of the 1970s, which primarily used a reconstituted stone block, ie: concrete,) have used this Bath oolitic limestone. Apart from Bath, at least eight colleges in Oxford were built from stone quarried here.The mine was reopened in 1982 and hoped to have 30% of the market but now has 85-90% of the Bath stone market. This is because the quarry stone is highly consistent, thus good for general marketing and architect’s specification.

Recently the stone has been supplied to all over the country and the United States, including work on the cathedral in Dallas, Texas, the restoration of St. Patrick’s R.C. Cathedral in New York City, Buckingham Palace, Hampton Court, and Windsor Castle. The queen’s millennium fountain at one of her estates was constructed from the base bed, and the Southgate Developers are seeking to use this quarry for the new section/development in Bath that I haven’t yet posted on but is now thoroughly razed and into phase one.

The stone used to be hauled down the hill and taken onto canal boats along the Kennet and Avon, and now it is taken on the A4 highway that runs parallel to the canal.

There are two beds: the top, which contains a gray-shale content, and the base bed, which was formed with shell bits. Prior to 1782, all Bath stone quarried was from this top bed, which makes matching stone for historical building conservation quite easy since it’s all from one source, which is still plentiful and consistent. Further, this stone has stood the test of time locally, proving it’s good for conservation and greenfield development.

Forest Marble is the finest stone. It’s somewhat rare and the best (or most common) forest marble in the area typically came from Claverton Down hill (where the University is now). This “marble” is very very strong and holds its own against the weather so it’s used for cornice areas or parts on buildings that generally are very susceptible to the weather. Cornice corners have to be natural bedded but this becomes vulnerable at the corners (if people don’t understand stone natural bedding, I’ll post on it when I get a good photo). The top bed is weaker but is generally used for ashlars and areas in buildings not generally expected to be weathered. The base bed is stronger than the top bed.
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(above:) Old rusty “Raza” Saw with top bed indicator. The rusty hooks hanging from the ceiling are the old 18th-19th century hooks that were used to hall stone out. (below left-right: modern saw (connected to first picture’s machine) and modern sawed stones.)
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The Layers (don’t quote me on anything because my notes are scattered since I wrote them in the shivering in the dark):

-DRY CLAY CAP- (keeps mine dry, except for where it’s broken)
-FOREST MARBLE CEILING-
-1 metre BRASH(?) LAYER- (top bed) [GREEN ARROWS]
-2.5 metre OOLITIC LIMESTONE- (base bed) [YELLOW AND BLUE Xs]
-THIN CLAY VEIN-
-[indecipherable layer] more oolitic limestone- (base bed)
-floor-

When the mine was reopened in 1982, the stone that had been extracted along the existing tunnels was the top and 2.5 metre base bed. I don’t know the exact height but it’s very high for a quarry and very consistent. The stone would be sawed to clear the top, sides and eventually back face (with an earlier version of a raza (sp?) saw). The base of the block would be chisel pegged out (although the clay vein made this easy. (And by “easy” I mean I have no idea what I’m talking about. It was “tough” for me to go into the mine up to my knees in freezing water to take photos…so take “easy” with a grain of salt.)

The first steps in 1982 to get the stone on the market again to prove the quarry quality was excavating below the then base level of the thin clay vein along the existing tunnels. They did this by ‘stitch drilling,’ which as the quarryman explained to us was not easy at all. You have to drill perfectly straight holes in a line along the base stone, which is harder than the top bed, to create a natural fault line. After each drilled hole you have to begin to pump the stone and quickly drill the next hole on the line. There’s no room for error and plenty of opportunities.

This requires a lot of work and is not a great idea financially but (apart from the drill bits that will likely get destroyed if you don’t drill a perfectly straight hole) it requires little significant investment in machinery. This initiative got the stone on the market, which raised interest and capital for the quarry project, which in turn was then invested in new modern technology for the mine.

The quarry mine was the first one in Europe to employ a cable method of supporting the quarry ceiling. Basically, steel cables drilled into the top bed suspend the quarry ceiling allowing more area to saw out stone. Each cable has devices next to it that monitor movement, so its…safe. (below: cables, etc. above “crocodile lake,” which is permanently flooded due to a fault line that splits the dry clay cap.)
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(above:) My sneakers have yet to dry and “[high-pitched cough] … I think I’m getting the Black Lung, Pop. It’s not very well ventilated down there.”

070308.Limpley Stoke, “His Voice Was in the Darkness and Darkness Was in His Voice and There Was No End at All”

March 8, 2007 at 2:15 AM | Posted in Chisel Marks, Limpley Stoke, Wiltshire | 4 Comments

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Went to a mine quarry yesterday that is right off the Dundas Aqueduct. It’s one of three around Bath today but I’ll get into the technicalities tomorrow.
The mine was flooded (nearly up to the knees), however, and I didn’t have “Wellies.” The mine was kind enough to supply four pairs but there were five of us who only had sneakers (I had an extra pair of shoes in the knapsack so I was the one who went without, not a real problem.) Some mine experiences that I’ll share with you. 1) Flood water is cold. 2) The mine can be well heated. 3) With the centre of the mine heated to a nice toasty warm temperature, mine water is still very very cold. 4) Numbness sets quickly; Athlete’s Foot takes longer.

An unrelated item I learned some time ago: Can anyone back me up that when you get cold you want to tinkle? Good. It’s natural. Seriously natural. As soon as your body feels a shiver of cold, it immediately goes into emergency procedure fearing that you will freeze to death. What’s Code Red against freezing to death? Peeing. (See President Lyndon B. Johnson’s quote that “economics is like peeing on your leg, it seems hot to you but not to anyone else.”) Yes, so peeing is a lifesaver. Fearing that the liquids in your body will freeze and cause your death, the body immediately tries to release all fresh water and non-vital liquids to reduce the possibility of freezing non-circulating ‘still’ waters in your system.

So I’m standing here in the cold water when I take this picture and the owner tells us to turn off all of our torches and anything that omits light. We do, and it is dark. Not just dark, but the definition of not a trace of light dark. You couldn’t see your hand in front of your nose. )I tried it.) Everyone was still and silent and all we could hear was the drips from the forest marble ceiling to the canal pool of water along the base bed.

As soon as the lights were on, everyone started talking. About how incredible it was, how moving, how this or that. But I, I was the only one who experienced pure darkness with pure cold and dampness. It was I who definitely lucked out.
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