Day Day 4, 12:48 PM, 9/26, Friday, 0.93 miles.
The Heathrow Express screeches toward the airport. Bushes, clouds, and construction; that’s about it. Sarah reads the the Financial Times because it’s sitting on our table in the cabin. For an economic picture of the world, it is all but financial. I’m staring at models clothed in leathery looking dresses. I don’t know what the story is, let me check. It’s on Paris Fashion Week. It’s too boring for me to comprehend, mostly because it’s upside down. The train takes 15 minutes, which is just time enough to do nothing all. Type five sentences; maybe.
That’s been the difficulty so far: finding time to write. Wake up, eat, walk to a tube station, walk to a museum or a tower, back to a station, food on the go, and before long it’s bedtime. 8.5 miles read the pedometer by bedtime last night.
“What is wrong with you Saaan-Dra,” says some American sounding man on the train. We’re immersed in some drama between him and her. He’s defending himself against apparent infidelity.
“I haven’t even seen her in three years…I’ve never even been to Montreal!…It’s five AM Sandra. I won’t let you ruin my day!”
We can only presume the details–elaborately and dramatically. Clearly, Sandra was accusing him of infidelity. Is she a self-conscious, housebound wife suffering from jealousy and fear that her man is up to far more on his long business trips than financing? Or has a despoiled youth shown up at her door, asking for her real father whom she hasn’t seen in 18 years? It’s a choose your own drama I leave to you, to play out in your mind.
Thank you, jet-lagged and extremely loud businessman on the Heathrow Express. You have provided valuable entertainment to disrupt the monotony of the trains’ surrounding constructionside.
As usual, renting a car takes eons. After several eons, we were zooming down motorways like Top Gear petrolheads. Our chariot: a dark blue “people carrier;” i.e. soccer mom minivan. This way, we can load up our luggage, buy out gift shops, and even pick up a few hitchhikers while stretching out legs. Most importantly, the back seats have tray tables. Obviously, airline jokes ensue.
“Sarah!” I yelled when she was reading with her head down, “Countryside!” I pointed out the window.
The afternoon sun stretched long shadows from trees, cottages, and cows. Think of Hobbiton, and that’s what we saw. Well don’t think of that too hard. I mean there weren’t circular doors and hobbit holes. But what the hell, of course there were. Go there yourself if you don’t believe me.
The four of us discussed our daytime plans. We had two options: visit the most popular and crowded prehistoric, megalithic site in the world, or visit a far larger one that is even older and far less touristy. We decide on the latter.
6:46 PM. 3.75 miles.
There’s poo on my shoes. I’m pretty sure anyway. I attempted to wipe it off before entering our rental van. I think that failed. We’re hurtling along the M4 bound for Wales, Cardiff, and funny signs for everything in two languages. The sunset has been incredible. It lasts for like two hours here. It was plummeting out of the sky as we left Avebury and it’s still setting in Wales.
Right, first things first: the aforementioned poo. Avebury is home to the largest megalithic site IN THE WORLD. Like all megalithic sites, it’s a bunch or rocks. I guess that might have killed it’s majesty for you…but, some of those rocks are big; fucking huge in fact. And, there are over a hundred of them. The enormity of time and the scale of all this construction is hard to fathom…
You walk up to a massive rock at Avebury. You touch it’s nobbled surface. You crane your neck to see it’s top outlined by the (sometimes) blue sky in defiance of gravity for millennia. Then you turn your head to see the next stone, about fifty feet away. Following it, you see they form a long curve with ten more stones. The curve of this giant circle is so large that the main road cuts straight through it. Cars whiz right between two particularly giant stones on the West part of the village.A single stone at Avebury is part of up to three huge circles, which are in turn part of a Neolithic complex far larger than the village itself. Silbury Hill, is an odd looking, pyramidal mound you might pass on the road into Avebury . It served some unknown purpose for the Neolithic peoples who erected the stones too. But then, you realize that that complex is part of a poorly understood network of sites across Southern England and Wales which includes the world famous Stonehenge. And that network relates in eerie ways to more Neolithic sites across the whole British Isles.
Unlike Stonehenge, you can touch, even hug their Neolithic megaliths at Avebury. We all hugged those 4,600 year old sculptures. And, in doing so, I stepped in goat poo.
There are goats everywhere, doing their goat thing. They are constantly eating and doing the inevitable conclusion of that. They also love to scratch themselves on the stones and engage in ancient goat rites of masticating and possibly orgying. I mean they are already nudists. They have no shame being all naked, chewing at me, staring, and defecating in my presence. It must be the satanic significance of the place.
Villagers of Avesbury, several times, became devil hating, stone-smashing maniacs. A presumed barber (he had very suave mustache) failed epicly at pushing over one stone. His body was was found crushed beneath it over 500 years after the saddest wrestling match in history . The Puritans 300 years later (owing to either slow moving vengeance or slow moving amnesia of the rock wrestling barber) had the greatest smashing spree of all. Recent markers, like the one above, stand in some places where giant Neolithic monoliths used to.
We walked the trails that circumnavigate Avebury’s stones. Longer parts of it follow the likely path Neolithic people used on the Summer Solstice–except for where there’s a street now with wild English drivers on it. Parts of the footpath had white soil. Probably, it was full of chalk, which serves as a reminder that the whole farmland plains of today used to be underwater back before Man was around. Along the chalky trail I took pictures of a giant black beetle with eggs on its underside. It is a little disgusting, but also fascinating. Sarah and I helped the beetle turn over again, and gingerly put her away from the footpath.
The rest of Avebury, the village of today, is disgustingly photogenic. It’s the one, and the only time in my life when I can claim having both learned and seen first hand a Newt Hibernaculum . God that’s amazing. That’s a real sentence and having written it makes my life complete. I’ve already mentioned it before in fact.
“See that weird circle building over there? That dates from 1500. It’s called a Dovecote, which is posh for the pigeon house that can hold 500 of those tasty treats. We eat them in the winter time.” That’s basically what one sign said by the Avebury “museum.”
The Avebury church still has pieces from its original Norman structure, built in like the 11th century. Look there’s all this old stuff everywhere; it all runs together! It’s not like the neolithic people made the henge and then that was it. Really the best thing about Avebury is the drama of its history from 4000 BCE right to now (2015 as of this writing). I could explain some of that history, but you should just look it up.
It seems to me a smart idea to just stick ipads in visitor centers, and have them open to the wikipedia page about your locale. Then you actually have an incentive to update that page often, which by the way millions of people are looking at anyhow. You know, just a thought.
We blazed into Cardiff, failing to beat sundown. It was totally dark when we reached the Welsh capital. Roads wound around strange assortments of universities, museums, libraries, and then skyscrapers. We found our hotel, only to get lost over, and over again while seeking its mythical “car park.” Websites are not to be trusted. The real problem was that this particular hotel had no driveway. The nearest street was a hundred yards (37.9 gigalitres) from the lobby. Thus the options were: park illegally in the dark and talk to the desk, or park legally and walk a half mile in the dark.
We spent a good half hour of circling in the dark before illegally parking–half of us asking the front desk about parking, while the other half moved the van when angry Cardiffans (Cardiffians?) swore at us. Turned out the hotel “shared” a parking lot with other businesses. To get there, you simply go out the lobby, take the one way street loop around to the main intersection, turn right (watch for drunken pedestrians), then immediately swerve left into the lot that says “no public parking,” TAKE A TICKET AND FOR GOD’S SAKE DON’T LOSE IT, park (hopefully there’s a space), and the hotel will validate according to an astrological algorithm.
It was so late by the time we finished this, most restaurants were closed. We ate in the hotel restaurant, sadly. We then prepared for bed, and noticed on the walls, the exact same paintings that were in our London hotel room. Since our lives were so much like an episode of the Twilight Zone at this point, we each slept with one eye open.
 UNESCO World Heritage Center. http://whc.unesco.org/en/list/373.
 Stone-circles.org. http://www.stone-circles.org.uk/stone/.
 “Lost skeleton of `barber-surgeon’ found in museum.” British Archeology. No. 48. Oct. 1999. http://www.archaeologyuk.org/ba/ba48/ba48news.html .