Monday, 22 June 2009
When I was at boarding school in Salisbury in the 1950s, one of the privileges given to us in our leaving year was to bicycle to Stonehenge on the morning of June 21st to see the sun rise over the ancient stones. It was intended to be an experience we would never forget, and indeed I have never forgotten it. We were woken in the very early hours and given some sustenance in the form of bread-and-butter and a hard-boiled egg. Then, accompanied by a couple of the mistresses, we rode out of the sleeping city in the pre-dawn darkness, arriving at the magic circle as the sky was just beginning to lighten. The sun came up and struck the stones as it should, and we were suitably awed and impressed. The extraordinary thing was that there was no one else there - or perhaps just a very few people, certainly not enough to spoil the numinous moment. Today I read that more than 35,000 people were at Stonehenge to see the sun rise yesterday. The police were out in force, there were arrests, drugs, confusion, car-parking problems. What it can have meant to those present, I can't really imagine, but I don't believe it can have been anything like our experience of more than half-a-century ago.