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  • Writer's picturemaggiehsmith07

We Are All Wood

This morning, Andrea and I arrived at Victoria Station Coach (which is to say bus) very early this morning for our 815 AM bus. Since we didn’t know where we were headed or what traffic to expect, we figured early was better than not. Needless to say, we arrived with plenty of time for a coffee and to pay 30 pence to access the bathroom. I suppose this is to keep the riffraff out - which was practically me as I didn’t realize admission was required. Fortunately, they sized me up as non-riffraff and took 10 pence. 

As we left London, we passed the apartment where Alfred Hitchcock and his wife Alma had lived on the top floor for 13 years. 

The two hour trip to Stonehenge passed quickly. It is something to consider when you think about how these stones tower 21 feet above the ground and another 10 feet is below ground and weigh 50 tons - all accomplished without the aid of modern tools or equipment. What’s more is that the stones have been smoothed. The stones are in a circle that is 315 feet in diameter. 

Although Stonehenge is not the only stone circle, there are said to be over 300, it’s certainly the most impressive.

There are burial mounds at the site which date back to the Bronze Age. Some of the mounds are elongated and are a mass burial, holding 50 people.

After bazillions of centuries, no one can explain Stonehenge although the following theories persist...

  1. Solar movement

  2. Observatory - moon

  3. John Aubrey hypothesized they were used by Druid’s. Human cremations have been found in post holes and Druids were said to make sacrifices. To this day, Druids are allowed special access at Stonehenge although this theory has been disprove . Sacrifices typically occurred in wooden areas - not out in open.

Michael Parker Pierson is the lead expert on Stonehenge. He is a Professor at the University of Sheffield. The stone is said to be representative of the dead/afterlife. Wood is said to be representative of the living. Wood. There’s that impermanence again - after all, wood rots. In 1976, post holes with wood impressions were discovered well outside the stone circle but close enough to be representative of the living. 

While at the site, a herd of sheep were very close to Stonehenge - they had strayed close to the small fence. A border collie came racing out and got the herd together in a tight knot. A Jeep driven by the sheep herder followed slowly behind the racing border collie who shot across the field and past other sheep who were behaving as they should.

Cecil Chubb had purchased Stonehenge for his wife at the cost of approximately half a million dollars - with her inheritance! 3 years later they came to their collective senses and gifted Stonehenge to the British government.

Leaving Stonehenge, we passed an “organic” pig farm and the piglets have domed huts they refer to as pigloo’s. Really. 

We rode past a military base and a few tank crossings - marked with signs and reinforced roads. We rolled past two small homes that had their thatch roofs preserved. The thatch keeps the home cool in the summer and warm in the winter. This sounds great until you hear about how mice and bug dropping’s would fall from the thatch or sometimes, the bugs themselves. The canopy over the bed was designed to prevent this from happening - which really dashed my romantic notion of the canopy. 

We made our way to Bath and toured the remains of the Roman Bath houses. These date back to 70 AD. If you think this is old, consider that the Romans saw Stonehenge.  You’re instructed not to drink or touch the bath water (which tells me the someone actually did this) but can have a cup of treated spa water at the end of the museum. The water is quite warm and smells of sulphur. Translation: it was disgusting.

We wandered the town of Bath which was sufficiently charming.  We ducked into a pub and I picked up on lyrics to the song. “Sipping on straight chlorine?”  I puzzled.

“Maggie.  Why would he say that?”  Andrea asked - which is understandable as I frequently misunderstand lyrics.  We shazamed the song for later.  The only reason this is getting a mention is because I was right! Ha.  Anyway.  We beat the bus back to the pickup, later learning that it’s mirror had been practically taken off by another bus on its way back to us. Fortunately, they were able to bend it back into good enough shape so we could make the 2.5 - 3 hour trip back to London.

While we waited for the bus, we hopped onto the local, free WiFi and posted a few of our pics. And, unfortunately, we learned of some very sad news back home that cast a quiet pall over our ride back to London. The husband of a friend whom we knew and very much liked passed away back home over the weekend. More importantly, our friend loved this person - her spouse of many years with whom she’d raised a solid family and knitted together a wonderful life. Andrea’s shock gave way on the bus and her blue eyes grew watery. 

I too am shocked and saddened by the news from home and also reminded (again) of impermanence - that we are all wood. Not stone. Tonight, our last night on vacation, we toasted the memory of Ray. We will miss his wonderful Christmas letters that made Andrea and I exclaim with delight upon discovering the letter tucked into their Christmas card. I would say, “Read it out loud!” And Andrea would, both of us laughing as she did.

I hope you live a life as interesting as the one described in that letter and are at least half as witty as Ray. Live in the knowledge that you are wood.

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