Monday, 16 February 2009

The Henge of Stone, Glastonbury and Bath

Up again bright and early. Going to Stonehenge! Yay! It's so exciting. After another nap on the bus we awoke to see this amazing ruin - in the stone. Okay so you need to grasp how incredible this pile of stones is. The little stones weigh about a tonne and are made of bluestone which you can find in Wales. Wales is a long way away from where the henge is. To get one of these smaller rocks to where it is now would have taken about 20 years or so. The bigger rocks you can see weigh about 40 tonnes. If this doesn't impress you the terrain around the site is hills going up and down - not flat. Now this thing must have been pretty darn important to those who were building it because it took about 1000 years to complete! Now that's more than one guy being like "let's build this", dying and the others going "meh" and dropping their tools. This thing spans many many generations. It's actually built on two crossing lines of magnetic force so I don't know how they worked that one out. According to brochure Stonehenge will "always be a mystery" because there are only theories about what it was used for. Some of these theories include religious icon and recently it was believed to be a hospital. Miranda and I were joking that actually it was used as a nightclub for aliens visiting earth because at this time the nightlife was pretty dead. Here is an artist's representation:
The stones resting on top have a clever lego-like system in that they lock into one another and stand upright because one third of the huge rock is underground. So remember when looking at it that there is a third of those big rocks under the earth. I can't believe how dedicated they were. I mean the tools they were using were made of mostly bone so chiseling the locking system would have taken like ages - literally ages of time.

Hippie-type people usually come here during summer solstice because the sun is framed directly by the circle of stones. These people lick the stones. Thousands of people have licked these stones and sadly the main stones were cordoned off but I found some! I'm hoping the power of the stones will make my cold go away. That and another remedy I take later on today.

Moving on from Stone-town we travelled to Glastonbury where we went to Glastonbury Abbey. It's in ruined pieces but if it were in a complete form it would have been huge! They have an outline all along the ground and it was giant! It would have given all the other churches a run for their money. I guess it did back in the day. It was constantly being rebuilt and having bits added to it during a long span of time until Henry VIII (AHHHHH!!) decided to close a lot of monasteries including this one. Having done that people felt it necessary to just borrow and not return the bricks from this abbey which is why it's in ruin now.

Now you may have heard but the special thing about this abbey is that King Arthur is buried here. Well they THINK it's King Arthur - I mean Miranda and I were having a talk about if he was actually real or not. Basically some person at one point in time wasn't getting any pilgrims coming to this abbey and making any money (I guess they were all too busy seeing Thomas Beckett) so he stumbled across some bones. He found a skull with a huge blow at the back of it so much that the skull was pretty much falling apart. King Arthur was said to have been killed on the battlefield by a blow to the back of the head so naturally this keen individual saw his opportunity for glory and said that this was Arthur. So here is a picture of his supposed grave and me trying to merrily pull an imaginary Excalibur from the earth. Over the way there was another sign saying that this was the spot where the bones of Arthur and Guenevere were actually discovered. For the sake of a hilarious photo Miranda and I became this couple risking getting muddy and wet. The things I do for your entertainment!

We had a little walk around the high street of Glastonbury getting lunch and so on and the whole high street consists of hippie shops! I thought we left the hippies at Stonehenge? Every shop had either costumes from the medieval times or items or books about crystal healing. One of these shops was called "The Mystic Piglet". I mean really? That's the best name they could come up with? Good grief.

Away from Glastonbury and onto Bath! Bath plays a big part in the life and the novels of Jane Austen who we all know and love. Except me. I don't love her. Bath become very popular when the Romans decided to give England a look-see and realised it was stupidly cold. Luckily they found some really hot natural springs and found something to do with their time. So they built this amazing bath house. History wise we should have seen Bath before Glastonbury but geography wise it had to be this way. Regardless - this bath house was incredible! The Romans were SO clever. You can see that the water doesn't look very inviting but in the Romans time it was crystal clear. It's because of the sulphur and various other means that the water looks somewhat unsavoury. I'd still get in, however, because the water was perfectly warm! It was a cold day today and this water was naturally warm. It bubbles up from the core of the earth very hot and when it gets to here it's perfect. I think it's around 20 degrees? Which feels lovely when the temperature outside is 5. There was a second pool which was used to throw messages to the gods or curses to those who had wronged them. They were written on lead or some such material because they still exist and have been translated! Curses from thousands of years ago saying things like "May so and so's eyes be burned from their head and maggots eat their pants for stealing my gloves". I thought that was pretty impressive. Before the Romans found and built this bath house there was a king of the Celts who stumbled across these magic waters. His name was King Bladud and he had leprosy. Yum. After watching some pigs with a similar skin disease (don't even ask how they got it)recover after rolling in some mud, he too, rolled in this mud and hot springs which then cured his leprosy! Not bad.

The bath house lost its popularity for a while and then in the 19th century it was the place to be! Bath became a hot spot for the characters we know from the Jane Austen novels. They would frequent a place called the "pump room" which had water from the spring which would supposedly cure your every ailment. Doctors would prescribe several glasses a day and many queens were cured of infertility after drinking this water. We got to try it and it tasted like eggs and blood. Urgh. I had three sips and Miranda had one so I guess I'll be having 300 babies and she only gets 100.

We took a tour of the town and found the high street of Bath which is where Jane Austen, herself, would have shopped for various fabrics and bonnets. Miranda features as Jane Austen in this picture and it also allows you to have a look at the buildings. They are all the same colour here! I found that a bit creepy that all the houses looked the same and were the exact same colour. It was a bit like suburbia back home which was daunting.

We walked into a building that was built as a dance hall for the time period because Bath was becoming so popular the old hall was far too small. This dance hall held 1000 people! 1000 people doing those lame Victorian dances where everyone bobs and lightly touches one anothers' hands. In this photo (she was very eager) Miranda is waiting for a gentleman to come and ask to fill in her imaginary dance card. Look at the room though! It's huge. High ceilings and gigantic chandeliers. It's very dreamlike. The walls are all decorated with white flowers and so on. The whole floor has springs for the ultimate dance experience. Unfortunately, after the hall was built Bath wasn't as popular and Brighton become the place to be. Which is a shame for the hall. There are various parts of the building which are a slightly different colour. This is because it got bombed in WWII. The different colour is fire damage. Yesterday we learned that Canterbury was heavily bombed in WWII because the Germans had a guide book to the most historical places in Britain and decided to bomb those the most - Canterbury was one of them. Isn't that sad?

We then went to the Royal Crescent (?) which contains the most prestigious houses of the era. If you managed to stay in one these homes for the season then you were worth marrying. Out the front you can see a big green lawn which has two levels. The women would parade themselves and their new bonnets on the top layer for all the men to see whilst the lower level of grass was for livestock. Now I find this rather offensive. A man can sit on his bum, look out the window and pick a wife and a meal all in one day! Humph!

After this we got back on the bus and made the long drive back. We got stuck in stand-still traffic at one point - it's like being back at home really - but eventually made it back. I then went to Holloway Players and had a hilarious evening of improvisation. Hope you enjoyed this novel of a blog!

1 comment:

  1. What a good read...Just made me want to put the old bonnet on for a spin around the top lawn (just in case).