Here at Bean Towers, we like to show our guests a good time. Uncle Dave (he’s not Dunka Dave anymore) visited a few weeks ago on his way back from a business trip on the continent. He checked in to our deluxe accommodation (includes fold-out sofa and oscillating fan) on Friday evening.
On Saturday, he got warmed up with a good pillow fight with the Bean. Then I took him to my gym, where he had cause to consider his life’s path after 20 sets of 3 over-the-bar burpees and a 120kg deadlift, followed by 82 8kg wall-balls.
Then, it was off to Bean’s friend’s birthday party. This party had a cowgirl theme. Here’s the kid:
The birthday girl’s parents went all-out with the theme. They had a kiddie pool full of sand in which the kids could pan for “gold”, which they took to the “bank” and traded for gold-foil covered chocolate coins. There were some sawhorses you could “lasso” with hula hoops, wanted posters showing many of the party guests, games, and more. It was really creative, and we were all bowled over.
But for many of the children, the key attraction was Uncle Dave:
He and Trev were both set on by the Pint-Size Posse ferociously. You’d think they’d stolen the cupcakes. For a solid hour they were chased, shot at, shrieked at, pummeled by tiny fists, and hugged. I think they liked it. Not sure about the other adults.
That night, we watched the good Indiana Jones movies (Raiders and Last Crusade, obviously) in preparation for a day of archaeological exploration. We were bound, in the morning, for Stonehenge and Avebury.
Most people know Stonehenge. It is the world’s most famous neolithic site, and a precious treasure in humanity’s shared heritage.
They’ve been debating the exact purpose of the site for generations. A giant calendar? Some sort of ritual meeting place? A cemetary, set up by Merlin and a team of contract giants? Or was it a health spa?
Whatever you think, we can say one thing for sure: today, Stonehenge is for the birds.
The site itself is in transition. Until a few months ago, a road went right past the stones– and I mean right past them. You could throw a cup out of your car and hit the Heel Stone if you wanted.
Thankfully, English Heritage is taking care of that at last. That road has been closed off, and later this year you will park up at a visitor’s center about a mile from the stones and walk or take a tram to them. And tickets will be timed, to prevent huge crowds like the one we were part of that day. Bean needed a boost at one point.
Just as interesting was Avebury– somewhere I’d love to return to one of these days. Here you have an entire village that is nestled inside an enormous ritual landscape– an enormous henge, three stone circles (two small ones inside a large one), and a long avenue of standing stones.
We had a sunny, glorious high-summer day in late July to explore it. The village is charming– thatched roofs, cricket on the green, a pub claiming to be the most haunted in England– and the buildings sit right among the stones. An ancient path known as the Ridgeway starts on one of the hillsides and runs 87 miles to the east.
People were picnicking, running, ambling, flying kites. As we walked down the avenue we found several stones with feathers or flowers placed on them, or in pits formed by thousands of years of weather– little offerings from modern travelers moved by the obvious significance of the site.
What my modern traveler took from it, I’m not sure. She was mostly excited about beating up her uncle. But at several points we would come across a view or approach a particularly enormous stone, and Bean would say “Wow, look at that!” or “It’s a bit scary,” the latter being one of her favorite stock phrases at the moment. (She usually follows it up with “But I’m not scared.”)
I wouldn’t expect any four-year-old, much less one with a communication disorder, to expound at length on the meaning and significance of these Neolithic monuments after a day out. But they’re an important part of her heritage as an English girl, and a piece of the story of humankind. Exposing her to them was worth it.