4 a.m. is a mad-early time to wake up, no matter what time zone you do it in. Pair that with the facts that we went to bed around 12 and our bodies still think that means going to bed at 7p.m. and waking at 11, and you get the gist of these two weary travelers somewhat disjointed, catching the über to meet a tour bus at the Millenium Gloucester by 5:25 in the morning.
Such was the time frame we set up for ourselves by signing up for a Stonhenge-to-Lacock-to-Bath tour. We had to leave early enough to get the special privilege of walking into Stonehenge. If you get there later in the day, you have to wait and walk around the perimeter with the rest of the riff-raff. If you’re not conscious of time, you may not get to the heart of the matter.
Fortunately, our tour guide Lucy, with degrees in archeology and history, is well aware of the vicissitudes of history, the intersection of time and place to create story and meaning. Throughout the day, she spun the threads of time to give a rich tapestry of understanding. Below are some of the highlights.
Geological Time: At some point in the history of the Earth in this particular locale, water fell beneath the crust, mixed with sulfur, and was heated by the earth, creating a mix with supposedly magical and medicinal qualities. At some point in time, the English Channel was a land bridge, which is, in theory, how humans migrated from the continent to the British Isles.
Pre-Historic Time: Without solid records, much of what we know here is established with fossil records. The gaps are filled in with theory. A fossil known as “Arrow Man” was found near the Stonehenge site, along with multiple burial mounds. Markings indicate that he originated near Switzerland, suggesting he had crossed the land bridge. Historians have conjectured from such evidence that pre-historic men far and wide knew of Stonehenge, perhaps even came there as religious pilgrimage. The reason? Unknown.
Cyclical Time: Events repeat themselves over and over. The Earth goes round the Sun. The Moon goes round the Earth. Seasons change. Students become sloths after IB and AP exams. Rush hour floods the channels of transport twice daily. And in the context of Stonehenge, the Summer Solstice sunrise and the Winter Solstice sunset. In studying the arrangement of the stones, it becomes clear that these two events dictate their arrangement. Archeologists have determined that the stones are aligned to capture the summer solstice sunrise through the entry and the winter solstice sunset, supposedly off a “sparkling altar.” Across the globe, throughout time, cultures have found ways to capture and commemorate the passage of these events. The builders of Stonehenge seem to follow this tradition.
Ancient History: Eventually, the Romans made their way across the now-watery channel. Caesar, unaware of the concept of tides, lost his boat, but found new water. Discovering the new-found powers of the sulfuric water, JC dedicated a temple to Minerva, began the buildings of a temple, laying the foundation of the town of Bath.
Medieval History: The empire became disinterested in Bath, and the temple fell into disrepair. But a clergyman had a dream about angels climbing a ladder to heaven. He took it as a sign from God and spent the rest of his life building the Bath Abbey.
About this time, people were building houses with thatched roofs, which caused people to buy canopy beds to keep animals from falling on them while they slept. Meanwhile, the village of Lacock, a pub named The George Inn opened in the 1300s. Also, along with many towns, the village began the practice of jailing drunks in a windowless room known as “blind” until they sobered up, the etymological origin of “blind drunk.”
And in the remaining years… Jane Austen moves to Bath and begins publishing novels. Samuel Johnson began “burning the candle at both ends” to make more light. Fox Talbot invented photography at a church in Lacock. Rowling wrote Harry Potter, which became multiple films, and Godric Hollow, the Potter house, and Bathilda Bagshot were all filmed…in the village of Lacock.
Meanwhile, back in the present…Nic and I had breakfast The George Inn, then strolled Lacock. A suspiciously magical cat near the “Potter House” gave Nic a nip; she swears she saw McGonnogal in those feline eyes. We spent a couple of hours around Bath at the Roman Musem and the Jane Austen Center. We grabbed some Cornish pies and got back on the bus.
The Bus dropped us off on Glouscter Street as rush hour began. Not wanting to brave the Tube at peak hours, we wandered: a stop at a dirty Starbucks to get our bearing, a walk in the rain to get the new Harry Potter book, a little wandering toward museums, a stop at the Mormon church so Nic could visit the loo. We made our way Underground around 6:30: like clockwork, the Tube was still full, but time was slowly catching up with us. Exploring the strands of time on a Tardis may be brilliant, but the bus had worn us down. It’s night, and it final feels like we’re on British Bedtime.
Today we found out that “night night, sleep tight” comes from the need to tighten ropes under a straw mattress so that one can sleep well. Luckily, all we have to do is unfold Gary and Ashley’s IKEA couch and sleep without fear of animals falling through the roof. Tomorrow is a new morning. Until then,Cheers