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Michael’s Travel Diary

Tuesday, 23 Jun 2009

Location: Summer Solstice Stonehenge, England

MapLast week after the IOW Festival was another of those weeks at work that seemed to drag on, despite the fact that it was a short week – one of the pitfalls of going to these summer European festivals is that you inevitably take quite a bit of time off to do it, at least a day before the weekend to set up (usually 2, or even 3) and you take the Monday off to get home, sometimes the Tuesday for recovery. So aside from being an assault on the senses, and the wallet, it also does it’s best to batter your annual leave stockpiles as well.

So the week comes to an end, and I have the equivalent of a home game of football, playing at Chippenham’s home ground – which is half an hour past Chippenham, but still the closest ground to me by miles. Charlotte and Andy came along to the game, though neither of them would likely have come along were it not for the post match plans. The match was the first contest between Southampton and the new club Portsmouth, and as expected the fireworks were flying, resulting in me being sent off for 10 minutes in the third after I decided to show one of the English Pompy players what happens when you run around giving cheap shots to everyone all game. In essence, I didn’t give away a free kick when I landed the heaviest hip and shoulder of the season (well, shouldn’t have, it was a first game English umpire after all), but the post hip and shoulder wrestle where I body slammed the guy into the ground was probably why I got sin binned. In fairness, so did he, and the rest of the team could run around the field for 10 minutes without fear of being ploughed into from behind a full 3 beats after kicking the ball downfield for a while.

During the game Andy tucked into his cider supply, and a couple post match pints had him rollicking, half way to drunk, by 530 pm when we left the club house. We jumped into Charlotte’s car and headed into Devizes, the town where the game was played, and grabbed some dinner at a local pub – not too bad. Then came the real fun. As it was June 20th, the evening before the longest day of the year, Britain’s most iconic landmark was open to the masses – Stonehenge. We spend hours sitting in traffic just waiting for the traffic to move and cars to get into the Stonehenge car park. But with 3 major roads all coming together just before the car park entrance, the going was slow.

Once in, we park up and start wandering through the paddocks towards the stones, past the drug sniffer dogs, and through multiple check points with police checking bags for anyone carrying more than 4 cans of beer. We got inside and wandered around the rocks, breathing in the atmosphere, infused with weed smoke, and the beating drums providing the rhythm for the evenings setting Sun. The entire place had a small carnival atmosphere with acoustic instruments allowed on site, so the sounds of drums, guitars and many other string instruments filling the air, not to mention poetry and other vocals. Food stalls, often with vegan/hippie type of feel to them lined the outside of the site, and people were perched everywhere, from between the rocks, to scattered around them on blankets, rugs and anything else they managed to carry in.

As the Sun fully descended, so did the temperature, and despite being the eve of the longest day of the year, the night air felt more like winter than summer, and as such, the barrels with burning fires were vying with the rocks themselves for the title of most crowded area. We stuck around till about midnight, Andy and I finishing our drinks, not that Andy needed any more, and then decided to push off not feeling the love of an overnight stay in the cold. On the way out we realised the error in our ways, passing through the crowds of cars with people set-up in for the night with stereos, BBQ’s and anything to keep them warm and entertained for the long haul. Obviously they figured they would entertain themselves and then make the trek to see the sunrise at the rocks. We piled into the car and made our way home, and with the closed roads it took about 3 hours for a usual 1 hour trip, we made it home some time well after 3 am, dead to the world, and Charlotte happy to no longer have to be behind the wheel.