Thursday, February 05, 2009


We rounded the crest of the hill on the highway, and there it was ahead of us: Stonehenge!

Tall, wonky, somehow familiar stones, brooding dark against the yellow grass of the hillside. Bigger than we had thought, after all the people telling us how small they really were. The large "heelstone" at the outer edge, next to the road, was about twice as tall as a person.

Brendan and the heelstone.

All that separated the casual observer from the stones was a chain-link fence running along the road. We parked down the road at the parking lot, and stepped out of the car.

A blast of icy wind hit us, whipping straight through our gloves and hats and scarves. We hurried up to the entrance gate. The hillside was very exposed, and we rather painfully struggled to keep our hands warm enough to take photos. Even though the ambient temperature was actually 1*C, and it was sunny, the staff told us later that the windchill brought the temperature to -7*C!

Because it was so cold, we didn't manage to stay for very long. We walked around and enjoyed it, but decided against walking up to the cone-shaped barrows on the fields on the other side of the monument. These barrows are burial places for the leaders of those who built Stonehenge.

On the hill, you can see the barrows.

Lots of signs around the monument warned to keep off the grass, and there were two wardens standing in front as well to ensure that no-one goes up to the stones. It was only in the past few decades that people have gained an appreciation of preservation here - it used to be that everyone wandered around as they pleased and carved their names on the stones!

We look far less cold than we are.

Stonehenge is the most important ancient monument in Britain, and is at least 5,000 years old. (Some scientists think it's much older, based on post holes dating to 8000 BC underneath the car park!) The whole site was actually built in multiple stages over 1,500 years, at one stage being abandoned for 1,000 years. It's a rather fascinating mystery.

Monday, February 02, 2009

Winter blast!

It's been relatively nice here recently. So it was a bit of a shock yesterday to see a few snowflakes! But nothing compared to this morning:

I opened the door and was met with a world of white. The snow's about 10-15cm thick, and it's still snowing pretty heavily this morning. What's quite cool is that the snowflakes clump together to make mega-snowflakes.

I certainly wasn't dressed for it, though - and I didn't have time to go upstairs again and fumble around in the dark for boots and thick socks. And I disregarded the little voice in my head telling me to take my umbrella. So it was a rather cold walk to the railway station.

In the UK, a lot of things come to a standstill when it snows. But this is apparently the heaviest snowfall in 18 years! Right now, all of the London buses are cancelled. Parts of the Tube are closed. The airports are closed. The schools are closed. People keep ringing my work saying that they can't get in, or asking if the building's open so they can skip coming into work. (I'm working on the switchboard, so I get all the calls.) And just like Californians, Brits can't drive in the wet. There are lots of accidents. Brendan had a fender-bender (but he and car are OK)! Craziness!

Snow balls! Someone had made this one, we just added to it! We were rolling it away towards the park when a door opened nearby and a head wrapped in scarves popped out and made a noise like, "Mmm! Emmm nn mm ommm mmm mimm!" Or something muffled that we couldn't hear, anyway. We surmised it was something to do with the snow ball, so we rolled it back.