The weather today was beautiful, so M, L, the two dogs and I all piled in the car and drove the hour or so to the stones. They weren't busy, just a few liked-minded souls wandering through them.
We met a lady walking her dog who stopped to admire Poppy and we exchanged doggy info, such as age and breed. She explained she and her husband had been given their dog and then four months later her husband had died suddenly and the dog had kept her going.
Her eyes filled with tears as she told me, but she smiled through them and my heart went out to her. I hope she got some comfort from the stones today. It seems it was their day for helping grieving folk.
Anyway, I know I've written about Avebury before, but for those of you who don't know it, it is over 6000 years old and has a village and a main road running through the middle of it. It consists of three circles, one of which is, I believe, the biggest in Europe.
In the Middle Ages, several of the stones were pulled down and destroyed. They were smashed up and used for building the walls and houses of the village, so in a way they are still there, still a part of this sacred landscape (a fact that doubtless would have infuriated the puritanical people who tried to get rid of them, but makes me smile). By the 18th Century, most of the stones had either been destroyed or buried. Victorian Antiquarians recognized the site as archeologically important, and protecting and restoration work began.
The stones are open access, so you can walk beside them and touch them, which is why I love the place. Stonehenge is geographically closer to us but I always feel sorry for it- it seems to me a poor caged bird trapped inside its fence while long lines of people disgorged by coaches and clutching dripping ice creams walk past gawping at it.
Avebury feels real in comparison, sitting in the centre of its prehistoric landscape of barrows and ancient ditches and tracks winding round mysterious hills. If you are sensitive to such things and are there on a good day (as today was) you can feel the ground buzzing with energy. It always recharges my batteries and brings me peace and contentment.
It manages to do this even with L dogging my every footstep keeping up a continual stream of: 'can you take Poppy now mum?' and 'how long now till we go home?' and ' why do we always have to come to these boring old stones?'
I tell him he is a philistine and that, given his current deep scepticism of anything that hints vaguely at organised religion, he should approve of these Stones because they date from a time long before people prayed in churches. They date from a time when Britain was just beginning to be populated in any meaningful way. I tell him they are a very real touchstone with our ancient tribal past, with the time of hunter gatherers, warriors, and the first farmers. That as such, these stones belong to the world of our ancestors, and carry echoes of how we all began and how we first fitted into and were part of our landscape.
'What you're really saying mum, is that I'm modern and you are old, that's why you like old things.'
This 'why do we have to be here and when can we leave' conversation is as much a part of these trips to the stones as the tradition of Ted doing a poo in the car park and M having to carry the bag the entire length of the circles before finding a bin to put it in.
Last time he used the poo bag to great effect by waving it at some Polish lads who presumably hadn't read the signs saying 'keep off the stones' (I'm being generous here- they should have bloody well known not to climb on them in the first place).
No people on the stones today, so the bag wasn't used for anything other than carrying poo.
Here are some pics (of the stones, not the poo...).
We stopped off at a pub for lunch on the way home.
Wouldn't it be refreshing if, instead of sticking a board outside to lure unwary customers in with the promise of 'Great Food' pubs simply wrote something more honest, like: 'a disappointing meal served 40 minutes late by a waitress who looks like she'd rather be almost anywhere else on earth consumed to a background of noisy children running and screaming past your table every three and a half minutes awaits when you step inside.'
I was tempted to ask whether it would be possible to have grated child for pudding, but decided against it because it had taken them so long to produce the sarnies. M joked that they must be growing the wheat from scratch. He relieved the boredom of the wait making a house of cards, which L and I blew over just as he'd managed to make it stay up...
Our route home took us through Marlborough, which is a gorgeous market town with fabulous, if expensive, shops. Worth a visit if you're ever round this neck of the woods...
Once home, it was re-filling bird seed time, because they ran out yesterday. This quickly brought the robin to the garden as well as our resident pige, who was clearly hopeful that at least one of the feeders would be suitable for him. He selected the bird table and tried flying in where two of the side panels have come off in the storms thus leaving a wider opening than usual, but misjudged it and ended up performing what I couldn't help feel was an overly complex manouvere dooomed to certain failure. And indeed, I watched him miss the table altogether and slide in a rather undignified manner down the pole onto the floor.
He got up, shook his feathers in an irritated way, then glanced round to make sure no-one had seen him, much in the way Cleo does when she's aimed for the window sill and crashed into the wall...
The chickens went out in the garden after this debacle with Poppy firmly shut on the other side of the gate... She was furious. We did let her out with them for a bit and she rushed straight at Rubes who opened her wings wide and pecked her firmly on the nose. This did the trick and pops showed a deal more respect afterwards. Thank Goodness- Puppy Humility Around The Girls seems to be growing.
Ted climbed up the wall and investigated some rats, then pondered the best way to get down again, apparently even considering the use of a ladder. This would a) have made me laugh and b) not been at remotely successful. I explained about hubris a la my recent witness of pigeon over-confidence at the bird table, so he sensibly decided against using the ladder and hopped down using his own paws instead.
This was a sensible move as Poppy had just returned from her Ruby-Encounter and would have laughed and laughed had he fallen off the wall, and the last thing you need when you're a four and a half year old boy still smarting from the shock of being mistaken for a fifteen week old Jack Russell puppy's mother is the said Jack Russell puppy laughing at you.
I'll leave you with a picture of said pup taken after her peck on the nose and still managing to look Really Rather Adorable, and will finish by saying thank you so much for all your kind thoughts yesterday- it made a really difficult day just that little bit easier. Ma has also asked me to pass on her thanks for all the messages of support. She texted me this morning and said she was feeling calmer, and had no doubt at all that all the good will and kindness had made a difference.
The price of loving our animals is the grief that comes when we lose them, but it's a price worth paying.
Wishing you all a lovely evening,