The sun sets at 21:26 on Wednesday folks, and rises for the longest day at 04:52 Thursday. On their website, English Heritage are keen to point out, “Stonehenge is a significant World Heritage Site and to many it is sacred, please respect the stones and all those who are attending.” I appreciate this, the first section, as I’m certain the druids do too, but there’s a shadow of irony in the latter, as those who are attending will only be respected by EH itself, it seems, once they’ve parted with fifteen quid to park.
Being that the BBC reported 13,000 people in attendance at summer solstice last year, that’s whole lot of fifteen quids.
In block capitals come the details, access to the stones and the car park opens at 7PM, last admission at 6AM Thursday, or when it’s full. By eight o’clock in the morning you’re being asked politely to “bugger off” for want of a more abrupt word, there’ll be tourists waiting to part with cash. The car parks are to be vacated by midday. Then in lower case, hiding at the bottom, “please note parking charges apply,” and herein lies the issue for this year’s solstice.
Determine to fleece everyone driving to Stonehenge, English Heritage has fought campaigner and king of the druids, Arthur Uther Pendragon at the High Courts, and won. In an interview with “inews,” where journalist Richard Jinman prioritises ridiculing Arthur for his reincarnation claims, biker gang past and authenticity of his Excalibur, over debating the fairness of the parking charges, Arthur stated he’ll, “either be parked illegally somewhere or in the car park refusing to pay, but I’ll be there.”
A Quest Knight of the Loyal Arthurian Warband, singer-songwriter Steve Andrews, has been a supporter of Arthur and all his battles. “Unlike so many people in the world today, he does not give up,” blue-bearded Steve, who you may recall for his crowd-pleasing adaption of “Stand by Me,” on Britain’s Got Talent, explained, “he cannot be beaten down by whatever is thrown his way. As a modern King Arthur he is doing what King Arthur should be doing.”
It begs the question, at the eve of the busiest day on the roads surrounding the monument, how stopping every car to blag cash will affect it. Which answers itself, unless of course, its intention to dissuade works, and they’ll not attend. Or worse still, in a sad reflection of Stonehenge festivals of yore, is this move provoking attendees to frustration and even anger?
If I’m totally honest, in a move akin to what, in nearby towns, we’re experiencing with Wiltshire Council over new hiked-up parking fees, where even our once free-parking days for much-loved events will be cruelly enforced, it seems EH is damned to ensure it creates chaos and aggravation in its pursuit to make as much money as it can from this scared night. If it’s intentions are not to incite negativity and wrath, and as its website claims, “we wish you a peaceful and celebratory solstice,” then it’s certainly going the wrong way about it.
To understand the issue is to understand the most plausible theory of the stones existence. You’d have to put yourself back to a time before parking meters, before beliefs in God and Jesus, to a time when folk were starting out on the road to farming. All their generations knew was hunting and gathering. The sun, moon and Earth; divinities vital to those lives. They’d be apprehensive of the Neolithic era, which basically translates to “farming.” They’d have feared betraying the sun, moon and earth and had probably experienced friction when they attempted to become “civilised,” as farming needs ownership of possessions, property and land.
Solstice; the dreaded longer nights due, without yielding crops and maintaining livestock your life was at risk, you couldn’t cash a giro. So Stonehenge was erected by the elders to show the sun, moon and earth was still relevant in their changing lives, as through the rectangles created by the central and top stones, they could see the moon, and then the sun appear too, united, at peace with each other.
It was a simple an understanding, no complicated myths and tales of modern organised religions. Around here signs of this are still visible; Silbury Hill, resembles the belly of a pregnant woman for instance; symbolising we return to where we came from, back to nature. Science is proving it was, more or less, correct. From Darwin to humans sharing 96% of DNA with chimpanzees, demonstrates we’re products of this planet; fact we seem to deny. For now climate change is an accepted issue, we spend money and time trying to find out if it was us, or nature; it’s one and same bloody thing! Perhaps we’d be better finding a doable solution, just saying. What are we to do if we find it is nature, sue? I’ll see you in court Mother Earth!
You see, now we’ve abandoned worshipping the moon, sun and respecting the planet, our ancestor’s fears were right; possessions, land, property, money are the root of friction, from “oi did you spill MY pint?” to brutal world wars. The very principles the elders, their want of peace, and later, what the druids took as their ethos, were idealistic, therefore, if there’s one place in this country we should uphold and abide by them, it’s where they were first preached; Stonehenge.
It’s sacrilege and disrespectful to our entire heritage to force people to cough up, extortionate fees in the very place which tried to warn us of our fate. If it is a necessity, you could ask for an affordable sum; a fiver maximum, to cover the cost. Although Arthur tells me, “They do not charge tourists parking in ‘normal hours,’ however they reserve the right to, and if you go there now as a tourist, they may charge you a fiver; go at Solstice as a pilgrim and it’s thrice that.”
I understand and appreciate there’s a cost to the maintain the stones, and I agree with charging tourists, as we expect and don’t mind paying when visiting landmarks across the globe. But for one day a year, is all the druids and revellers ask, for just one day, they may be able to enter their temple to pray and celebrate what is, fundamentally, the essential seasonal change, the very backbone of the original faith of our ancestors. Nevertheless it’s treated as some kind of “favour,” gifted to an eccentric cult, and deemed suitable to overcharge for the honour of permitting what’s been happening since the dawn of humans in these lands. A time before this obsession with capitalism. Oh the irony.
I ponder if these stealth taxes are to ensure we are thoroughly put off gathering and celebrating, that we confine ourselves to our homes, watch mind-numbing TV and be content. Ah shit, I’ll be working on solstice anyway; never tire of seeing sunrise every day; happy solstice one and all.