Monday, June 21, 2010

From Hellish to Heavenly

The last few days have been...interesting.
First of all, I met some absolutely incredible people--an old couple that I met at Salisbury camp site, where I stayed for a night in my tent that is as big as a dog house. They were going to an event at Old Sarum (the nearby iron-age hillfort) called Romans & Barbarians...they themselves were specialists in Anglo-Saxon history. At the event, which was small-scale but avoided being cheesy, I met some of the most incredible people... and suddenly, here were early medieval combat re-enactors offering that I stay on their campsite on old Sarum itself. Of course I accepted, and a night of medieval festivities ensued. I also had my first interview for my research with a heathan (practicer of the Norse/Saxon religion), who was, honestly, one of the most genuine people I have ever met.
However, the roaring fires were not to last. When I went to bed, I realized that, in Britain, it gets cold at night. I mean, really, really cold. Apparently the 'average summer temperature' does not account for nighttime. Also, the inside of my tent gets a massive amount of condensation, making every droplet that falls with the slightest movement like a ball of ice. When I was at the Salisbury campsite, it rained, but it wasn't too cold. Well, the night on Old Sarum was too cold. I have no coat, no sweater... it was miserable.
In the morning, I woke up and didn't worry about changing-- I had on a long-sleeve shirt and pants, and I spent most of the day with the re-enactment troupe. But, I had things to do, namely, go to the summer solstice celebration at Stonehenge. In the evening, I walked about 13 miles up to Stonehenge. I was in for a wierd night.
Until sunset, I watched the Stonehenge order of Druids perform there rituals, and afterwards, interviewed their newest initiate, a very nice girl. I then had some magnificent conversations with some of the higher-up druids in the group about their mission.
Seeing the Stones was incredible. However, in between the stones, what was happening was not a gathering of reverent pagans, but a massive party of irreverent, loud, drunk teenagers. I felt a bit ashamed. Then it got cold.
As I said, I have no coat, and the clothes that I wear are light and allow air to pass through. This is a bad thing when it is 20 degrees outside. Now, I have what the English call 'hay fever,' a mixture of allergic reactions and a bad cold. I pronounce Stonehenge a success because the research gained there was important (even key) to my research. Great pictures, too (See Below) . But otherwise, that was a miserable, miserable night.
When the morning finally came (at about 4:57 am), I took some quick pictures and then rushed to get on a bus to Salisbury (from whence I would go to Avebury). After walking 13 miles, then standing for more than 8 hours, the mile and a half hike to the bus was excruciating. Finally in Salisbury, I made my way to Avebury, only to find out that there was no accomodation for under 50 pounds! I got a tip to try Devizes, a pleasant nearby town that I could get to from a cheap bus service, because they have a Travelodge, which supposedly charges 19 pounds a night. Great! After waiting with the Avebury Antiques store owner for more than an hour, I finally made it to the Travelodge...only to find out from the lady at the front that I have to book online three weeks in advance in order to get that rate... otherwise it would be, you guessed it, 50 pounds.
By that time (aobut 5:00 pm), I am disheartened, still cold from the night before, sick, sore, and irritable. I took the yellow pages and started calling every B&B that I could find. Finally, a woman answered the phone and gave me a reasonable price, and when I asked how expensive the taxis were in Devizes, she offered to come and pick me up.
This wonderful lady has now brought me to her beautiful house, let me use her computer, gave me a cup of much-needed tea in an authentic English garden, fed me a very nice meal, and let me shower. The shower was the most refreshing thing I have done in ages; the problem is, since this was the first time I had taken off my shoes in more than 32 hours, I discovered a horrible thing: The tips of both big toes are completely frostbitten. Just so you know I wasn't exaggerating the cold.
But I feel much better now. I have been enchanted time and time again by the polite generosity and abundant kindness of the English people. Tomorrow, a couchsurfer is picking me up from Avebury, and I'll be staying in Swindon for a couple of nights... with a computer and electricity and a soft place to sleep. As for now, I will go finish my tea in the beautiful garden out back.
Cheers (as the English say)


I call it "The Tube in Which I Live"

Old Sarum Hill

Re-enacting... What a great picture!

RomanoBritish Sentries

The camp where the re-enactors stayed

Sunset over Old Sarum


The Statue of the Ancestor of the Druids
This was made of thousands of pieces of
metal, spot-welded together.

A Druid High Priest Blesses the crowd.

That is magic if I've ever seen it.

As the sun rose, the sky turned red.

And then Gold.
Then, the sun finally broke through.

Morris dancing, a traditional English folk dance.
The beautiful little garden at the bed & breakfast where I am.

1 comment:

  1. Briefly saw Stonehenge on T.V. and thought of you.

    You and your travels are in my prayers.

    -aunt jeannine