Postcard Nine - Stonehenge
When we went to Stonehenge recently I was very conscious that it wasn't necessarily going to be the most interesting thing for Arthur to do, as the audio guides are very much designed for older children and adults, so I decided to write a story for him to listen to as we walked round, combining a story with some facts about what he was looking at. In the end, technology let me down and I had to read it as a bedtime story instead. I hadn't anticipated that he would be most concerned about the fact that in the story he and Henry had 'lost' us and that this would lead to tears. I explained that it was OK and they found us and we went for tea and cake as they boys had planned.
'How do you know we found you?'
'Because I wrote the story and that's what I intended to happen.'
'Then why didn't you write that?'
'Because it didn't occur to me that I'd need to, but I promise that's what happens.'
This seemed to placate him.
'Can you write me another story?'
'Yes if you want.'
'Can you read it to me tomorrow night?'
What have I started??? It was bad enough having Henry nagging me to write the next one of 'his' series. Now I'm going to have two of them doing it!!
(He got his story - it was set at Tintagel and I'm now under instruction to write another one for him)
Here is the story he got from Stonehenge:
Arthur was visiting Stonehenge with his mummy, his daddy and his big brother, Henry. Mum was telling him all about the huge stones and their history.
‘They were built between 3,000 and 2,200BC and it’s the only stone circle to have lintels,’ she said. ‘Those are the big stones that go across the top,’ she told Arthur.
Arthur looked across at the stones that rose out of the grass beyond where they were standing. A man was digging inside the circle.
‘How come he’s allowed inside and we’re not?’ he asked, remembering his mum’s instructions to stay on their side of the wire fence.
‘I don’t know,’ his mum said vaguely. Arthur could tell she wasn’t really listening to him as she had her headphones on and was trying to follow the commentary as they walked.
‘I want to go inside too. It’s not fair,’ Arthur stamped his foot.
‘Don’t start,’ Dad warned him. ‘He probably works here.’
Arthur looked harder at the man. He wasn’t wearing the same uniform as the other English Heritage staff they’d met and he tugged his brother’s arm to tell him.
‘I know, mate,’ Henry said. ‘I don’t think he’s staff either.’ He looked at their parents who were still listening to the audio guide. ‘Shall we have a closer look?’
Arthur nodded and slipped his hand into his brother’s. Together, they left their parents behind and casually wandered closer.
‘His spade is weird,’ Arthur observed.
‘That’s ‘cause it’s not a spade,’ Henry told him. ‘Or not a modern one anyway. It looks like it’s made out of deer antlers I think. That’s what they used as spades when this place was built.’
Arthur beamed at his brother. Henry was the cleverest person he knew – when they weren’t arguing, when they were Henry was just plain silly – he knew everything about the olden days. But I know more about Star Wars, he thought to himself. Henry didn’t even know you could have a gold lightsabre.
‘Arthur, what colour were the stones before?’ Henry asked suddenly.
‘Grey I think,’ Arthur said, his mind still on the satisfaction of proving Henry wrong about the lightsabres. ‘Why?’
‘Because they’re white now and I’m sure there’s a lot more of them than there were a minute ago.
Arthur looked. His brother was right. The stone circle was complete – even all the lintels were in in place now and there was a ring of smaller blueish stones that hadn’t been there before. He glanced up at Henry, suddenly feeling a little worried. Turning round, he realised he could no longer see their parents either. He tightened his grip on Henry’s hand, feeling a little bit scared. Henry squeezed his hand.
‘Don’t stress, mate. I’ll look after you.’
They carried on walking round the outside of the henge, but there were suddenly a lot more people milling around. They were all dressed in the same style of clothes as the man they had first seen. None of them seemed to notice the two boys moving alongside them and many of them didn’t seem quite solid, the outlines of the stones almost visible through their bodies.
‘How do the stones stay up?’ Arthur asked, thinking about how his wooden bricks always fell over whenever he tried to build things at home. ‘Could they fall on us?’
Henry shook his head.
‘They were brought here on wooden rollers and then lots of men pulled them upright into the big holes they’d dug for them. The tallest one is about seven metres high,’ he said, ‘But there’s another two and a half metres buried in the ground and I think they put concrete round some of them in the 1950s and 60s to make them extra safe, so there’s no danger of them falling over.’
Arthur found that hard to believe – the stones were enormous. He couldn’t see how they could possibly be moved just by men.
‘It’s impressive, isn’t it?’ Henry said. ‘No real tools and they managed to build something like this.’
‘Why did they do it?’ Arthur asked. ‘It was a lot of work for them.’
‘We don’t know, really,’ Henry admitted. ‘Some people think it was a place to remember people who died – a bit like the headstones we have nowadays.’
‘Like the ones at the church with no roof in Alresford?’ Arthur said.
‘That’s right. Other people sued to think it was some kind of temple where people called Druids worshipped their gods, but archaeologists don’t believe that any more.’
‘Did Basil Brown work here?’
‘No he was only at Sutton Hoo. There are other archaeologists, you know.’
‘I want to be an archaeologist,’ Arthur said. ‘I like digging. But I also want to be a farmer so I can drive a tractor and King Raedwald.’
‘Archaeology would be fun,’ Henry said. ‘You find out lots about history from stuff you find in the ground.’
‘I think I’d like that,’ Arthur said. ‘And I’m good at digging. Daddy said so.’
They’d wandered closer to the stones as talked and Henry suggested maybe they should head back.
‘We have to be careful,’ he said. ‘The reason you’re not allowed too close any more is because they’re worried about the site getting damaged. When so many people come to see it, they erode the ground – that means they damage it and if it gets too badly damaged it might make the stones wobbly and they could fall over. We don’t want that to happen, do we?’
Arthur shook his head. The stones were brilliant and they were very old. Mummy said you had to look after things that were old and he remembered the burial ground at Sutton Hoo being roped off so the burial mounds didn’t get damaged.
‘When I’m an archaeologist, I’m going to come here and dig,’ he said.
‘I’m sure you will, mate. Shall we go look for Mum and Dad?’
Arthur nodded. His feet were tired and he hadn’t liked the people in their weird clothes.
‘Can you carry me?’ he asked, hopefully.
His brother laughed and tugged him along.
‘No chance. Come on – I bet we can persuade Mum and Dad to have tea and cake if we gang up on them.’
Arthur’s eyes lit up as he trotted along at Henry’s side. He loved tea and cake!