February 12th, 2006

me: wrong side of the mirror

The Cotwolds

(Left to right: The King's Men, lichen colonies on the King's Men, moonrise over White Horse Hill)

Yesterday, imyril and I cured our respective hangovers with bacon egg & bubble baps and coffee at Borough Market, and then headed for Ye Aulde Englishe Countryside, otherwise known as the Cotswolds. We drove through a number of Charming Villages with Thatched Roofe Houses and names like Stow-on-the-Wold (I'm not making this up.) before stopping at the Rollright Monument. It features a stone circle called the King's Men of approximately equal age, though somewhat lesser renown, than the one a few miles south.

We watched children breathlessly counting aloud as they skipped around the circle, trying and failing to get the same total number each time. Supposedly, if you count the same number after three full perambulations of the circle, you'll have good luck for a year. It's difficult because the stones vary in height, girth, placement and degree of being completely overgrown by the long grasses around them. We took many photos, froze our fingers, and saw a couple of peculiar older persons with deadly serious faces slowly pace the circle with dowsing rods in their hands. We visited the nearby dolmen, romantically named the Whispering Knight's Burial Chamber, and crossed the road to examine the King's Stone. The peculiar shape of the latter doesn't have any ancient significance. Nor is it due to erosion. The Victorians used to chip away bits of it and carry them off as souvenirs. Consequently, the fence around the stone doesn't make for terribly good photos, though the view from the mound on which it stands is delightfully pastoral.

We hopped back in the car to attempt to find the white horse on the hill near Uffington. Daylight faded as we drove up the hillside. We parked quickly and dashed up the path – to find an ordinance survey marker and a bunch of hippies in possession of a duck, a candle, a can of beans, a bottle of brandy and a lot of imagination. I took the moonrise photo above as they sang songs to the beans and poured out a libation on behalf of the duck. (For some reason I feel the need to assure you again that I'm not making this up.) We went in search of the horse. Although you'd think it would be easy to locate a 374 foot long piece of Bronze Age graffiti done in chalk on a hillside, we didn't figure out that we'd found it until we walked over it. Not on it, thankfully. We had the presence of mind to recognize that the wavy white lines we could discern through the darkness weren't roads, and probably had some kind of significance. By this time a stiff wind was blowing over the exposed hillside, so I collapsed the tripod and we hurried back to the warmth of the car. We zipped down the M4, back to London, away from stones, chalk, thatched roofs, and séances. Okay, perhaps not the last. I'm sure there are plenty of séances in London. I'm not sure that all of them involve ducks, though. Or cans of beans.