Manchester, England, England

Written June 21, 2008, on train from Manchester, England, to Holyhead, Wales, for ferry to Dublin, Ireland

I met a friendly fellow named Tony while waiting for the train on the platform. He is a manager of a 3D modeling and animation firm, who grows his own vegetables and bonsai, and plans to retire before turning 60. Even though he is a straight guy, when we arrived in Manchester, he took me on a short tour of the gay district in his car, then dropped me at a hotel he felt would be inexpensive. Normally £61 (~US$122), it was at £75 (~US$150) because it was an “event? rate, but it was late so I took the room anyway, after checking that another hotel down the street was full. The room was nicer than the one in London, but was for disabled folks and smelled of mold and mildew.

I checked out the gay district on Canal St. and saw the Rembrandt Hotel, where I ended up staying for the rest of my time in Manchester.

Lunch With Andrew, Oxford and the Ashmolean Museum

Written June 21, 2008, on train from Manchester, England, to Holyhead, Wales, for ferry to Dublin, Ireland

After a good veg breakfast the next morning, I took two buses to Salisbury, then continued on to Oxford. I walked from the train station to the Ashmolean Museum, where I met Andrew Hodges for a pleasant lunch. We hadn’t seen each other for six or seven years since he stopped at Mills College as part of his lecture tour for his book on Alan Turing.

The Ashmolean has a wonderful collection of 25th dynasty materials, which I photographed along with a few contemporary Assyrian items.

On Andrew’s advice, I took a walk through town to see the old campus halls, the church, and other beautiful buildings. Then, back to the station and on to Manchester.

Silbury Hill, Avebury, and West Kennet Long Barrow

Written June 21, 2008, on train from Manchester, England, to Holyhead, Wales, for ferry to Dublin, Ireland

On the way to Avebury, we stopped at Silbury Hill, a grassy mound which is apparently the largest prehistoric mound constructed by people living in Europe.

At Avebury, the two women and I enjoyed a walk around the stones, those at Avebury far more deteriorated than those at Stonehenge. We visited the gift shop where we chatted with the friendly Irish proprietor.

They went on their merry way to Bath and I explored Avebury in more detail, skipping the museums, and meeting a delightful woman over lunch.

At her recommendation, I hiked through gated fields to the West Kennet Long Barrow, with its several subterranean chambers.

After the hike back, I caught the bus to Amesbury and chatted politics with an Australian fellow until the driver let me off just across the street from the B&B. I freshened up a bit, then decided to go out for another walk to see King’s Long? Barrows and Woodhenge.

On the way down the road to the trail gate, I ran into a cute French hitchhiker named Grégoire. After chatting a bit about the best place for him to camp if he didn’t get a ride, I asked if he wanted to join me on my hike. We settled mostly on conversation in French and he decided to go on the hike with me.

We checked out the barrows first, then after a couple of false starts, went to Woodhenge.

As we returned to the B&B, I agreed to fill up his water bottle, then invited to pay part of his meal if he’d join me at a pub in a hotel in town. I enjoyed getting to know him better over a cider and lasagna, then we walked back to the B&B where I had stashed his backpack and sent him off to go camping in the wild blue yonder. We agreed we’d try to meet again, possibly in Dublin.

Ritual Circle at Stonehenge

Written June 18, 2008, on the train From Liverpool to Manchester, England, United Kingdom

On the morning of Sunday, June 16, I woke up at 6:00 to get ready to leave the lodge by 6:30 for a brisk walk to Stonehenge. I walked on paths through sheep and cow pastures. I took some pictures of the sheep and the sun rising in the sky, then of Stonehenge and surrounding burrows (or burial mounds) from some distance away. Time grew short and I had to run the last half mile through sheep pasture to Stonehenge. I arrived just at 7:30 for the special early bird bisit with only about 10 other people. We paid a bit extra and reserved in advance for the privilege of walking in and around the stone circles and touching the stones. The massive stones, some fallen or covered in lichen, evoke a sense of mystery. Stonehenge radiates ancient energy, the sense that generations have stood hand-in-hand in circles within the stones for rituals of consuming importance.

The latest archaeological digs suggest the stones mark an ancient burial ground. The excavations also suggest the Cursus, a short distance away, was used for processions and possibly a settlement of some kind. Not much further away at Woodhenge, of which nothing survived except buried wooden post holes, now reconstructed with low concrete posts painted various colors. Nearby is Durring Walls, perhaps one of the largest prehistoric enclosure mounds.

After wandering through the stones at Stonehenge for quite some time and satisfying my yen for photos of the stones and of me posted with the stones, I got to chatting with some other visitors on that day from Slough, Germany, and Virginia. The two women from Slough were the most friendly. A site employee was checking pictures of the stones against the actual stones, so that any damage to the stones during the upcoming solstice celebrations could be logged. Last year, about 30,000 people visited Stonehenge for the solstice, the only time everyone can go right up into the stones for free. Chloe and ???, the women from Slough, offered me a lift and I told them I wanted to go to Avebury to see the large stone circle around the village there, along with nearbly Silbury Hill and the West Kennet Long Barrow. They decided to take a small detour on their trip to Bath to join me for the visit to Avebury.

On the drive to Avebury, we chatted about the differences between American English and English English. We decided to play a little game where I’d tell them about any cases where there were differences between the two dialects of English. I thought I’d only have to mention something every ten minutes or so, but it ended up more like every minute!