So many things to discuss and so little time. Record deaths, ditched exams and the sudden departure of a couple of dodgy rodents from the murkier corners of Downing Street should all warrant a few paragraphs each, but I have other things on my mind; specifically a bunch of rocks. Because that’s all Stonehenge is: a bunch a rocks in a field in Wiltshire. From the way people drone on about them you’d think they were something special but I would argue, and you’ll have to bear with me here, that it’s about time we just left them alone in that field and moved on to more interesting things.
Stonehenge is in the news because the empty beaker that is Grant Shapps (a man whose sole recommendation as Transport Secretary is that he is not Chris Grayling) has approved the building of a road tunnel on the A303, which runs directly past it, give or take a few hundred metres of grass. Having driven along that stretch of road before I can see what the problem is: everyone slows down and rubbernecks as they drive past Stonehenge, because of course they’ve never seen a bunch of rocks before, or at least that’s how it appears. This in turn causes big delays and very sluggish traffic, and it doesn’t help that the A303 is the chief artery for every rich dick in London who has a second home the other side of Jamaica Inn. You may ask – what then is the problem if all Stonehenge really does is make bankers sit in a traffic jam every Friday afternoon?
Well the problem is actually more than just traffic. It’s about Stonehenge itself, which is a mystery wrapped up in an enigma wrapped up in a great big bore. Archaeologists, druids, nudists and the perpetually unemployed have been scratching their hairy chins for centuries trying to work out what Stonehenge is for. The answer is nothing. It is for nothing, and even if they did find out what is was for, that would mean nothing too. They like to think that there is some hidden secret to it, something no one has yet put their finger on and that when this secret is unlocked it will open the door to so much more. Frankly that’s unlikely because if they were that smart all those millennia ago they would have come up with a better way of preserving their genius than a badly played game of oversized breeze block Tetris.
When I was growing up my illustrated history books showed Stonehenge being used as a kind of sacrificial sun trap, like having a slaughterhouse in a conservatory. It was also hinted that there may have been substantial amounts of coitus, probably non consensual on the female side, with randy old druids making up appalling lies about crop fertility and angry forests just to get their leg over with some terrified virgin. If this was the dawn of civilisation then it isn’t worth celebrating all that much. Of course all of these half assumptions might be completely wrong. Stonehenge may have just been used as a particularly robust chicken coup or as the venue for an early version of a cart boot sale. It might have served as a knicker draw for a giant’s wife or as an outdoor showroom for a prototype branch of Wickes. Whatever it was it is very unlikely to have really advanced the general optimism of humankind because if it had proved to be that useful there would be hundreds of the things, all equally massive, scattered across the country (I concede that Britain has other stone circles but I think you’ll find they are also a bit crap).
No, Stonehenge seems to me to have been not much more than a massive folly. A mistake that no one saw coming until the donkey work had already been done, and by then nobody wanted to take the blame for it. The huge great bloody heavy blocks were rolled all the way from Wales, we are told, but was there ever a point at which one crazy druid turned to the next and wondered out loud if it was really worth the effort. Perhaps if they hadn’t spent so much time literally dragging big rocks across the countryside they might have used their inventive side to come up with something that would be genuinely useful; like a cheese grater or a disposable lighter. If only they had used their time wisely we could have beaten the Italians to it and come up with the renaissance all by ourselves.
And you mustn’t get me wrong. I’m no Philistine (discuss). I love history and I do believe that in order to understand the present and shape the future you must appreciate and respect the past. But for me Stonehenge is just a blip; a rough-hewn slab of historical indifference. We shall go to our graves never fully understanding it, and that’s fine by me. I don’t need to understand it and I can’t be bothered to want to understand it either. What I do know is that this tunnel they’re suggesting is projected to cost £1.7 billion (which means at least £2.5 billion realistically) and that is a lot of money just to stop people staring out of their car windows at something they can’t be bothered to pay English Heritage a rip off sum to walk around from a safe distance. I know I might sound like an uncultured oaf but in time you’ll see I was right all along.
Naturally some smelly environmentalists are up in arms, with some of them trying to compare Stonehenge with the Pyramids of Giza, which may be a bit steep (the suggestion and the pyramids) and of course those ridiculous modern day druids are busy complaining about their heritage being violated, but I bet they didn’t mind their predecessors doing all that virgin violating or violating some sacrificial simpleton with a big knife just as the equinox sun was sinking real low, back in the day. I say they should scrap the tunnel and just divert the A303 directly through the middle of Stonehenge. By doing this it will simply become a fully integrated part of the landscape and then we’ll adjust to it over time until it appears as little more than the bones of a very old flat pack service station, albeit one heaved all the way from Pembrokeshire. As a bonus we’d get to save at least £2 billion, because you may not have noticed that we’re completely skint at the moment, and I can’t see the druids coming up with a solution for that in a hurry.
G B Hewitt. 13.11.2020