Friday, August 27, 2010

Journeys #2: The Fickleness of Memory

When leaving to go on a trip, I have in the past taken a notebook, pen, camera and the all important guidebook. The guidebook for the trip to the UK was my memory. I picked places I liked, a couple of places I had never been to and a place I felt I should visit.

As a student, the A303 was the scenic route to the south west and Plymouth, or the way you took if your car was stuffed full of luggage or just plain crap. The trip I remember the most was in a crap car that was stuffed with luggage. A friend from London had been given her mother's old car. My friend had never driven on the motorway and had prudently found herself a co-driver for the trip back, (except he didn't live in London, he lived in the boo hoos, but I'm digressing). Anyway, the co-driver had also never driven back to London and was rather looking forward to the trip, the high point of which would be that we would pass Stonehenge.

And so off we went. It was raining, but that was not unusual, and I was squeezed into the back between all the luggage.

Co-driver Phil got us all excited about Stonehenge. If we made good time we could even stop and visit! When I was a kid, midsummer news reports were always about how many druids had run around naked hugging the stones during the solstice. Maybe the druids weren't naked and maybe they were only hugging the stones to stop themselves getting arrested, I don't exactly remember.

It continued to rain and it seemed that the car had a top speed of forty miles an hour, or something ridiculous. As we crawled towards London, ideas of visiting slipped away, along with the Pub lunch we had planned. But then through the rainy haze, the grey stones loomed up in the December gloom and we pulled over and Phil ran off to find out how much the parking and entry fee was. When he came back with a long face we knew the £7.37 we had between us was not going to be enough. We sat in the car (not using the windscreen wipers because they didn't work very well) and munched on our soggy sandwiches looking at Stonehenge through the rapidly steaming windows. Until I had this rather uncomfortable feeling. I stopped chewing and put a hand under my bum. My eyebrow raised and I hoisted myself off my left bum cheek. I lifted the right bum cheek. 

"What are you doing?" Phil asked as my feet dug into his back after having done a complicated manoeuvre to turn myself around (remember I was stuffed into the back).

"It's raining in the car!"

My wet bottom thoroughly ruined our communion with the stones and it was decided that the leak would be less leaky if we were moving. And so that was the closest I ever got to Stonehenge.

And as we tootled along the South Coast this August, I was beginning to wonder if that was as close as I would ever get. You see this time I figured, my memory, the GPS and Google Maps would be enough. I didn't bank on us having no phone reception and therefore no Google Maps, I forgot my memory was poor and the GPS needed a better address than the A303.

"What's the nearest town?" The Frog asked.

"Mmm..."I dug deep. "I think that in Tess of the D'urbervilles, Tess kills the bad guy and then runs away with her lover and she falls asleep on the altar at Stonehenge. And then she gets caught and hung!"

The Frog was giving me looks.

"Salisbury! They are in Salisbury."

"Stonehenge is in Salisbury?"

"No, Tess is in Salisbury, Stonehenge, is off the A303."

After we had visited, the Frog asked me my impressions now that I had finally got past the fence. "It's smaller than I remember."

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