[Friday 24th June 2022]
I found work rather stressful today. Partly as a result of a new performance management system we've just adopted, but also partly a post Avebury "return to normality" slump. So, it being a Friday, I decided to call it quits around 4 and head to the heath for a bit.
[Tuesday 21st June 2022]
Given the rail strikes planned for today, I attempted to get all the way from Avebury to London by bus.
To my surprise, there was a bus from Avebury to Swindon at around 6:15am, and I recall hearing somewhere that you can get a kind of day rover ticket for a mere £7.50, with which you can get all the way to Oxford. In my sleep deprived state, I didn't really think through whether getting to Oxford was actually a meaningful objective, but on arrival at Swindon bus station the S6 bus to Oxford was sat waiting there, and the alternative would have involved spending more than just a few minutes in Swindon, which after yesterday's brief tour was a prospect I wasn't at all keen on. In hindsight, I would have been much better off hanging around in Swindon for an hour or so (loathed though I was to do so) and then getting a National Express from there directly to London.
But no, I apparently knew better than this, and so spent something like an hour and three quarters on a long, slow bus to Oxford. That said, at least I was moving, there was plenty of available seating, and in my half asleep state I found it oddly relaxing.
This eccentric diversion via Oxford might have been justifiable had I actually stopped for a while in Oxford, perhaps had a hearty breakfast with some Dons amidst the dreaming spires.
But no, on arrival at the bus station in Oxford I saw just a few steps away was one of those "Oxford Tube" coaches, getting ready to leave, so I immediately jumped aboard that. This is pretty much a direct service into central London, but being beholden to the prevailing traffic conditions it is anything other than quick. It was something like two and a half hours to get to Marble Arch, where I arrived some time after 11, having spent 5 hours travelling on buses. For comparison, the train from Swindon to Paddington is usually just under an hour.
I had booked the whole day off work, predicting I might have some long and difficult journey home and/or would be somewhat sleep deprived so probably not of much use even if I did get back by lunchtime.
I thought I might have a nap when I finally got home, around midday, but somehow that never really happened, and impressively I managed to stay awake until gone 10pm tonight.
I spent the remainder of the afternoon editing together what little video footage I had managed to take, which was in any way usable, to produce the YouTube video. It's only 6 minutes in the end, which seems a bit of a poor show considering I was in Avebury for 14 hours, but there you go.
[Monday 20th June 2022]
Going to Avebury for the summer solstice (and indeed the winter solstice) seems to have become a firm annual fixture for me now, and despite the sub-optimal timing of it this year (Monday night to Tuesday morning) and a threat of a rail strike, I was still determined to be there for it.
Although I nominally went with Andrew (like last year, and 2019), we decided in the end given our differing work commitments it would be easier to each make our own way there and back. I arrived around 4:30, a good couple of hours before Andrew, and in hindsight should probably have tried to build in more of a walk, but as it was I ended up just wandering around the vicinity of Avebury. It was quite a warm day, and I was keen to spend as much time as possible in the shade.
Andrew arrived some time around 7, and we took up our usual position somewhere on the embankment to the south of the village, near where the West Kennet Avenue arrives at. This gives a good vantage point for watching the setting sun, as well as a commanding view of whatever the other attendees are doing in amongst the stones in the field below.
We pretty much just sat there for the next four hours or so, drinking wine, engaging in the usual banter, and watching the scene before us. The sun set arround 9:30 and it was a pretty decent one I suppose - take a look at the photos and you can judge for yourself. Certainly a lot better than last year, when there was nothing to see but grey skies.
I'm not sure we did quite as well with the random chats with strangers this year though. There was a group sitting in front of us - and one guy from that group occasionally made some polite conversation with us, but to be honest something about him rubbed me up the wrong way a bit, and I'd rather he hadn't bothered.
Andrew headed back to his lodgings (a couple of miles outside Avebury) some time around 11, can't really remember exactly when, and at that point I went and sat amongst the stones with the majority of the other people, watching the fire jugglers etc. The group who had been sitting in front of us on the embankment had randomly left a large bunch of bananas behind, so I distributed these among random strangers. This seemed to provoke some confused responses - "Are you a politician?" one young woman asked. No, I just didn't want to carry that surprisingly heavy bunch of bananas around.
Eventually I decided it was time to go and find a quiet spot to lie down for a few hours, planning as I was to be up again for sunrise. I had brought along a bivvy bag and a (very thin) sleeping bag, so as long as I wasn't getting under anyone's feet I could go pretty much anywhere. Once I'd found a quiet spot out of the way a bit, I attempted to do a bit of night photography, and some night lapse videos on my GoPro, but neither were particularly successful.
I think I did actually get at least a tiny bit of sleep, perhaps at most 2 hours, and just after 4am I woke up to find it was suddenly practically daylight. So I got all my things together and headed back to the stone circles to watch the sunrise.
It was quite a nice sunrise, but slightly marred by the fact that while it was happening I got trapped in a conversation I didn't really want to have with a somewhat grizzly old guy, one of those people where you feel they're constantly teetering on the brink of losing their temper. So I then had to spend far longer than I wanted to disabusing him of all the preconceived notions he had about me just because I happened to be wearing a tweed suit. Perhaps I will invest in some more incognito attire if I go again next year. I would much rather have spent that hour watching the sunrise in quiet introspection.
I have rather mixed feelings about this year's summer solstice overall then. Last year I definitely had the sense of having chickened out by booking a bed and breakfast rather than just staying up all night (or trying to wild camp somewhere in the vicinity). Sleeping in a comfortable bed, and having the prospect of having to drive back to London last year, had meant I just couldn't be bothered to get up for the sunrise last year. So I definitely did a better job of that this year - I was there for both sunset and sunrise, and successfully slept in some random patch of grass. Well if you can call that "slept", it was more of a late night power nap really.
Also this year the weather was undoubtedly far better than last year. Warm, summery, and clear skies - I really couldn't have asked for more.
All of that said, I still have this sense it sort of lacked something this year. It's hard to put my finger on what. I think it was probably that sense of atavism. The late night walk I had done last year, along West Kennet Avenue, and then through the shanty town of vans (vanty town?) on the Ridgeway had felt really magical and other worldly. This year I didn't stray far from Avebury itself, so I suppose I never got that far from the crowds (and there were a lot more people this year). I did walk part of the way down the West Kennet Avenue late at night, but perhaps I was too tired (and/or I'd had too much wine) by that point to fully appreciate it.
Anyway, I hope you'll agree some of the photos of the sunset and the sunrise are quite nice, and perhaps this is one of those trips I'll eventually look back on in a more positive light.
[Thursday 16th June 2022]
Sat on the heath for a bit in the early evening, and a film crew showed up. Assumed they were here to interview me about my stylish attire and impeccable taste in wine, but no it turns out they were doing a piece for the news on the hot weather.
[Wednesday 15th June 2022]
There has been a lot of back and forth over Erika's eyesight in the past few years, with optometrists here (Boots i think) saying she does need glasses, but on summer trips to Japan the optometrists there saying no she doesn't, and in fact it might be actively bad for her eyes to wear them.
So we decided to get a third opinion, suspecting that perhaps high street opticians / optometrists here aren't always being as thorough as they ought to be (they have a fairly strict time limit on how long they can spend on each eye test I believe) and/or the fact that the eye test is free means they're potentially quite incentivised to actually sell you some glasses. After school today we went to an independent optometrist recommended by someone at work, who did a very thorough examination (about an hour) and came to the same conclusion as they did in Japan.
We will apparently need to keep an eye on it (ho ho) and go for more regular appointments, perhaps once every 3 months, but it seems once again Erika is back to not wearing glasses.
Although, that said, she has a pair of glasses with completely plain non-prescription lenses, and somehow she does seem to find it a little easier to see with these on. Not entirely sure what's going on there?
After that we went for dinner at a local Italian restaurant on the way home.
[Tuesday 14th June 2022]
After some protestation (I really didn't want to spend an evening around King's Cross) I went down to join the usual suspects for some al fresco wine in Granary Square, as a send off for Natalie who was heading back to Switzerland.
[Sunday 12th June 2022]
Erika and I went down to Surbiton this afternoon for Jim's birthday. On the way there we stopped off in New Malden - London's Korean Town - for some Korean food for lunch followed by a Korean cafe.
[Sunday 5th June 2022]
Another fairly quiet day following the immersion in all the flag waving etc of the first two days of the long jubilee weekend. Constructed a Marble Run with Erika. Popped out for a bit later on in the afternoon to meet Christian for a glass of Gevrey Chambertin.
[Wednesday 1st June 2022]
I was off work all week this week, but didn't really have much planned today. Went for lunch at the Pineapple with the girls. Then in the evening the girls were out for dinner and I oddly decided to have a camping meal out in the back garden.
[Monday 30th May 2022]
Drove from Mum's to the Peak District in the morning, and met our friends from London (who were also staying in the area for some of the half term holiday) for lunch at the Druid Inn, before going for a walk to the Nine Ladies stone circle. Later on we headed to Buxton (by way of Bakewell) where we stayed the night, and I attempted a wild camp on a nearby hill.
See also this video which captures some bits of the day:
[Saturday 28th May 2022]
We were supposed to be travelling to the Midlands today, but Erika had been slightly unwell overnight, so we decided to wait another day and see how she felt. As such a day spent at home: Gavignet in the garden towards the end of the afternoon, and a bit later on Erika did some electronics.