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Friday, 17 June 2011

A Neolithic moment


Before a national curriculum solidified and imprisoned us in a maze that grew progressively more dense with targets like mantraps, history had space to delight curious and open minds, and sometimes the ‘rush’ was unexpected, magical and hard to explain.

In the days before a curriculum dictated that secondary school history would start from 1066, we wrote love letters in Sumerian cuneiform, explored Ley lines and took field trips to Stonehenge, Avebury and Silbury Hill. It might sound very ‘New Age’ but St Josephs taught ‘traditional’ history, and balancing chronology and structure with fun.

We also taught family. I still remember how worried I was when my Head of Year’s eldest daughter, Clare Drewett, entered the school. Fortunately for me she was part of a gifted cohort and I still remember the exuberance of those lessons. It was summed up in one particular moment on the top of Silbury Hill.

Silbury Hill

It was a cloudless, blue sky day with Neolithic England spread out below us. And the magic of the moment hit one particular student. She hurtled towards me and I twirled her around and around beneath that blue sky before dropping her next to her picnic. Couldn’t do that today. Never thought of it then. It was just good to be alive in a world humming with insects and the dead all around us.

Avebury from above

West Kennett Long Barrow, a neolithic tomb.


Maria Zannini said...

If I ever make it to England, these are the places I want to see.

Mike Keyton said...

You'll love it. Avebury encloses a whole village, though Stonehenge is a bit anti climactic; and unfortunately you can no longer climb up Silbury Hill. But, on the right day, the area, especially Avebury, is magic.

Unknown said...

Beautiful pictures. I was taken to Stonehenge countless times as a child and I loved it. I haven't visited the area for years and must put that right.

Mike Keyton said...

Go visit and perhaps incorporate it in your next book, Shirley. Just an idea :)

Renee Miller said...

I'm so jealous. The closest we have to such beauty is, well, we don't. Not in this area. If I ever travel, which some day might actually happen, that is now on my list of places to go.

There aren't any creatures roaming about that I should know about first, are there? I hate creatures.

Mike Keyton said...

No rat-snakes or mosquitoes, just the dust of the slumbering dead. I hope you make it some day - not in terms of joining the slumbering dead - but a visit to Avebury. Nice pub there, too.

Having said that, you have no idea how much I love the wilderness, mountainous or flat, of America and Canada - though apart from Niagra - I've never actually made your country.

Renee Miller said...

Niagra is a good region to visit though. Very pretty there. Tweed...well, you'd find it interesting.

Did you say no mosquitoes? Lucky bastard.

Mike Keyton said...

Tweed sounds good. It's the non tourist places I find interesting - except for mosquitoes. Unfortunately they love my pheremones. I'm sex on legs to a mosquito - God could have dealt me a kinder hand, like sex on legs to women would have been nice.

Renee Miller said...

Yeah, funny how TPTB give us these awesome super powers with a not-so-awesome twist. I hear if you eat a lot of bananas the mosquitoes will leave you alone...or is it the opposite? I don't remember. The mosquitoes this year are the size of chihuahuas. Did I spell that right? I never know.

We get lots of 'summer' people here from your neck of the woods. They own/rent cottages all summer. Lots of Americans too. Strange...they rarely come out to mix with the locals.

Mike Keyton said...

they rarely come out to mix with the locals. you say a lot there - I'm getting pictures of a feral community high on bananas, with armies of dog sized mosquitoes at their beck and call.

No wonder the tourists lock themselves in their cabins, playing monopoly and dreaming of the next plane back :)

Renee Miller said...

Yes, but they magically forget all that the following summer and return for more fun. ;)

Mike Keyton said...

Tweed amnesiacs. Chilling.

Claudia Del Balso said...

I absolutely love the first and last picture. They're the epitome of mystery. These dolmens are a reminder: we are so small.

Mike Keyton said...

These dolmens are a reminder: we are so small.

And a reminder that the great and timeless can be created by small men.

Wilkolima said...

Dear Mike,

Please get in touch with me (wilkinsonanthony@hotmail.com).