Avebury and Ketchup

Our friends told us that seeing Stonehenge feels like standing in line for Disneyland. Our guidebook declared that the real mystery of Stonehenge is why anyone would go to that crowded, expensive, roped-off spot when there are much more interesting Neolithic mega-stones nearby, less-crowded stones that you can freely wander around and touch. So we went to Avebury.

The massive stones at Avebury were more astounding than I expected. Who moved them, why, how was this immense amount of labor extracted from people so long ago? The stones just kept going on, field after field, next to a whole village of thatched-roof houses whose occupants must hate the tourists. There was even a cricket pitch nearby. The sky looked exactly like the opening view of Windows operating system, but it wasn’t clichéd, it was real. Ben and our friend Malcolm got some great photos that I’ll insert here when they’re uploaded.

If you asked Sophie about it, I think, she wouldn’t mention the stones or sky or even the cricket-players and tourists. What she would tell you is that there were sheep there. The sheep said “baaa” and the sheep pooped and both of these things were very exciting to Sophie. There was also tall grass and the slopes of the Neolithic mounds to run up and down. For Sophie, I think, the highlight of the day was that at the pub where we stopped for lunch, there was a supply of colored condiment packets that she could drop through the slats of the picnic table: ketchup, mustard, vinegar, pepper, ketchup. That was Sophie’s experience of visiting one of the most important sites of Britain’s Neolithic heritage.

In Miss Manners’ Guide to Rearing Perfect Children, I read that children should not be taken to Europe until they are eleven years old and prove themselves worthy by independently researching a country’s history and scenic sites. I suspect that Sophie is proving Miss Manners’s point. But you know, Sophie really enjoyed those packets of ketchup.

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