Friday, 5 December 2014

Stonehenge and the Midlands Better Halves Club

Amazing, mystical Stonehenge
 Happy Friday all!  We’ve been here for about 10 ½ weeks already and yesterday I finally had the chance to meet up with the Midlands Better Halves Club for lunch in Derby.  I'll share our visit to Stonehenge last weekend with you in a moment, but first, let me explain this club.  The name: 
·       Midlands because that is the area of England we live in.  England is split up into larger regional areas much like the US is with the south, northwest, midwest, east coast, etc. 
·       Better Halves because our spouses all work at Rolls-Royce and we put up with them.
·       Club because it’s for expats only. As far as I know, we are all from the US and mainly from Indiana, but I’m not completely sure about that. 
This group of expats gets together a couple times a month in different locations, usually for lunch, but sometimes to visit sites or events around the area as well.  The members of the group are in constant fluctuation because all of us are over here for varying amounts of time.  None of us are on the same schedule.  We just got here a couple of months ago and won’t be leaving for awhile, while other families have been here for a year or longer and will be heading back to the states in the next 6 months or so.  Rolls-Royce is a big company and usually no one knows each other when they move to Derby even though we are all from Indianapolis. 

Since I finally have a car, I was able to meet up with some of the group yesterday for lunch in Derby City Center at a tea room in a department store called Bennett’s.  Normally, meeting up with a group of people I don’t know for lunch would have made me VERY nervous.  Maybe some of you don’t know this about me, but I am a little stranger phobic (not sure that is really a word, but you get the idea).  I love hanging out with friends and family, but send me to a party where I don’t know anyone besides my husband and I worry about it for days in advance.  So you think I would have been all out of sorts at the prospect of going to this luncheon with strangers completely on my own.  

Oh contraire – I was as cool as a cucumber, even excited to meet up with this group.  You see, things are just different when you move to a foreign country, especially one that is across an ocean and on a different continent.  You almost crave seeing people who are from the same place you are from, even if they are complete strangers.  Though we speak the same language as the British, so much is different here compared to the US that you are constantly reminded you are in a foreign country, and I often find myself yearning for something familar.  The accent, the cars, the roads, the food, the buildings – they are all just different.  You can travel anywhere in the US and even though the area you visit may be quite different from your hometown, there is still a sense of familiarity to the place.  You know you can find a Target if you need something.  You know exactly what you are paying for a gallon of gas and how far that will get you (I still haven’t figured out the liter thing here).  You can tell someone you like their pants and not get slapped in the face because in England they would think you were telling them you like their underwear (here, pants are called trousers and underwear is called pants).  You can walk into any bar on Sunday afternoon and everyone will know who Aaron Rodgers is. 

Yesterday, I walked into the tea room and sat down at the table with this group of strangers and instantly felt like I had known them for years.  We have a common bond, a strong one and that made the conversation flow like the Mississippi.  We commiserated about the washing machines and bedrooms with no closets, shared travel advice, and made plans to try and get together with the kids over the Christmas break from school because our extended families are all thousands of miles away.  I now know to look for black beans in a box and not in a can and that I can get a Vitamin D spray at the local health food store to help deal with the winter blues.  I wouldn’t trade this experience of living in Europe for anything and am thoroughly enjoying it, but for a short 2 ½ hours yesterday, I felt like I was back home in the US, back on familiar grounds, and it felt great!  It’s hard to explain this connection you feel to other Americans when you are living abroad, whether they are complete strangers you meet in a cheese shop (that happened in Bath where we met a woman who has lived here for 20 years) or a group of ladies whose husbands all work at Rolls-Royce.  I’ve never experienced anything quite like it before and it is amazing. 

Now, for your viewing pleasure, I have some photos from our visit to Stonehenge.  It is believed that Stonehenge was built between 4000-5000 years ago but why and how it was built remains a mystery.  The northeastern entrance precisely lines up with the midsummer sunrise and the midwinter sunset, so it could have been a gigantic calendar.  There were many human remains found around Stonehenge and there are several hundred burial mounds in the area, so maybe it was a gigantic cemetery.  Many of the human remains found immediately around Stonehenge show signs of severe diseases and injuries, so maybe it was a place of healing.  Unless someone discovers how to travel back in time, we’ll never know for sure. 

The other great mystery is how the stones were transported to this location and set into their configuration.  The largest stones, called Sarsen stones, weigh around 25 tons each and came from an area 20 miles away.  It is estimated that it would have taken 500 men using leather ropes to pull just one of these stones that distance on some type of roller system.  Some of the smaller stones, called bluestones, came from Wales.  They weigh around 4 tons each, and it would have been possible to travel some of the way via the river, but still, the entire journey would have been an amazing 155 miles.    

While the ancient standing stones that make up Stonehenge are the focal point, the fields and hills surrounding Stonehenge are rich in ancient history as well and open for exploration.  We hiked the fields around Stonehenge first to see some of the ancient burial mounds, called barrows.  We then followed The Avenue, believed to be the main ceremonial route and entrance to the stone circle, across the field and up to Stonehenge itself.  Eric did a fantastic job photographing our journey.  So without further ado, I invite you to come along with us on our hike to Stonehenge.  

First stop - Cursus Barrows (burial mounds)

Some sisterly love during our hike.

Stonehenge off in the distance

Second stop - King Barrow Ridge (more burial mounds)

The broccoli bush as Leah put it.  The beautiful green bushy top is actually vines growing around an old tree stump.

Heading to Stonehenge

Following The Avenue to the big stones

The approach

They have Stonehenge as their backdrop but could really care less.  Just show me some grass.


1 comment:

  1. Stone henge must have been amazing to visit, thanks for sharing the history.