Although debate still rages about what Stonehenge is in the abstract sense (ancient observatory? alien landing strip? acupuncture point for Mother Earth?), less than four seconds after arriving there last weekend it was painfully obvious what Stonehenge is in the literal sense: a pile of rocks in the middle of nowhere:
My obligatory tourist shot at the world's oldest tourist trap finished, I spent the next hour freezing my butt off while wearing a sweater in the middle of August and trying to think of an adjective other than "wind-swept" to describe the Wiltshire countryside.
My free trip wasn't a total bust, though. After Stonehenge, our surly bus driver took us to nearby Salisbury. London is not a very stroll-friendly sort of place, but Salisbury certainly is. Nice cathedral, nice shops, nice footpath along the River Avon. It was, in a word, nice. I could certainly spend another cold and windy afternoon there, sipping an espresso while watching the crowds pass by the cafe windows and aimlessly flipping through Salisbury Life.
What I found decidedly not nice about Salisbury was the charity street canvassers who were markedly more aggressive than any I've encountered on Borough High Street or Tottenham Court Road in London. Charity street canvassers generally stand two or three abreast in the sidewalk to ask for "a minute of your time" to give their sales pitch, creating a perverse shark-and-minnows game for unwitting pedestrians.
Being an awkward, gullible, and absent-minded pedestrian, I'm a particularly attractive target for street canvassers. There are many justifications for and against giving money to street canvassers, but I generally frown upon such direct, obtrusive soliciting. Luckily, the same awkward absent-mindedness that attracts canvassers to me like flies on shite also allows me to feign ignorance and/or deaf-muteness.
Ah, once again, it's nice to be back in London, where the street canvassers are easily ignored and urban sprawl heats the air several degrees warmer than the surrounding countryside.