It used to be that in local newspaper offices, up and down the land, away from the conglomeration of desks around which sat a crew of hacks, waiting for the pubs to open, were treasure troves of detritus, hidden in corners and cupboards. Enduring endless idle afternoons, intrepid reporters with not much more to do, were often found rooting through the books and artefacts, not unlike pigs searching for truffles.
Bartholomew’s Gazetteer of Places in Britain was one such find. In between telephoning Coroners, Police Stations, Hospitals, Fire Stations and Council offices, the Gazetteer helped fill the endless dreary hours between closing times and the start of a reporter’s real work – talking to local people in the pubs and clubs for the sniff of gossip and scandal.
For an amusing romp through the joys of life on a local paper, do read Angus McGill’s novel ‘Yea Yea’ which gives as accurate a picture of that odd, occasionally surreal, life as anyone might want.
Back to Bartholomew and his Gazetteer. In its pages I once came across a name and description that made me laugh out loud for some time: Cheese Wring was the name, and the description was “A natural pile of rude rocks.” It’s a real thing (Bartholomew was always right); look it up on Her Majesty’s Internet if you feel so inclined.
It came to mind of late as family changes now require relatively regular journeys to Exeter, taking supplies to that place where are to be found hungry students, who are also sometimes cold, and who welcome occasional visitors bearing gifts and provisions.
To get there from here you drive past another pile of rude rocks, located for incoherent, or at least unknown, reasons in the middle of a field. Not unlike the Loch Ness monster, mystery surrounds them and their origins.
Eddie Izzard had a good stab at an explanation but I don’t buy it. The whole thing is way too complicated for pre-historic Druid types. No; the truth is that a Henge, on the lines of the popular erection in Wiltshire, is clearly more of a Renaissance thing. The architecture, art and geometry of it screams Leonardo and the Golden Ratio rather than an unknown rock dweller from the land that time forgot.
In the tabloid world we might suppose and suspect that Leonardo and chums came secretly to Britain one night. Using their enthusiastic mathematical wizardry along with rollers, ropes and geometric angles, the materials having been obtained from a local supplier, built it and then stole away as silently as they had arrived.
“It’s a fantastic opportunity to generate tourist income for the area'” the Town Clerk said at the meeting after someone had spotted the Henge in situ several aeons later and reported it. The Council contacted the local paper which spread the story far and wide, earning tip fees each time, and everyone was happy.
Britain had a World Heritage tourist attraction. The local area had a steady stream of tourists passing through, unfortunately none of whom spent any cash locally but did leave tons of litter which kept the locals employed clearing it up.
In fact the only people who were unhappy were those who travel regularly from here to there on the fabled A303 in a slow and frequently stopping convoy of gawkers, unused to piles of rude rocks of any sort.
Traffic jams are, therefore, Leonardo’s most enduring legacy.
Anything and everything he crafted and created causes people to stop, stand and stare; go to the Louvre and check out his fabled painting of an apparently smiling and mysterious noble lady.
It’s fame of a sort though I would argue that an underwater helicopter would have been significantly more useful than a Henge.