Staying Power: Windsor Castle, Stonehenge, Oxford

Caitlin and I weren’t originally planning on doing Stonehenge but we wanted to do a day out of the city and my tooth infection changed some plans. So instead of a train ride down to Brighton and Hastings to see some friends we booked a guided bus tour to Windsor Castle, Stonehenge, and Oxford. 

We are not usually tour guide people, and this group of sheeple and a tour guide straight out of an SNL sketch just about killed us, but it turned out to be a great day.

Immediately, we wondered if our Tour Guide, Eileen, would ever stop talking. The answer, we discovered over the course of 12 hours with her, was absolutely not. She event talked at length about how she wasn’t going to talk the whole time. 

On the way to Windsor she told us a lot of random and hard to follow facts about the Royal family in her chipper, fragmented way. By the time we pulled into Windsor Castle, we ended up reading the Wikipedia page on it which was very helpful. 

We arrived in a cute little town and when we got off the bus, Eileen ran away from everyone toward the castle. This old lady could move! 

Our forty-person group caught up to her confused and panting to realize she was getting a spot in line for us before the other tour groups. That was nice of her, but I wish we would have known!

The castle was really interesting. The architectural achievement was impressive and beautiful. The craftsmanship and opulence was astounding. What these people could forge with the limited technology they had is really impressive. It made me want to be that good at something in my life. 

The chapel where the Queen is buried was beautiful, and the historical and architectural achievement of a bastion such as Windsor Castle, that has persisted for a thousand years, was quite the thing to experience. 

Windsor was built around 1000 AD by William the Conqueror, whom my family is a descendant of according to my mom’s genealogy work. I wondered if I’d feel any sort of connection being there… the “hearts of the children turning to their fathers” sort of thing from the Bible. But I mostly just felt a little uneasy that this type of opulence existed. That it was and still is celebrated. I overheard two twenty-somethings as they were looking at a Reubens painting of Prince Edward the II, “He could just walk in and pick any of those ladies he wanted. That’s some real G shit right there.” That certainly didn’t help my digestion of it all, and I wondered if some people were taking the wrong messages in all this. The phrase burn it all down ran through my mind more than a couple times. And the castle almost did back in 1997! 

Then we got on the bus with more Eileen. Our bus driver tried to give Eileen a friendly hint that she didn’t have to talk the whole time, but it didn’t help much. Caitlin got ahead of the situation and started reading about Stonehenge while I enjoyed the views of the English countryside. Which was gorgeous and green. The sky was so wide open. No mountains, just rolling hills. It was like some of the big sky I’d experienced in Idaho and Wyoming, but with charming hills instead of rugged rocks of the western U.S. It was chilly and windy and a bit rainy that day, but not so bad that we couldn’t stand being outside. 

Stonehenge was really captivating. There’s something about those rocks man! They’re so old! Why do they exist? How did they get there? I think what I loved the most is how little we know. That in the information age, a bunch of stacked stones in the middle of nowhere confound us. Well done ancient people. We don’t even know who they were really!

Sadly, we couldn’t put together the mystery, but we were glad we came to participate in it. We were excited to see ruins of something that old. 6,000 B.C is a long time ago. Mysticism aside, these rocks are still here and that’s something. Caitlin was very intrigued by the idea that these stones were believed to have a resonate or musical property, and stones like these had been used for harmonic purposes in history. We talked about how in Rings of Power the Dwarves sing to the rocks and the mountains to bring forth their precious metals. This folklore comes from somewhere, right? I also was intrigued with how they set the stones up of with the solstices, and they seemed to have a longing to be connected to the stars. Perhaps they had reason to believe this was the center of the very universe. The vibes were cool and I was really glad we came.

When we got to Oxford, Caitlin and I had enough of being shepherded around. Eileen took off and left most of the bus behind again, and we used that opportunity to wander the town. We took the opportunity to slink away when one of the bus members who had enough was going off on Eileen for leaving them behind. She wasn’t wrong!  

We found this cheese shop that fed us samples of delicious cheese from the nicest cheese shop workers ever. We then walked the grounds of the old Oxford library halls and I have to say it was pretty enchanting. If I ever got the chance to dedicate all my time to studying one thing, I think I’d do it here. Then we found a little pizza place and after swearing we weren’t that hungry, ate our own entire pizzas. 

Everyone was tired on the bus ride home. But that didn’t stop Eileen! After the third time that she said she wasn’t going to talk anymore, then proceeded to list menu items at a fancy restaurant that the queen goes to… then listed the ingredients for a recipe of one of the menu items of a fancy restaurant that the queen goes to… we put in our headphones and listened to some great music Caitlin cued up. I felt like my head finally had the quiet and the space to think. Over the course of the next hour, I felt some lightning strike in the form of a new idea for a script. Which was nice, as things have been tough in the career realm to say the least. Maybe more on that later. But it was an idea that I had been feeling was there in the back of my mind like a big silhouetted moon in the sky trying to hide but we all see. “I don’t know what you are but I see you!” It got me excited to get home and write. By the time we had pulled into London, Eileen had just finished talking about how she wasn’t going to talk anymore, and we were ready to get out of there. 

We walked home through Kensington and along Hyde Park to our hotel. We talked about the Castle, about Stonehenge, and about Oxford. There’s something interesting about the staying power of these places. Still standing. After all these years. Yes, I’m now just quoting one of my favorite songs from Sir Elton, but I think it’s applicable! This castle and these mystical rocks are still standing. And so are we!