Ancient Civilisations: Reflections From Stonehenge

Last week I was sitting in the café at the new English Heritage Visitors Centre  near Stonehenge, listening to a conversation between two American visitors.

Stonehenge  Aug 2014 (photo credit Abigail Robinson)
Stonehenge Aug 2014 (photo credit Abigail Robinson)

“Well,” said one, “I definitely think it was three things; a church, a burial ground and a place of healing.”

“You don’t mean church,” said her friend.

“Oh no. Well, a holy place. That sort of thing.”

People love speculating about why those who created Stonehenge went to so much trouble to transport huge stones from West Wales to Salisbury Plain to construct their monument which took many hundreds of years – at a time, 5000 years ago, when their own lifespan would probably have been only about 30 years.

Because of the wonderful new exhibition English Heritage have designed in the Visitor Centre, our minds are now filled with all the most up-to-date theories based upon the latest research. And we are now imagining those Neolithic people in a new light, and wondering about their skills in planning and design and organisation, in engineering and architecture and building – skills which are far beyond those we might have credited to them even a couple of decades ago – if we’d ever thought about them, that is.

Before this visit, I last went round Stonehenge a year ago, and even then I was moved by the story that English Heritage tell us through their wonderful audio guide.

view through a trilithon (photo credit Abigail Robinson)
view through a trilithon (photo credit Abigail Robinson)

But now I have new reflections. They are about the rise and fall of civilisations on this planet – and how easy it is for us to forget, or disregard, the sophistication and skill of previous civilisations that have disappeared.

Only a few centuries back, we are told, people “had no concept of prehistory.” In James I’s time, Inigo Jones researched Stonehenge and concluded it had been built by the Romans.

But no.  Now we learn that this magnificent structure was begun by people who lived in 3000 BC.

How sure can we be that our own immensely sophisticated civilisation won’t disappear, to be lost to time, and forgotten by future races? Will they, I speculate, rediscover us and be amazed at the things we were able to achieve, which they would never have credited to us?

How many of us believe that all we have discovered and attained will last forever?

What will we leave behind for the people 3000 years into the future to wonder at and and admire? What will be left of us, to fuel their imagination, in just the same way that Stonehenge now fuels ours?


The Edinburgh Fringe Festival, Quirky, Anarchic, and Fizzing with Life

During the last week we’ve been at The Edinburgh Fringe Festival – an overwhelming variety of acts and shows and comedians and performers, all jostling for your attention. Those who are trying to make a name for themselves are free: the already established are in big venues and do paid-for shows.

On the Royal Mile, Edinburgh - The Fringe (photo credit Abigail Robinson)
On the Royal Mile, Edinburgh – The Fringe (photo credit Abigail Robinson)

I’ve never been handed so many flyers by so many people in such a short space of time as on the Royal Mile – it felt like every member of the crowd heading in my direction was handing out leaflets for his or her show. I recalled online tips for young actors trying to breakthrough at the Edinburgh Festival: “Be prepared to spend most of your time walking the streets and handing out flyers.”

You can be trying to decide where to go and then a troupe of actors dressed in white from head to toe with eerie white masks approaches you and leaflets you; and you decide you’ll go to their show instead.

Or you pass one of the free fringe venues, see something’s on in 5 minutes and just drop in because you happen to be passing by.

And that’s how we found ourselves in the audience at a free fringe event, facing up to whatever the comedians threw at us – including, in my case, a fountain from a shaken-up bottle of Irn Bru, because I happened to be sitting in the second row…

Troupe of actors advertising their show at Edinburgh Fringe - photo credit Abigail Robinson
Troupe of actors advertising their show at Edinburgh Fringe – photo credit Abigail Robinson

We enjoyed Jonny Freeman’s Funtime Family Friendly Impro show, and a one-woman comedy show by Claire Ford called ConsciousMess. Claire showed brilliant clowning skills and I thought she’d be a good children’s TV presenter – with the exclusion of some of her material.

Street entertainment on the Royal Mile, Edinburgh Fringe Festival - photo credit Abigail Robinson
Street entertainment on the Royal Mile, Edinburgh Fringe Festival – photo credit Abigail Robinson

We also found ourselves in a marquee at The Ibis Hotel where we saw “The Grown Up Show” when London’s “best emerging comedians battle it out for the title of Worst Adult in the World”. I can assure you this was not family friendly, and one of the comedians – host Alexis Wieroniey –  even queried our 2 teens from the stage about how old they were, having been about to deduct “adult points” from us for bringing children in, whereupon she realised it should be herself she deducted “adult points” from for designing the fun cartoon on the flyer! Upon being assured of their true age, the comedians then went on to present their material, packed with lewd humour about sex and bodily functions.

Seeing these “emerging” young comedians made me reflect again upon what I believe makes a great comedian: the ability to connect with the audience, win our confidence, show strong observation of life, say things we know are true and can identify with, and do it all with perfect comic timing.
And in the end, for a performer at The Fringe, what really counts is the way audiences take to you and whether you get noticed and given a chance by a casting director, agent or impresario.

Group of actors advertising fringe performance Chatroom on the Royal Mile - photo credit Abigail Robinson
Group of actors advertising fringe performance Chatroom on the Royal Mile – photo credit Abigail Robinson

Of the paid-for shows in The Festival we saw “The Lift” a new comedy by Fergus Deery at the Bedlam Theatre and “Potted Sherlock“, a fantastic whizz-through of all 60 Sherlock Holmes stories in 70 minutes by 3 excellent comic actors whose previous shows included Potted Potter, Potted Pirates and Potted Panto.

Street entertainer on the Royal Mile, Edinburgh Fringe (photo credit Abigail Robinson)
Street entertainer Simeon Baker on the Royal Mile, Edinburgh Fringe (photo credit Abigail Robinson)

For many creative actors and comedians, and for those who flock to Edinburgh in August, including ourselves, this Festival is all about fun, zanyness, and the principle of having been here and been involved with a show at the Fringe – however unpredictable.






Add Mystical Circles To Your Holiday Reading!

Now summer is here and many will be relying on their trusty Kindle to provide hours of poolside or beach entertainment, why not download Mystical Circles now? It’s ideal holiday reading!

Mystical Circles by SC Skillman
Mystical Circles by SC Skillman


Here are extracts from a few Amazon reviews to prove my point:

a good undemanding but satisfying read for the holiday suitcase. (Eleanor Stoneham)

I found once I got into the book I was keen to keep reading as I wanted to know what happened to each character next. (Lynda Alsford)

I would highly recommend this book as it is easy to read, a page turner and one where you are always trying to piece together the puzzle. You won’t be disappointed. (Edwina Jaycock)

Read the entire book in less than 24 hours – couldn’t put it down! I was really interested in the rich developing characterisations and the twists kept me guessing right to the end. Highly recommended. (Jack C.)

This turned out to be an ‘into the early hours’ read! Once I’d started, I couldn’t stop following the story of freelance journalist Juliet as she finds herself caught up in an intriguing mix of characters at the Wheel of Love – a cult centre in the heart of the Cotswolds.  (Caroline Bailey)

 an intense and compelling story with many twists and turns in the plot to keep you reading. (Eleanor Watkins)

I found this book a very entertaining read, with plenty of action and sparky dialogue, with an intriguing darker side ever present.  (Mike P.)


Download to your Kindle now!