Well just reread my last post and I left off with a very brief description of Stonehenge.

It was interesting.

Farah and Edward had gone up to Oxford to meet some friends of theirs on Saturday, and when I got back, they asked me, quite tentatively, what did I think of Stonehenge.

I told them honestly that it wasn’t as impressive as I’d imagined it to be.

Then they asked me something I thought was a bit odd. They said, “Was it worth it?”

I’d spent 25 pounds to get there and back and that’s actually a good deal of money in England.

The dinner at the Sri Lankan restaurant for the four of us, for instance, had cost 33 pounds!

I answered without hesitation, “Yes! It was definitely worth it.”

It was worth it because it made me realize that like I touched on briefly in my last post, so much of Stonehenge and really the whole persona of British atmosphere and charm is tied to image and story.

I’ve got a theory, and that is those who are best at telling their stories, will infuse their culture and heritage with a significance that can transcend ethnic barriers.

Why else would an obscure dialect spoken by a community on a remote island (I’m referring to English) be able to become practically the universal language that the world does most of its business in.

If lingual dominance was solely based on technology then the Asian countries would have inspired such ‘pilgrimages’.

There are plenty of people who visit the Asian countries but it’s not the same as the hordes that visit England.

Stonehenge was always so fascinating to me mainly because it was so fascinating to the British. And they had infected me with some of their enthusiasm for the place.

But perhaps because I’ve seen so many other places in the world, where the sights are perhaps not quite so ancient, but a great deal more breathtaking, I was able to view Stonehenge with a bit of a jaded eye.

And in doing so, it wasn’t necessarily the physical being there that was so interesting, it was the ambivalence of my feelings that was interesting.

Mind you the sheep grazing just beyond the roped-in barriers didn’t help.

They really put these toppled over saracen stones into perspective.

And even though Stonehenge is probably as old as the pyramids, and even though it must indeed have been a Herculean feat to bring them and establish them there, there was something rather ‘meh’ about it all.

Kind of like how I felt when I gazed at the Sistine chapel and saw that the whole famous picture of “God” and “Adam” that is so famous around the world, is only one small panel in a very busy composition!

The whole array of frescoes depicting Biblical scenes is a bit much. You can’t appreciate one panel before the images of another draw  your eye away and the end result is something a bit ‘much’. So that when that gentleman from New York asked me in that Italian restaurant if the Sistine chapel wasn’t just the most beautiful thing I’d ever seen, it was easy for me to answer, “Well, actually, no.”

With Stonehenge it was quite the opposite. Your eyes keep drawing inward to the tumbled stones trying to make some kind of sense of them.

It’s like a puzzle of ‘pick up sticks’, or actually ‘pick up boulders’. And yes you wonder about the barrows and the standing stones etc. but part of you is also thinking, ‘so what?’.

The biggest thing I got from it was thinking that the engineering that got these prehistoric people to be able to accomplish bringing these gigantic pillars of rock thirty miles from the quarry they’d been hewn within, and then setting them in place, including lifting the lintels and aligning their grooves on top of the knobs they’d carved in the standing stones so they wouldn’t move–is remarkable, and yet despite being able to do that, where have they gone? What was their point?

They’re lost in time. The people who engineered this didn’t even leave behind an explanation as to what it all signifies. And it reminds me of that phrase in the Quran where God tells man to go travel the world and see the remains of all the amazing people who have come before us. How despite their greatness, they perished into obscurity.

And it reminds me of how transient our own lives are and how even if we think we’re building this everlasting legacy–we’re not.

All man made things will crumble to ruin in time. All greatness will diminish.

I couldn’t sum up all these things when I spoke to Farah and Edward, but I was kind of thinking them. Coming to these conclusions over the last few days so that tonight I can actually articulate my impressions. But having done so I don’t think I would have felt comfortable saying this to Farah and Edward. I’d worry they might be offended.

It’s interesting though because Edward himself said that he didn’t think Stonehenge was as impressive as this bigger stone circle at Avesbury or Amesbury, I’m not sure which. That stone circle is less obviously a henge because it’s so large a circle that it surrounds the whole town. Plus the stones that comprise it are smaller. But in terms of scope, it’s larger.

On Sunday (was it really only two days ago???) they invited me to lunch in Brick Lane which is apparently the best place to get a good curry.

I wore this lawn green suit I have with a patterned scarf and a pretty green rhinestone pin in the shape of a flower that matches perfectly.

Previously Farah had only seen me in two black outfits of mine. Now she saw me in green and her face lit up when I came down for breakfast. She complimented me on my clothes and then said that now she’d have to go change because her jeans simply wouldn’t do! LOL.

On the way there we passed by White Chapel. Yes, that White Chapel–of Jack the Ripper fame! As soon as Farah said the words ‘White Chapel’ I felt a delicious thrill run down my spine.

We were actually going to be going there?

I hadn’t sought it out! In fact I had no intention of going to White Chapel for the very reason that I thought it would be too much like a ‘pilgrimage’.

We were on the 67 bus going down St. Ann’s Road when Farah was telling me that she had a friend who used to give walking tours of where the murders of the six prostitutes (the first serial murders in the western world) had happened so long ago.

I asked her why her friend had stopped giving the walking tours.

Farah said, “Because of that very look on your face!”

I’m sure I was wearing the most inappropriate expression of eager anticipation and fascination!

I couldn’t help laughing.

She added, “It is a place where six women were brutally murdered!”

 “Of course!” I said. “I know, but it’s just so very infamous! You don’t understand we grew up all our lives hearing stories about Jack the Ripper, wondering who’d done it.” I didn’t mention there had even been a very interesting Star Trek episode on it! That was actually the first time I think I’d heard about the events.

They’ve also been re-enacted and been the speculation of how many movies and plays!

So again it goes back to being able to tell a fascinating story.

We went down a particular alley that looked very benign and unremarkable, when Edward said, “This is one of the spots where one of the ladies was killed.”

And for an instant–before I could control myself–I’m sure that eager look came over my face again! Then I composed myself, snapped a few pictures, and tried to forget it.

But really, there’s something even provocative of the phrase ‘Jack the Ripper’. It’s got onomatopoeia in it. Ripper sounds like it’s ripping, doesn’t it?

What was sad however, was that sometime after we finished lunch at the restaurant on Brick Lane, and sometime before we left the Children’s museum I lost that pretty green rhinestone flower pin of mine!

Oh what a shame! I loved that pin! And it matched so beautifully.

But considering that’s about the worst thing that happened during the entire 9 day trip–it really wasn’t the end of the world!

Yesterday morning I visited an Islamic school and did two presentations for these groups of extremely appreciative children and teachers!

What lovely people! It was a pleasure to meet such dedicated staff!

It gives me hope for the Muslim community in England!

They asked me to pray for them when I was leaving and I asked them to pray for me too!

p.s. It turned out that I’d actually ended up bringing Farah and Edward’s cat Potchka (forgot the ‘k’ when I spelled it last) a present too. She just loved the white ribbon I’d used to tie up the gifts! And the gift I gave Edward was a box of chocolate mints! Perfect too because although, like Farah, he’s extremely sensitive to gluten, he can actually have dairy, and he liked them very much! So on the gift score I was pretty much 3 for 3!)