Your Move

Have you been to London recently? Did you try to see the famous residence of the United Kingdom’s Prime Mister at the famous London address of No. 10 Downing Street?

This (above) is as close to that famous doorway as you can get these days. That 20-foot tall black steel security fence was erected to block off the entire street of Downing in 1991, in response to IRA terrorist bombings in the capital, now protecting the area from about 20 other brands of terrorists from around the world. Sadly, No. 10 Downing Street is now one of the most heavily guarded buildings in Britain. The front door can no longer be opened from the outside because it has no handle, and no one can enter the building without passing through a scanner and a set of security gates manned by armed, bullet-proof vested, and very uncordial, guards.

Before this time, the public had free access to the entire street and any old geezer could stroll right up to the Prime minister’s doorstep and pose for a photo with the one, lone, shirt-sleeved police guard on duty.

Is it hard for you to believe that there was ever a time when life was so uncomplicated?

Yeah, me too.

But I have proof that there was, once, such a happy once-upon-a-time. Here’s me (below), in 1976, in my bell bottom jeans, back when I still had un-gray hair, standing at the very doorstep at No. 10 Downing Street, back when you could trust the stranger who grabbed your 110 Instamatic camera and urged you to go on, go over there so he could snap a souvenir pic of dorky, solo, 20-year old world traveler you, calling on the PM (who was at that time a forgettable fella named James Callahan):

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I tend to regret the 1970s and the bad hair, bad clothes, bad music, etc. . . . until I remember that it was the decade in which I was able to travel for $10 a day, and did.

1976 was also the year that I journeyed westward from London, out to Stonehenge (Stonehenge being the pile of standing stones that I hope needs no introduction):

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That (above) is a pic of the sandy walkway leading directly into the heavily trampled inner circle which, at the time, was, much like the doorstep of No. 10 Downing Street, surprisingly unguarded and open to one and all. In all, 815,000 people(including me) stomped through this ancient monument  in 1976.

So it’s no wonder that, in 1977, the stones were roped off so people couldn’t climb on them any longer. The crowds are kept at a respectful distance, as they should be.

The grass was allowed to grow back, up between the old stones, and the road way that passed just meters from the heel stone was shut down  to vehicular traffic. It’s now a paved footpath. The stones stand in splendid isolation, the better to contemplate their significance and wonder.

Every 40 yearsI like to get back to Stonehenge so that is where I found myself this past August, standing at almost the same spot as I did in 1976, to take this pic:

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In 1976, any old geezer could mosey up to a 5,000 year-old, 25-ton monolith and, along with the hordes, literally rub shoulders with it:

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These days, the only way to get close to the stones is to book a private tour with one of the three companies that are authorized to breach the outer fences :

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Let the record show that in 2016 I paid the equivalent of 15. 9 days of 1976 travel to take a one-hour sun set tour of Stonehenge and be one of the 25 people allowed to breathe the same air as these mysterious and beautiful sarsens:

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And no, a stranger did not take this pic; my own dear sweet Top Cat did.

My point is: As time goes on, sometimes things get worse, sometimes things get better. Sometimes things get sadder with age, sometimes they don’t.

Maybe 2017 won’t suck as much as 2016.

Happy Winter Solstice, everyone.

12 Comments, RSS

  1. ann December 17, 2016 @ 5:18 pm

    Great sunset picture!

    I have never been there, but I appreciate knowing now that you have to take a special tour to be one with the stones.

    Love the blast from the past!

    Do you remember those books called Europe on $15? a day?

    • Bethanie December 30, 2016 @ 11:46 am

      Vivian,

      Wow! I just love the pictures of yesterday and today. Thank you for sharing your history with the locations too. It increases it’s depth and meaning for me. These are two of the places I hope to visit one day. My mom is Debbie Hatt, and she loves you, your art, and your blog. She told me that you have been really having a difficult year. I pray 2017 is better. That being said, I want to thank you for blessing my mom this year by you just being you. Merry Christmas and Wishing a Happy New Year.

      Bethanie

  2. Megan December 17, 2016 @ 5:18 pm

    I remember Stonehenge, in the 70’s as a kid and being able to touch the stones, not that I was allowed! I also remember 10 Downing Street in the 1980’s when you could take a tour bus right down the street past number 10. Things certainly do change and not always for the better. Thanks for the trip down memory lane.

  3. Kirra December 17, 2016 @ 6:48 pm

    Thanks for sharing these stories, great photos to compare the differences. My parents travelled a lot in the 70’s and have some interesting stories. I hope 2017 is better than 2016 in some ways too!

  4. LINDA JUNE December 17, 2016 @ 10:45 pm

    In 1968 I, too, stood in front of 10 Downing Street. At that time, there wasn’t even a guard! Oh, the times they are a changin’! Never did get to Stonehenge.

  5. Elizabeth December 18, 2016 @ 7:00 am

    Weirdly have never been to Stonehenge – and yes the world did seem a safer place.
    First time I flew – from Milan to London – in 1973 I was astounded to see men with machine guns at the airport.
    Of course the IRA were blowing things up when I was teaching in London – just got over London Bridge in a bus when I heard a
    weird rumble
    and everyone very glad to see me when I got to Peckham
    they had blown up part of the Houses of Parliament….I didn’t have a clue as no internet etc

    Still hideously depressed….
    Here’s to a better 2017

  6. Alex MacKenzie December 18, 2016 @ 12:52 pm

    Thanks for the memories — I am SO glad that I got to see Land’s End in 1982, prior to the advent of the atrocious theme park. When I visited, all I had was a lonely windswept cliff and I loved it. Stonehenge was roped off, though, by then, but it was still lovely and dramatic and not that crowded.

    I spent two months in Great Britain back then, on about $15 a day. I still have the receipt for my 11-day stay in an Earl’s Court, London B&B — grand total of 66 pounds (at that time, around $110).

    Some things are better nowadays, of course — for one thing, I would have much better photos of that trip! I bought postcards every place I went, because I never knew if any of the shots I snapped with my little Kodak film camera would turn out.

  7. Beth December 20, 2016 @ 10:30 pm

    I have a similar photo at 10 Downing Street from 1988. I had no idea I just made the cut off. (I do, however, remember the outrage of arriving at Stonehenge and discovering I could not lie down on the altar stone a la Tess of the D’Urbervilles. The travesty.)

    I was about to say the great sadness is that once fences go up, once barricades are erected, once walls are built, you don’t go back. They don’t come down, un-erect, or un-build. Then I remembered the Berlin Wall and the party on that thing when it came down, piece by piece, and maybe they do sometimes when we’re lucky. And maybe we’ll be luckier than we think we will in 2017. Who knows.

  8. Christine December 21, 2016 @ 3:18 pm

    Thank you for sharing your fabulous photos, both vintage and recent, and for the Solstice greetings! I found the final photo of the sun coming through the stones to be especially evocative.

    I’m exhausted from swinging between rage and despair. I hope we may move forward in love and not in fear. Here’s to hoping for 2017!

  9. jeanie December 22, 2016 @ 7:14 pm

    And Happy Solstice to you — one of my favorite days of the year

    Everything I hear and see makes me deeply concerned for our country. And so very tired. We can only hope 2017 brings something to give us joy besides Christmas lights and cats.

  10. Deborah Hatt December 22, 2016 @ 8:01 pm

    Just a tiny reminder of some mighty fine blessings during 2016: Your THIRD (!) lovely book published and released to an admiring public; a book-signing tour, where you met lots of fans and enjoyed re-connecting with friends; a beautiful trip to France; the discovery of about a zillion new bluejay feathers to add to your collection; and new kitty-pals, who decided to stay and love you aplenty; and, of course, the continuing love and support of your own handsome Top Cat. I would say it has been a very good year, my dear. Of course, this is not to say 2017 can’t be even more incredibly wonderful – in fact, I hope it is, dear Vivian!

    Happy Trails, as you march boldly into the New Year. I have a request … some “winter” watercolor tutorials would be very helpful. Besides, I just looking at your work!

  11. Patricia December 23, 2016 @ 4:20 pm

    I didn’t make it to Stonehenge until the early 90s when some barricades had gone up but it was still quite special. And I recently returned from Berlin where the wall isn’t a wall anymore, it’s a public art gallery, clearly an improvement.
    While 2017 is starting out quite dubiously, we can hope it will also improve, hopefully not taking as many decades as the wall.
    My best wishes to you and Top Cat, your feline herd and all your lovely readers who make the comments section of your blog always worth visiting. You already know what high regard we all hold you in. You’re our special place to visit each Friday.

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