While efforts to build a wall along miles of our southern border have taken on all the trappings of what they must have meant when someone coined the phrase “political theater,” Great Britain has a row of its own going on over whether or not to build a tunnel under, or at least quite near, the very symbol of Britain’s longevity: Stonehenge.
I learned of this thanks to a beautifully written article brought to my attention by the Internet app Pocket. You know those articles you come upon on your iPad or laptop which you’d like to read, if only you had the time? Pocket is your Godsend, my friend. And it is free, your favorite kind of new app. One click and “zip” or perhaps “bada-bing” and the article is neatly slipped into your electronic pocket for later consumption. Read it even offline, if you like. Presented in a tidy folio with other finds like Scientists Are Totally Rethinking Animal Cognition, from The Atlantic, Reading in the Age of Constant Distraction, The Paris Review and If San Francisco Is So Great, Why Is Everyone I Love Leaving? from sf.curbed.com. Whatever you found intriguing enough to slip into your Pocket.
Every so often Pocket will send you an email with a few choice selections, just so you won’t doze off and forget they are there. Such as the reason I was driven to write you today, The Battle for the Future of Stonehenge by Charlotte Higgins of The Guardian. Part of the Guardian’s “Long Read” series, this beautifully written piece is at once informative, expansive and entertaining:
Stonehenge’s massy blocks seem irresistible to copyists: a website, Clonehenge, charts replicas made of everything from cars and lava-lamps to vegetables and gingerbread. The most celebrated duplicate of recent times may be the artist Jeremy Deller’s lifesize version in the form of a bouncy castle, which he memorably described as “a way to get reacquainted with ancient Britain with your shoes off.
In 1972, fresh out of college, I stood among the posts and lintels of Stonehenge, mesmerized by the ancient structure. It had been there for thousands of years, a monument to humankind, and a symbol of Britain itself. Some of its stones had been quarried more than 120 miles away—5,000 years ago. Let your brain spin that one around for a minute. But even this immutable icon may be no match for the bane of modernity: the big-league Friday evening traffic jam.
What should be a 10-minute scenic pass by a spectacular view has at times become an hour and a half tangle of internal combustion-powered cars, trucks and angry, exhausted commuters. The Brits have spent millions of pounds planning, over three decades, trying to figure out what to do. No solution addresses all the historical, ecological, fiscal, religious or a myriad of other considerations, so they’ve come up with one it appears no one likes. A tunnel. Our acorn, it seems, has not fallen very far from this tree.
The current proposal, to widen and sink the road into a tunnel running for almost two miles, mostly about 600 metres south of the stones, was announced in 2014, although the basic idea goes right back to the 1990s. The main difficulty is the cost: the government has allocated £1.7bn, which is not enough for a passage sufficiently long to avoid the world heritage site. That means tunnel portals would be bored, and dual carriageways built, through an ancient landscape unique in the world.
1.7 billion pounds. Yes, about as much as a down payment on a border wall in the United States. Ms. Higgins article is, indeed, a long read by internet standards, but I recommend it as being worth your time.