Putting the 'H' in Stonehenge

Christopher Chippindale on a Stonehenge for all seasons.

British society vacillates between fear of the past and fear of the future. Like most Englishmen of middle age, I feel I have been living all my life in a country in relative economic decline; I know that the golden age which nostalgia yearns for did not exist. Yet I see how much of the future which 'Major-ism' promises is in fact set in the mould of an imagined past when courteous clerks attended to citizens' needs, when diligent children learnt their 'p's' and 'q's' from the blackboard, when sturdy engine-drivers drove proud locomotives on noble private railways.

The Thatcher years, it has now been discovered, were less a transformation into a greater Britain, than an old- fashioned boom, bigger than usual, followed by an old- fashioned bust, ditto. Even the novelties of the 1980s were themselves backward-looking; whether the return of idealised free markets, the re-invention of pushy young men in red braces, the revival of button-fly Levis, or the post-modernist architecture that copied and pastiched every historical style – the constant feature was the element of repro and retro in all that was new.

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