My geology friend looked at the dolmen and told me no way was it jasper. He asked why on earth I thought it was, and then had a little chuckle and nudged me, why on earth… earth… geology… why on earth, get it? I just sighed, so much for my amateur geological detective work.
“I thought it might be jasper because I think it’s called the Wonderstone; I thought it might be called that because of Vernon Hills wonderstone jasper, I thought that’s what it must be.”
Barely containing his mirth, within in minutes he found Vernon Hills jasper on his phone and told me what I already knew. Vernon Hills jasper came from hills in Utah and is welded-vitric tuff of rhyolitic composition, which obviously I didn’t understand. He said something about dolomitic conglomerate but before he could say more I turned back towards the house.
“Oh well,” I said, “Come back and have some coffee, and I made cake.”
I’d moved into the house a couple of months ago; I was only renting, it was a stop-gap between selling my place for a happier than expected price, and finding where I wanted to go next. When I’d seen this house on the estate agent’s list it was a done deal – Wonderstone House? I had to live there! The back garden was a bit of a jumble there was a gate into the field behind and at the top of it was this dolman. I’d seen it from the bedroom window when I was being shown round. It was a slightly lop-sided standing stone up against the boundary hedge. This must be the Wonderstone after which the house was named. Gosh, staying in a house with a name like that and its very own standing stone!
I moved in but it was a couple of days before I went to have a look at the Wonderstone and realised it wasn’t against the hedge but a couple of yards in from it. It wasn’t that big and it certainly was a bit on the squiff, leaning as if it had stopped for a rest on the way somewhere and was slightly weary.
I mentioned it to my geology friend and he said he’d come and have a look at it. To be prepared I had Googled wonderstone, which is where I found mention of the Vernon Hills; I only skip read the details but took it to mean that the stone in the field at the back of the house was made of jasper. Looking at pictures of pieces of polished jasper, beautifully banded with every shade of orange, cream and maroon, I realised if the Wonderstone was cut and polished, it would look like that. I’d made a ridiculous mental leap, changing ‘I wonder if the stone is called the wonderstone’ to ‘it is called the Wonderstone’, andfrom that to ‘it’s called the Wonderstone not because it’s wonderful but because it’s made of wonderstone’. Sometimes I am such a dimwit.
I guess it was a few days later, maybe a week or two, when I next went to see the Wonderstone. I’d been doing a lot of walking and almost galloped up the field towards it, and realised in fact it wasn’t near the hedge at all, an optical illusion; it was halfway up the field. The sun was shining on it and it did indeed look rather wonderful, so maybe that actually was why it got its name.
I went away for a few days. Back home after a nightmare journey, I made a cup of tea and stared wearily out of the kitchen window. The first train had been late, I missed my connection, the second train was crowded, I’d had to stand, then taxis seemed to have been wiped from the face of the earth and I ended up catching a bus which stopped at every stop as elderly ladies and their shopping trolleys embarked or disembarked.
I hadn’t often stood staring out of the kitchen window, and I’d never realised that the top of the Wonderstone was visible over the fence at the bottom of the garden.
I was thinking this, staring at its lop-sided top when I felt a little uneasy. I put my cup down and ran upstairs to look out of my bedroom window. When I was first here, I’d thought the dolmen was up at the top of the field. How could I have been so mistaken? In actual fact it was not far from the bottom of my garden.
I rang my geology friend; he remembered the stone of course, it was breccia of the Triassic age, and actually it wasn’t a dolman at all. He couldn’t remember precisely where it was in the field. I was tired but thanked him and said I was going to the pub for dinner if he wanted to meet me for a pint later.
The pub was the New Inn; it was practically empty so I sat at the bar and got into conversation with the landlady. She’d seen me a couple of times but we’d never spoken before. When I told her where I was living she told me the pub used to be called the Wonderstone Inn. I mentioned the stone.
“Oh that old thing, you have to keep your eye on her, she wombles around that field whenever it takes her fancy.”
“Wombles?” I asked, thinking of Wimbledon Common.
“Yes, m’dear, she ups herself and ambles all round that field of a night. Why, have you seen her a-womble?”
“Um, no, no, not that I’ve noticed…”
The door opened and the bowling team arrived, there was a match this evening on the green behind the pub.
I took my beer and went and sat by the window, hmm, the wombling Wonderstone… I’m not sure how I feel about that. Maybe I’ll ring the estate agent in the morning…