Thursday, March 20, 2014

Sunny Times in Stratford

Tuesday night, in keeping with my strange new addiction for live theater, Jo, Jarom, Ryan and I all went to see Spamalot, which, in keeping with the lyrics, didn't suck.

It was silly, it was juvenile, it was a ton of fun. I was smiling so hard by the end that I could barely whistle for "Always Look on the Bright Side of Life."

In the morning, we dragged our zombified selves onto the bus to head out for our day in Stratford-upon-Avon. First stop was Anne Hathaway's house (Shakespeare's wife, not the Academy-award-winning actress).

It was quite nice, but not near as much fun as what came next.

Welcome to Mary Arden's farm. Mary Arden is our man Bill's mother, and her just-outside-of-town farmstead has been restored as a functional, period-correct farm, complete with heritage livestock.

One of the Cheerios and I found this lovely piece hiding in the woods:

The Green Man. Appropriate for the first week of spring.

I also made friends with a cow, whose kind attentions ended up doing some genuine damage to my hand.

Meanwhile, Saren and Katie made a new friend as well. (Under the supervision of a competent falconer. They were in very little danger of having their sculls crushed by eagle owl talons.)

No one ended up making friends with these pigs, but I must include a picture anyway because CURLY PIGS!

And suddenly the name 'hedgehog' makes so much more sense.

I stopped into the kitchen and chatted with the ladies making fish cakes and pease porridge for lunch/dinner/noonsies. This looks like a REALLY fun kitchen to play in.

The coolest part, though, was a conversation I struck up with a shepherd named Joe. Joe told me all about the sheep he was handling, and let me take one back to their stall/paddock thing and take off its rope halter, and then took me back to one of the work sheds and let me help myself to all the wool I could carry.

That's right. I walked away from this farm with two big bags of Cotswold wool to play with, for free. Thanks, Shepherd Joe!

Washing this wool so it no longer smells like sheep is now on my to-do list. I will need to borrow a bathtub. I'll also end up needing to borrow someone's carding brushes eventually. Ashley Aedo, got any lying around?

At any rate, we then headed into the town itself to see Bill's daughter's husband's house, Bill's parents' house, and Bill's next-door-neighbor's house.

Bill's Parents' House. Queue not period-correct.

Interesting point in here was the walls. They're covered in linen that's been painted or printed. Which apparently is period-correct. Who knew?

Although Bill's own house was razed to the ground by a later tenant who was sick to death of living in The Shakespeare House, the gardens where it used to be have been recreated. Well, partially recreated, partially filled with cool statuary.

Of particular note is a mulberry tree. See, King James I gave Shakespeare a mulberry tree, which he planted in the garden behind his house. The disgruntled tenant mentioned earlier chopped it down because he was sick of people sneaking in to steal cuttings. Seems perfectly reasonable to me.

So that tree is obviously gone. Another one is there now, planted in I think the 1930s in memory of the first one.

About four years ago, there was a major excavation of the foundations of the house. It was incredibly fruitful . . . until they made it to the mulberry tree. And then they stopped. And they'll pick it up again when the tree dies.

Odd, that. It's a tree. It's not even the original tree. And yet, in reverence for this tree, we'll put this dig on hold for what could be another hundred years. I think this demonstrates the kind of patience that only a 1500-year-old civilization could produce. I can't imagine Americans stopping a dig of Shakespeare's house for a mulberry tree that isn't even THE mulberry tree. Good on you, Brits.

Upstairs in the neighbor's house was a very cute kid-friendly exhibit of artifacts and props, centered around the 10 most popular Shakespeare characters (according to the poll). The artwork accompanying these characters was freakin' adorable, so I include it here.

It's hard to see the details, so let me just point out that Hamlet is Tweeting #ToBeOrNotToBe on his phone, Henry V has an England Football scarf around his neck, Beatrice's bodice is decorated with a 'Girl Power' symbol and Mercutio has little sunglasses hanging from his belt. 

At length, when all the houses had been visited, I took a walk down the Avon.

Interesting sights along the way included BYU students chatting on a tree stump: 

 . . . and another BYU student in a cute and picturesque rowboat that turned out to be christened "Ophelia." Not the name I would have chosen for a boat . . .

My stroll terminated at All Saints, where our friend lies at rest.

And there he stays, because he cursed it so they can't bury him in Westminster with all the other writers. Seriously, that's the reason. Don't mess with poets, man.

I happened to stumble in just in time for evening service, which happened in a little side chapel to stay out of the way of the tourists. I ended up having a very nice chat with the vicar before wandering back into town.

On my way up the high street, I stopped at Lush and got myself some too-expensive but delicious and lovely lip stuff. I also asked to grab a sample of lotion, to put on my cow-damaged hand, and the nice shop assistant gave me a generous scoop in a little jar. Then I wandered some more and got kind of lost and then got un-lost and finally settled in at a pub to eat some dinner and read a while. Server: super nice. I'm firmly convinced that Stratford has more nice people per square mile than anywhere else in Britain. Part of this must, of course, be that it's a tourist town, but my best moments (with Joe the Shepherd and the vicar) were kind of behind-the-scenes-ish.

The evening was devoted to Henry IV, Part 1, otherwise known as "How You Likin' That Stolen Crown NOW, Bolingbroke?" (Because I'm still on Richard's side. Because David Tennant. Shut up.) It was a tremendously good show, but coming as it did at the end of a very long day, it did not enjoy the full consciousness of its BYU audience for its entire duration. Darn it, though, we tried. And then we stumbled to the bus like zombies and made it back to London at 1 a.m. and then I had to get up and teach The Importance of Being Awake Earnest in the morning. And then I slept all afternoon when I should have been writing quizzes. Well, at least I blogged.

No comments:

Post a Comment