Saturday, May 2, 2009

Stratford Upon Avon

At the beginning of our tour of Stratford, our guide, Helen, who was a cheerfully relentless promoter of the town, admitted that had William Shakespeare not been born here in 1564, Stratford would have remained little more than another market town. But he was, and Stratford is a major tourist destination. For us it was the last of our excursions for this semester. My colleague, Andy Fleck, is a Shakespearian scholar and he and Mari Brookes, our arrangements guru, made sure that not only did we see the city, an RSC production (As You Like It, one of my favourites), and Mary Arden’s farm, but Andy arranged attendance at some special birthday events on Saturday. Sadly, we missed those, as I was headed up to Lancashire to the Northern Pen Show and Sharon had to prepare for a business trip to Bournemouth the following week.Our tour guide was helen, who gave us a wonderfully thorough walk and talk of the city.

We paused before the Shakespeare birthplace for one last group shot. By this time everyone was acutely conscious that our time here, which seems to have flown past, was coming to an end.

One of the great games of Stratford is figuring out which buildings date from when. Not all half-timbering is equal. Some is new, some old, some has been covered (arrrgh) with stucco.

Holy Trinity Church, Shakespeare's resting place
Buried in the chancel at a time when such places near the alter were highly desireable, Shakespeare wanted to be sure of his place in heaven, if not on earth, thus penning the famous curse:
Good frend for Iesvs sake forbeare,
To digg the dvst encloased heare.
Blest be ye man yt spares thes stones,
And cvrst be he yt moves my bones.

Couldn't resist having Chris take this shot of us.
Friday night saw us all at the Royal Skakespeare Company production of As You Like It. The next day Rob got to achieve a long sought after goal, one that had eluded him in the fields of Avebury, a sheep.

The Palmer house, occupied through much of the twentieth century, is interpreted to the late 19th.

A friendly guide invited us to climb the stairs and view the unrestored first floor (second story to Americans).
The farm interprets 16th century agriculture, including falconry. I did not know that owls could be trained for it, as well.
Katie Holmes and friend
When we arrived in February one of the things I noticed was the lack of classic English cars, in both 1972 and 1980 I had marvelled at the classics in daily use. With better weather I've seen many more, including a couple of Mirris Minors that regularly drive past our flat. This, a vintage Jaguar (I think) .
Rosa enjoyed the Shakespeare weekend, as well. Here posed with a statue of Hamlet that I think of as Hamlet and Piglet.
From here, I took off north for the Northern pen show and Sharon rode back to Bath with some of our students. Others remained with Andy and Barbara and Mari and Oscar for the Shakespeare birthday festivities.

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