We’re in the utterly picturesque Stratford upon Avon, birthplace and resting place of William Shakespeare.
There’s also a country and western music festival in town – consequently, there’s a 50/50 chance of running into someone dressed either as a wandering minstrel or a cowboy around every corner. On last count, the mediaeval players were ahead – Shakespearian plays are being held with flourish, in full costume, in most public places.
There’s no doubt that 500 years on, Shakespeare has left his mark on this town, then and now. Virtually all of the tourism here is devoted to his life and works. I wonder what he’d make of it all. I wonder what he’d make of modern English, if it would baffle him as much as his medieval language baffled us in school. I did love studying him and looking back on the list of his works, I’ve read well over half of them.
Taming of the Shrew is a firm favourite and it’s also my favourite Taylor/Burton performance outside of Cleopatra. If you haven’t seen it, do. They’re both perfectly cast: you could light a match off the chemistry they have on screen.
We stop for lunch in a lovely old pub called The Dirty Duck, renamed so by American GIs – it was originally called The Black Swan. Wagyu burgers go down a treat.
The town is utterly charming, full of half timbered houses dating back to the 1500s.
We wander for a while getting our bearings and pick up a few treats including some fabulous liquorice toffees in Ye Olde Sweets Shop. Really, it’s called that.
First stop on our Shakespeare tour is the Holy Trinity Church. He’s buried here, but it was also the site of his baptism and his wedding to Anne Hathaway. Very much the family church for both of their families.
It’s a lovely old church and it’s handled the tourist rush admirably with a well thought out display of not only of Shakespeare’s life and resting place
but also medieval dress of the day (supported by a theatrical costumer) and a rather wonderful ancient chained Bible.
The church also has a pre Reformation stone alter, saved from destruction by being buried under the floor, and its original knocker. Whoever rang it was entitled to claim sanctuary within the church for 37 days.
We learn that the Shakespeare/Hathaway marriage was quite scandalous in its time, not because Anne was 3 months pregnant when she walked down the aisle (apparently this wasn’t quite the drama it became in latter centuries, provided there was no obvious bump) but rather the age gap. William was 18 to Anne’s 26. He was technically still a minor and had to seek his father’s permission to marry. Men of the time were expected to have undertaken a 7 year trade apprenticeship before marrying, enabling them to support their family. Just as well he turned out to be a talented writer then.
We also walk along the Avon river which is full of Noddy boats, swans and the sole surviving chained river crossing punt in the UK.
We find this Cotswolds Hare Trail hare – quite the find, having hopped well off course.
There’s a lot more to explore, but it will have to wait until tomorrow.
In other news we’ve had a set back on the quest for fridge joy. Originally due in around a week, we’ve just found out that it is out of stock, not expected in until 20 September. And even that date comes with no guarantees. So much for our European travel plans – we’re tied to the UK (it being difficult to find powered sites in Europe) for the next 5 weeks at least. So it’s back to drawing board, recasting this period.
Frustrated doesn’t begin to cover it and I’m fighting a losing battle to hide my disappointment.