Seeing Shakespeare

Yesterday was a first for me. I finally got to see Shakespeare! My boyfriend said that I can’t actually see him -but why not? I saw people dressed as him and also his grave… good enough.

Yes, Stratford was a lovely day out and the perfect place for the complete Shakespearian geek like me. I let my inner geek out first thing in the morning as I took out my William Shakespeare bag out  – basically a small shopping bag with his head on. Haha. And I got out my Shakespeare trivia cards for the journey ; -) Luckily, my boyfriend’s Mum, my sister and good friend, weren’t put off and we all had a lovely day.

We saw four main places…. either walking or hopping on our partly open-top bus:

Shakespeare's birth place

Shakespeare’s birth place

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DSCF4584 Ann Hathaway’s pretty cottage – the place that she grew up in and where she and Will ‘courted’ as a young couple.

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Nash’s house. The house Shakespeare is believed to have spent his last days – belonging to his granddaughter and her husband. This is the beautiful garden outside the house.

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… And finally his grave in the Church of Holy Trinity.

It was all very historical and interesting. It was fascinating to see inside the houses and get an idea of what life was like then, in addition to just admiring the beauty of the outside. You could imagine Shakespeare walking up to Ann Hathaway’s cottage (which is actually a massive farm house and has fondly been referred to as a cottage because of idyllic appearance) to ‘court’ her. Would he have been nervous to see her family? And tipped his hat off to her father out of respect? We even saw the bed that Will may have had-a-way with our Hathaway 😉 The ‘cottage’ was so lovely, that I would have happily moved in (add some heating, electricity and take away the millions of nosy tourists of course 😉 ).

A personal highlight for me was the character room at Nash’s house. Naturally, a purpose built room for tourism – but it was great to see displays of the ‘top ten characters’ and you could add your own favourite Shakesspearian character to a board too.There was a quiz on the wall too! I felt like I was at some sort of Shakespeare convention – not a ‘Trekkie’ but a ‘Shakey’ if you will 😉 I added ‘Othello’ to the favourite character board. That is my favourite play and I love that Othello himself is a little different to other charcters. He is black, yet in an important position and very well-respected for the time period. He is a calm, collected and gentle character, yet jealousy results him in him murdering his own wife. I love the dramatic change in him throughout the play and shows, perhaps, that jealousy (or another strong emotion) can drive any of us to murder. Sadly Othello didn’t make their top-ten though:

Top Ten Characters

  1. Juliet (Romeo and Juliet)
  2. Hamlet (Hamlet)
  3. Bottom (A Midsummer’s Night Dream)
  4. Beatrice (Twelfth Night)
  5. Mercutio (Twelfth Night)
  6. Romeo (Romeo and Juliet)
  7. Falstaff (Henry IV part 1 and 2 and Merry Wives of Windsor)
  8. Macbeth (Macbeth)
  9. Henry V (Henry V)
  10. Cleopatra (Anthony and Cleopatra)

 

The hop-on, hop-off tour bus gave us much entertainment. One reason being, we went on the open-top section and it was freezing and blowy! We also kept having to duck when we passed trees (which was a lot), which was scary but also extremely funny! The tour guide on our bus (when we wimped out and sat inside the bus) was very informative and entertaining. She told us a few facts about general Tudor life:

  • As we drove past a road, she told us it used to be a popular highway. In wet conditions, it became very soft and poor people would come and ‘cup’ mud in their hand in order to make pots. This left many holes in the road… and you’ve guessed it, that’s where the term ‘pot-holes’ comes from!
  • Tudors used to use frog salvia to aid their sore-throats. Scientists have since found that there is infact an enzyme in frog saliva that has antisceptic in it. So they weren’t (too) crazy… and that is where the term ‘a frog in your throat’ comes from.
  • Four-poster beds became popular in Tudor times. I thought it was a warmth related reason. It comes from the fact they had hatched roofs though. There wasn’t any ceilings in bedrooms, so rubbish and bugs would fall from the hatching onto people in bed. Someone ( a man apparently -I’m not convinced!) invented the canopy like part in order to catch the bugs and rubbish. Clever! It then became a fashion statement too.
  • My favourite fact also links to the thatched roofing. When Tudors realised that thatching was a fire hazard, they all had to change to tiling. A team from the town committee went to an inn to tell the keeper that he had to change his roof to tiles. He gave them so much free ale that they forgot to ask him! So it is still thatched today:
Old Thatch Tavern

Old Thatch Tavern

 

So I had a very Shakespeare-y day and I loved every second! The nearby buildings were all named after Shakespeare quotes or plays or characters. I even had a milkshake called Much A Do About Oreo!

I fully recommend a day at Stratford to anyone who is interested in Shakespeare – even if you are not there is still so much to do. We paid £25 and this included the bus (which you can get on and off as much as you wish) and also the entry to 3 houses. There are still 2 main other houses to see and a boat trip that we didn’t do – so there is just so much! And I’ll be definitely going back….. no ‘to go or not to go’ question 😉

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For a recent post about Shakespeare’s birthday, take a look at this:

https://samanthagray9.wordpress.com/2013/04/23/celebrate-this-23rd-april/

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A not so stupid Cupid!

A topical blog today (I do try!)… Happy Valentine’s day! That can mean whatever you choose. I think it is experienced in three different ways: the completely insufferable loved up couples who completely embrace the commercialism of it all; the single people who also then stem into two groups of the cynical and the ‘couldnt give a damn’ ones; and the people who just use it as an extra excuse to appreciate and spend time with loved ones (well just the one 😉 )

I fall into the the latter category. I didn’t always, as my boyfriend and I used to buy presents, go out for dinner and all that smoochy stuff. I think when you have been together so long then you go from the that category to just appreciating each other. My boyfriend, incidentally, is with his true love tonight (he does happen to have more than one!)… his rowing boat! No we haven’t spent the eve opening loved up pressies and having a romantic meal – he has at rowing and me? Well, I am sitting here writing about it! 😉 But, he is going to finish early – as to me ‘time’ is a more valuable gift than jewellery  – not that I wouldn’t happily accept that too 😉

Yes, a lot of people hate Valentine’s day because they think it another occasion that they have to remember, spend money and conform to. But as I say, it can just be an extra excuse to spend quality time together. I say ‘extra’ excuse because it should be in addition to other special evenings. You shouldn’t need Valentine’s day to arrive in order to have a ‘date’ or to spend some romantic time together….. love shouldn’t be an annual event! But you can receive the day with a hug and a kiss and feel blessed to have a loved one. Even if you don’t have a romantic loved one, you can still feel lucky and grateful to have loved ones in your life. Or just stick on the chick flicks/get drunk with other single friends/eat chocolate  – as you don’t have to share 😉

Let’s remember how Valentine’s Day began. Interestingly, it wasn’t associated with romantic love until the middle ages. Before this, it was a date to celebrate numoerous Christian saints called ‘Valentinus’.  The 14th of February was the day they were ‘honoured’.  Then one particular ‘Saint Valentine’ was focussed on when we look back to history and he was  thought to be imprisoned for performing weddings for soldiers who were forbidden to marry and for ministering to Christians, who were persecuted under the Roman Empire. During his imprisonment, he is said to have healed the daughter of his jailer Asterius and before he was executed he left a note saying ‘From your Valentine.’ Which could explain why it is typical to sign your cards as that now.

But yes the romantic love idea came more into play during the time of Chaucer, where ‘courtly love’ was popular. By the 15th century, this date became a day to present loved ones with confectionary, flowers and hand-made cards. It was from the 19th Century that mass-produced cards replaced the ‘hand made cards’. Sad really, but I am sure there are still some people out there that do make their own personalised Valentine’s.

Also, don’t forget Cupid, who is a symbol or icon of Valentine’s Day. Cupid was the god of desire, erotic love and affection. Cupid carries an  arrow with a golden, sharp tip and who ever gets hit with it, experiences uncontrollable desire. What a lot of people don’t know, is that he also had a second arrow with a lead point and this was for negative purposes – it would cause the person to run away. I didn’t realise this until it was mentioned in Romeo and Juliet where Romeo says that Rosalind won’t be hit by the right arrow and return his love. I love this idea about Cupid as it has a dual effect and shows that love is two-sided. It can be  lovely and amazing but also painful and hurtful  – reflected by his two arrows!

I have to share you my favourite love poem with you today to finish off. I have mentioned it in a blog before so that may be why it seems familiar (https://samanthagray9.wordpress.com/2012/08/08/that-stinging-feeling/). I think it shows what should be important about Valentine’s Day and realising the reality of love:

Valentine

Not a red rose or a satin heart

I give you an onion.
It is a moon wrapped in brown paper.
It promises light
like the careful undressing of love.

Here.
It will blind you with tears
like a lover.
It will make your reflection
a wobbling photo of grief.

I am trying to be truthful.

Not a cute card or a kissogram.

I give you an onion.
Its fierce kiss will stay on your lips,
possessive and faithful
as we are,
for as long as we are.

Take it.
Its platinum loops shrink to a wedding-ring,
if you like.

Lethal.
Its scent will cling to your fingers,
cling to your knife.

So there you have it. You may have flowers today. Or a necklace. Or some chocolate. But it doesn’t have all that emotion and meaning to it like an onion does it?! I love this poem as it shows that love starts and stops like the stanzas and the lines. Love clings to you, whether you want it to or not, like the stench of an onion onto your skin. It is honest about love and a brilliant metaphor for love.

There you go, we have the history of Valentine, cupid and how the day has changed, all for a modern poet to say that love is a vegetable! 😉

Enjoy your Valentine’s Day in which ever way you choose 🙂

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Age is a Growing Number

People say that age is ‘just a number’. Which I guess it is. Especially when it comes to people who you are friends with (age doesn’t matter) and when couples have a huge age difference. You may want to do certain things that isn’t normal for your age…. for example this afternoon I am going to use bright coloured poster paints (that are actually called finger paints aimed at toddlers!) and paint some Harry Potter banners for my boyfriend’s sister’s themed birthday party in a few weeks. So yes in that instant as well, my age of ’26’ is just a number!

But it is a growing number… we all get older every day, every year. And until you get into your twenties, I don’t think you really bother about it. And until you get to 18 you worry about it in reverse as in you want to be older so that you can get into clubs and get served for alcohol. So from 19 – 20, it suddenly loses its novelty yo get ID’D and by the time you reach 22-23 sort of age, you want to be ID’D because it shows you look a little younger. I remember, a couple of years ago, I went out for my birthday with my sister and her friends (who are 5 years younger). So I was turning 24 I think and they were all about 19. We queued up to get into a club and all of them were ID’D and I fumbled in my bag for my pink, driving licence to present it proudly to the bouncer. As I did this, he laughed and said he didn’t need to see mine! Gutted. On the odd occasion that I do get ID’D, it is either because the shop assistant is being over cautious with the ‘look under 25 rule’ or I am looking particularly rough without makeup or something. Or both!

Yes, I’m at the stage there where I love being in my twenties and even though I don’t get ID’D much, I can make my peace with that. I feel more self-assured than I did when I was 18 and more self-confident and know more what I want from life. And I still party sometimes like you can see in Down and Dirty with the Teenagers Part 1 and 2 and Not Sloshed enough to Mosh? My main fear in life is turning 30. Something about that one seems so grown up. Twenties to Thirties. You are more likely to be married with kids in your thirties and do all the serious, grown up stuff. Not as many allowances for screw ups! So for my 30th in three years time, I plan to have a party and celebrate the last 30 years whilst getting very drunk. Surely, you are never too old for that? 😉

It is funny how some people are about ages. At school at the minute, there is a competition for the kids to guess the combined age of the English department. There is a mixture of ages so it is quite amusing. Some are shy about the kids knowing their ages. When kids guess ages it’s normally way off anyway… they don’t seem to have any idea. I have had guesses of anything from 18 – 45 (the 45 guess was from a special needs kid, I will add!). I offered for the department to add my ’26’ age in…. as I am partly with the department too so could be in or out…. and said it could help to lower the average 😉

At the beginning of summer, we had our ten year school reunion. That’s when you feel being grown up and a little older, when you have your first school reunion! Ten years since we left, woah. It was a great evening actually. Some of my close friends organised it and I helped out by getting some old photos together. It was a great night to catch up with people and I actually spent a lot of the night talking to people who I never even spoke to at school. Ten years can change people a lot and the shy, geeky kids are all grown up (I was one of them!) and actually willing to socialise with people. I recommend it to others who are considering a reunion!

I also wrote a poem for the occasion actually, take a look:

Ten years since…..

Ten whole years it has been,
Since years at school as a teen,

Since in Maths we saw Chicken Legs dance,
And over her glasses, she did glance,

Since ‘significant’ Lord of the Flies,
Was a ‘bitty’ chapter in our lives,

Since small, white notes were always passed,
As the back turned they flew so fast!

Since Drama was a Jolley time,
Where farting and burping, both a crime,

Since Collier said ‘Oui’ and ‘Nein’,
Oh Howe did we survive this time?

Since some teachers went into a Buckle,
Pea shoots flew as all did chuckle,

Since Peanut came out of her shell,
If we said too much, she did yell,

Since strict sir Sealy ruled P.E,
But on the fields we could be free,

Since Music gave us fun and smiles,
A purple tracksuit you could see for Miles,

Since Lappy had scared us all so,
But Good Head on his shoulders though,

Since Science gave us Bushes and Woods,
Fires and chemicals and sometimes floods,

And Big Man Watts was the guy in charge,
Where no problem, too small or large,

It really has been a whole decade,
But our funny memories will never fade…

There is a lot of mentions of teachers there, which naturally you won’t quite get the humour unless you went to our school. Many people enjoyed my poem to reflect back on the good and bad times…. which ten years later all seem funny. That’s the thing as we all get older, you have memories that you have built up. The older you get, the more you get.

(See my Circle of Life post for some other thoughts on life and age.)

See you tomorrow, all of us a day older 😉

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