Abstract

Abstract

400 celebration face of stars4

For All Time

“When he shall die,
Take him and cut him out in little stars,
And he will make the face of heaven so fine
That all the world will be in love with night
And pay no worship to the garish sun.”

from Romeo and Juliet by William Shakespeare

What an enjoyable weekend I just spent in Stratford on Avon.  I was there to join in the celebration of Shakespeare’s birthday and to commemorate his death 400 years ago on 23 April 1616.

The town, where I lived during my teens, was festooned with flags and shields from almost every nation in the world.  There were banners with Shakespeare’s likeness waving high across the streets or pinned to railings.  There was blue and yellow bunting in side streets and blue and yellow market stalls along the waterside leading to the Royal Shakespeare Theatre.  Shakespeare’s colours of blue and yellow amuse me as in theatre superstition wearing blue and yellow means you will forget your lines! My school uniform at Shottery Manor in Stratford was mainly purple but with blue shirts and blue and yellow striped ties. We wore straw boaters in the summer months with a purple blue and yellow band round them.  In the winter we wore purple felt hats with the same coloured band round them. Wearing the hats at the wrong angle on the head was considered a very serious misdemeanour and a detention would surely follow if spotted.

The RSC put on a special celebration, Shakespeare Live!, in honour of the occasion.  It included Opera, Comedy, Ballet, Hip-hop, Poetry, and of course extracts from the plays.  I thought the whole evening was a resounding success.  It appealed to almost everyone whatever their age or tastes in entertainment.

The well-known, justifiably renowned and much-loved, stars who took part included Judi Dench who took the part of Titania falling in love with Bottom played by comedian Al Murray.  The costumes were brilliant, the set was great, and the acting was superb.  The overall effect was slick, professional and absolutely hilarious.  I loved it.  There is a wicker sculpture of Titania and Bottom outside the theatre in the new Stratford Garden.  The flowers in it are all mentioned in the plays and the effect should be quite impressive when they grow.

Among lots of memorable performances in Shakespeare Live!, the most moving I thought was Sir Ian McKellan’s rendition of a speech handwritten by Shakespeare for the character of Sir Thomas More.  I, like most people listening I imagine, had visions of the horrific ‘Jungle’ at Calais and the wretched scenes of migrants behind the barriers and fences, which have been erected along European borders to keep them out.  Sir Ian McKellen brought tears to my eyes with this speech.  You can hear an earlier rendition of it here

The whole speech is written at the end of this post and here is a link to the very relevant and learned Shakespeare Blog.

On Sunday and Monday I indulged myself by taking a walk along the river Avon and revisiting many of the houses and museums connected with Shakespeare.  The weather was changeable but I managed to get some reasonable photos, especially at Anne Hathaway’s Cottage where the garden is a riot of spring colour with flowers including daffodils, bluebells and tulips.  I also spent some time in the newly restored Swan Theatre with its amazing abstract sculpture, ‘For All Time’ created by Steven Follen.  This representation of a head, shown in photo at the top, is made of 2000 stainless steel stars suspended from the ceiling by fine wires to make the shape of a 3 metre tall human face.  It is surrounded by other stars which closely represent the position of the constellations on the day of Shakespeare’s birth.

There are two additional places to visit in Stratford now, which in previous years were not open to the public.  One is King Edward the Sixth School for Boys, which Shakespeare attended.  His actual schoolroom is open to the public with professional actors dressed in costume teaching Latin and chatting to visitors in character.  It was a surreal experience being inside the actual classroom.  I have been to the school before in the days when Mr Pratt was Headmaster, but it was a joy to visit the most ancient parts of the building, which have been beautifully restored.

The second is Harvard House where John Harvard was born in 1607.  This is a three story Elizabethan house almost opposite New Place, the house which Shakespeare bought in 1607.  It is remarkably authentic in its preservation and restoration, with lots of oak beams and areas of ancient wall paintings.  John Harvard eventually married and emigrated to Massachusetts in America where he was a preacher and teaching elder.  When he died of TB he left 230 books and a very generous legacy to a fund for the founding of a new college.  This was to become Harvard College, the oldest institution of higher education in America.  The house is owned by the American University but looked after by the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust.  It is worth a visit just to see the Bible Box.  This is a beautifully carved oak box for storing the treasured Bible.  After Henry V111 declared that all bibles should be written in English (not Latin) so that they were accessible to ordinary folk who could read, it became fashionable for families to keep a Bible at home.  Wealthier families would store their bible in such a box.

Of course I visited Holy Trinity Church where Shakespeare, his wife Anne, and other members of his family are buried.  It is traditional for all the dignitaries and important visitors who attend the bard’s birthday celebrations, to bring flowers to the grave.  At this time of year, when daffodils are still abundant, the sight and smell in the church is quite literally breathtaking.  There was a rather unusual floral tribute with Shakespeare’s dates on it.  It was standing on trestles with a huge candle at each corner.  It had been processed through the town earlier in the day looking rather coffin-like.

I have celebrated Shakespeare’s birthday in Stratford many times, most notably the 400th anniversary  one in 1964, but I have never before attended a commemoration of his death. It was odd as both events occurred on the same date.  But I have to say it was all very tasteful ~ well except for the countless people wearing Shakespeare masks?!

Do enjoy some of my photos below.

The Royal Shakespeare Theatre

The Seven Ages of Man on Stained Glass in the Swan Theatre

Holy Trinity Church

King Edward Sixth School

Around The Town

Anne Hathaway’s Cottage in Shottery ~ very close to my old school!

http://theshakespeareblog.com/2015/09/shakespeare-sir-thomas-more-and-the-immigrants/

Grant them removed, and grant that this your noise
Hath chid down all the majesty of England;
Imagine that you see the wretched strangers,
Their babies at their backs and their poor luggage,
Plodding to the ports and coasts for transportation,
And that you sit as kings in your desires,
Authority quite silent by your brawl,
And you in ruff of your opinions clothed;
What had you got? I’ll tell you: you had taught
How insolence and strong hand should prevail,
How order should be quelled; and by this pattern
Not one of you should live an aged man,
For other ruffians, as their fancies wrought,
With self same hand, self reasons, and self right,
Would shark on you, and men like ravenous fishes
Would feed on one another….
Say now the king
Should so much come too short of your great trespass
As but to banish you, whether would you go?
What country, by the nature of your error,
Should give you harbour? go you to France or Flanders,
To any German province, to Spain or Portugal,
Nay, any where that not adheres to England,
Why, you must needs be strangers: would you be pleased
To find a nation of such barbarous temper,
That, breaking out in hideous violence,
Would not afford you an abode on earth,
Whet their detested knives against your throats,
Spurn you like dogs, and like as if that God
Owed not nor made not you, nor that the claimants
Were not all appropriate to your comforts,
But chartered unto them, what would you think
To be thus used? this is the strangers case;
And this your mountainish inhumanity. 

Getting Romantic in Stratford on Avon

To celebrate Valentine’s Day we treated ourselves to a weekend in Stratford on Avon.  The weather was perfect; crisp and cold with a hint of frost in the mornings, and glorious sunshine in the afternoons.  Spring is such a beautiful season in the UK and it has definitely started early this year.

I could never tire of going to Stratford.  I always learn something new about the life and times of William Shakespeare, and new details about the town catch my eye, which are worth a photograph. I find Stratford such a stimulating, yet relaxing place, whatever my state of mind.

During Valentine’s weekend there were smatterings of snowdrops under the trees in the churchyard and along the banks of the River Avon. It seems appropriate that snowdrops were brought to England in the early 16th century, so maybe Shakespeare would have seen some of the first ones.

There were white doves circling the spire of Holy Trinity Church where Shakespeare is buried.  They sparkled in the winter sunshine reflecting the snowdrops below.

White Doves around steeple.JPG

At the entrance to the church I photographed the small Sanctuary Door and knocker.  This door is set into the massive 15th century doors.  I have passed through it countless times not realising its importance.  But I learned that anyone who held on to the ring in the knocker of the sanctuary door, would be let in and given protection for 37 days.  This was a custom started in Saxon times to protect poor people from the harsh penalties for crime, and even from lynch mobs.  It was upheld across the land and continued well through Shakespeare’s time until 1623.

There was also a striking streetlamp outside our hotel, which I had not noticed before.  It was donated to the town by the Government of Israel.  There are wonderful decorative statues and lamps all around the town, mostly donated by ambassadors from countries where Shakespeare is revered.

Lamp donated by Israely Govt

 We stayed in the Arden Hotel, which is right opposite the Shakespeare Theatre.  In fact the building was previously owned by the theatre along with many buildings along the Waterside.  Naturally many famous people have passed through its doors over the years and inside there are some wonderful photographic portraits of famous actors in role. Put your cursor over the pictures to find the names and roles.

So my Valentine weekend was a great success, perfect weather in a beautiful season in my heart’s true home.  In the Shakespeare Centre I came across a sketch of Anne Hathaway, Shakespeare’s wife and mother of his children.  It is the only known likeness of Anne and she was very beautiful.  But she looks so sad.  I suddenly saw her as a real person whom Shakespeare must have loved and missed very much.

Sketch of Ann Hathaway from her lifetime.  The only one in existence

Enjoy some more of my photographs below.

 

Age of Kings

Age of Kings

Age of Kings Tibor Reich Red

Age of Kings Red

This is one of the most vibrant pieces of printed cotton I have ever seen.  It was made by Tibor Reich and I have one of the original panels, which were made for the opening of the Shakespeare Centre at Stratford on Avon in 1964.  The Centre was opened to commemorate the 400th anniversary of William Shakespeare’s birth.

Tibor Reich was born in Budapest, Hungary in 1916.  His father was a wealthy businessman who had a factory making decorative braids, ribbons and haberdashery for military ceremonial uniforms and folk costumes.  Here, the young Tibor learnt about textiles and colour.   As a child he visited the factory and was spellbound.  He once said, “Here I noticed cerise, kingfisher, very bright emeralds, flame reds and deep oranges…”

Following his parents’ divorce, Tibor went to live with his grandmother and immersed himself in drawing, painting and photography.  Until, in 1933 at the age of 17, Tibor went to Vienna to continue his studies.   Already artistic, his talents blossomed in the creative atmosphere of pre-war Vienna.  He studied textile design and technology as well as architecture and poster design.  But as Nazism spread, Tibor left Vienna for England, where he went to Leeds University to continue his studies in textile technology and woven design.

Tibor brought the vibrancy and colour of his homeland, of Hungarian folk music and peasant costumes, as well as the beauty of nature, to the UK in his work.  And, not long after leaving Leeds, he moved to Warwickshire and set up his own woven textile design business in Cliffords Mill using old hand looms that he repaired and renovated.

Being totally original, he quickly established a good reputation, and worked on the highest profile contracts.  In fact it is true to say he revolutionised textiles in post war Britain with his use of colour, pattern and texture.  By the 1950s Tibor’s textile weaving business was well established and he expanded into printed designs.  His projects included the Royal Yacht Britannia, Concorde, The Festival of Britain and the Shakespeare Memorial Theatre as it was then called.  Here he designed and created curtains, wall hangings and carpets each named after a Shakespearean character.

He also produced his own range of pottery called Tigo ware and designed a most unusual house for his family which was very innovative and modern.  I visited him here in the 60s as a teenager, with my mum who was in Stratford art circle and seemed to know everybody!   I was amazed by the huge onion shaped open fire which stood in the centre of the room and went right up through the house to the roof.  I had certainly never seen anything like it.  I visited again last week and took some photos.  I believe the house has been renovated and I didn’t see inside, but the garden with its earthen embankment is established now and the fir trees are huge, providing a very useful privacy screen.  Tibor did not like the idea of fences and walls, preferring natural boundaries.

In 1964 he helped to furnish the brand new Shakespeare Centre, which is in Henley Street adjoining Shakespeare’s birthplace, for its opening to mark the 400th anniversary of William Shakespeare’s birth.  And this is where our paths crossed.

I have written before about the 1964 celebrations, which were undoubtedly one of the highlights of my life.  I worked at the Shakespeare Centre and the sights and sounds produced there I will never forget.  Shakespeare’s plays on a loop, pomanders and dried petals creating the perfumes of the Tudor age, all brought Shakespeare to life.  Added to that was the music of the age and Tibor Reich’s exquisite carpets, curtains, textile panels and wall hangings, some of which are still there today.

The tapestries and wall hangings evoked so brilliantly the scenes from the plays I loved, especially the Age of Kings panel.  This material, showing the kings from Shakespeare’s plays, was produced as stage curtains.  Panels of it were created in several vibrant colours, red, gold, orange, blue etc.  I am lucky enough to have the original red version as a wall hanging.  It was designed by Pamela Kay and made by Tibor Reich in 1964.  I also have a detail from A Tournament and an original of “garrick Jubilee”.

Recently, a new gold curtain was put up in the historic Becket chapel at Holy Trinity Church.  The chapel is dedicated to the martyred Archbishop of Canterbury, Thomas Becket, who was assassinated in Canterbury Cathedral in 1170.

I went to see it last week.  The golden fabric was commissioned for the chapel by The Friends of Holy Trinity Church and comes from the Tibor archive of 20th century design stored in Stratford and in the Victoria and Albert Museum in London.

If you would like to see Tibor’s textile and pottery work for yourself there is a retrospective exhibition on from 29 January – August at the Whitworth Art Gallery, University of Manchester, Oxford Road, Manchester, M15 6ER.  www.whitworth.manchester.ac.uk

And you can even see a clip of Tibor Reich and see him at work here.

More of his work is on display at the Gordon Russell Design Museum in Broadway until 12 October, and at the V&A Museum in London.  The Tibor Reich family, son Alex and Grandson, Sam hold an archive too which they are currently using to relaunch the Tibor Ltd brand.  They are lucky enough to still live at Tibor House in Avenue Road, Stratford on Avon.  It is a beautiful tree lined road near the open countryside on the way to Warwick.

This year, 2016, marks the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s death.  I know that the whole town of Stratford on Avon is busy preparing for the massive celebrations in April.  I can’t wait to be there to join in the festivities and see what Stratford can do to match or better the celebrations of 1964.

 

 

 

William Shakespeare’s Birthday Celebrations

Shakespeares Tomb3

This weekend rounds up the celebrations in honour of William Shakespeare’s Birth on 23rd April 1564.  I love to be in Stratford on Avon at this time to soak up the atmosphere so I set off this morning full of joy and anticipation.  I was not disappointed.  There were street entertainers, market stalls, a literary festival and scenes of celebration all around.  And, the sun was shining gloriously.  I have written about the special 400th celebration in 1964 previously so you can read about the events that take place in that post.  But today I would just like to share some of my photos with you.

The river Avon is always a joy to walk beside and today the boaters were out in force.

The walk to Holy Trinity Church where Shakespeare and some of his family are buried was beautiful.  On one side is the river, and on the other, blossom trees and wisteria covered houses.  I took a detour through the pretty little garden in memory of those who died in the two world wars.  It is a most peaceful place in the older part of town.

There is a beautiful bespoke Iron chair in this memorial garden which took my breath away with it’s beauty.  It was made in Scotland for the Royal British legion

Memorial chair for Royal British legion

When I got to the church it was surprisingly quiet as the crowds had left.  I was able to wander freely and take in the amazing aroma of the masses of Spring flowers which had been laid in the Sacristy all around Shakespeare’s grave.

On the way back from the church we passed The Other Place and various workspaces belonging to the Royal Shakespeare Theatre and of course the theatre itself.  I took my photo from the gardens behind the theatre as that is where I used to sit on the grass and do my homework when i was a schoolgirl in Stratford many years ago.

After this I wandered through the Bancroft Gardens to enjoy the live music and to see the Gower memorial.  This famous memorial was originally outside the theatre but when the theatre was destroyed by fire in 1926, it was decided to move it to its present position overlooking the canal basin.  It certainly is a superb position.  On the top of the memorial is Shakespeare himself and around the base are main characters from the plays.  There is Falstaff, Lady Macbeth, Prince Hal and Hamlet.

In the Bancroft Gardens there is a fascinating flower bed filled with plants that are mentioned in Shakespeare’s plays. They deserve a post all on their own so I will just quickly show you the flags that lined the main streets.  Ambassadors and dignitaries come from all over the world to pay their respects during the annual birthday celebrations and their flags stand proud.

It was a wonderful day and I came home very happy.  I am really looking forward to next year, 2016.

William Shakespeare was born on 23rd April 1564 as I said and I was lucky enough to live in Stratford in 1964 when the 400th anniversary was spectacularly celebrated.  He died, also on 23rd April, in 1616. So next year will be the 400th anniversary of his death at the age of 52.  Great plans are afoot for commemorative events worldwide, and and as it falls on a Saturday it should be a great occasion in Stratford.  It will seem strange to commemorate his birth and his death on the same day, but I hope to be there!

Bust of William Shakespeare

Oh What a Year! 1963

Shottery Manor

I sing in a lovely choir every Friday morning and I love it.  The songs we sing are varied but there is always one that catches our mood, gets us laughing, crying or dancing, and lights up our voices.  This week it was the old Frankie Valli and the 4 Seasons number, Oh What a Night!  It was released in December 1975, but the words recall “late December back in ‘63”.  I bet you didn’t know that the song was originally going to be about December 1933 and Prohibition?  However thank goodness Valli persuaded them to change it to a song about first love in ’63.  You can play the song as you read my blog by clicking on the icon on the sidebar.

Oh, what a night, late December back in ’63
What a very special time for me
As I remember what a night!

I made a passing comment that I was sweet 16 in 1963 to the amusement of some of the older choir members and horror of the younger ones.  But as so often happens with music it then brought up all sorts of memories.

1963/64 was a very special year for me.    I was in my final year at Stratford Grammar school for Girls learning in the most beautiful setting imaginable.  I was studying English literature at ‘A level’.  My main text was King Lear.  I’ve mentioned before that in those days it was possible to pay 4 shillings in pre-decimal money, which is 20 pence now, and stand at the back of the theatre to watch Shakespeare’s plays.  I took full advantage of this and I was there in 1962 when Paul Schofield played King Lear in what is recognised as the greatest performance of the role of all time.  It left an indelible impression on me which stays with me even now.   The main themes of the play have universal and timeless significance,

Our English teacher, Miss Southall, was an inspiration too.  All black hair, flowing gown and long legs, which she bared to the sun during summer term.  This meant English classes were held on the lawn in the beautiful walled garden with its Dovecote, in front of the magnificent Shottery Manor which was the setting for the sixth form.  The school was, and still is, just a stone’s throw from Anne Hathaway’s cottage in Shottery.  It oozed history with its old oak floors, wood panelling and not so secret passages which could have been priest holes.  We were convinced that there was a tunnel leading from the Manor into town but no-one ever ventured in far enough to find out because it was pitch dark.

According to school history, the oldest part of the Manor was 14th century when it was owned by Evesham Abbey.  In 1402 the Bishop of Worcester granted a licence to John Harewell of Wootten Wawen for a priest to celebrate Mass in the Oratory of the Manor.  This room became our sixth form study.   The house stayed in the Harewell family for centuries but in 1919 the manor was bought by Mr A D Flower on behalf of the trustees of the late Edgar Flower.  The Flower family were very significant to Stratford on Avon.  Edward Flower started Flower’s Brewery there in 1831 and his sons, Charles and Edgar continued the business making rather a lot of money.  Fortunately the Flowers had that wonderful Victorian ethic of using their money to benefit the community, (I wonder what happened to that in Britain?), and they used it to develop the Shakespeare Memorial Theatre.  Charles donated the land by the River Avon and in 1875 launched a campaign to build the theatre.  He also donated the money to build the theatre (about £1 million in today’s money), which opened in 1879 with a performance of Much Ado About Nothing.  Charles also gave the cottages opposite so that the rents could be used to maintain the theatre.

The last members of the Flower family to live in the Manor left in 1951 and it was empty for a few years.  But thank goodness Warwickshire County Council bought it and it was turned into the first Girl’s Grammar School in the area.  It opened in 1958 just in time for me to arrive.  I was very lucky to get in at all as I had moved from the north of England where my education record was patchy to say the least.

I started school in a converted Chemical Works by the shipyards on the River Tyne.  I remember there was a huge room which was partitioned off for different age groups.  My delight, and my downfall, was to peep round the partition to see what was going on in other areas.  The grass is always greener etc….

I was not in infants for very long as I was what they called in those days, ‘a sickly child’.  I was underweight (hard to imagine I know!), undernourished, with Rheumatic Fever and a heart condition.  I eventually got back to school in the juniors but was so far behind that the teachers didn’t even try to educate me.  They gave me all the little jobs to do, which was great by me!

On Monday mornings my job was to fill up all the inkwells.  I went to the office to mix up black ink powder and water in a jug with a long spout.  I then went from desk to desk.  Each wooden desk had a hole with a ceramic pot in it.  I poured the ink into the pot until it reached the rim.  We used ‘dip pens’ in the juniors in those days, just a wooden handle with a metal nib on the end which you dipped in the ink then scraped on the edge to take off the excess.  The youngest infants still used chalk and individual slates.   I had to be very careful with the ink as washable ink was unheard of.  This stuff would stain permanently!

As you can imagine this job could take all morning if necessary; however there was also free milk to give out and wafers to sell.  In those days children didn’t bring fancy cool bags or plastic lunch boxes filled with snacks to school.  If they were very lucky they would have a ha’penny (1/2d) to buy some wafers.  These wafers were the sort you get on an ice cream ‘sandwich’.  They came in big boxes and were sold 2 for 1/2d.

Many children were undernourished in those days as it was just after the war and there was still some rationing.  The recently formed NHS did a wonderful job of providing supplements for children.  We got little bottles of orange juice, cod liver oil by the spoonful not capsules, Virol malt extract and I got a tonic too.

I can honestly say I don’t remember learning a thing at primary school except to sing, ‘Flow Gently sweet Afton’ and to make an advent calendar out of matchboxes for Christmas.  It was my inspirational, well-read and self-taught father who taught me what I needed to know: how to read, write, do maths, to identify constellations, wonder, dream, question, listen, love.  He had an open mind and an open heart.  It was he who convinced Miss Williams, the original head teacher of Stratford grammar School for Girls, that I was a suitable candidate for her school.  I am so glad that he did.  Because, since 1963, thanks to that education, I have been able to plough my own furrow.

St John's School, Felling

St John’s School, Felling

Upper Sixth Shottery Manor

Upper Sixth Shottery Manor

My Stratford Blog  http://wp.me/p2gGsd-5c

So what else was on at the Shakespeare Memorial Theatre in 1963 that I watched for 4s (shillings)?

The Tempest, Julius Caesar, Comedy of Errors, Edward 1V, Henry V1, Richard 111, and the newly adapted history plays under the title of the Wars of the Roses.

In 1963 the director was Peter Hall with John Barton, designer John Bury, and music was by Guy Woolfenden

And the actors in these plays had names that have graced theatre, television and film for decades:

Paul Schofield, Vanessa Redgrave, Dorothy Tutin, John Gielgud, Peggy Ashcroft, Judy Dench, Roy Dotrice, Ian Holm (a fabulous Richard 111), David Warner ( a dreamy Henry V1), Janet Suzman, Clifford Rose, Penelope Keith, etc….

And what else was happening at home and abroad in 1963?

Major William Hicks Beach (Conservative) was MP for Cheltenham and Harold Macmillan was Prime Minister in UK until Sir Alec Douglas Hume succeeded him in October.

The Beatles released their first album, Please Please Me and rapidly rose to fame.

Britain had the worst winter since 1946/47 when I was born.  The snow lasted until April.

The Great Train Robbery took place in Buckinghamshire with millions of pounds stolen.

In June 1963 the first woman to travel into Space was a Soviet Cosmonaut, Valentina Tereshkova.  She orbited Earth 48 times, spending 71 hours in Space.  She parachuted to earth after ejecting at 20,000 feet.

Tens of thousands of protestors came from all over the world to join the CND march from Aldermarston to London to protest about the Hydrogen Bomb which threatened world peace.

Thousands of African Americans were arrested in Birmingham, Alabama for protesting against segregation.

Martin Luther King gave his ‘I Have a Dream’ speech during a march on Washington for jobs and freedom

President John F Kennedy made a historic Civil Rights Address in which he promised a Civil Rights Bill

The first Sindy Doll was marketed by Pedigree.

In October the Rolling Stones played at the Odeon in Cheltenham. The Beatles played there on 1st November.

Pope Paul VI succeeds Pope John XXIII as the 262nd Pope.

The second James Bond Film ‘From Russia with Love’ opened in London.

22nd November 1963 was a terrible day.  Not only did authors CS Lewis and Aldous Huxley die, but President John F Kennedy was assassinated in Dallas.  Lyndon B Johnson was sworn in as president.

The first episode of Dr Who was aired on television in November 1963.  During the 60s the series was in black and white.

The Remembering Tree, 2013. Bancroft Gardens, Stratford upon Avon

Well it has been a strange and wonderful weekend with its usual ups and downs.

The weather was so lovely today that I set off for Stratford on Avon, where I spent my teenage years, to see the spectacular Christmas lights and decorations.

I always enjoy the walk from Holy Trinity Church, Shakespeare’s final resting place, past the Dirty Duck pub where I spent many a happy evening in the 60’s hobnobbing with the likes of Eric Porter, John Hurt and David Warner, through the park, across the Royal Shakespeare Theatre balcony, along the riverside towards the Bancroft Gardens.  I love to pop into the theatre just to see what is coming up ~ Peter Pan and Wendy starts this week (tickets still available), as does the stupendous Wolf Hall and Bring up the Bodies (totally sold out before opening night)!

I usually drift over to the canal basin to see the houseboats before heading into town.  Today however, I was stopped in my tracks by a spectacular tree which seemed to be covered in one of those blankets made out of colourful knitted squares, which is exactly what it was!

I discovered that it was called the Remembering Tree and people had worked from 4am to 11am to fix all those squares in place in memory of someone they loved.  Money raised by this venture was going to a charity which you can read about here.

As it got dark I headed up Bridge Street to see the colourful lights before reaching my destination ~ Shakespeare’s Birthplace.  This year the house is transformed by a laser light show accompanied by some excerpts from Shakespeare’s plays being enacted from inside the house.  It is truly worth seeing.  I apologise in advance for the poor quality of my photos which is partly due to the crowds, partly to my excitement and partly to my battery failing!

Leaving the light show I was stopped in my tracks by a busker singing the most beautiful songs in a tenor voice which flowed like warm chocolate on a cold and frosty night.  After singing his own songs, he sang requests from the small crowd that gathered.  he then sang Christmas Carols.  His name is Karl Loxley and the crowd were deeply disappointed to find that he had no CDs to sell!  Hopefully he will soon and I will certainly be listening out for him.  Listen to Karl sing Bring Him Home.

So those are all the ups in my day ~ only one down to report ~

I was so excited to arrive in Stratford that I forgot to pay for parking!  Of course Stratford wardens are like Rottweilers and they don’t miss a thing ~ so I got a parking ticket.  Do you know it was worth it because I felt as if I had been to a free concert and I had a lovely day!