Bill finds a silver lining in the freezing February temperatures...
Last weekend, for the 82nd time [assuming there was a Stratford trip every term since fall 1972], the ICLC Shakespeare scholars participated in a ‘first’.. . No, we didn't go backstage and hang out with the director during the production; no, we didn't get a talk from Dame Helen Mirren on her days at the RSC; nor did we have lunch at the birthplace on Henley street; nor did we all go rowing on the Avon and play ‘bumping boats’ with a view to getting pneumonia; nor did we risk being cursed by moving the poet’s bones. We did all the usual things: see a play, staff dined at the oppo, students had a post theatre coca cola with the actors at the ‘Dirty Duck’, Dr Kidd gave his riverside talk, we visited the grave, we bought postcards, souvenirs and raffle items, Avery won the ‘brain of Stratford’ quiz and, with it, £25, etc.
Normalcy reigned except for two things – both coach drivers attended the production and were ‘over the moon’ with their experience, especially Peter. Here’s a clue to the big ‘first’: the play was ‘the winter’s tale’, a title that more than matched the weather. Normally we would go to Stratford in the early spring weather of March or April, but RSC scheduling forced a jump forward to February. It was so cold that (i) Dr Kidd abbreviated his lecture on the churchyard by about 15 minutes and (ii) some students gave the impression they had converted to a new religion.
Remember Pangloss’s wisdom, ‘all is for the best in the best possible world’. The ICLC brains thrust stole a half hour from the visit to Warwick and our wonderful coach drivers agreed to tour through the countryside around Stratford to visit 3 places, (i) Snitterfield, where Shakespeare’s grandfather, Richard, was a tenant farmer and his father, John, was born; (ii) Wilmscote, the farm and village of Mary Arden, Shakespeare’s mother, and (iii) Shottery, the farm house of the Hathaway’s, whose daughter married Shakespeare about 1582. This weather-inspired detour through the hinterland will probably form part of future trips to Stratford.
How did the students respond? Well, 100% liked being on a warm coach, but possibly only 50% took an interest in the guide’s stories about the area. We need better guides!