Saturday, August 09, 2008

second best bed

I always look forward to the Stratford trip because it’s like taking a giant breath of air and scraping off the London grime. I love me some London grime, sirrah, but give a guy a break. So off we went, driven by our good friend Jason in his massive polka dot coach.

We stopped in Oxford for a few hours. It was a little too Harvey Porter for me, but I get the appeal. There’s no denying that it’s gorgeous – classical England at its finest. We walked through the colleges and I pretended like I knew things about each one. The students were on to me, but maybe that was part of the magic. We went to the Magdalen Bridge and I yelled “ripping!” and “smashing!” to the elderly punters. They enjoyed that. Then we wandered through town and ended up again at the Eagle & Child, where I had a full English breakfast and probably the best hot chocolate of my lifetime. And a cranberry juice. And Jaclyn got busted for bringing in her own sandwich. The Eagle & Child, incidentally, is the pub where Tolkien and Lewis met to discuss Narnia and Middle Earth, so it’s a giant attraction for nerds, many of whom sign the guest book in Elvish.

On to Warwickshire, the gem of the midlands. Mary Arden’s farm, always my favorite attraction, was a lot of fun. And if there was a theme to this particular visit, it was pigs. Giant pigs. I don’t remember pigs last year, so what a welcome addition! Seriously, the fattest pigs ever, one of which responded to my pig latin when I told him to come out of his little house. Also two fat pigs chased some geese and there was a lot of screaming. Not just from the geese, but also from the staff. Also, we found a willow arbor which we realized was made for kids after we went halfway into it. So it hurt our backs but we were good sports about it, because times are really hard on a Tudor farm, you guys.

This year we stayed at the Victoria Spa Lodge which defies description, so I will supply a picture:

The Victoria is so named because the Queen actually stayed there as a young girl. She stayed in the room that Emily, Anna, Anne, and Jaclyn slept in. There were no ghost sightings. The boys all stayed in the attic, where there were no ghosts as well. Just pitched roofs and packets of coffee sweetener.

Our play tonight was The Taming of Shrew, which is generally a comedy. In this case it was a “hilarious” treatment of the abuse of women by men. Certainly this is an accurate portrayal of the play, which is incredibly misogynistic and abusive, but we’re used to slapsticks and orange rinds and a roll in the hay. Instead we got rape, spouse abuse, and techno music. So it was not a big hit. I’m the first to admit that Shrew is not my favorite Shakespeare play, and likely my least favorite, and this play did not help. We were all underwhelmed and bummed out.

Luckily the night was young, and of course we walked through the Holy Trinity Church grounds to tell Elizabethan ghost stories. And we had a real ghost sighting! Check this out: It’s terrifying:

The only drawback to the Victoria Spa is that it’s a twenty-minute walk from town, so a bunch of us walked home along the Stratford canal. It was a little bit creepy, a little bit dark, but pretty memorable.