Sunday, August 09, 2009

for the rain it raineth

Time for Stratford! We call it the Stratford trip, though we are mostly elsewhere. But Stratford, and more specifically Shakespeare, seems to be the theme of it. I always look forward to it, and it's always a nice break from the city. I love the city, but I forget what's it like to not constantly hear jet planes overhead and people coughing through the plays. Yesterday the announcer at the tube station was telling people that, with the heat and the crowds, it was "advisable" to bring bottled water to avoid passing out. I guess that's been happening. You cram so many people into the tube cars, and the heat goes up, and the arm pits come out, and people drop like flies.

So it's a great feeling to jump onto a nice, air-conditioned coach (all to ourselves) and head to the country. First stop, of course, is Oxford. My students seem to respond more positively to Oxford than I do. It must be some kind of Harry Potter thing. I love Oxford, and I think it's charming, but it seems to spin some kind of magical spell on them. They wander around taking pictures and declaring their love and all but filling out college applications. So I'm happy they are happy. I was not happy with the downpour we got, though. Luckily we made it through the grand tour without what the good folks of Utah call "moisture," but once we all split for lunch it came down hard. The city was soaked and we all ducked into whatever shops we could find. I ate a pasty and waited it out. Then I bought another sweater because mine was soaked. Thanks, Topshop! I eventually met up with the students at the Eagle & Child pub, the famous meeting place of Tolkein and Lewis, and we all crowded around a table, shivering and drinking hot chocolate.

The rain stopped and the bus started back up and we headed to Mary Arden's farm. Though it was a little damp up there, the farm was in full swing. The falconer this year was a woman and I'm glad to see that there is equality in Warwickshire. She did a nice job and I got this cool shot of the falcon ripping apart a white mouse.

Then several students, including the ill-advised Levi, squeezed into the bamboo house.

Then we went into the forest of Arden, and found these objects hanging mysteriously from the trees.

We stopped next at Anne Hathaway's house, which I always love. They have some exciting new additions to this site, if you think exciting can also mean cheesy. For example, do we need Titania's Bower? You go inside this shed and it's all blackened out with dark sheets. And there's fairy lights strung up along the roof, and there's Barbie Fantasia music playing, and it smells like potpourri, and there's what appears to be a dead body dressed up like a fairy queen laying on the floor. It's really weird. Another exciting addition that didn't turn out to be exciting was the New Woods Walk, which goes on an on and on. We amused ourselves by coming up with alternative lyrics to Poker Face and, at one point, running to make the New Woods Walk end sooner. Eventually we made it out alive. I am happy to report, however, that Anne Hathaway's house, the reason for going in the first place, is still a fantastic place to visit.

We stayed again this year at the Victoria Spa lodge. We stayed there last year, and it was good to see Dreen and Paul again. Dreen has had a hip replacement, and may have another. So she was on crutches. But she was still a fireball. I stayed again in the loft which has officially become the boys dorm. Later that night we saw a spider the size of a 50 cent piece. It was the largest in-house spider of all time. I don't mention this as a condemnation of the Victoria Spa, it's just interesting and terrifying. The rest of our stay was very comfortable and I had a great night's sleep once the boys finally shut up. OK, once I finally shut up.

Our show this evening was Julius Caesar at the RSC. I was excited to see it because it was directed by Lucy Bailey who gave us the bloodiest, funniest Titus Andronicus ever at the Globe, and then the poop and vulture showpiece Timon of Athens last year. You never know what hijinks you'll get from a Lucy Bailey show! But I'm sorry to report that Julius Caesar was pretty dull, despite her use of multimedia effects and some interesting staging. You just can't substitute creativity for lack of actor connection. If I don't care, I get bored. It wasn't awful, I think I just wanted something really kooky, or really offensive, or really anything. This was just pretty boring.

And we usually like to go ghost hunting at St. Trinity after the show, but the rain had started up again so I shuffled all the students off in taxis. Our taxi driver, incidentally, had the most frightening teeth you can imagine. I know the British are not well known for their dental habits, but this was out of control. He turned on the lights in the cab and turned around to talk to us and it was like a horror film! We screamed in terror. Not really, but we paid and got out of there. It was far scarier than anything Lucy Bailey came up with. We felt safe only when we were dry, tucked into bed, and free of that ginormous spider.