Wednesday, August 04, 2010

exit, pursued by an owl

We headed out for our Stratford adventure this morning with a new coach driver and a new coach. “Coach” is English for “Bus” and don’t you forget it. And it wasn’t really a bus, but more like a giant 14 person van. It took me a bit to get accustomed to a smaller bus, er coach, since we’ve had giant full size coaches in years past. It also took me a bit to get accustomed to a driver who had absolutely no idea where he was going. He was a great guy, and we all became good friends, but I basically drove that bus. And by driving I mean that I shouted directions whenever we hit roundabouts. So it was a little adventure! Which I wasn’t really expecting.
I love Oxford, and my students always flip out over it. Especially Scott Stringham, who is such a Tolkein fan that he named his three sons after characters in Lord of the Rings. Considering that I named my kids after characters in Shakespeare, I understand his hero worship. So Oxford, where Tolkein lived, studied, and wrote is a mecca for guys like Scott. For guys like me, Oxford is mecca because we love Radiohead. It was here at the Jericho Tavern that Radiohead met, wrote, and devised music, and played their first gigs. It was also here that I had a really fantastic chicken sandwich and fries. I love the idea that I might have sat where Tom Yorke sat when he came up with “Fake Plastic Trees,” or where the band scribbled together the convoluted chords of “Paranoid Andriod.” A storm hit as I ate my lunch, and it was nice to be in a warm pub – feeling dry with no alarms and no surprises.

You can see my Diet Coke there on the table (I PROMISE IT'S DIET COKE:)

The weather died down by the time we hit Mary Arden’s farm, luckily, since a working Tudor farm can be a little soggy and marshy in the rain. We got there just in time for “Woolly Wednesday,” which means we saw cotton shearing and felt making. I learned a lot of interesting facts about felt that I have now since forgotten. Sadly, the world’s largest pig, who I have regularly visited for the past two years at Mary Arden’s farm, has been eaten! C’est la vie, I guess. But it’s sad to think that I may have eaten my friend at some point and not known it. We also watched the falconry exhibit – I was really impressed this year; the falconer wore a costume and was quite a card. Alex caught a really cool shot of this Love Owl swooping at his head:
Here is the old pig (who was eaten)

Here is the new pig (who will be eaten)

After this we were off to Anne Hathaway’s house. I spent the majority of the time sitting in a willow arboretum talking to Lisa on the phone. It was great to hear her voice, though such a romantic setting made me miss her more than ever. So we had a nice talk, except for the time when Margaret bullied her way into the conversation and told me that she likes to eat waffles with a spoon.

Dinner tonight at the Dirty Duck! The technical name of this pub is the Black Swan, but Dirty Duck fits it so much nicer. This is the pub just a few doors down from the RSC, so you can eat before or after a show, and chances are solid that you’ll see some actors. I was waiting in line to order my food and this really large guy, who seemed particularly drunk, started talking to me and goofing around. And then, about an hour later, this same guy turns up as Autolycus in The Winter’s Tale. That’s a regular occurrence at the Dirty Duck.

The Winter’s Tale was really great. I have had such hit and miss luck with the RSC in the past few years – their productions have been more weak than not; tonight’s was definitely a step in the right direction. It had a wonderful visual look to it; everything was created out of pages ripped from books. Even the giant bear who eats Antigonus was created out of torn pages and controlled like a giant behemoth by a team of puppeteers. The fertility dance of the Mummers was suitably phallic, but the costumes were pretty sweet. And the story was told with energy and thought. The production was beautiful to look at and it was engaging as an audience member. Particularly in the second half, when a handful of us snuck down to fill empty seats in the front row. It’s amazing how things open up to you when you sit on the front row. This proximity also afforded me the opportunity to steal one of those torn pages as a keepsake once the show had ended.

As per tradition, we gathered in the Holy Trinity graveyard on our way home to tell scary stories. Alex also demonstrated his fancy laser pen on the branches of trees and the walls of the old church. I’m sure all of the ghosts in the yard were impressed as well. Rachel claimed to have seen one. Whatever!