Wednesday, 11 July 2007

Tuesday Trip to Oxford and Stratford-upon-Avon


On Tuesday, July 10 (sorry to miss your birthday, Norm!) our class and the undergraduate theater class boarded a fancy motor coach a little after 7 a.m. and traveled to Oxford and Stratford-upon-Avon. We just had a few hours in Oxford but I am so happy to finally be able to say I have been to the City of Dreaming Spires! Yeah!!!! (Luckily, our class is going there again next week to have a tour of the Bodleian Library.)

Several of the ''mature'' students -- Nancy, Edie, Mary, Kathy, and I -- had tea and scones at the Oxford Buttery and then walked around. Next week, I want to check out The Museum of the History of Science and also the Ashmolean Museum, with an exhibit on ''Britain at the Beach.'' We spent quite a bit of time in Blackwell's bookshop, which opened in 1879 and is Oxford's biggest. (Edie and Kathy are shown in the photo above on Broad Street in front of the bookshop.)


Tuesday afternoon and evening, we had a jam-packed itinerary in Stratford-upon-Avon. I hadn't been there since I was 18 and went on a University of New Hampshire trip to England during the month of January 1975. (Uh-oh, now I have dated myself that I am eligible to join AARP!) Things are quite different compared to the '70s when you could drive right up to the front of Shakespeare's Birthplace. Now the road is a wonderful pedestrian zone, or as I like to say, a ''walking street.''

Our same group of ''mature'' students had a triple-bill ticket to see Shakespeare's Birthplace, New Place/Nash's House (''where the Shakespeare story ended''), and Hall's Croft (the home of Shakespeare's daughter, Susanna, and her husband, Dr. John Hall). The non-profit Shakespeare Birthplace Trust operates the properties. We also toured Holy Trinity Church to see the graves of Shakespeare and family members. It is also a charitable trust. (The photo top right shows my classmates on the ''new walking street'' in front of Shakespeare's Birthplace.)


Best of all, the five of us had the good fortune of going to The Shakespeare Centre Library, which is near the Visitor Centre and Shakespeare's Birthplace. It is operated by the non-profit Shakespeare Birthplace Trust. We were treated so kindly by an assistant and also by head librarian Sylvia Morris. They explained that the Reading Room is open to the public but the collections are in strong rooms in the basement. According to a library handout, ''the Royal Shakespeare Company's production and administrative archives form a major part'' of the collection. Appointments can be made to have a tour of the collections. We all picked up several pamphlets detailing how to use the library in person or online. (I took the photo top left of the library's Reading Room.)


Well, we almost didn't find the legendary Dirty Duck pub and restaurant, which had been recommended to us by Prof. Welsh and Miss Wright, and is conveniently located across the street from the Royal Shakespeare Company's Swan Theatre. Why the trouble? Because its original name, The Black Swan, was on the side of the sign facing us as we walked by!!! (The other side says Dirty Duck.) Once we were finally ensconced inside, we had a nice meal and good time continuing to get to know one another better.


Wow! What a powerfully memorable production of Macbeth we EXPERIENCED at the Royal Shakespeare Company's Swan Theatre!!!!! It is directed by Conall Morrison and I am relieved that as I entered the theater, I saw warning signs saying: ''Please note this production of Macbeth contains some graphic scenes of a violent and sexual nature.'' That gave me a clue that it would be an unusually visceral interpretation of Macbeth -- and it was!!

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