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As We Like It

My friends, you must be getting sick of my exclamations of ecstasy, but here I am again. Actually, where I am is in a big room in an old farmhouse bed and breakfast about 3 miles outside of Stratford-on-Avon. Penny is across the room with her computer and I’m on my bed with mine – because this big old farmhouse b and b, unbelievably, has wifi. I can hear sheep bleating outside the window and nothing else, the smell of the roses is drifting in, the quarter moon is alight near the Big Dipper in the country sky, and I am writing a message to send out to the universe. How amazing is life.

This morning I couldn’t bear to leave Liverpool without a proper souvenir, so we drove back to the shop next to the Hard Day’s Night Hotel on our way out of town, to let me do a bit of shopping. I know, it’s childish and I’m a sucker, but I bought a t-shirt with a Blue Meanie on it, and a replica Yellow Submarine. It’s on wheels. I bought one for my friend Bob’s 21st birthday in 1969, and have always regretted I didn’t buy one for myself at the same time. Bob died of AIDS in the mid-eighties, and I miss him still. I don’t have Bob, but I do now have my own yellow submarine. I put on my new Beatles t-shirt in the car and wore it proudly all day.
And what a day – the sun is there, it’s real, it’s hot. It was a perfect summer day for our visit, first, to the Roman/medieval walled city of Chester. We had lunch by the river watching the paddle boats, then walked on a portion of the ancient wall, saw the remains of the Roman amphitheatre and the castle, and especially the high street, which is a Disneyland of Elizabethan houses, more than I’ve ever seen in one place – not all really dating from Elizabethan times, but beautiful all in a row. 
But Penny was anxious about our long drive to Stratford, with good reason, it turned out. A hot Friday afternoon at the end of a holiday week made for heavy going on the highways; it was bumper to bumper for many miles. We listened to BBC 2, which had traffic reports regularly – for the entire country. The traffic lady would report about the road coming out of Newcastle and the ring road around London and the route through Stonehenge, the way the Toronto traffic people report on the 401 and the Gardiner. And the highways are dominated by a favourite English word: queue. There in neon, above the road: QUEUE. Warning you that there’s a lot of traffic and you’ll be in a line, as if you hadn’t noticed already. 
I haven’t mentioned that my journey is with Penny but also with another fine lady, a very cultured, patient but focussed British woman called Jane, the name of Penny’s GPS. Jane has been extremely helpful, another technological miracle, Penny enters the postal code of our destination and Jane has it all figured out for us in seconds. She kept adjusting the time it would take us to get to Stratford, because we were so slow.
By the time we entered this incredibly picturesque little town, it was too late to get to our b and b on the other side; I changed in the car, Penny in the washroom of a pub nearby, and we went to another pub, the very very old Garrick, for a quick bite and half a pint of Speckled Hen before the theatre. The big Stratford theatre is under construction, so we went to the smaller Courtyard Theatre, with a thrust stage modelled on the Globe’s, to see “As You Like It.” I must wax rhapsodic once more: it was wonderful. Directed by the Artistic Director of the RSC, Michael Boyd, there were no well-known actors, just a superb company, an imaginative set, and a very simple but powerful concept – no tricks, let those words tell the story. Well, there were a few tricks – great comedy and lots of music, and the costumes beginning in full Elizabethan gear and shifting, bit by bit, to modern dress. But otherwise, the production was just a great play done by a great cast in a simple, inventive setting.  My favourite kind of theatre. It ended with Rosalind alone on stage, barefoot in her wedding dress, singing us the Epilogue. 
We spent the intermission standing by the Avon River, looking at the people who live on the barges opposite sit on their decks and drink wine. And then after the play, in the darkness, Jane guided us out of town, along country roads, to the village of Wimpstone, then through Wimpstone’s winding roads to the very end. “You have reached your destination,” said Jane, as we turned into a courtyard beside Whitchurch Farm and Bed and Breakfast. Our hostess was waiting in her dressing-gown beside the bower of roses by the front door. We’re sharing a huge room, as Penny tap taps over there and I over here, and the lambs bleat outside the window. Breakfast tomorrow between 8 and 9. I will eat a lot. 

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About Beth

I began keeping a journal at the age of nine. Nearly fifty years later, I started this online journal, sharing reflections, reviews, updates, and the occasional secret.

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