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Tuesday on Carnaby Street

Dear friends, I know, a long pause – a London hiatus. Just got an email from my friend Bruce in Vancouver, who is following my journey with his brother Stan and sister-in-law Carolyn. “Where are you?” he writes. “We’ve been waiting since Friday.”
It’s Tuesday afternoon, and I’m in an incredibly noisy internet cafe (with earplugs in and still overhearing conversations and loud loud jazz piano) on Carnaby Street, with an endless stream of tourists going by the window. Since arriving in London on Sunday afternoon, it’s been chaotic and exhausting, much moving about and making arrangements and figuring out internet and other things. I made the mistake of leaving the converter plug that allowed me to use my computer and other devices here in England, at Penny’s in Sheffield, and replacing it took an entire morning of frustration, back and forth to various stores. And then I spent much time trying to get my machine onto the wifi at the friend’s apartment where I’m staying till next Saturday, just around the corner from here, just behind Liberty’s of London, the most central location imaginable in London. Unable to get wifi, so condemned to noisy expensive cafe for only an hour at a time, which means posting will be difficult.  I will do my best in the next few days.
The most exotic creature just sat down next to me – a man/woman with orange spikey hair, skinny body, tight jeans, huge earrings, workboots and a handbag shaped like a red watering can. Ah, this must be Carnaby Street. 
Anyway, I will tell more anon – the rest of Saturday visiting Penny’s sister Liz the master gardener and watching the end of Britain’s Got Talent, then Wimbledon, the end of our journey and the start of my time here in London. Today, Regent’s Park and the British Library. More details to come. 
In the meantime, I started a post on Sunday in Wimbledon – it’s not finished, but here’s as far as I got: 

“A situation I’m not used to – I’m in a small white room with sun pouring through the window. If this is Sunday, it must be Wimbledon – the Wimbledon Hotel. In a few hours, Penny and I will part company and this phase of my journey will be over. The thought makes me sad.

Yesterday we did eat a vast breakfast in the lovely farmhouse b and b – if any of you are going to Stratford on Avon, I highly recommend this place. I took a long walk along the country road outside, amongst the sheep grazing and wheat fields, and then we set off for our Shakespeare sightings. His birthplace, on one of the high streets of Stratford, is entered through a museum that shows a film, during which we see bits of his life and artefacts – gloves his father made, the first Folio of his work, compiled by his friends after his death, without which we would probably have lost all those masterpieces. 
We saw an exhibit of various portraits and the proof that they actually are Shakespeare, so we do know now, fairly surely, what he looks like – a good-looking man with a gentle, intelligent face, receding hairline and aquiline nose. The exhibit talked about his relationship with his patron the Earl of Southampton, (I think) which quite possibly was of an intimate nature – young Will wrote several passionate love poems to the man, having left Anne Hathaway back in Stratford with the three children and journeyed to London to become famous. Which I was glad to hear he was, in his time – in the end he was making 200 pounds a year, when 20 was the average, and his sister was already giving people tours of the great playwright’s house before his death. 
Then we entered the house itself, which has been furnished in the style of the time. And I marvelled, once again – how did it happen that this one particular child, born of a respectable but ordinary family in a small town in the middle of England, happened to have inside him a world of genius and glory? What a miracle, that everything came together in this one soul – experience, education, innate talent, the circumstances of life at the time – to produce the works which have given the world so much. And how lucky we are that he survived at all – the year of his birth, the plague hit his village and the children of the neighbours on both sides died. 
We learned, incidentally, the origin of the words “Sleep tight.” Beds in those days had an underpinning of ropes drawn tight, which had to be retightened each night. So to sleep with tight ropes meant a good night’s sleep. 
The gift store of the birthplace is enormous, of course, with Shakespeare stuff of all kinds. I bought Bill Bryson’s biography because I want to know more about this man.  After a wander through Stratford, we drove to Mary Arden’s house – Shakespeare’s grandmother, his mother’s mother, a “working farm” just outside of town. Here, they say, he learned the great deal he knew about falcons and other birds, and about plants. We had a good chat with the actors dressed in period costume – when we arrived they were eating lunch, “pottager,” a barley stew with vegetables, and salat, as it was called then, made with rose petals, chives, all kinds of garden leaves. They told us that English cooking was marvellous and flavourful at the time, full of spices, but that the wars had knocked all the flavour out.  Their lunch smelled delicious, and after our tour we stopped at the Mary Arden snackbar for a bit of lunch in the sunshine.
To Be Continued. 

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2 Responses to “Tuesday on Carnaby Street”

  1. patsy says:

    Glad to know where you are, as I feel I’m on this trip with you, walking the streets of famous cities, through fields, over moors, and sitting at tables with you, too – Yum!Good luck with finding places to hook up with all your friends on the web, so we can enjoy the next phase of the trip. Cathy McKeehan, with whom I stayed last week, tells me that Chris T is joining you soon – in France? The two of you will no doubt get into many adventures together.
    The Bill Bryson bio is the best of all the recent ones – all the facts and the theories, short, and funny!
    Enjoy every moment,

    patsy

  2. beth says:

    How good to hear your voice, my dearest friend.
    much love
    b.

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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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