To be or not to be.
Now is the winter of our discontent.
Was the hope drunk/Wherein you dressed yourself?
Shakespeare. It’s a language all unto its own. A beautiful, complicated, sometimes indecipherable language. One that makes the brow furrow and the pieces of the mind move around furiously, attempting to connect syllables and nouns and verbs in the hope of finding meaning.
You know, exactly what the mind does when it’s hungover. Very, very hungover.
Imagine combining the two.
I had bought tickets to see “As You Like It” at Stratford-Upon-Avon, Shakespeare’s home, back in early February. Being a fan of the man, and a lover of words, seeing one of his plays performed and walking the same cobblestone streets he once trotted along, was a “must-do” for me while here in London.
I knew it was coming up, so I booked a stay at the Twelfth Night Guesthouse and even convinced my friend Clare to come with.
I also knew that it was Rachel’s birthday party the night before I was scheduled to depart at 11a.m.
Good wine is a good familiar creature, if it be well used. (Othello)
Fancy headdress was worn. Tequila shots were downed. Cigarettes were smoked. (Ugh. The thought.)
And so when I woke up the next morning feeling as if someone had taken a hammer to my head with about an hour to get from Wapping to Marylebone station for a 2+hour ride to Stratford-Upon-Avon, I did what any sensible hungover person would do: I got the f—k up and managed to make the train. With actual time to spare for a much-needed coffee and bagel. (An actual bagel!)
O thou invisible spirit of wine! If thou hast no name to be known by, let us call thee devil! (Othello)
Perhaps, in retrospect, sleeping on the train would’ve been wise. Shakespeare wise. But Clare and I hadn’t seen each other in weeks and we had so much to catch up on. I did not get anymore shuteye.
The rest of the day was spent trotting those cobblestone streets in the rain, visiting Shakespeare’s birthplace and looking around going, “Oh it’s so lovely here. If only it weren’t pouring and if only we weren’t exhausted.”
While she didn’t have quite the night I did, Clare and I were on the same, er, Shakespeare page. In fact, there we were in Stratford-Upon-Avon surrounded by all this culture and history and we went hunting for a spa for which to get a massage. (Sadly, that didn’t happen.)
Instead, after getting a feel for the town, we went back to our adorable B&B for some tea and a quickie power nap.
At around 5:30, we splashed some water that didn’t come from the sky on ourselves and went for our early-bird, pre-theater dinner where I had a much-needed juicy steak sandwich with chips. Then we went over to The Swan Theatre to see the play. Unfortunately, since we bought our tickets separately we weren’t sitting together, which was a bummer especially since I could’ve used someone to poke me in the ribs every now and again as my head bobbed up and down and my eyes fluttered closed.
I did not sleep through the whole play, thankfully. Not even half of it. Probably about 10 percent.
Overall, I enjoyed the contemporary version of this classic comedy, complete with band, audience participation and reggae-inspired song and dance. While I would’ve liked to go to the Dirty Duck Pub after the show (as many recommended) to meet the hunky actor who played Orlando, there was no fighting my eyes any longer. (The play was over three hours long!)
We went back to our guesthouse and fell into a deep slumber.
The next morning, I awoke to the smells of sizzling bacon and fresh-pressed coffee. I felt like I was in a Folger’s commercial. “The best part of waking up…”
Annie, the owner of the B&B, made the most delicious English breakfast, which we ate even though we weren’t yet hungry.
We were torn about whether to stay a bit longer or have a full day in London, but since the sun was (sorta) out, we decided not to flee and head to Anne Hathaway’s cottage. No, not that Anne Hathaway. The one who came first: William Shakespeare’s wife. We took an invigorating, back-roads walk, during which we saw daffodils and colourful birds and houses that look like they should be in the Shire. It was as if spring had sprung overnight.
At the cottage, we went on a “Woodland Walk” with headphones that played mystical music and quotes from Shakespeare. The sun shone through the tall trees, which moved side-to-side in the wind, and I walked through them in a trance.
The cottage itself was so tiny. Were there not tall people in the 1600’s? How anyone taller than myself walked through these doorways and slept in these beds is beyond me.
The floors creaked as we walked through it, listening to the tour guide explain the origin of classic idioms like The Upper Crust. (Back then, toasted bread was sliced horizontally and the top part was reserved for esteemed guests and the head of the house – hence, The Upper Crust!)
We left feeling inspired and invigorated — a 180 from the day before.
We are such stuff as dreams are made on, rounded with a little sleep. (The Tempest)