Tuesday, August 26, 2008

A Late Summer's Weekend Tale

I am suffering from that well known 21st Century syndrome known as Blogger’s Block. I think many of us fall victim to this from time to time – except for your Ian Dale’s and co – but I think my problem recently has been that my mind has been preoccupied with weird, wonderful and terrible things at work, and whilst part of me would like to share those stories past experience has taught me that writing about work on a blog is Not A Good Idea. Someone tried to get me sacked once because of it.

I might have written about how stunning West Side Story was at Sadler’s Wells, but Reidski’s account does that task far better than I could ever manage. So I give you –A Midsummer Night’s Dream.

Another era ago, me and a group of friends used to have a weekend in Stratford upon Avon once a year – see a play, row on the river (that’s row a boat on the river, not have a row on the river – although sometimes there would be a bit of both), and drink copious amounts of alcohol. A nostalgic trawl through old photographs of these events recently led to us deciding to bring back the Stratford weekend – and to introduce the second generation to the delights of Shakespeare. (Actually this was my second attempt to teach my lads the joys of Shakespeare – the first not being what you might call an unqualified success…see below for replay of that story.)

This weekend therefore found an unsuspecting Stratford upon Avon invaded by a group of 13 of us. Things started as they were meant to continue with a trip to the pub before the matinee performance we were booked to see. Two of us were on the white wine. We did a bottle between us before the play.

The play itself was a great success in that in had something for everyone; even my A Level English Lit student son who swears he can not understand a word of Shakespeare had enough visual funnies to keep him happy. Only one amongst us fell asleep which was a major improvement on my family’s last trip to a play at Stratford. Nine of us went to see a Christmas production of Great Expectations three years ago – I was the only one that time who did NOT fall asleep. My friend Fiona was snoring….loudly.

Getting back to Saturday we came out the theatre at about half 5 and naturally went back to the pub. Another bottle of white wine for me and M. We were both feeling the effects, when to our dismay another bottle of white wine appeared. We gamely ploughed our way through that too. 7.00 found us in a restaurant – alas – with another bottle of white wine. I am not too clear about how I managed to hold it together by this stage, but it was something to do with M getting weepy through her alcoholic intake that left me worried about and protective of her which I think must have somehow kept me reasonably alert.

The reasonably alert bit lasted until we all went back to check into our hotel. It must have only been about half 8. I remember lying down on the bed – and the next thing I knew it was quarter past one. There were slumbering young people around me and I had no idea if they had been there all the time, or if they had been in, gone out again, and come back, and I wasn’t entirely sure if in fact I might have been out somewhere with them. I found out the next morning that they had been in, gone out and come back – but that all their attempts to stir me had been in vain. I don’t think I have EVER slept as deeply as I must have done then. The good bit was that I was hangover free in the morning which was more than any of the others over the age of 17 could say.

We did row – and row – on the river later. The rowing bit comes from a disgraceful tendency to competitiveness which manifests itself amongst us where ever we are divided into two teams. We hired a boat for 6 and one for 7, and obviously it was very important to ‘win’ the officially non existent ‘race’. As some amongst us are never going to be the next Steven Redgrave the rowing action itself left a lot to be desired and some people as a result ended up very wet – and not a little pissed off. Happily the being pissed off only lasted for about three hours so it didn’t spoil anything.

All in all, a great return to our Stratford Weekends, and we would be very happy to go back again this season and see Hamlet – only it appears that Lisa and her friends have bought all the available tickets :-) I am not sure what the attraction for this particular production might be?????

Here’s the July 2005 Shakespeare story:

The National Theatre has a fantastic offer of seats for £10 each. Both my son's have read some Shakespeare at school, and they like '10 things I hate about you' which I thought was quite promising (sort of Shakespearean), and the clincher in grabbing their attention...Dumbledore is starring in Henry IV Part 1 (and that Michael Gambon is in it too, I'd heard he was 'not bad'). To cut to the chase, I got tickets for me, them and my mum.

You will have seen the 'hoodie' debate. To summarise; any teenage boy who wears a top with a hood up is clearly a hooligan and must therefore be banned from polite society, which apparently includes the good shoppers of Bluewater Shopping Centre. I have never been there but clearly it must be packed with refined persons who would never slap their kids in public, swear loudly at their partners or drop chewing gum any where. It must therefore be unlike any shopping centre I have ever visited. I digress.

Seating arrangements were from aisle inwards Mum (age 70), me, (age secret) D (age 15), J (age 13), Unknown Male (uknown age but approx 30), Unknown Male's Wife (also age unknown). Half way through the first half I notice J is sitting wearing his hood up, and has his face covered beneath the jackets zip. He resembles a hooligan. I am perturbed, but having already been told to 'hush' by the guy in front of me when I opened a sweet...DURING A BLOODY SCENE CHANGE...(I noted he was on his own, billy-no-mates, and I can't say I'm surprised) I didn't dare say anything to him. The hood stayed up. His face stayed hidden. And both boys laughed alot. Partly I was pleased as this could mean they were understanding the jokes, but mostly I was getting a bit stressy because most of the time they were giggling there were n't any jokes being made.

The interval. Unknown Male is out of his seat, and so is J to share with me and mum what D already knows very well. It turns out the Unknown Male has been farting through out the first half, sometimes audibly (and was HE told to 'hush'? He was not!), but ALWAYS very, very smelly, hence J burying his face in his jacket. And how subtle was J in conveying this news? As you may imagine, every one remaining in their seats during the interval knew, including I'm sorry to say, Unknown Male's Wife, who looked mortified, doubly so when he returned within minutes bearing ice creams. She suggested they went for a walk, and I imagine pointed him firmly in the direction of the gents. J refused to sit in the same seat for the second half. My poor mother had that pleasure, but either her sense of smell isn't what it was, or he had done what was required as there were no further reports of anti-social behaviour.

And of course, when any one asks J how he found his first Shakespeare play he tells them that he didn't have a clue what the play was about but.....


Fire Byrd said...

Ah, Stratford a place to fall in love in.... I was 17 he was my first serious relationship. The Dirty Duck was the pub that words of love were spoken. Then spending the afternoon lying in the sun snogging, before back to the pub, and the eventual last train home to Walsall. Which does not have the magic of Stratford!!!!!

Steve said...

Can I be the first to congratulate Northampton Town on their achievement at the Reebok this evening.

J.J said...

Walsall not quite in the same magical league as Stratford I must admit Pixie!

Steve - you certainly may! I am a Very Happy Cobbler today.

Jay said...

I've never seen Shakespeare performed in Stratford-upon-Avon, but I'm not a huge fan, so apart from missing the chance to see Patrick Stewart onstage I'm not too worried.

Particularly since it seems the theatres are full of trouble makers! LOL!

Hoodies seem to be the least of it!

Karen said...

I am most disappointed not to be seeing a certain Mr T in Hamlet :( but it could be lots of middle aged women who have the hots for Patrick Stewart that have all the tickets?

I have been to Stratford a few times and have seen a few Shakespeare's including John Nettles as Julius Caesar. I loved hearing both your stories about Stratford as you told them really well. Made me very nostalgic for going back there as we used to meet up with my relatives in Wales and there used to be quite a few of us. I used to feel very grown up going to the theatre as we went when I was aged 11-15. I have a great photo of my aunt cupping the arse cheeks of a statue.

J.J said...

Now Jay - can you honestly tell me if a certain Mr Depp happened to be on stage at Stratford you would not be the tiniest bit tempted? :-)

But yes - there are some very uncouth theatre goers I am afraid.

Karen - you should suggest a repeat visit to your family. Such a great way to spend a couple of days. And your aunt sounds like a lot of fun too.

Karen said...

JJ just re-read this post and my mind is boggling as to what has been happening at work. Perhaps you could tell us at your other blog?

J.J said...

Hi again Karen - I have thought of doing that but I am nervous about it. After all, someone who read my blog tried to get me sacked over writing about my job,and I can never be entirley sure if that person has well and truly gone away.

Lisa Rullsenberg said...

Just an apology for us booking all those tickets to go to Stratford. But you wouldn't deprive me of the treat to get me through the dark first 5 weeks of term would you?