I’ve never seen Stratford-upon-Avon look more beautiful than it did in the autumn light of the first morning of September yesterday.
I’ve just had a brief and in some ways emotional stay there. The main purpose was to hand in my dissertation, which I duly did yesterday morning. There were quite a few people there doing the same thing, but I didn’t know any of them – a feature of the slightly socially detatched world of the part-time postgraduate student. My teaching was at weekends and in a summer school – the group was slightly different with each module I took, but friendships were made quickly and one of the hardest things about moving to my dissertation was that I lost that social contact and found myself, more often than not, wandering around town and eating out alone. However, that doesn’t detract from the fact that it was, generally, an experience I wouldn’t have missed for the world.So, once the dissertation was done I was free until my supervisor’s retirement party at 17.00. One of my favourite spots is the Great Garden of New Place
, the site of the house Shakespeare bought in the mid 1590s to retire to. At that time it was the most substantial property in Stratford, though rather run-down. He got it for a snip at £120 – not bad for a house with 20 rooms and 10 fireplaces.Sadly the original house was demolished in the 18C by a Puritan occupant who was fed up with the procession of tourists coming to his doors and peering over his garden walls. You can still go and look around the “new New Place” which was in the hands of Shakespeare’s daughter until the family line died out. And they are doing an archaeological dig in the grounds, to uncover what is left of the original house. Rather a pity that the Victorians got there first and a lot of the work is affected by their well-meaning rebuilding of the foundations.But the main appeal of New Place is the glorious Great Garden, which is one of my favourite spots. (I took some wonderful pictures with my phone and you can look at them here
if you are interested). There is a beautiful set of sculptures based on the plays by Greg Wyatt
– my personal favourite is the one of Hermione form The WInter’s Tale
, which once inspired a fic of mine, but all are worth a look. So I just sat for an hour or so, drinking it all in and, I suppose, saying goodbye. I expect I will be back, but not as often – and we always mean to go back to these spots more than we, in reality, do. I sat with my Kindle and read Samuel Johnson’s preface to his edition of the Complete Works, which seemed appropriate.
And then I went to Starbucks to recharge my phone and have a bite to eat, mooched around Waterstones for an hour or so, and spent the afternoon very happily in a deck chair by the river, before returning to the Shakespeare Institute to say farewell to my wonderful supervisor before returning home.
It’s been an amazing time. I also saw the RSC in A Midsummer Night’s Dream, which I hope to find time to discuss in a separate post.