…And now I am back in Edinburgh, unpacking, cleaning, watching Big Brother (with much guilt, I must add) and preparing for my sister to come visit. Then, on September 2nd, I am going hoooooome for two weeks - for the first time since I moved here on August 5th, 2008.
While I was down working in England, I had a chance to revisit Stratford-upon-Avon; however, this time I was greeted by sunny skies, warm weather, and bright cheerful gardens. And lots of other visitors, too! But for being a perfect English summer day, not to mention a Friday, the crowds weren’t too bad, and even made the trip a little more interesting, allowing me to watch families and couples and the odd lonesome Shakespeare fanatic share their time in the city.
Last time I visited, I bought tickets that let me into Shakespeare’s birthplace and Anne Hathaway’s home, but this time I was too cheap to pay the £17 again to get into those homes and Nash’s Croft, which is next door to the where Shakespeare died. That house, ‘New Place’, is gone, with only part of foundation surviving, but its location had been turned into a garden. Next door to Nash’s house and garden is another garden which was free to the public.
The gardens were lovely and fragrant, and I came back after lunch to spend a more time in them. But the gardens were on the way to where I was really headed, the River Avon:
After enjoying lunch on the lawn, I strolled over to the ancient Holy Trinity church, the oldest parts dating back to 1210, where Shakespeare, his wife, and several other family members are buried in the chapel. The most famous and well-respected English poet ever, and in death he is still just an abstract slab of stone and a plaque with a name.
He did have a last hurrah. His epitaph? (in slightly more modern English)
Good friend for Jesus sake forbear
To dig the dust enclosèd here
Blessed be the man that spares these stones
And cursed be he who moves my bones
What a wise ass! I love it.
But my favourite part of it all was a little carving hidden in the corner and almost impossible to appreciate without a camera zoom. It’s a very early image of Christ that managed to survive the Reformation (when images of Jesus were destroyed), it being hidden until somewhat recently.
I hung out a bit longer, appreciating the architecture before walking back into town. After a fish supper enjoyed next to the River, I did a bit of shopping, stopped into Starbucks, and caught the train back.
Kudos to the people I stayed with taking such good care of me and giving me rides to and from the train station. It was hard work at the kennels, but rewarding.
Also, I got to spend time with the boss’s 9-month-old French Bulldog Mastiff (I do actually know the difference, I just had a brain fart), like the canine in the classic Tom Hanks dog-com ‘Tuner and Hooch‘. He had the unfortunate name of Tea Bag, which had been selected by the previous owner who had to rehome the poor beast. Upon first meeting Tea Bag, I was NOT impressed, since he nearly knocked me over by jumping on my chest and subsequently covered me head-to-toe in his special blend of slobber. But after a while, I couldn’t help but have a change of heart, and what had made him obnoxious and gross made him - oddly - charming. He weighs over 30kg and is a big stupid lug, but he has no idea that he’s too big to play rough. He’s just a puppy and a very affectionate one at that.
I mean, how could you not love him?