Tuesday, 11 August 2015

All the world's a stage

The man at the centre of it all
It certainly is here at Bancroft Basin in Stratford – and we boaters are indeed merely players on it. Bit part players at that in the continuing drama of William Shakespeare which has enthralled the world for four hundred years and draws thousands of tourists to his birthplace here.
Beside another fine tug, this one built by Dave Harris

The Bard and his creations await the next wave of tourists
Most of them, to judge from our viewpoint, from Japan. Japanese tourists seem to wash over Bancroft Gardens like waves on a beach, pouring across the ground and around the famous monument to the Bard, then retreating to leave it empty before the next rolling breaker arrives.
Prince Hal lifts his crown but no-one is watching
And all of them – as you'd expect – photographing everything: the statue of Shakespeare and the surrounding bronzes of his most famous creations, the boats, the boaters' dogs, the plants, each other and themselves (with those notorious selfie sticks of course).
Some of them photograph details with the same relentless intensity - snap, snap, snap, snap - I used to see in Japanese engineers snapping away at details of rival new cars at motor shows. Poor friends back at home having to sit through an evening of saki and 'snaps of our trip to Stratford'.
It really is a huge entertainment though naturally some boaters manage to grumble about it. What a grumpy bunch we are!
The eternally depressed Hamlet
The monument to Shakespeare is an understandably popular destination. The bronzes of the playright and of Prince Hal, Lady Macbeth, Falstaff and Hamlet are exquisite and the stone base on which the Bard sits staring rather sternly out at the modern world has some of his great lines. Most, sadly, seems to be missed by the waves of iphone wielders busy snapping each other with a hand on Yorick's skull or stroking a charming boater's dog.
Alas poor Yorick, yet another photo opportunity
The statues are free to look at of course; unlike much else in Stratford which has to be 'Experienced' or eaten (I don't think I've ever seen so many restaurants in a square mile, all of them busy).

Ghastly Shakespearean analogies and puns abound on shop names, though there are classier frontages on the quieter streets it has to be said and it is easy to leave the dawdling geriatric visitors and crocodiles of teenagers behind.
Being cost-conscious boaters we opted for the gourmet gastronomic experience of 'the best fish and chips in town' followed by a self guided walking tour of the old streets courtesy of a Stratford Society website. More of that next time.

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