Nov 11, 2005

Day 6 : Medieval times

I could see through the windows, gray clouds still hanging low, when I woke up. The weather had cooperated till then and shrugging philosophically, I set to get ready for the day. The breakfast table was nicely set and as usual I opted for toast, tea and cereal. AS stuck to a single glass of milk. SR joined for a vegetarian breakfast which turned out to be eggs and tomatoes.

After breakfast, I set off on the walking tour. The previous evening AS decided that she needed an umbrella. “If you run now, you might be able to get it, they are about to close,” a lady advised us. It was just 5:55 p.m. It was about 9:00 now and hardly any signs of life.

SS donned a poncho and AS took out her new pink umbrella which she did manage to buy. SR prefererd to walk in the drizzle. “So this is where Shakespeare lived,” SR said with a teasing look “Or the man who could have possibly written those plays,” He was referring of course to the authorship controversy. Just a few days ago, a new contender had emerged. The half a million people who visit Stratford every year obviously dont think it is relevant.

I had downloaded a very informative walking tour from the web and decided to follow that route. Except for a couple of buildings I couldnt spot, I pretty much enjoyed all the other things listed - the wide straight streets that is mark of the new medieval town, the shakespearean carvings in red, the black and white buildings et al.

I jumped over a puddle and the elderly lady coming toward me smiled, “I didnt expect to swim to church.” It was a Sunday! Thats probably why nothing was open. People in Britain were friendlier than I expected, I wandered off to the Shakespeare Birthplace.

What a wonderful restoration, again the passion and pride was visible in every little object. They had authentic 17th century things or atleast recreations in the same style. They had the baptist records from the church, recording his name, in latin. I am fascinated by the amount of records that are available even from four to five centuries ago. I wonder if this exhaustive recordings of births, deaths, weddings, baptisms etc., is a religious/christian trait or more of a european trait.

I walked through the medieval bedrooms, kitchen, feeling transported to a different time and then onto the gift shop. Bought a jester ornament and fridge magnets of Shakespeare quotes - “There is money, spend it, spend it more”

Walked out enjoying the interesting store names - loxley, marlowe(?!) towards the statues by the river. Falstaff looked very mischievous. The river curved, with the church providing a picturesque background. Geese cackled, it drizzled a bit, we sat for a while enjoying the serenity and beauty.

Had lunch in McDonalds and set off to Warwick castle. By the time I went to Warwick I was beginning to take the restoration and recreation for granted. Indeed appropriately attired dolls were setup in rooms decorated as per the theme and period, according to an event they were depicting, this one had sound effects too. It was a nice touch to have the docents attired in the same period costume. I shepherded out the gang after a couple of hours and we wandered a bit on the handsome grounds.There was a stunning view of the river right next to the castle. Damp, green walkways with the smell of the earth, the medieval turrets, the dungeons, the moat all as usual fired my imagination.

I chatted with an elderly lady about how expensive things were. “Its all those tourists dear,” she said, smiling. “Yes, those darned tourists,” I grinned. She asked about my tour so far and was quite delighted about my trip.

We got into the car and set off. Now, after this point my iterinary had a sort of a blank. I knew I had to get to the lake district, maybe via Llangollen, Wales, how about touching Oxford? “The afternoon is fading,” SR reminded kindly. “I’d like to spend a day in London visitng the dungeons,” SS reminded darkly. I decided we should head north towards the lake district.

This time we took a motorway. I sat marvelling the green grass so close to winter. The land sloped, sheeps grazed, quaint little cottages sped past. England doesnt seem to have any plains at all.

As the signpost [atleast here they had good signs First evidence they do drive extensively in England] for Manchester came up, I agonized over where our next stop should be. We could stop in Manchester, thats a name we have known in India for a while, or we could veer off to Liverpool. “Mahatma Gandhi visited here,” plaque may or may not be there, but I might be able to see eleanor Rigby’s grave in liverpool.

“Lady, make up your mind,” SR urged exasperated when we were about a mile from the exit. SS and AS despite their interest in Rock, weren’t very enthusiastic. “Lets skip and head as far as we can,” I declared. SR pressed the gas pedal enthusiastically.

We stopped in Preston that night in a bed and breakfast. I tried hard to figure out the date before sleep engulfed me.

November 11, 2005