“What's that, child? Monday is an inset day? Yes, of course I read the school newsletter...”
Discovering that it was the tail end of the Stratford Fringe Festival and the free 3-month Art Passes we got with the Daily Telegraph would get us into all of Shakespeare's houses for free (– and expire in July), I booked a hotel using my Avios, printed directions from Google and after my Saturday classes, Mini-Me and I set off on our latest adventure: Stratford-upon-Avon. It is remarkably easy and very pleasurable now to go on impromptu trips with Mini-Me, being that the small grumpy person who needs to be fed often and taken to the loo regularly is now me. A road trip as single mother of an only child means no bickering siblings and no arguing adults. Picture it: peace, happiness, nectarines, home-made chicken wraps, rolling hills, golden fields and Dermot O'Leary on Radio Two in the background. Ah... bliss.
After being informed by several different parties that no, it was definitely in no way suitable for children of 11, I gave up trying to convince Mini-Me that she would be fine on the Adult Candle Lit Ghost Tour. So we found an earlier, family-friendly version and John our (spirit) guide led us around the dimly lit Tudor World Museum which was now shut for the day, and therefore even more atmospheric. It had already been the setting for an episode of Most Haunted which thrilled me no end. He pointed out paving stones upon which Shakespeare would have actually trodden, since he used to drink there when it was a pub; explained the difference between ghosts and spirits; and highlighted sightings of tragic child figures who lived their lives and met their ends in ways that shouldn't really be written about in a family magazine. We were creeped out when we were told to edge away carefully from the doorway of a particular room where the evil ghost of murderous man who dislikes dark haired women is said to parade through, freaking people out. Shakespetrified? A bit. Fun? You bet!
It was 7pm when we found ourselves at the box office. It turned out we had actually missed most of the Stratford Fringe Festival and all that was available and kid friendly was the last night of a production of A midsummer Night's Dream at the Shakespeare Institute. Now, I freely admit that I feared this might be deadly boring, especially on an empty stomach at 7.30 in the evening (I like my dinner substantial and on time) but in actual fact, we had entirely by chance wandered into the best Shakespeare production I have ever seen. And yes, I have actually seen a few, highly acclaimed ones. This teeny tiny production however, was truly magical, even for Mini-Me whose shoulders could be seen bobbing about in genuine hilarity while Bottom delivered his over-the-top soliloquy directly at her. I fully expect to see him and the actress playing Puck becoming household names at some point in the future, they were THAT good. By the time the tears of laughter had dried from Mini-Me's eyes it was nearly 10 and it seemed nowhere was serving food. We went from restaurant to restaurant until finally we found one that would serve me and my poor hungry little girl. The waitress pointed to the programme that Tia was examining and asked "Is that what you have just seen? My boyfriend is in that! He plays Thisbe!" That's the kind of place Stratford-upon-Avon is...
A perfectly acceptable way to while away 40 minutes in the evening sunshine before an al fresco riverside supper of fish and chips is to hop on a boat and sail up part of the River Avon, staring longingly at the beautiful private houses and gardens that back on to moorings on the river, waving at people trying to relax on their private balconies, and shooing swarms of flies away from your daughter while she sits there with her hands clamped over her mouth hyperventilating through her nose. So peaceful...
For MORE on this trip including Shakespeare's Houses and a freaky deaky little Wizarding shop and museum that sells real wands (for when you are totally Shakespeared out – it WILL happen) visit: mynotesfromtheedge.blogspot.com.
Angelina runs Sing and Sign award-winning baby signing classes in Harrow, Bushey and Rickmansworth. More info at www.singandsign.com.