Saturday, 8 March 2014

Serendipity

A guest post by C J Heyworth.

Given that my mother was a widow who chose not to remarry after my father's death when I was seven in the Summer of 1953, I suppose her second important choice from my point of view was to work as a school dinner lady so as to "be there" for me when I was not at school, even though her pittance wages did not allow us a 'grand lifestyle" at all.

What I am grateful for is Mum's determination that I should never miss out on the extras organised by teachers at my primary and secondary schools - country days out to Garstang, Fairsnape, Parlick and Brock, and city trips to Lancaster, Manchester, Liverpool, York mainly related to the History syllabus.  Best of all (and I still do not know how it was afforded as light Summer clothes were needed for predicted higher daytime temperatures) a European tour which took us to London and Dover, by ferry to Calais and through Belgium, Germany, Austria and across The Brenner Pass to Riva at the northern tip of Lake Garda with day visits to Milan and Venice - a splendid introduction to matters European.

But the visits which had most lasting influence on me were the Fifth and Sixth Form trips each November to see the RSC perform at The Memorial Theatre, a lasting shaping of how I should choose many hours of life in enjoyment of theatre both as an audience member and a participant.

Attending the performance by the touring RSC Ensemble of an abridged Taming of the Shrew at The Grand revivified my memories of "back then". I'm sure the standards today insisted on by Tourist Boards such as Visit England and Stratford's own Accommodation Bureau would have made the sort of Wednesday to Saturday Coach Trip we took impossible for a school to organise today, mostly because of arrangements for sleeping in the guest house within walking distance of the theatre.

To keep costs to a minimum, each bedroom was shared by ten of us in double beds which completely occupied the floor-space in the room, there was one bathroom/toilet on each floor, and the two spinsters who ran the place were not brilliant cooks.  They also loved what my mother used to refer to as "dust-gatherers" - the Guest Lounge was crowded with all sorts of mainly wooden ornaments - "They do not break," explained one of who we referred to as Macbeth's Witches.  Being teenagers we labelled them as "immensely old".  They were probably in their late fifties at least!

I work this out as a couple of years after I had left Baines to become an undergraduate at Reading University, one of my best friends of the time, the late Bob Glass, explained that his parents, who ran a guest house on Lord Street near Blackpool North Station, had sold their place in Blackpool and moved to Stratford-upon-Avon having bought another guest house.  Bob was living in London, and I visited him there quite frequently, hitch-hiking from Reading, an easy matter.  In his generous way, Bob invited me to see his parents' new home in Stratford, and, lo and behold, which was the guest house they had bought ?

The one we used to stay in for our school trips, but modified to the high standard Mrs. Glass always insisted on - no more five beds to a room, and the target visitors were American Literary Junkies wanting what Visit England now calls Shakespeare Country.



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2 comments:

Lara Clayton said...

These glimpses are fascinating. It is so interesting to see which details memory has chosen to hang onto - the wooden ornaments because they won't break if they are knocked.
I'm left wanting to hear more about the tour around Europe; it most have been full of many wonderful experiences...

Lara

Adele said...


Really enjoyed reading about your fun memories. My first Shakespeare experience was The Scottish play at the Dukes, Lancaster. It was G.C.E O'Level syllabus then and only read in the classroom, never performed. I have been to see the RSC perform several times and love the theatre experience. The Tempest at The Courtyard, Stratford was incredible but we stayed at The Holiday Inn: Nothing like your adventure although on a later trip to The Globe we stayed in the LSE student halls with no mirror, camp beds and nasty breakfast. Henry VIII was worth roughing it but I always enjoy Shakespeare in the park on a sunny day with a picnic and a glass of fizz. On one occasion, we were at Fellfoot Park in The Lakes and at the end of Romeo and Juliet, an owl hooted in the twilight. So atmospheric.