We had booked tickets for The Taming of the Shrew at the Courtyard Theatre and decided, weeks before, that we’d spend a few hours in the glorious sunshine, seeing Stratford-upon-Avon from the top of a open bus, walking by the river and enjoying the sites. This was not going to happen, in a rather big way.
First Elly, my wife, had broken her foot and was wearing a walking cast that was more Robocop than Elizabethan hose. Second, she was on crutches which made the cobbles as stable as ice skating on rollerblades. Lastly, it was raining like Act One of the Tempest and the Avon was bursting it’s banks.
So, an ideal time to go site seeing.
We boarded Ye Olde Shakespeare Bus Tour opposite the Falstaff Tandoori on the corner by Othello’s nigh club and Tudor restaurant. The bus contained only Elly and I and Chuck and Lizbeth from Missouri, a hardy pair who sat on the top deck in sou’westers bravely listening to Pete, our Brummie guide, bellow historical nonsense into a 100 watt p.a. system.
“On your right you’ll see the house where Shakespeare’s sister’s cousin is reported to have had lunch in 1514.”
“On your left you’ll might see sheep in a field where the Forrest of Arden once stood and was mentioned 17 times in the plays of Shakespeare.”
The rain at this point was so strong that when we hit a puddle, and this was every 15-30 seconds, vasts plumes of water would erupt from the wheel arches and come gysering into the downstairs deck creating a mobile river Avon of our very own.
Add to this the condensation which cut the already atrocious visibility down to about 4 feet and the journey became hysterically funny. At one point the bus slowed in a cheap housing estate to allow us to view some civil servant’s pride and joy – a topiary locomotive sandwiched between the Vauxhall Astras.
We would have fallen on the floor laughing but we would have drowned.
We left the aqua-bus and walked to the theatre past a few lovely timber framed buildings and a lot of bizarre theme venues all of which had taken the words Hamlet, Romeo, Shakespeare, Falstaff and Tudor and combined them with almost any of the following terms; kebabs, tea shoppe, tavern, car park, public lavatory or bistrot.
Then the play which was first class and a fast drive back to London.
Exit stage left……………. squelching