Earlier this month we visited Stratford-upon-Avon the town where Shakespeare was born. Stratford-upon-Avon is located in Warwickshire, England, on the River Avon.
Shakespeare was born in April 23, 1564. He died on April 23, 1616, at the age of 52.
Although there are no records of Shakespeare’s education it is assumed that he attended; King Edward VI Grammar School from the age of 7 until the age of 14 in 1578.
The courses were taught in Latin and students were expected to converse in Latin during the long school day.
Shakespeare was born on Henley Street.
This is the original floor that Shakespeare walked on in his birth home.
One of our most enjoyable events while we were visiting Stratford-upon-Avon was attending a performance of Doctor Faustus by Christopher Marlowe. The Play was performed in the Swan Theatre.
This classic story of the struggle of a man who has sold his soul to the devil for a few years of fulfilling his every carnal desire was poignant and revealing. Whatever the poor deceived Doctor’s wishes and desires were, Mephistophilis was careful to fulfill according the letter of the contract…but certainly not what Dr. Faustus had imagined the fulfillment to be!
We were all sitting close to the stage with Jonathon and I sitting with our knees touching it. Jonathon even became a part of the performance when a piece of chalk that Dr. Faustus had flung hit him!
Faustus and Mephistophilis were interchangeable in the two lead roles and this was determined by they’re meeting on the stage at the beginning of the performance and both lighting a match. The match that burned the longest was Mephistophilis. Faustus and Mephistophilis were totally dependent on each other.
The church of the Holy Trinity is where Shakespeare is buried.
I thought the statues modeled from prominent characters in Shakespeare’s Plays were fascinating!
As you can see from the above picture…I was so inspired by Shakespeare…I now have what I affectionately call, Portable Shakespeare.
Oxford University was established in the twelfth century. Among the University’s famous alumni are: C S Lewis, J.R.R. Tolkien, Oscar Wilde, Lewis Caroll, Stephen Hawking, and Bill Clinton.
The “Great Hall” in Christ Church College is the inspiration for the Hogwarts Dining Hall depicted in the Harry Potter films.
The Bodliean Library is another iconic Oxford building that is used in four of the films as the Hogwarts Infirmary.
The New College Tree that is inside the grounds of New College beyond the Bridge of Sighs is also shown in a Harry Potter film where Draco Maufoy tells Harry Potter “you won’t last ten-seconds” under a tree.
One of our most enjoyable dining experiences while in Oxford was at the Eagle and Child Pub which was a favorite of the Inkling’s writers group. This group included C S Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien.
Oxford is a city like none that I have visited. Dear friends of ours gave us a watercolor of Oxford several years ago and I have been intrigued by the idea of visiting the University/City ever since. They are history professors and during our friendship both were invited to speak at Oxford due to their expertise in their Discipline. Our friend Peter had been invited to speak at the High Table while Jo Ann was speaking at the Low Table.
In searching for the University I quickly found that it is co-mingled with the town. Oxford is a place that I felt most at home in during our United Kingdom Adventure and at one point during a tour we were taking, as we sat in the Library and as our guide was speaking to us I had the strangest feeling of deja-vu?
When we first entered the Eagle and Child and were searching for a table two gracious people, professors I assume, hurried to give us their’s, as they were just finishing up their dinner. When we asked how we could repay them they pleaded for us to not vote for Donald Trump.
The Tower of London
Last month on July 28 we visited the infamous Tower of London. This was our second visit to the Tower, with the first being in August 2012 when the Olympics was in town.
“The Tower of London was founded in 1066 as part of the Norman Conquest of England” according to Wikipedia.” The Tower has served variously as an armory, a treasury, a menagerie, the home of the Royal Mint, a public record office, and the home of the Crown Jewels of England” Wikipedia.
Although the Tower is known for its’ use as a prison and a place of executions, prior to World War I and World War II only seven people were executed there.
We began our Tour conducted by a throughly colorful character; one of the proud ceremonial guardians of the Tower of London, The Beefeaters.
All Yeoman Warders, “are retired from the Armed Forces of Commonwealth realms and must be former senior non-commissioned officers or petty officers with at least 22 years of service. They must also hold the Long Service and Good Conduct medal” Wikipedia.
Of course the Tower of London was where one of Henry VIII’s most famous wives was imprisoned and subsequently beheaded; Anne Boleyn.
Above is a monument on the Tower Green that approximates the spot where the beheadings occurred.
I found the Ravens fascinating to observe.
Or Henry’s…perhaps wishful thinking…suit of armor.
The Tower has a brooding melancholy atmosphere to it…quite fascinating in its’ historic splendor!
Of course one of the most iconic images is Tower Bridge.
To tour the Tower of London is to both commune with the past and the spirits of history. It is a unique experience that leaves an indelible impression.
The Edinburgh Ghost Tour
Earlier this month we had the privilege of spending five days in Edinburgh, Scotland. This was during the Fringe Festival that encompasses all types of Arts which includes over three thousand separate performances. In fact it is still going on for the next few days!
One of the most interesting events that we took part in was separate from the Fringe and truly a chilling experience.
The tour we joined was created by a local historian and was not given to histrionics or gimmicks but rather relied upon the murders, brutality, and all out strange phenomena that is associated with Edinburgh throughout its’ long history.
At the beginning of our tour our guide noted the heart on the old cobblestone pavement that marked what used to be the opening of the dungeon.
We walked to Greyfriars Kirkyard which is the graveyard that surrounds Greyfriars Kirk.
Here many of the City’s poor and indigent were buried in unmarked graves.
The above picture illustrates the common practice, in earlier days, of putting a cage around your loved ones grave to prevent their remains from being robbed by persons who would sell the remains to the University of Edinburgh Medical School for their research.
William Burke and William Hare committed 16 murders in 1828. They sold the bodies to Dr. Doctor Robert Knox for his Anatomy classes. Due to measures being taken to keep graves from being robbed there became a shortage of cadavers for the purpose of dissection in Anatomy lectures. “When a lodger in Hare’s house died, he turned to his friend Burke for advice and the two decided to sell the body to Knox; they received, what was to them a generous sum seven pounds and ten shillings. A little over two months later, when Hare was concerned that a lodger suffering from fever might put others off from staying in the house, he and Burke murdered her and sold the body to Knox,” according to Wikipedia.
Burke and Hare’s Cottage Industry was going quite well until a student in an Anatomy class recognized Margaret Docherty’s corpse as one of the lodgers at Hare’s home.
Hare turned kings evidence against Burke. Burke was found guilty of one of the murders and subsequently hanged. His corpse was dissected and his skeleton displayed at the Edinburgh Medical School where it remains to this day.
Burke and Hare were two members of a well done fictionalized account of ignominious murderers throughout history in a popular Twilight Zone program entitled, The New Exhibit.
One of the truly eerie segments of the tour came at the conclusion where we went underground to the vaults that had been uncovered. Our guide said that although she had only worked for the Tour Company for less than a year…she had striven to remain neutral regarding the existence or non-existence of ghosts. She went on to recount that within the last two months three disturbing reports had been given to her by members of her various tours.
The original owner of the vault, that we were in, had two children who were tragically killed.
The first account came from a woman at the conclusion of one of our guide’s tours when she asked the guide who the little boy was that was at her side during her explanation of the vault they were in?
The second occurrence was our guide noticing that a man and woman had no more than entered the vault when they hastily turned around and exited and returned above ground. When our guide met them at the conclusion of the tour she enquired as to their rapid exit. They responded that as soon as they entered the vault they saw a little boy setting in the corner of the room. Our guide found this concerning as she had not told of the history of the room or the untimely death of the two children.
Recently yet another woman saw a little boy standing at the side of our guide during her entire presentation in the vault. This woman knew nothing of the first two occurrences.
The picture above is Jonathon…not the ghost…but is illustrates the dark, dank, environment we were in.
A fellow American from Texas took several pictures while we were down there and showed me an image that I did not recall seeing while I was there?
The last item we saw was where one of the stones had fallen from the wall and when you bent down to look in…there were bones.
My Friend of 45 Years
Few life occurrences have given me more pleasure than my re-connection with my friends Jeff and Margo beginning in 2010. Jeff and I met in 1971. I was attending a small non-denominational church in Elkville, Illinois and Jeff began attending church along with many of his fellow hippies.
I have always liked hippies,…and I think Jeff and many other Commune dwellers who lived along the Royalton Blacktop, who were fascinating people, opened a whole new world to me,…are the reason why.
I stayed at the Commune on more than one occasion and experienced things that I had never thought of before, such as Gefilte Fish and Matzo. Many of my hippie friends were Jewish. I also felt such a sweetness and love and acceptance from the Commune members. Many of these wonderful people became Jews for Jesus.
During these young days many of my new friends stood out to me; such as Helene, Michael Toppel, Michael Black, and my friend of 45 years…Jeff Lestz.
One Sunday morning after staying over at the Commune I asked where I might take a shower? Michael Toppel and Jeff Lestz took me to the back yard to what I can only describe as a unique human cleansing device. The shower had three sides with the front or entrance completely open to the world. The water came from a tub that had been strategically placed on top to the shower with garden hose protruding through the roof and an on and off knob suitable for a garden hose within arms reach the shower participant.
Michael instructed me to turn the water on…cold…and get wet…then turn it off…soap up…and then turn it back on for the rinse cycle…as there was not enough water to keep the flow coming throughout the process.
When I enquired as to the totally open entrance…Jeff and Michael remarked that it was not a problem while the adjacent corn field was high with corn but that there was some privacy issues after harvest.
Jeff was someone that I felt an immediate connection with. His desire to learn and improve was Herculean!
For the past three weeks my family and I have been traveling with our dear friends Margo and Jeff. Toward the end of our Holiday Jeff had invited me to attend a business meeting with him in Leeds, England that was entitled…An Evening with Jeff Lestz.
I told my lifelong friend that I would be happy to do so and that I would set in the back. He responded that he not only would like for me to attend the meeting but to say a few words regarding the beginnings or our friendship. I was honored…and could not resist the opportunity!
Jeff is the Co-CEO of an extremely successful company called Genistar that is based in the United Kingdom.
The energy and excitement and anticipation in the room in Leeds was palpable. People were eager to hear from my friend regarding the financial opportunity that he was offering…and about Jeff Lestz the person.
I looked around the room of fifty to seventy-five people and saw the most lovely mixture of races and cultures.
Horatio Alger in the latter part of the nineteenth century wrote very popular books that were categorized as Rags to Riches stories of young men who came literally from poverty to wealth. I cannot describe to you what a thrill it is to have as my life long friend a true Rags to Riches story!
The secret to my friends success is simple…he has always had a heart to help others…and thus the genuineness of his heart touches those in need.
I must bestow my favorite quote on to my friend Jeff, as it describes his dedication to others who are less fortunate… perfectly: “We are all in the same boat in a stormy sea, and we owe each other a terrible loyalty.” G. K. Chesterton
Brock and Marcy
We have just returned from a lovely three week journey to the United Kingdom. As usual I have so much that I want to write about I think that I will be writing until Christmas! However I can’t imagine anything that touched me more than a meeting at the conclusion of our trip the morning after we arrived back in the United States…than our meeting my long lost brother Brock and his lovely wife Marcy.
We met my youngest brother, who I had never seen, at the Radisson Hotel near the airport in Nashville, Tennessee. What beautiful people! You see the reason that I had never met them was due to my Mother and Father divorcing when I was five years old. We had lived in Chicago and I had been an only child.
Have your ever first met someone and felt like that you had known them all of your life? The feeling of looking your brother in the eyes and seeing an element of yourself…is surreal.
Brock also uncannily resembles our Dad.
Both Marcy and Brock are hard working people. Marcy works in the Health Care industry and Brock has held more than one responsible management positions with various companies. They are the proud parents of two great children, a daughter and a son.
Meeting them gave me a feeling of Home and Place that I had not experienced as an only child.
They are coming to see us…and we are planning a hiking adventure at Giant City State Park! We all are excited about this new chapter in our lives!