Through the gap in Shakespeare’s garden

Outside the Swan Theatre, Stratford

Outside the Swan Theatre, Stratford

Christmas in West Cork: Cork, a town on the southern coast of Ireland, “West Cork” the territory to the left of it loosely defined by small towns with names like Skibbereen, which we visit just so we can say we did: Christmas Eve during the day leaning against a store front taking pictures, to remember what we can for another time looking back, a woman stops and says I like your karma and I smile and say thanks, then realize she means my camera — and though it’s a crowded sidewalk and we don’t know each other and my family comes out of the shop and pools around her, she keeps talking: how Christmas is such a lovely time but it’s a pity everyone’s in a rush, how this year she made photo albums for her two sisters (no presents), took the time to organize all the pictures from when they were kids — and they just sat around going through them crying, and I think she may be a bit slippy, half of her face sags like she could’ve had a stroke once, but there’s tears in her eyes and when she turns I watch her walking up the street and think about her later in the week when I’m out walking, and want to save her memory for a long time too.

New Year’s morning, walking up the uneven lane to the end at our friend Alex’s in Chester, past the houses with names out front and no numbers, across from trees leaning on their sides that look they were drawn, crows and winter birds pecking at the roots, everything damp and dripping.

The owner of the flat says you can walk across the town in 10 minutes, Stratford-upon-Avon: just turn right at the end of the street, take the gap through Shakespeare’s garden, and that puts you right into town.

Shakespeare, who’s so cool and mythic he even looks real on advertisements on the side of buses, like his essence can’t be lessened by marketing even, in his eyes you can tell he’s smiling inwards — but less so at the monument where his statue sits on the top around the figures he created below, Falstaff, Lady Macbeth, good Prince Hal…whereas he used to be by the theatre facing the church where he’s buried they had to move it when the theatre burned down and they rebuilt it, and now he looks across the street at a Holiday Inn.

Killing time in Waterford on our way to the ferry out of Rosslare into Wales, confined to a single room for two days with storm Frank coming on, holing up in the hotel bar watching a world championship of darts, watching it longer than I’d like to admit, how the guys have nick names like The Bull or The Spider, and just like NFL football in the States, they do that thing where they stand in front of the camera on either side of each other with their arms crossed looking tough while their stats display at the bottom — and there are pretty girls interviewing them and drunks in the audience, and their family is probably watching them broadcast live and proud, thinking at last they finally made something of themselves.

We get out on the last ferry before Frank comes but the water is so choppy, kids and grown-ups are puking here and there, some less discreetly than others, and the ferry clean-up crew tends to it matter-of-factly with rubber gloves and plastic mops, no one’s even apologizing about it, and when we arrive in Wales they have another language too that’s more consonants than vowels, and looks like a Scrabble hand that would be money if you could just do something with it.

I go from a Yeats collection right into Stranger in a Strange Land and it’s not a good transition; it’s changing the radio dial from Classical to 70s, and not good 70s, but it gives me hope if someone can write a story about a Martian on Earth that holds my interest, perhaps I can do the same with mine.

And over the river Avon the water is glass with an arctic air coming into England now, a proper bit of winter, along the muddy river banks to the public footpath into the country, through frosty patches of mud, some cows and birds, a pink-streaked sky: and there they laid Shakespeare, and on the day they did they probably went out and had a pint, and the moon had similar phases and the river looked about the same too, and their hearts were not much different than ours, which is both comforting and ominous, no different than life itself.

About pinklightsabre

William Pearse publishes memoir, travel journals, poetry and prose, and lives in the Pacific Northwest.
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27 Responses to Through the gap in Shakespeare’s garden

  1. Erica Welch says:

    I’ve missed your blog posts, Bill. Glad to be able to read this today!

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  2. walt walker says:

    Skibbereen rang some bells. Had to Google the map to remember why. We landed in Rosslare Harbour coming over on a ferry from Fishguard in Wales. (I love the Welsh accent.) Walked up one hell of a hill from the ferry looking for the road to the hostel and a group of kids were walking the other way. A car passed and one of the kids threw a rock at it. The car stopped came back, the driver got out and started yelling at the kid, saw him throw something. The kid said he didn’t, and the man said “yes ye did, I saw ye fire one in there!” The kid said “t’wasn’t me,” then threw a thumb towards his friend and said “t’was him.” The man got back in the car and drove away. As memories go, that little one is good as gold, if you ask me. I couldn’t figure out why we would have gone to Skibbereen, looking at the map. It’s on the other side of Glandore, where my friend’s uncle owns The Rectory, and Union Hall, which we sought out just to stay in the old stone school house they turned into a hostel. The lady who ran it had lived in San Francisco for years, and made killer scones. Maybe we took the ferry to France from around Skibbereen somewhere. I should go dig up my journal, but I have no idea where to start looking for it.

    Liked by 1 person

    • walt walker says:

      Oh, and good to see you around again. Missed the posts, I did.

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    • pinklightsabre says:

      That’s funny Walt: we went the opposite direction from Rosslare to Wales, but took a different route and regretted not taking the Fishguard one, as we spent the night at a groovy place in Newport, and wished we had spent more time there. There was a wind storm on, but with the old stone foundation and thick walls, all we could hear were the drunks downstairs in the bar as we tried to go to sleep, upstairs. Thank you for sharing your story with me…who needs old journals when you’ve got recall? I could see yours, even the old guy’s teeth in the car. Or maybe that’s an old guy I talked to myself on a country road, they get mixed up. Yes, I’ve missed the interaction online but sadly, need to separate myself from it so I can call up all my resources on my first rewrite, which is a reboot, but vastly better so far. At least it is, in my head — but that’s where all good things start and end, innit? Will catch up with you offline soon when we’re able, and glad to hear from you again, thanks. – Bill

      Liked by 1 person

  3. umashankar says:

    Mesmerising as the bard himself. I enjoyed so much the vivid, tactile and deep post spanning over centuries, I lingered long enough till I realised I had run out of words.

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    • pinklightsabre says:

      That’s beautiful! If I could print this out and tape it to my desk I would, thanks for the inspiration my friend! I think beyond sharing the same first name and use of the English language, that may be where the comparisons end between the Bard and me…but as thieves steal from one another, so I am not above admiring his use of theme and imagery, wordplay…and have to wonder what he would blog about. Likely not, if it interfered with his writing.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. ksbeth says:

    i still love, ‘i like your karma’ even better.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. We stopped briefly in Stratford-upon-Avon before going to Wales and at the time, I was too enamored by English gardens to think about literary significance. I made awkward conversation with people about what kind of grass they grew outside of Anne Hathaway’s cottage. Culture is sometimes wasted on me. I’m glad it’s not wasted on you. Happy new year, Bill!

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    • pinklightsabre says:

      Ha! How funny…I can picture you talking grass, I like that. I confess I feel some real good vibe here. Unsure if that’s in my head or what, doesn’t matter so long as you feel it right? Perhaps getting off the blog pipe for a bit and committing to my rewrite is it too, happy new year to you also Michelle! Nice we’re still in touch, it’s this time we met about three years ago now, I reckon…I’m glad for it. Bill

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  6. Dina Honour says:

    Happy New Year! We drove through Moo Ball Queensland just so we could say we did. I love the idea of complimenting karma. “My your chakras are looking lovely today, Bill! What have you been feeding them??”. Wales is a strange place. I’m slightly frightened of it, in a I might be attacked by overly capable Enid Blyton children or talking bunnies and ducks straight out of Beatrix Potter. But it’s lovely. When it’s not raining. Mostly it’s nice to have your dreamscape back. Oh, and Bill? If I haven’t told you lately, your karma is looking marvelous.

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    • pinklightsabre says:

      Happy New Year to you too dah-ling and thank you for the kind words, the dreamscape and talking bunnies reference, the excuse to postpone making a salad from reconstituted Rocket, canned mackeral, and NA beer. Gosh, what has come of our Saturdays? We do have a coal fire going and Coltrane, unintended “cuh” sounds, karmic and cosmic. To a new year and sorting out our rewrites. Sorry, that dampened things a bit. Blow a horn in my direction at the top of the hour and I’ll lean out to listen.

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  7. Elyse says:

    “Take the gap through Shakespeare’s garden”– love it. Hope you got to see the second best bed, too, while you were there!

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    • pinklightsabre says:

      Hi Elyse and happy 16 to you! I’m glad you like that line; the owner of the flat said it and it just stuck with me in a weird way. It’s surreal to be staying around the corner from Shakespeare’s birthplace, to just walk by the house every day passing people on their way to the bus or grocery shopping, seems odd. We’re taking a tour of his house tomorrow but more than anything, just enjoying finally settling into a town and a home for more than a week, about 12 days in total, which feels so good to stop moving around so much. This town has a real calming, inspiring effect. It’s nice to hear from you…thanks for writing. Bill

      Liked by 1 person

      • Elyse says:

        Grace Tiffany has two wonderful books: My Father Had a Daughter (Judith Shakespeare’s tale), and Will. Both wonderfully imagined. If you’re looking to continue the mood!

        Happy 2016 to you, too!

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      • pinklightsabre says:

        Right on Elyse! Thank you for sharing those recommendations with me. Much appreciated! Will share with my wife Dawn too…cheers! – Bill

        Liked by 1 person

  8. Lynn Love says:

    Hi, Bill, good to see you back online and great to read your posts again. Happy New Year.
    Love the way you describe Stratford as peaceful – you’ve gone at the best time of year for that, as in the summer it’s still beautiful but hell on earth, with waaaay too many tourists cramming every nook and cranny, stampeding through the narrow streets, hitting you woth their karmas. 🙂
    And the Welsh language is a stunner – my mother in law lives in Powys and has to spell every line of her address. So many double ‘L’s (with added phlegm), Fs that sound like Vs, bilingual road signs – it’s as if they have a different word for everything … 🙂

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    • pinklightsabre says:

      Hi again Lynn and thanks for the greetings and nice words. We love it here in Stratford – spent the afternoon over at Shakespeare’s house, watched a couple actors take requests and act for us there — my daughter Lily requested THREE PLAYS — and afterwards, a long Tai lunch followed by a quick pop-in to the Tesco for some NA beer and yoghurt. A perfect Sunday! The only tourists, us it seems! Who else would do this in the middle of January? Ha! And the Welsh, I loved our time there and can’t wait to go back. Hit a really nice little village near Fishguard called Newport, great vibe there. Best to you and yours. Bill

      Liked by 1 person

      • Lynn Love says:

        I know Newport train station well, it being where we change to get from here in Bristol to where my mother in law lives. Don’t think I’ve ever seen the town, though.
        Glad you have Stratford to yourselves – you’ll get to see more of it for longer, without trails of people elbowing you out of the way.

        Liked by 1 person

  9. Stranger in a Strange Land + radio dial 70s = R.I.P David. Now I feel bad about badmouthing his play.

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    • pinklightsabre says:

      Yeah, you were the inspiration for reading “Stranger” — I think you made a reference to one of my posts along those lines so I figured I should read it. It’s helping me with my dialogue for the draft of my book, I’m working on. I mean, the dialogue isn’t like great or anything — in fact, I kind of hate it, but because there’s so much of it, it’s in my head all the time and helps me in a chameleon way kind of write my own dialogue, which is much, much better of course. Don’t feel bad about the badmouthing. Freak out in a moonage daydream, oh yeah.

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  10. I love this piece but for one line: …their family is probably watching them broadcast live and proud, thinking at last they finally made something of themselves.
    My family goes back to Wales on the Dawe side – miners that came to the states and died of black lung. Love hearing about your amazing travels.The picture of the islands and coast in Ireland is crazy gorgeous. Melancholy and happy at the same time, like aspects of your writing.

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    • pinklightsabre says:

      This made my day Brad — I’ve been thinking about you too, which is funny you’d comment. Looking forward to making plans for some backpacking, would love a long weekend at the cabin in May if you can make the time, too. Will take whatever…just looking forward to seeing you again. We’re off to Canterbury for a night tomorrow (Sunday), then a night in France en route back to Germany, Tuesday. Three more months, and back by the end of April…hope you’re well buddy and enjoying 16. Bill

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