Bells, brides and buskers

Moored in Bancroft Basin, Stratford-upon-Avon
          First to the brides referred to yesterday. Above the cacophony yesterday afternoon of laughter and applause coming from the large crowd surrounding the fire-torch juggling unicyclist, church bells could be heard. The delicate spire of Holy Trinity Church, where Shakespeare is buried, soars upwards above the riverside scenery. This prominent graceful landmark draws thousands of visitors each year, being “probably England’s most visited Parish Church,” according to its website Its bells were ringing on Saturday afternoon and curiosity drew Boatwif towards the church. There was a pause at a performance in the park (more later) before there were whispers of “brides”. A fleet of wedding cars was assembled outside the church – and a bride was just choosing her vehicle.

          “When’s the next bride?” a passer-by asked her companion. Was this another entertainment event, performances about or by brides? Crowds lined the long pathway to the church expectantly. And within minutes another bride had arrived (late apparently) for a 3pm wedding. Two jolly chaps in top hats preceded the bride’s nervous mother. Then came the full bridal retinue.

Adjustments were made for photos, a bridal veil pulled over the pretty face and then came a long wait. Would the crowds along the path hear the bride announced by a triumphant organ? No, she glided in to the tuneful drones of a bagpipe…
           All of Stratford’s a stage (to misquote the Bard). The unicyclist has done at least three other performances: his pitch is the grass area on the RSC side of the wide lock leading down to the Avon.

On a hot midsummer weekend there is performance and spectacle everywhere: guided tours in Stratford’s streets, musicians busking,

huge bubbles being dispatched across the basin by eager bubble-blowing children, rowers under training, canoeists, pontoon pleasure boats, the hand-turned chain ferry.

While the strains from a brass band playing at the bandstand floated across the river this afternoon, Venus and Adonis, a narrative poem, was being brought to life in a dramatised production by the Shakespeare Young Company.

           All day long folk have thronged along the paved areas outside the theatres, browsing and buying, tasting and eating from Stratford’s Sunday “UpMarket”.

         If fatigued by what to do or watch or eat there’s always somewhere to sit down.

          Back beside the boats late afternoon there was entertainment of a different kind. The statues behind the boat draw endless attraction. A young boy posed beside Hamlet, his football held as a skull…

Boaters from the next berth came on board, specifically for a guided tour of the composting loo – and then two French ladies politely asked to see aboard. That was a more general tour, with no specific reference to the bathroom throne; they returned gratefully twenty minutes later with a gift of cupcakes.

          As for tomorrow – a trip is planned to the RSC Box Office and after 48 hours moored here, a trip down onto the river for an overnight mooring – as well as cupcake eating, of course!


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