Boats, cars and a starry moment…
Bancroft Basin to Avon River bank: 1½ miles, 1 lock
It’s with relief that narrowboat crews eventually arrive at Bancroft Basin in Stratford-upon-Avon. You can tie up against a floating pontoon (spaces for about 16 boats) and just watch other boats… There’s the wide beam restaurant boat The Countess of Evesham and another wide beam which runs river trips for tourists. Permanently moored are the ice-cream boat and a baguette-selling boat. Occasionally narrowboats arriving in the Basin from the canal coincide with the wide beams coming up from the river – and it all makes for interesting spectacle as boats dance around each other…
Then down on the river are all manner of craft, rowers from the Rowing Club, hourly hire boats, some with oars and some with an outboard engine;
there are also Canadian canoes, kayaks, and sightseeing launches plying between Trinity Church (location of Shakespeare’s grave, very much on the Bard fan route) and the upstream caravan site, as well as the chain ferry that crosses the river in a two minute trip.
As for the swans there are plenty of them too…
While Cleddau was moored in Bancroft Basin there was plenty of space and no pressure to move on. “We’re being photographed again,” the Captain would often mutter, as the tourists mooched past between the town and the lock. It was somewhat disconcerting early one morning to glance up through the galley window and espy a Far Eastern face, camera lens trained on the boat, just feet away on the next pontoon.
Being conspicuous by colour (red) and by name (Cleddau) also throws up unexpected conversations: “Seen your boat before,” happened a couple of times. There have been two top quality Monkton Moments* (see end of post) and a wave and a hail from a rower outside the rowing club right opposite the lock. Why was the rower giving a thumbs-up sign? Then came a single word: “LONGPORT.” Aah, Mike, of Stoke Boats, under whose tender care Cleddau had spent the winter of 2013 /14.
When in Stratford those immortal words ‘All the world’s a stage’ may never be far from the mind Nowadays All the world comes to Stratford’s stage is the case (Evidence: the marshalling of tour groups and the multiplicity of languages you hear) but over the weekend it became All of Stratford is a stage showroom ..
A small notice that a road /roads would be closed over the weekend because of the Stratford Festival of Motoring signified little. Then early on Sunday morning a few voices and the odd clatter a couple of hours before getting up time gave little hint of what was being set up. There was the usual Sunday market on Waterside – and some 300 motor vehicles arranged in ten different locations. Classics, foreign, commercial and performance cars lined the streets. Awe and wonder – remember those fifties models… just look at those Jags… these were cars for Le Mans races… wow, how old was this American fire engine… a pink Barbie car!… look, East German Trabants…
Buskers and live musicians enlivened the atmosphere, dads identified basic engine parts to small sons, drivers’ companions posed in leather seats – and for a driver whose only interest in cars is a **wheel at each corner and reliable performance it was all unexpectedly fascinating.
Antony and Cleopatra was seen on Friday night in the main auditorium, two tickets for excellent seats bought that morning. (Cancellations?) Technically the production was very clever and the performance was visually stunning. The political parts of the action can seem rather heavy going but the human dimension and passion were amazingly portrayed. Josette Simon as Cleopatra gave a truly stunning performance…
There was a farce showing in The Swan auditorium. Its run was nearly finished and tickets were in short supply. On Thursday afternoon, however, there were 2 single seat tickets left for Saturday night, the very last performance. Both in Gallery I, Row A, one was seat number 35 and the other was number 21. On arrival the theatre goers went their separate ways, knowing only that the playwright Richard Bean had also written the highly successful One Man, Two Guvnors, so both thought the production would be entertaining.
The play, The Hippocrite, was hugely funny from the outset – set in Hull in 1642, the time of developing tensions between King and Parliament. At the interval the Captain mentioned that his neighbours in the seats nearby were seeing the play for the fifth or sixth time (it was written as a collaboration with the RSC’s backing as the opening production for the Hull City of Culture year, the Hull Truck Company having performed it to sell-out audiences). Boatwif was seated at the end of a block of four and her neighbour, a chap, had arrived with some red juice /wine just before the first act started. After the interval he reappeared, with an ice cream, and Boatwif conversationally enquired whether he’d seen the play before. What an answer: “Yes – I wrote it.” There was Richard Bean, the playwright, watching the very last performance of his play right beside (the star-struck) Boatwif…
Oh, how the audience laughed, constantly, and when on this very last performance there was a major technical hitch with the Inigo Jones bed which wouldn’t move on its tracks to a downstage position, the stage manager had to appear to give a couple of announcements. The live musicians though improvised heartily to fill in the space… At the end it was the author (in Gallery 1, Row A, Seat 22) who rose to give the cast a standing ovation. All marvellous – exceptionally marvellous! Oh, the joy of live theatre…
Has Stratford ever not been a joy…?
Stats since Higher Poynton: 207½ miles, 4 tunnels and 134 locks
Monkton Moments*: 2
- Saw your boat name – 2 men from Narbeth
- Brought up in Cosheston, Jenkins family name, grandparents in P. Dock.
** a wheel at each corner – a reference to Boatwif discovering a decade or so ago that overnight one offside wheel had been removed and replaced by a pile of bricks.