Let’s go! Let it go! Letting go…

For many boaters this year’s season has been determined by the level of restriction – both coronavirus restrictions and canal restrictions: breaches, culvert collapses, lock closures, water shortages, landslips…

What affected Cleddau? Well, there was the three month saga of the culvert repair in Macclesfield, the landslip at Anderton (channel eventually reopened to one way passage), the water supply affecting lock opening hours at Bosley and staff shortages affecting the operation of the Weaver locks. Elsewhere there’s been a major breach in Yorkshire (an eight month repair) and frequent reports from across the waterways of delays and stoppages at locks.

Despite the above Cleddau and crew have had enjoyed a busy few months: a mini-cruise in April , the pre-wedding Manchester-Stourport trip in May /June,   the family wedding in July , followed by the Destination RHS Bridgewater Garden trip   and a cruise along the Weaver Navigation

Then what?

By late August birthday season had arrived.

“Will you be on your boat at the end of August?” a friend had enquired a couple of months previously.  A special series of events had been planned, to mark one 18th birthday and one 70th birthday, fantastic!

Well, let’s go to that…

To “be there” in Worcestershire by 3pm was the instruction from the (former) Tentatrice First Mate. Gathered on a gently sunny afternoon in a back garden were friends, relatives, offspring and grandchildren. First Mate’s daughter created a delicious and delicately decorated cake. There were sweet nibbles, tea and bubbly…

(See the birthday girls here  – and at top right and centre ).

.Assembled later at a private room in The Orangery in Redditch there was fine food, superb service and pretty decorations. What a very special day it was. (It proved an occasion in three courses, first the afternoon tea, then the restaurant dinner and then came a survivors’ jolly breakfast session attended, if memory is correct, by 13 folk plus two dogs…)

Four days later there was another birthday – and a very special treat. Starved by lockdown of January RSC theatre treats in Stratford-upon-Avon it was wonderful to discover that the Royal Shakespeare Company had found a way to present live performance to audiences in an open air setting.

“What I’d really like to do …” Boatwif had admitted one evening to the Captain, “is to go to Stratford to see a play…”

A new garden performance space, the Lydia and Manfred Gorvy Theatre, named after the major (American) donors, was constructed during the Spring on the riverbank behind the Swan Theatre.

Research… dates…tickets…

“Let’s do it!” the Captain proclaimed – and bookings were made to see the evening performance of The Comedy of Errors , on Boatwif’s birthday.

There was no long lazy lie-in on birthday morning – instead, rush hour traffic hopefully over, it was “Let’s go” at 0915..

Up the M1, off at Junction 17 onto the M45 towards Coventry and Warwick, to arrive in Stratford in time for a cup of riverside coffee and a lunch with Brum Cuz at The FourTeas.

Stratford is a tourist honeypot, though in pandemic 2021 there are no Japanese visitors, no American university student groups, no international tour parties… But all is not lost – the small chain ferry still plies its way across the river, a Tudor-dressed guide was waxing lyrical outside the Grammar School and open air bus-top tours of the town and area are still running.

Like any other town Stratford has been affected by the collapse in retail – but the eye-catching displays in the Debenhams windows certainly caught the eye… These autumnal images were all created using plastic debris…

There had been a matinee performance at the new Garden Theatre  (photo of rear of the structure taken during the matinee interval.) Usual evening performance times at the RSC theatres are 7.15 and 7.30.  

With the Garden Theatre evening show starting at 6.30pm, access to seating from 6pm, there was another “Let’s go” at 4.45 for a 5pm dinner (delicious!)

So this was the new theatre space: an open thrust stage, banked seating,  , stage lighting  , sound control box. How good it felt to be in a well stewarded environment where great care was taken with social distancing and directions to ticket holders. What a thrill it was to be seated again as a member of an audience.. A buzz of anticipation filled the air and a PA announcement explained that in the case of rain umbrellas were not to be used (there was no rain, hooray!)

In Stratford, despite pings and/or illness, the show must go on: several understudies were to appear on stage for this performance (and with the actor playing Courtesan promoted to play the main female role of Adrianna, it was a non-ensemble actress, lines in hand, who was recruited a couple of hours earlier to play the Courtesan).

The story of a shipwreck, of parents separated, of two sets of twins lost in the panic, of confusion over identities, of fractured relationships and of social chaos was hugely engaging. Staged simply there were no clever technological devices, no live musicians (but a quartet of backing singers) and four only entrances /exits but yet the play swept the audience along. (Picture after stage was re-set during the interval). Laughter there was aplenty but the realisation that reunions can be so sweet after a period of confusion and chaos had a certain echo with pandemic times.

Fingers are fervently crossed that indoor productions can resume soon…

Back at home the Cal Clan were FaceTime a-calling: “Someone here to talk to  you,” said Cal Guy Jnr.

The smiling face of Cal Gal loomed into view. “I’ve lost my voice,” she croaked.

“How? Are you ill?”

“No, I was singing, singing in the car last night…” Her hockey team had been on a team-building crazy golf playing outing…“We were singing ‘Let It Go’ from Frozen,” she explained.

Aah, ‘Let It Go’. (Not aware of the film? See animated version here  but if reading the text of the song is your preference it’s here.)

The Cleddau crew are back aboard now, preparing to set off for a few more weeks afloat. To borrow a couple of lines from the Frozen song:

Let it go, let it go.

I’m one with the wind and sky.

Cleddau will be “letting go” tomorrow to head south and south east along the Caldon Canal (hopefully without too much wind!)

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