Twelfth Night on Twelfth Night (+ 1)

Thursday 9th June, Worcester

Time was when Cleddau’s boating trips were solely that, all boating and very little else. Limited holiday allowance focused effort on routes, miles and locks but nowadays things can be a little different.  The Captain excelled himself yesterday in what others would term a conventional touristy day.

First event was pavement coffees in the sunshine with Penvro Pal at her establishment on Worcester’s High Street.

Next to the Cathedral. En route to the Cathedral shop to acquire a photo permit eyes were distracted by what looked like a very large Easter bunny. It proved to be just one item among hundreds of visually arresting displays (part of Worcestershire County Council’s annual Voices and Visions exhibition) there filling the cathedral cloisters. This massive ancient space is ideal for such a large scale collection of artwork from 5 to 19 year olds. How we smiled at the love and enthusiasm expressed in the Royal Wedding displays, laughed and wondered at the inventiveness of the metal forest, thrilled at the skill and artistry of work produced by older pupils.

Then to the cathedral itself. Must-see items include Prince Arthur’s tomb and chantry, he the oldest son of Henry VII, whose young death led to his brother’s succession as Henry VIII…  Read up, if you need, on what happened next!  Then there is King John’s tomb, he of Magna Carta fame. Victorian stained glass, memorials, small side chapels, the circular chapter house and the crypt are there to be explored and admired. School parties were visiting, an organist was practising but on the hour, every hour, a short time for reflection and prayer is called.

 With no rock houses in Worcester (!) the next tourist attraction was likely to seem tame. Tame maybe, but fascinating, for the totally ignorant crew of Cleddau. Worcester has long been famous for its porcelain. Though production closed just under two years ago on the factory site a remarkable museum remains. An audio trail guides the visitor past display cases and through galleries showing how techniques, fashion and patronage affected their products. You do not need to be a ceramics fan to be impressed by these fine pieces. See, for example, the precision of the urn created for the 1893 Chicago Exhibition and the beauty of the jewelled tea service.

It had been on our twelfth day that the Captain had spotted a poster for an open air Shakespeare production of Twelfth Night, currently performing nightly in the garden of the Commandery (Worcester’s Civil War Centre, just about fifty metres up the towpath). Without much ado tickets were booked.  Along we trudged at 7pm with folding chairs, an elderly tartan rug, waterproofs and a flask of laced coffee to find the garden a feast of picnickers. A curious programme note from the director explained that outdoor Shakespeare can suffer from loads of distractions: “ambulances, food and drink, weather and copulating squirrels are just a few,” he wrote. There were two squirrels on the roofline before the play started, though some distance apart. But the weather…? Half an hour before the end a sudden apparent shower developed into constant heavy rain, but no audience member or actor absconded!  A simple two tier stage, three musicians, a cast of thirteen in mid-Victorian dress, 2 letters and three simple swords as the only props made for a wonderfully engrossing performance. Sir Toby Belch and Sir Andrew Aguecheek were wildly drunk and hugely funny while Malvolio’s cavorting in yellow stockings was hilarious.  Song, dance and fireworks completed the show. Thoroughly wet but thoroughly entertained the Cleddau crew drew comfort from realising that they were probably “back home” sooner than anyone else!

            On Friday, in dry calm conditions, the floating home moved further south, to Upton-on-Severn.

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