04 November 2008

The Shakespeare Hotel - Stratford-u-Avon

The Shakespeare hotel used to be three separate houses that have been joined into a single building and turned into a hotel. It's decorated in the original Tudor style and has several large open fireplaces. The beds and the couches in the lobby were overly soft. I loved them! Each room is named after a character in a Shakespeare play. The first room we had was called "Two Gentlemen of Verona." It was a nice room with a large bathroom, television, and looked out over the front street on the second floor.

Vicks and I dumped our stuff there and then took off to explore more of the town. When we returned around 8:00 the room SMELLED. There was a horrible sewage smell in the room! Even I was disgusted and I worked at smellicos... so we requested to be moved to a different room. Unfortunately at that time there were no more double rooms. They offered to put us in a room where we could share a bed. HA! Like that was going to happen! So, they put us in two single rooms in the back of the hotel, on the third floor in a (deserted) quiet part of the hotel. The windows looked out over gardens and an alley. Vicki's room was "Moonshine" and mine was "Pyramus."

The manager who took us to our new rooms kept telling us that if we hear someone waling up and down the hallway that it was just the "night porter." After about the 3rd time of him saying that we asked if the hotel was haunted. He shared with us a few ghost stories. Apparently there was a man who lived in one of the homes and he kept his daughter in the attic where she died. Now people who stay in the room that was his home, they hear scratching in the walls and see a small girl skipping up and down the hallways. Her name is Lucy.

As we moved into our new rooms we noticed that no one was in any of the other rooms on the floor and to note, we were in the attic! So, we got ourselves freaked out a bit especially since we were in our own rooms, alone. The next morning the manager asked if we heard anyone... we said we had. He told us the night porter wasn't on duty last night...

Stratford-upon-Avon Weather

After arriving in a snow shower, the weather turned a bit nicer. It was generally cold but sunny in the mornings then cloudy and damp in the afternoon. On Friday afternoon and Saturday it got really cold and windy! We were lucky to miss the rain for the most part. It misted and spit on us but not for extended periods of time... again, after the first night.

01 November 2008

RSC Production Review: Hamlet

The production for Hamlet was an interesting, sometimes bizarre, mix of modern and old. For the most part, all the costuming was in modern dress. From summer dresses, tuxedos, Levi's 501, t-shirts, etc. However, the dialog was the original (although I don't know enough about the different Hamlet versions to tell you which one they used).

The stage at The Courtyard Theatre is minimal. Six mirrored panels line the back of the stage, the panels are probably 20 feet tall and they pivot in the center. They aren't necessarily mirrors, but are made of reflective material. The flooring of the stage are 3x3 tiles of what looks like black marble, but could not actually be marble; however, the tiles are black, shiny and reflective. The stage itself is surrounded on three sides by the audience which provides for a very intimate production, one which facilitates actor-audience interaction. This is the standard setting for The Courtyard as their trademark is minimalism. Hamlet had very few set pieces. For the most part it's a black, barren, almost cold, stage.

I'll start by saying overall the production was fantastic. There were four actors in the play that I knew or recognized. As you first took your seat all you saw was a poorly-lit black, reflective stage with a haze. It was very much like you were walking into the darkness of Denmark. The first scene is of the guards on watch at the castle. The only lighting were 2 large flashlights which the actors reflected off the floor to light the faces of the speaker. It was a very cool effect. When the ghost appears he is lit by a dim spotlight and has "fog" pouring from under his coat. It is an eerie effect. Right away you realize you are watching some very good actors.

Hamlet was played by David Tennant physically, vocally and emotionally. His Hamlet was child-like, sometimes playful and pouting, naive, at other times clearly mature, cold, calculating. During the first soliloquy, he's in the back of the stage, crouched down in a fetal position... it's such a vulnerable, infant-like, subtle symbol of his grief and confusion. Tennant really acts with his body, whether it's jumping around, shoulders hunched, arms outstretched, you forget who he is as a person (as if I know him) and see him completely as Hamlet. His madness is utterly painful one moment and profoundly confused the next. He really draws in the audience to his insanity and then seems to push us away with clarity the next. The "get thee to a nunnery" scene was probably the best live acting I've seen. It gave me chills and tears at the same time. My friend told me later she knew I liked the scene because I muttered "wow.... wow... " I wasn't aware that I had done that.

The production really put a personality to the play that I haven't seen before in any other rendition. The director and the actors deserve a lot of credit for a very good play. I think I will be absorbing it for several more days.

30 October 2008

Ye Merry Olde England

I am not thrilled with the British keyboard. I keep typing the wrong thing and just now I somehow erased everything I had written for the last 15 minutes. So, I will now paraphrase and continue: flight was fine. I got almost no sleep. arrived in London just fine, because of wind in Chicago (ha!) I was booked on an American flight to London and wasn't checked into my flight to Manchester. I skipped that flight and went to the Marylebone station in London to catch a train to Stratford-upon-avon. Ok. now we're up to...

Tuesday 1600 (GMT): I am on the train eating my digestives (part of the story in the text I lost) and I am terribly sleep-deprived. There are two girls sitting in front of me and they are quite rude to me after discovering I was American. nice. The train ride was interesting, the terrain is not like any I've seen in England before. Lots of farm land, sheep, cows, etc. In the open fields I see hundreds of pheasant! They look just like American pheasant with slightly different coloring. I couldn't believe how many there were! I also catch sight of a few magpie... and then it started snowing...

Tuesday 1720: I arrive in Stratford-u-avon in a snow storm. Huge glops of snow dropping on my head and accumulating on the trees and grass. The sidewalks are just wet. I button up and head towards town on foot. I have no idea where I'm going. The only map of Stratford I have is in my memory and it's snowing! The first telephone I come across I phone Vicks to let her know I'm wandering around in a snow storm (storm is a slightly strong word for it, but it was really coming down). I wander up and down the streets -- all the shops are closed. I duck into The Garrett which is the oldest pub in Stratford. I have a nice ale and a bit of conversation with the folks there. After walking around a bit more, I get in a taxi to get to the youth hostel (it's over 2 miles outside of town and no one can tell me which bus I need to take).

Tuesday 2000: Have a very pleasant conversation with my roommate in the hostel. We talk politics, economics and personal relations (she was having trouble at work). She asked my advice. I end up in bed before 9pm. Hardly got any sleep.

Wednesday 1000: Leave my bag at the hotel and go shopping in an antique mall nearby. Bump into Vicki in the street (it's really a tiny town) and we head off to have tea. Today we visit Shakespere's home, Nash's house, Halls Croft and the church where the bard (and his family) are buried. We ZOOM through these places! Vicks is worried we won't get to all of them so we don't dawdle. at all! Until we get to the church which is remarkably old and very awesome! I wish I had time to go into it all... Shakespeare's homes

Wednesday 2130: We're back at the hotel. Each room is named after a play by Shakespere. Ours is Two Gentlemen of Verona. This room quickly is nicknamed, the two smelly gentlemen of verona as some sewage smell is spilling into the room. We get ourselves moved to two single rooms. The manager who moves us keeps saying, 'if you hear any noises, don't worry it's just the night porter.' So, we figure we're in a haunted part of the hotel and we both have to sleep in our rooms alone! yikes. a bit freaked out, I turn on the telly for noise. If you can't hear the ghosts they don't exist.

Wednesday 2200: The BBC is just announcing that David Tennant has quit Dr Who!! I rush to vicks room and we know now that the likely-hood of us getting near DT is slim as the stage door will be packed with press. This is front-page news here! Annoyed, we consider heading to the theatre tonight, but decide against it -- it's raining and our fandom will only go so far.

Thursday 0900: Vicki makes me get up a 7 am and drags me downstairs to have breakfast. I am now finally waking up. Today we will buy tickets to a ghost tour for Halloween and do a bit of shopping before we go to the Courtyard to see Hamlet. We will still try to see David Tennant, but stay-tuned to see if we actually do. here's a link to the RSC

Stratford impressions: very old. VERY old. very small. lots of shopping and a few sites, that's about it. The architecture is mostly 16-17th century with a few modern bits here and there. The people are lovely, although there are a lot of tourists. I'm guessing the gardens are absolutely georgous in the spring and summer. The food is fantastic and I must have a pudding before I leave here.

I must go now. When I do write again it will be when I am in Manchester. until then...

03 July 2008

A Day in the Life...

have you ever lived a day and imagined a reporter covering the day for a magazine article? it'd be like "a day in the life of the esoteric viking!" you'd have a respectable NPR reporter that would hang out with you for a day to tell the world--who can't wait to hear--about what a day would be like in your world. well, i'm here to tell you, you are really missing something! here's what the magazine article would be like without the professional writing abilities.

crawled out of bed. stop at starbucks on the way to work (6:38 a.m). watch track Olympic trials on TV. decide the female track athletes must be the most beautiful women in the world. consider taking up track as a sport. feel giddy to have a day off. take the kitty-cat outside to remove a pound or two of excess fur. climb into bed before the day officially ends to the sounds of (illegal) fireworks and the smell of sulfur in the air.

ok,now, seriously... why doesn't everyone have a reporter following them for a day??

11 June 2008

"some things you learn best in calm, and some in storm"

I feel so at peace after listening to a thunderstorm.

The sound of the rain drops smacking against the pavement and trees is a fascinating sound. Partly because it's such a familiar sound and also because it's rare to hear it. Behind the raindrops, far, far away is the low, sometimes cracking, sounds of thunder. It rumbles away giving away it's distance. It's almost life-like how you can hear it get closer and then move farther away. To sit and listen to it makes you feel like you're on a different planet... or maybe it just reminds you that you are living on a planet; like those in the sci-fi shows you watch on television. Sometimes I think we lose site of the fact that we are an anomaly on this Planet Earth and not just another life form wandering about on our minuscule portion of the world. There genuinely is nothing like a thunderstorm in true surround sound. It's wonderful. Poets and writers and composers have tried to mimic the visceral reaction you have when sitting in the dark doing nothing but listening to the earth go about it's business and yet, as close as they have come, there's really nothing like it.

It makes you feel so tiny on an enormous planet.

Look at the word THUNDERSTORM. Look at it as if you don't know what it means... it looks like a Viking word. Maybe that's why I like it.

20 May 2008

Freedom Lawn

Without knowing it I have been a proponent and supporter of the Freedom Lawn! This term was coined by Hannah Holmes in a book titled "Suburban Safari." I read it a few years ago and wrote a review of it on this blog site. In a nutshell: I don't water, fertilize, pesticide, herbicide or do anything else to my yard but mow it. Frankly, lately even mowing has been a rare occurrence. This spring I've been particularly occupied. I visited the folks before they went on a month-long vacation, the next weekend I left for 5 days in Chicago and in-between I had a particularly busy week at work. That all meant that my yard was exceptionally neglected this spring. My front yard consists mostly of cool-weather grasses and the back yard consists of mostly warm-weather grasses. I keep hoping the buffalo grass will take over, but it's patches seem to get smaller and smaller each year. sigh.

Last year I chipped the blade on my mower. In fact, I think the blade has been bent. I knew that this year I couldn't mow the yard before fixing the blade... which likely means buying a new one. I also knew I would be out of town or busy for the critical 2-week period between winter and spring in Nebraska. So, before the yard got completely out of control, I found an ad on CraigsList.com of a guy who could mow my yard. The guy who replied was from "Get R Done" lawn care. I think "R" actually stands for "reluctant." I told him I needed the yard mowed within the next week. Over a week later, the lawn still wasn't mowed! I came home from a 5-day trip to Chicago and the grass was over a foot tall! Well, to make a long story short, I contacted a local garden center who tends to lawns and they agreed to do an "emergency mowing" on Tuesday morning. But when I arrived home 16 days after I originally contacted the lawn guy (on Monday), the lawn was mowed! It even looked pretty good!

I guess the only lesson is that as I left for work the day the prairie was mowed down, I noted a small patch of buffalo grass... it was a perfect 2-inch plot whereas the rest was 2-feet and seeding! Lesson: grow buffalo grass!!!

I still support the freedom lawn. And I also understand the absurd obsession that Americans have with their lawns; so, I will continue to mow even though I'd rather replace the grass with chamomile or thyme or cloves. Someday soon, this will all change...

21 April 2008

Big Breakfast

From Consumer Reports health newsletter, "People who get lots of their calories at breakfast tend to have a lower body mass index than others, according to a recent analysis of some 6,000 people. The big-breakfast eaters, who consumed 22 to 50 percent of their daily calories in the morning, gained less weight over time than people who tended to eat more as the day progressed. That may be because breakfast lends itself to filling, higher-fiber foods like whole-grain cereal. Previous research suggest that successful dieters tend to eat breakfast every day."

My only question is this: For those people who are eating 50% of their calories for breakfast, what are they eating?! What do you have to eat to get 600-800 calories at breakfast? I mean, that's a MONDO bowl of cereal or oatmeal!

comments REQUESTED!

04 March 2008

Presidential Fitness

When I was in grade school the words "presidential fitness tests" would cause a gut-ache and bring tears to my eyes in terror! I'm sure you remember these tests: how many sit-ups can you do in a minute, the rope climb, the bar hang (or pull ups for boys). I suppose there was timed running as well or jumping rope, honestly, I don't recall that part of it. These tests terrified me for a couple of reasons. First of all, I was a chubby girl that didn't have very many friends. You had to pick a partner that would hold your feet while you did sit-ups. I was the kid who had to be partners with that one person that nobody liked (or maybe I was the person that nobody liked) because nobody would choose me for a partner. I couldn't do very many sit-ups, I was never able to climb the rope and the bar hang... well, I didn't hang at all. This was all humiliating to me and provided fodder for the other kids to make fun of me. ugh. it was awful.

Now I am facing the program that caused me so much anxiety as a child. I am willingly joining the Presidential Fitness challenge program. I have created my own group, aptly named "Veni, Vidi, Vici" for my desire to conquer my fitness fears and earn a presidential fitness patch and am inviting my friends to join me.

At one time I was a fit person who enjoyed working out at least 5 times a week. But over the last 8-9 years I've lost that person. It's time for her to come back!! Who knows, maybe I'll even be able to do a pull-up before I turn 40?!