A day near the Avon

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In June 1996 a few weeks before my fifteenth birthday, a group of students (favorites of three teachers from my junior high) went on a ten day trip to England and France. We travelled to Windsor, Oxford, and London then crossed the Channel to visit Mont Saint-Michel, estates on the Loire, and finally Paris. I was so excited for the trip, all we’d see but I was surprised that the best day was the one spent in Stratford-upon-Avon.

We spent the morning doing the normal tourist stuff like visiting Hathaway cottage but they set us loose before lunch. I spent my time before lunch just quietly walking the streets taking in the moments of history that seemed preserved in everything. The buildings, streets, flora and fauna, they all had more stories to tell to a listening ear than anything back home. The peacefulness of the town only lent to the slowed sense of time.

With lunch came a twisted sort of reality because I thought I would get the familiar when I went into that Pizza Hut. The furnishings felt odd for the food chain and their offerings were not exactly what you would have found in a U.S. store. I mean they were calling breadsticks “Texas Toast”, not to mention that the pizza itself was awful. I had gone in by myself but was invited by a friendly acquaintance to join the large group of boys that had arrived shortly after I had. So it was me and a table of a dozen boys that I barely knew (one of them trying to impress the waitress with his horrid attempt at a British accent); I felt part of a group and isolated all at once. When the meal was finished, I quickly took my leave of the group and headed toward the river.

You could say I’m hydrophilic; I love water in its many forms. I find soothing qualities in the patterned strengths, the sounds of rain or crash of surf; all strangle for someone who was nearly claimed by it in a swimming pool. I walked that river alone for a good part of the afternoon watching the smooth flow of the river, laughing at some of the names on the moored boats, just enjoying the time with nature.

About an hour before dinner, I joined a couple girls from our group that I used to hang out with in school. We talked about our trip so far and what we were looking forward to doing on the rest of our journey. As dinnertime approached, I quickly threw on the broomstick skirt have my backpack and swapped my shorts for the pair of boxers I’d purchased in Oxford because I’d realized I had forgotten to pack a slip. I, of course, did this in full view of any passersby not caring of modesty or propriety. The change in clothes wasn’t for dinner but for after.

I believe shepherd’s pie was our meal that evening probably served with a pudding for dessert but I can’t be certain. I was focused on what was following the meal. The theatre has always been a thrill for me and this was to be no exception. My first live viewing of any Shakespearean work: Macbeth performed by the Royal Shakespeare Company.

As we came near the theater you could hear the bagpipes, beautifully morose. A group of us formed a half circle around the older gentleman as he continued to persuade haunting melodies out of his instrument. During a break between tunes, the man asked if we would like to know what has beneath his kilt; he then gestured toward his buckled shoes and argyle hosiery. We were soon herded into the venue by are chaperons as the curtain was soon to rise.

I spent most of the evening on the edge of my seat trying to soak in as much as I could in the limited time we had. The play was brilliantly acted with me occasionally distracted by the shock of orange hair of one cast member (got to love those gingers!); I could have stayed there forever if they would have only continued on performing anything and everything. My fondness for the Bard of Avon had not started that night but surely it would soon become fully engrained into my very being. If I there’s a time my memories fade of my first trip abroad, I will remember that a near the Avon.

Created: Mar 04, 2014

Tags: story, non-fiction

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