​There is grey and there is bland; one and the same thing.  I cannot stand grey.  Grey skies, grey people, grey paint!  Is grey paint cheap or what is the attraction?  Defeats me.  Perhaps the need to blend in; the fear of standing out in the crowd.  Whatever.  Just another stark reminder that life is short and it is important that one surrounds oneself with like-minded people, particularly when it comes to one’s home.  I fear some around here, now, would be equally as comfortable in a villavan!  My cue to leave.
Andy Murray is back!  Wimbledon is on the horizon.  Summer is here – or not.  Did I mention my aversion to grey?  Back from a weekend in Stratford, reality hit home.  A school trip – Sixth Form English – involving eight hours on a mini-bus, there and back, and staying in a hostel (complete with bunk beds), I relished every minute.  I had never been to Stratford but it did not disappoint: the river, the swans, the greenery, the quirky shops and wonderful pubs and the Royal Shakespeare Theatre!  Yes, more than a little surprised to discover that that actual building, from the outside, could pass for Barlinnie but … it only requires seven years of study to become an architect.  Just imagine what it could have looked like with some real thought!
Stratford-upon-Avon was therapeutic.  It was as though my brain re-engaged aware that I was surrounded by educated people with a love of English, the written word and an appreciation of Shakespeare.  No grey in sight!  Instead, a world of drama, actors, books, quotations and a penchant for a gin and tonic in the roof-top theatre bar or in the Dirty Duck, at the end of the night, to accompany the evening’s critique.  The world of Judi Dench far removed from the humdrum of day-to-day life.  An allure difficult to resist.  
In Stratford for only two nights, we saw The Duchess of Malfi on Friday and then Macbeth on Saturday evening.  I hadn’t read the former, written by John Webster, but familiarized myself with the plot, briefly, before we left.  Not sure it was of benefit.  A contemporary production, to put it mildly, this violent revenge tragedy focused on aggression and male dominance using a mere 80 litres of ‘blood’.  Blankets are supplied for the front rows to protect the audience’s clothes!  Gruesome in the extreme, it was more than a little disturbing and, whilst the cast was superb – particularly Joan Iyiola as lead – for my part, it is a performance which shall be remembered more for the blood than any acting prowess.  Gin and tonic, please, and make it a double!
Macbeth, the following night, was also a contemporary adaptation but, thankfully, there was little blood and one was more able to submerse oneself in the psychology at play.  The concept of time was very much the focus – ‘Having previously urged Macbeth to think only of the future, Lady Macbeth cannot stop looking backwards.’  Professor Emma Smith – and the use of a giant stopwatch above the stage counting down the seconds was very pertinent.  In murdering Duncan in his bid to be King, immediately, ironically Macbeth ensures they have no future and the realization that ‘What’s done cannot be undone’ renders he and Lady Macbeth unwilling prisoners of the past.  Niamh Cusack as Lady Macbeth was the highlight for me together with the ingenious casting of the three little girls in pyjamas, – each cradling a baby – as the three witches.  Thought provoking and a link to the importance of children – or lack of – in this tragedy.  How I enjoyed my evening – followed, of course, by a night cap in the Dirty Duck.  A reminder of a life before television; a more genteel life abound with educated, well-read people for whom Shakespeare was a literary genius – not the name of a pub!
Life moves in mysterious ways.  Six years ago, I hadn’t been to Stratford and perhaps, without the catalyst, I may never have gone.  Think how much I would have missed!  I plan to return and hope, one day, to see King Lear.  Something to look forward to.  Next time, too, I shall definitely bring back that coveted bottle of Mulberry Gin Liqueur …
This time last week – prior to Stratford – I was in St Andrews seeing Charles Spencer!  Alright, he was in Toppings promoting his book on Charles II, To Catch a King.  Obviously, most were there out of curiosity to see Princess Diana’s brother, he of the amazing eulogy, in the flesh – me included.  Never a historian, he had us gripped for over an hour.  Not a note in sight, he spoke passionately about his subject with intelligence, wit and charm and then chatted, happily, as he signed books and had his photograph taken with those smitten.  Deservedly so.  He is tall, good-looking – with all his own hair – and extremely down to earth and warm.  Did somebody mention Hugh what’s his name?! 
Seriously, we were suitably impressed.  As we waited until the end of the queue, one felt one could have asked him anything.  I refrained but he did settle our dispute as to whether he had driven himself or not – he had – and, as we chatted beside my car on Greyfriars, he drove past and waved enthusiastically with no prompting whatsoever.  Now, that’s what I call class!
Funnily enough, I had planned to write about the use of the word ‘posh’; its meaning and connotations.  With notes galore, it is a subject about which I feel very strongly – and justifiably so, I can assure you.  Asking a friend, recently – in the name of research – whom she would regard as posh, she replied, Charles Spencer!  In the nicest possible way …
A subject to which I shall return but, for now, let me leave you with a quote from my favourite, King Lear, inscribed – among many – on the walls of the Dirty Duck.  This one was above our table as we enjoyed our nightly G&T:
‘The weight of this sad time we must obey,
Speak what we feel, not what we ought to say.
The oldest have borne most; we that are young
Shall never see so much, or live so long.
The power of the written word.
This is Trish, signing off.