Are you going somewhere or are you coming back said Sheila the astute and perfectly dressed proprietor of The Charter House b&b. The question perplexed me as we were neither going somewhere nor coming back. We were going back! I made my inarticulate excuses and The GF slightly embarrassed at my linguistic fluster waved goodbye. The GF had been unwell – for unwell see hungover – so Sheila had packed us some pastries and a bottle of fresh orange juice for the journey. That just doesn’t happen at a Hilton or a Marriot.
In ten minutes we are in the middle of Stratford upon avon on a Sunday morning watching clouds of swans fight for bread on The Avon River. Not just swans, there’s mallard pigeon and seagull all vying for the attention of a seven year old boy and his proud parents. It’s a picture of family health. But in minutes the boy is screaming in floods of tears hunched around his fathers feets like a hedgehog. The scene went like this: Daddy throws bread chunks into water. Hundreds of birds race over fight for each piece in the river. Boy is excited “can I throw some Daddy can I ”. Father gives half loaf to boy. Boy pulls arm back. Great strain and concentration. Boy throws bread pieces to river, birds flinch but no bread. The hand eye control of boy is out of sorts. The result? Bread lodged in bits on boys head when boy thinks he’s thrown it to birds. Pigeons clock this and start to land on and around boy.A gang of Mallards, knowing pigeons are onto something hop onto bank and start to waddle in comic but horror film like way towards boy. Swans with their gigantic arm like wings start to attempt bank landing to pursue the kerfufflethen seagulls climb high in sky only to dive bomb boy. It’s carnage. What was a scene of family bliss is now a horrendous mangle of tortured screams then “marge get the boy, leave the bread – leave it – and run, run for your life”. The last time I saw them they were diving over a hedge into the nearby butterfly farm.
All this merely minutes from The Royal Shakespeare Company. Across the road is The Shakesperiance – groan. And Shakes the comedy club. Me and The GF opt for The Anne Hathaway Café. Read here about Anne Hathaway click. The café was built in jacobian times, about 1690 and the staircase spirals unevenly to the first floor where a sign reads “Careful, uneven floor”. We have cream tea. Cream tea is quintessentially English and here it is click
The lady at the counter downstairs I imagined was named Mrs Peevish. My girlfriend asked her “who is Anne Hathaway, is she the girlfriend of William Shakespeare”. Mrs Peevish peered through her beady eyes as she slipped my ten pound note into the till “I don’t know, it’s just the name of the café thas all” she said and handed me the change. Only you have a picture of her on the wall” said the GF retaining her dignity while outlining the womans ignorant reply.
As we left the café a family bustled past “in! get in” said the father They slammed the door shut behind us. Outside a whole flock of silent birds lined the street and hopped onto the windowsill outside the shop and tapped on the window.Ratatatat Ratatat. We stepped quietly through them – the birds gently parted as we walked away. I chanced a glance back through the shop window, past the cakes and buns to the counter were Mrs Peevish was staring at the shocked couple. The small boy was pointing at Mrs Peevish in horror. She blinked and turned to me revealin a long yellow sharp beak and a ruly feathered head. She opened her mouth.