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From Paulo Coelho’s Maktub
Life is like a great bike race, the goal of which is to live one’s own Personal Destiny.At the starting line, we are alltogether, sharing camaraderie and enthusiasm. But, as the racedevelops, the initial joy gives way to challenges: exhaustion,monotony, doubts as to one’s ability. We notice that some friends refuse to accept the challenges — they are still in the race, but only because they cannot stop in the middle of a road. There are many of them. They ride along with the support car, talk among themselves and complete the task.We find ourselves out distancing them; and then we have to confront solitude, the surprises around unfamiliar curves, problems with the bicycle. We wind up asking ourselves ifthe effort is worth it.
Yes, it is worth it. Don’t give up.
Trollstigen Road (taken from National Geographic Magazine)
Stratford-upon-Avon is a lovely town whose name is a nuisance to write and where the lovely, poetic, imaginative, world famous playwright William Shakespeare was born. It started of as a village built by the Saxons in the 7th century but with the addition of a market in the 12th century, was given the rank of a town. It must have always had educationists living in it since it had a (small) school even in the 13th century wow. Since I live only a few miles away from it in Birmingham, it was of course essential that of to Stratford I go before my time in the Shire, I mean England, runs out and I must say that Stratford (I’m dropping the upon Avon bit) does not disappoint. It is small and quaint and it seems as if time really does slow down in that rural-ish pocket of England.
Getting of the train, one is greeted by a pretty little sign announcing Stratford-upon-Avon.
Couple of turns and up turns a blue cow :/, creature of fiction indeed. However this particular blue cow is not there to jump over the moon but only an advertisement for the blue cross charity, which gives a home to abandoned, ill or injured animals.
Across the street, right in the middle of the marketplace sits the house where Shakespeare was born ( WOW proclaim Shakespeare fans). It is extremely well preserved Tudor house and there is a very good reason behind this very good preservation which follows the photo:
Many many (some 250) years ago this very place was derelict and falling into ruins and nobody cared 😥 . An enterprising American man who owned a circus saw it and had a brilliant idea. He would buy it, tear it down (gasp of horror!!!), take the parts to America and travel with them all over America while displaying them in his circus (second gasp of horror). However the people of England were indignant. Shakespeare’s house, Shakespeare’s house, a kingdom for Shakespeare’s house, they proclaimed and formed a society for its protection and as a result it is now possible to visit the place where Shakespeare was born, grew up, played, fell in love, and spent the early years of his married life. People flock in great numbers to this town, and important visitors include (drumroll)
1) Charles Dickens!!
2) Thomas Hardy!!
3) Sir Walter Scott!!
4) Mee!!! (Surprise)
In the late 16th century, Shakespeare was rich enough to purchase the second largest house in the area, confusingly called New Place, which seems to me a bizarre name for a house. Imagine asking someone where they live and being told new place . New Place had 10 fireplaces which is no mean number of fireplaces even now and certainly not in the 16th century and it had massive grounds and it cost him the grand sum of 60 pounds. Sadly New Place is not a house anymore, it is an archaeological dig because(prepare yourself) a crazy man and his wife who bought the house in the 18th century were irritated by what they called ‘the cult of Shakespeare’ and had it torn down…(insert expletive of choice here very loudly)
Oh well, all the other houses connected are still standing and the prettiest of them all (from outside) is Anne Hathaway’s cottage.
Anne Hathaway was Shakespeare’s wife and a farmers daughter. Her cottage is a 30-40 minute walk from his home. When they married he was 18 and she was 26 (and supposedly pregnant) and by all accounts it was a happy marriage (how cute), which is great as it would be sadly disappointing if the author of Romeo and Juliet could not get along with his wife.
2 things I remember from Stratford are
1) In the 16th century and earlier people mostly slept on big sacks full of anything soft as bed were hideously expensive. If anyone could afford a bed they would put it in the main room so all visitors could see that the house had a bed. People would not lie down completely but would be a bit propped up on the bed, for if they lay down, it was feared that the devil would take steal their soul, thinking they were dead :O . Also the sacks were tied with a rope which was tightened every night, which led to the phrase ‘sleep tight’.
2) Men were legally allowed to beat their wives with a stick (no thicker than their thumb), if the wife let the fire on the hearth be blown out. Following are some Shakespearean ways to insult such a charming husband
Happily that law no longer exists. Hurray! And Stratford-upon-Avon is definitely a place to visit. Apart from its Shakespearean connections, the main street has the most interesting shops ever. There is a Christmas shops which runs year round and a shop with massive teddy bears and a peter rabbit one as well! Hence proved that Stratford-upon-Avon is a delight for literary adults as well as carefree kids.
So happy that I got to go and visit Warwick Castle again. Last time I went was when I was 6 years old and the only thing I can remember from that trip is awe at the massive fortifications and extreme irritation with adults for not letting me into the dungeons 😥 . I understand now why I wasn’t let into there since even many (many many) years later I was probably (definitely) the most freaked out person in the entire tour group!
The history of this magnificent almost fairy tale style castle goes back 11 centuries to AD 914, when it was built as a ‘burh’ on the orders of Ethelfelda-daughter of King Alfred the Great (yaay a powerful girl :D). In the 11th century, the wood was replaced by stone and in the 13th century, the towers which are seen today were built, which means that the castle as seen today dates to that period.
Over the past 1000 years, these walls have seen many things which are worthy of any suspense novel. Some of which are:
1) In 1312, it was the site where Piers Gaveston (widely thought to be King Edward (Longshank’s) lover was tried for treason and sentenced to death.
2) In 1431, the trial of Joan of Arc was supervised by the then Earl of Warwick, Richard de Beauchamp-Governor of BouvreilCastle, where she was imprisoned.
3) However the most interesting of its occupant’s by far ( to me) is Anne Neville and it is sad that apart from an obscure tapestry with little information in a dark corner, there was nothing in the castle to commemorate her despite an entire section being devoted to her father aka ‘The Kingmaker .’ I realize that princesses were many a times nothing more than royal paper dolls yet the story of Anne Neville seems to be that of a girl who was certainly not bowed down by circumstances-going from a rich heiress with high prospects to the wife of a traitor, to a princess who might possibly be shut up in a nunnery by her own (only) sister, to the wife of Richard of Gloucester all by the age of 16!!, Although after seeing Warwick I can understand why Isabella Neville wanted Anne out of the way!!
Coming back to the 21st century I have to say that the way the castle has been kept preserved deserves praise but I wish it had not been handed over to the Merlin Entertainments as they have added a rather amusement park/carnival atmosphere which does not go well with the aura (insert word of choice here) of history of the castle. The addition of the MerlinTowers is atrocious. What are Merlin and Arthur doing at Warwick!! Surely Warwick does not need the false addition of anyone to enhance its grandeur and it devalues the legend of Merlin, if his name gets associated with every place with ancient towers.
However, the dungeon act was very good I thought and highly disturbing to say the least. Enactment of the use of torture instruments in the actual vaults where the prisoners were kept, accompanied by the ‘plague’ infected actors tendency to appear out of nowhere in the dark, and claim he was enjoying the fear in ones eyes were oddly effective and certainly had its effect ( on me).
All in all, a must-see for history buffs and everyone else but beware- there are 600 odd tiny spiral steps to climb up and down if you want to enjoy the view from the towers!
All throughout my horribly difficult MSc, I thought longingly of the day when it would finish, and wondered if I would ever get through it without failing/doing awful in some module or in the lab. Now that it has finished and I’ve gotten through unscathed with marks better than I ever expected, my lack of excitement is depressing. Surely, if it was so important for me then I would have felt a deeper sense of fulfillment yet all I can think is PhD, PhD, Phd, funding, location, lab, research topic blah blah. I suppose when I get a job or get a further study option then the eternal student in me will be a happy bunny once more and until then I’ll look at the Uni slogan and feel pleased 🙂
It seems bizarre that the first letter of my first ever blog should be finally but considering the times I’ve delayed the decision thinking that blogs are for better writers, those with actually something to say,its apt enough. Now that its come to it, reading blogs and articles is definitely way easier than writing them! However since WordPress has kindly reminded me of the need to introduce one’s self in the first ever post and since I’m stumped I’ll just conclude the post saying that this blog is likely to be about my search for the ultimate research career with hopefully lots of perks along the way 🙂