Practical Theory - The Origin
The Scholars in CyberEnglish
ToDaY's MeNu - Ted

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

The Play's the Thing

The Play is the Thing

Today I will be seeing As You Like It and Winter's Tale at the Courtyard today.

After breakfast I took a walk to town to explore. I went over Clopton Bridge along Banberry Road to find the house I stayed in during my studies here 24 years ago. I made my way back along the River Avon along the recreation park side. I stopped at a barge and spent some time speaking about his life on the barge. He spends six months on the barge and the other six in Norfolk. I spent time watching the dogs play in the recreation park and swim. I crossed the Avon via the walking bridge and made my way to the Shakespeare Institute. I strolled around and it was pretty much the same as when I was here.

I had to get ready, so I stopped at the Co-Op to buy lunch, a couple of sandwiches and a couple of ciders. I stopped at a souvenir shop and the Shakespeare shop to buy things. I dropped things off at the B&B.

I set off to the banks of the Avon to find a place to picnic. I found a tree between the Parish and the RSC on the Avon. Splendid spot as I watched the boaters and sea birds.

My seat was in the first row right at the stage. The play was beautifully done. Touchstone and Jacques were superb. My favorite passages were done well. Rosalind and Celia were excellent. I didn't really think I could see another AYL done so well, yet I have. The set was plain and then became so intricate. At the beginning of the second half, Sylvus was dressing a rabbit to applause when he held up the skinned carcass and toss the fur to Touchstone. The bawdiness of the second half was hilarious and well done.

I will rest before having dinner at the Windmill Inn before seeing Winter's Tale.

Another great play done well. I'm amazed at the intricacies of the sets. After the play went to the Dirty Duck and had a good conversation with the Camillo character.

The plays at RSC this summer will be in NYC next summer. Can't wait.

Off to London tomorrow.


Monday, August 30, 2010

Biking in Stratford upon Avon

Biking in Stratford upon Avon

I woke at half six and took a walk into town to take pictures as the sun was rising and the place was sans people. I will have to remember to take some bread tomorrow because the swans and ducks expect food.

I returned home for breakfast and then headed out to rent a bike for the day. I walked to the bike rental spot in the Greenway and waited five minutes for Vic to open the rental shop. He outfitted me with a Trek Hybrid, a helmet, a tube, a pump, and a lock all for 13 pounds for the day. Vic provided me with a map that would take me on a 27 mile ride through the Cotswolds. He suggested a lunch stop at the Howard Arms. I had a carrot soup and a plate of Cotswold cheese with a couple of good ales. I picked berries as I rode. Farmers had bins of surplus fruit, plums, apples, and tomatoes available for free.

I started with a five mile ride along a Greenway, which is a converted railroad track, so I could used to the bike. t has been two weeks since I ode my bike. It felt good. Once off the Greenway I was riding through delightful roads or lanes in the Cotswold.

Went to the Dirty Duck for dinner and then to the windmill for the quiz. Took a walk to the birthplace on the way home.


Sunday, August 29, 2010

To Stratford upon Avon

To Stratford upon Avon

We woke at six and left the hostel by half six to get Heather to the airport for her 9AM flight. The roads were clear and we made it without a hitch. The airport was crowded as would be expected. After dropping off Heather I headed to car drop off. After dropping the key, I headed for the Glasglow flyer, the bus to Glasgow. I arrived at Central Station at half seven. It was from here I was to catch the half eleven to Birmingham and transfer to a train to Stratford upon Avon. I walked through the empty city to the Cathedral. I stopped in a store to pick up supplies for the train. I walked around the cathedral grounds. Walking back to town, I stopped to get a proper Scottish breakfast. I made my way back to the center to catch the City tour bus. My ticket from yesterday was still good, so I killed some time taking the tour again. I was the only passenger for the beginning of the tour and sat up top as we viewed an empty Glasgow. A far different sight this morning as compared to yesterday. Seeing these streets empty, especially Buchanan Street was refreshing. After the tour I made my way to the Weaver's Shop on Buchanan and St Vincent's Place to get some MacLeod scarves. It was 1110 when I got to Central Station and the train I wanted was just announced. I made my way my seat which had a table and electricity on the window. The other three seats were empty and I was going to get a seat mate at Carlisle, the first stop. Glasgow is a lovely city and we look forward to returning to it again.

We are cruising along at a good clip. As we were aligned with a motorway, we were flying by the cars that are probably going at about 60-70 mph, which means we are probably traveling at 90-100 mph. It is impossible to get pictures, but the eye takes it all in. The pastures are plenty. Some have sheep others have cows. In one pasture all the cows are grazing, their heads to the ground as they stroll through the pasture. In the next the cows are all lying down. In another a mother is cleaning a new born that is sleeping all curled up. The same goes for the sheep. In one field they are grazing in the next all lying down. The cows are of different variety from pasture to pasture. The sheep are pretty much of the same variety. I'm not seeing the sheep variety here that we see in the highlands or the islands or elsewhere. More cows here than sheep, actually. The care of the pastures varies. In some I see rolls of hay and then black rolled bales of hay in the next. Some pastures are well manicured by the livestock while others seem to be left alone. It seems as if they have just had a cutting as I see fewer fields of hay then those with cut and rolled bails in them. The lay of the land varies as we pass along. Severe hills with paths carved into them and then a slew of rolling soft meadows and gentle paths made by the sheep or hikers. Bike paths follow the train tracks fro village to village. Each village offers lovely snapshots of life as seen in their backyard gardens, play sets, and laundry lines. The one constant in all of this are the stone walls. The number of stone walls, the care of them, the height of them and the power of them is very evident. Some are augmented by a hedgerow, another with a wire fence. The gates that allow passage from one pasture to another are sometimes ornate, other times just functional. In the mountainous area of Scotland, the evidence of good practice in lumbering is evident as I see the plan for harvest and also the replanting scheme. Another beautiful sight are the windmill farms that dot the landscape. I a awed by them for their beauty and function. Clean energy is such an important way. I'm still wondering how politicians and others can be against these beautiful instruments of power when we know the damage coal mining in all forms and its use is so bad to the environment and how oil drilling and using are also so bad for the environment. Sure money is to be made in the latter forms of energy and that may be the cynics response. But that is not enough today as we see the affects of the Gulf spill by BP and become more aware of similar disasters all over the world in the backwater areas of South America where the crimes of the oil companies are hidden deep in the jungles and away from the eyes of the world. Or in Africa where corrupt leaders keep their dark secrets by using force and murder to quiet the noise of the people who are affected. As we leave Scotland and get into England the density of mankind is growing. I'm still in the outer island frame of mind of empty roads and beaches, in spite of our gentle entrance back via Glasgow. The stops are coming fast and furious after Carlisle which was an hour after we started. Then a Lake District town, Oxenholm and then a very dense Lancaster. I'm still amazed at he narrowness of the roads as they make there way through under and over the train tracks and follow the train then suddenly veer away in the undergrowth only to reappear further down or in some passing village. The stops aren't very long. No sooner have we stopped then within minutes we are off again. The same was true of the ferries on the islands. Very efficient. I've been on the train for two hours now and have three hours left.

The pastures are beginning to give way to the occasional playing field of cricket and soccer. More walkways over the roads and highway for walking appear as trailer parks pop up now and then. A car pulling a trailer has a smoking engine as it is stopped on a bridge, bad luck. The occasional train passes going in the other direction. I'm not on that side of the train. I sat going backwards for the first hour and switch to ride going forward the next hour. Preston is filled with row houses and is a real industrial town. Civilization is always marked by the ubiquitous steeple spires. The horizon is filled with the red brick row of chimneys and then lanes of tracks leading from Preston to other points. We are speeding into the density of England too fast. Crowds join us at Preston. One thing about these trains is people have reserved seats. We are at the halfway point. I know when we are arriving in Wigan because the soccer stadium is in clear view on our right and soccer fields dot the town on the left. I have abandoned my seat and taken the other reserved seat and now one of the available seats has been taken by a young man with a book about Ozzy by Ozzy. Before Crewe we pass a large nuclear power plant with eight stacks in the middle of nowhere. After Crewe huge stand of tall oaks trees following by corn fields. Now the pastures are speckled with huge solitary trees and more green houses. The stone walls are getting smaller and more manicured. Community gardens are surrounded by playing fields with boys playing pickup soccer. Industry is replacing agrarian. And suddenly a canal with locks. An occasional barge is spied and strollers along the tow path on this lazy sunny Sunday in the Lake country near Kidsgrove. The train has slowed down to as little as 15 for a long stretch as we are changing tracks. The speed enjoyed earlier has tempered itself to average 60 and even 40 for long stretches. Once through the switching we get back to proper speeds expected. Into Stoke-on-Trent and a lovely station, the home of Slash and the Stoke City footballers. Now I see the signs indicating speeds of 85-100. The stone walls have given way to wooden fences, wire fences, and hedgerows. It is as if we are in hyperspeed now as the vegetation by the tracks is that blur as represented in our sci-fi films. The backyard gardens are getting more and more beautiful and so elaborate. The landscape has become more rural again with pastures of cows and sheep, and rolled hay. More canals are seen as well.

Caravan storage and sales shops have now begun to appear. Barges are aplenty now and four of them are lined up waiting their turn at the lock. At Nuneaton we lose lots of passengers and the train is relatively empty. We have another hour before Birmingham New Street where I transfer to the train to Stratford. During the train ride a man has come along the train to collect trash. At Rugby we are resting here for 20 minutes and crews of cleaners come through and collect all the trash and neaten up the empty seats. Again, I am in a pac where one sees no trash in the streets or even at the train stations. I don't see garbage bins, and yet I don't see trash. In NYC, we have trash cans everywhere and we have trash all over the streets. Maybe we should just get rid of the trash cans, since we don't use them. NYC is a filthy city. It's trains and busses and its streets tell me this. The only places I've seen trash have been around McDonalds. Seems like trash is one of our great imports.

Heather should be landing soon. And I haven't even got to Birmingham yet. We are about 40 minutes away. We are now going back the way we came. I suspect we will take a spur line that puts us in the Birmingham direction. How strange. Quickly we are in Coventry which has a large crowd waiting for our train. A large number of people get off and since more people are getting on, the seats fill. Not much old stuff in Coventry except the famous spires that are about all that made it through the German bombings of WWII. Approaching the stop before mine, Birmingham International, so it is time to gather a of my stuff before we enter Birmingham proper. The last time I was in Birmingham was 24 years ago when I took the train from Brighton and then caught a bus to Stratford. This time I will take another train which will take me an hour.

The walk from New St to Moor Street was easy and got me outside and up into a bright warm sun. The Moor St station is some out of the past. Immediately I see A Thomas the Tank Engine type train on the tracks. After passing through the turnstile to get to my train and getting to my platform, an old stream engine pulls an old train into the station.It is the Shakespeare Express. This is not my train. My train arrives and it a more modern three car train. Stratford is the last stop and I will be there in about an hour.

When I arrive in Stratford, I'm immediately taken by the new buildings by the train and the large hotel. I walk out of the station and to the traffic lights to Arden Street where I cross the street and turn left. One hundred yards is my B&B, The Arden Park B&B. Mark, my host, greets me at the door and helps me settle in. I have a lovely room on the third floor. After unpacking and getting myself organized I head into town. I am amazed at how much this place has changed, the traffic at half seven, and all the new construction. I recognize little. Using the map Mark gave me, I find myself at the Avon in front of the construction of the main theater. I follow the construction to the Dirty Duck. It has not changed as I go up the winding stairs and into the Actor's Pub. I get a pint and wander around only to notice a new addition on the back, more restaurant space. I retire to the patio to have my pin t and look across to the Avon to the newly made park. I can barely see the spire of the church where Shakespeare lies. After my pint I continue onto the parish. So much new stuff I can barely see the parish. I turn up Old Town pass Hall's Croft to Church Street and see the Shakespeare Institute, where I spent much time 24 years ago, and the Windmill Inn, another old haunt. It is unchanged, except the back yard has been improved and I find a table back there to sit. I get a pint of Flowers and order sausage and mash. I stroll back to the B&B and head off to sleep. It is 10 already and it has been a long day for me.

Heather has arrived home safely.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

From park to park

Today when I woke the sun was out in all its glory. It was a perfect touring and walk in the parks kind of day. After breakfast and doing some packing for my journey tonight I grabbed the number 3 bus today that wove me to Oxford Circus through Westminster, Trafalgar Square, Piccadilly.

At Oxford Circus I transferred to a C2 took be through the back waters of Camden Town and Kentish where I caught a 46 to Hampstead Heath, one of my favorite haunts. While on the C2, I saw a tailor sewing in his shop. I had been looking for a tailor to mend my bag which was beginning to come undone and needed some immediate attention. I got off and he did a fabulous job and I was on the next C2 to Kentish where I caught that 46.

When I arrived in Hampstead Heath, near the hospital I strolled the streets and back alleys and direct myself to the Holly Bush Pub for lunch. This pub had been introduced to me on one of those London Walks. The place was relatively packed with older folks sitting around the pub drinking and eating snacks. Some women in front of me were getting sandwiches for a picnic on the Heath.

After ordering some soup and a cheese plate, I collected my half of Seafarers and found a seat with the ancients. To my far left was a very old Italian looking woman eating something and drinking a red wine. Next to her was a younger woman I suspected to be the daughter of the older couple at the same table. Across from me was an old man with a half in front of him and a plate of pork shavings. Next to him was a sturdy cane. Hidden from my view was another young woman with an older woman I supposed her mother. Oh was I wrong. I had just stepped into a lost scene of One Flew over the Cuckoo's Nest. The young woman with the elderly couple had just fetched some more cream for her coffee. She then asked the other young woman near me if she wanted some of the cream for her coffee. The old woman drinking the red wine was meticulous in her eating habits. A forkful, a swipe of the napkin along her lips and then a dainty sip of wine. She would rest a couple of minutes and repeat these steps again and again and again till everything was gone at the same time. She had this down to a fine art. At one point the young woman next to her asked her if she was enjoying her red wine, to which the woman replied in the affirmative and said nothing more. The older woman of the couple with the young woman, looked over at the old man in front of me spoke to him, "David are you okay?" His response was, "I'm missing you, darling." There was a chuckle from all and she said, "You decided to sit alone, today, David." He grumbled and took a sip of his drink. The younger woman in front of me was eating prawns and shared them with the woman who spoke to David who then went on about prawns and her love of them. The young women were speaking to each other across the room and I surmised that these two ladies were nurses and the older folks were their charges. David spent most my time there staring at me. After my soup and cheese plate I was getting ready to go. The young nurse near me asked David if he was okay since he was just sitting there quietly and staring intently into space, then at his empty glass, then at me. "No, I'm not okay, I'm mentally disturbed." He grabbed his cane and rested his chin on it as the others ignored him and had their own conversations. It was time for me to leave and make my way to the Heath.

I followed a very indirect set of roads and pathways till I found a path leading into the Heath. It was much drier and less crowded than the last time I was here on New Year's Day. I followed the paths that crossed the larger paths or carriage roads. I stayed on the more rustic trail that wove around trees and brambles until I came upon a huge field littered with benches randomly placed to view trees, the city, and nothing. Each bench was in memory of someone and perhaps was at a place they particularly like to sit. I stopped at many of these benches to get a feel for these people. It was peaceful. Others were there for the same reasons as I and sat in silence or walked in silence as dogs and children ran around carefree.

I could see the Stark Tower from here. It certainly does dominate the sight lines in London. It does let me know where I'm staying as it is very close to my B&B. Sort of the way the World Trade Towers were my beacon in NYC. I followed more hidden paths much as Alice and crossed a street to return to the paths and found myself near town where I walked to catch a 46 to Lancaster Gate on Hyde Park.

I had planned on getting the 360 at The Royal Albert Hall which is directly across the park from Lancaster Gate. The walk through the park was grand as I stayed on the grass to rest my feet and legs from the pavement walking. My legs have been a bit sore this trip, especially after that huge walk I took my first day. I'm sure they are thanking me for discovering the buses. I walked around Albert Hall where Van Morrison is playing on the eve of my birthday in October for one night. What a hoot that would be to come over to see him.

When I found the bus top a 360 came in and I was on my way. At a couple of stops a three generations of women got on and the youngest one, about 4 was screaming and didn't stop. She was shrill and she stopped al conversation on the bus. I got off at the next stop and could hear her ailing and screeching as the bus continued on its way. The next bus was quieter with a mother reading to her child. So much more civilized. When I arrived back at the B&B, I stole myself to the garden to write.

The bus rides were amazing and so easy. The bus system here is so efficient and comfortable. I was able to see things I hadn't seen during my earlier trips, because we were underground. It reminds me that I'm not in a rush and it allows me to see the character and culture of the city. In addition I was able to see some great architecture. No dachshund sightings today.

I'm off the see Henry VIII tonight.

Double Falsehood

I had one of those rare pleasures in life. I saw a new Shakespeare play tonight, Double Falsehood or The Distrest Lovers. The production was played at the Union Theater on Union Street in Southwark, about a three minute walk from The Globe.

The theater is under a trestle and we know that because we could hear, not feel, the trains pass by above. Not a distraction like the planes and other airborne machines above The Globe. The Union Theater is a black box that holds about 55 people. 30 in three rows of ten on the far side of the stage and five rows of five on the near side. To the right is backstage behind a curtain. The narrowness of the near audience is to allow the players two more ways of entering the stage area which is probably 20 feet by 15 feet, in addition to the one directly from the black curtain.

Tonight was the opening performance and it started on time, half seven. The performance was supported by the Arden Shakespeare, though I read the Theobold version from Google books. I had read the play twice in the past month, so as to become familiar with it. The performance was true to the text and in 18th Century costume. The cast was a mix of old hands on stage and newbies. One needed a program to know the difference. It was well played by all.

I was particularly struck by the interchange of the two fathers, Don Bernard and Camillo, in the First Act about Honor and Time. The use of Honor was visited by Falstaff the other night as a foil to Hector's magnificent account of Honor in Troilus and Cessida. Camillo's account is closer to Hector's. In addition we were treated by a monosyllabic and double syllabic use of the word Time from these two men. It reminded me of John Barton's discussion of how Time is used by Shakespeare and how is should be pronounced both ways depending upon the circumstance. The production added something, at least in my Theobold version. Since I haven't seen the Arden issue, I can't be sure it is an addition. Two gentlemen dressed as horses, appropriately enough, since The Duke is concerned with his younger son's sudden interest in horses, parade out between some scenes, an older man, perhaps, Time, as in Winter's Tale perhaps portending to be Shakespeare and a younger man a foil, a jack, a very nave. The older man would recite certain famous lines from other plays while the younger would finish them. He began with "All the world's a stage." The quoted lines were apt to the play we were watching. Now its purpose is unknown, except to provide some mild entertainment at particularly difficult times in the play to allow the players time to change from one costume to another. It was an entertaining interjection and did nothing to injure the performance, only to enhance it.

The costuming was well done, which begs the question why not the makeup. The players were plain, themselves. It was difficult to believe that Camillo was going to die soon as he railed because he was a large, healthy Rugby kind of man who wasn't dying too soon unless he was hit by a truck because he would destroy any car that hit him. Makeup would have helped the two fathers to help us, in spite of the concept of suspending disbelief. Couldn't be done just as it was hard to believe he was the father of a woman his own age. He was one of the strongest players on stage and delivered his lines smartly. I also found Henriquez, the younger son of the Duke to be a perfect cad and an evilly wayward boy.

The play has such obvious references to other Shakespeare works, like the opening to King Lear. The disguise and running to the woods as in As You Like It. The comedy in the woods like Midsummer Nights Dream. I felt honored to see such a fine performance by this little troupe and hope it all the success. I wonder why it is only playing for 4 nights.

The last time I was so blessed to see a premier performance of a new Shakespeare play was Two Noble Kinsman in Stratford in 1986. Bravo to the cast and to the director Barrie Addenbrooke who did admirably, kept it true, and had the pleasure of being the first to direct this new play since 1728. Bravissimo.

From Duncan Lynskey

I was also at the Double Falsehood premiere last night. The two men with the hobby horses were strictly speaking the characters Lopez and Fabian, but the production took their lines and mixed them up with random Shakespeare quotes and presented them as Don Quixote and Sancho Panza. This is a nod to the origins of the story behind Double Falsehood in the original Shakespeare/Fletcher play "Cardenio" which is taken from Cervantes' "Don Quixote".

You might not have realised but the editor of the Arden Edition, Brean Hammond was there that night in the centre of the front row facing the entrance door, as was the general editor of the Arden Shakespeare Richard Proudfoot, as well as the mayor of Southwark and the theatre director Janet Suzman!

Duncan Lynskey

He added this in a second communication and in response to my query about Double Falsehood being performed at the Swan when it reopens.

As for the Swan reopening, Greg Doran of the RSC has been working on reconstructing Cardenio by filling in scenes assumed to be missing from Double Falsehood. This has been done before, but he plans to work with a Spanish writer so that it will be in English and Spanish. The RSC has also workshopped this at the University of Michigan:

http://www.annarbor.com/entertainment/cardenio-story/

I spoke to someone from the University of Warwick who has been working on related matters with Greg Doran and he said that The Two Noble Kinsmen might also be part of the Swan reopening.

In fact, Brean Hammond's Double Falsehood is so hot off the press that he discusses the forthcoming RSC Cardenio on page 131 of the book. As you haven't got it with you in Scotland I'll include the relevant paragraph below:

"As I write this, I am learning from the Shakespearean scholar Jonathan Bate and Gregory Doran, Chief Associate Director of the Royal Shakespeare Company, about plans to workshop a reconstruction of Cardenio in association with the Almagro Festival. It is hoped that this will be an Anglo-Spanish collaboration and will be a mix of Cervantes, Shelton and Theobold under the
title of Cardenio... [footnote] 'It will be a mix of Theobald, Shelton and Cervantes, and will definitely include the Johnson songs (one of Michael Wood's best bits of work, that). It'll be worked up with Spanish as well as British actors, in an attempt to re-Spanishize the feel of Shelton and Theobald' (Gregory Doran, private communication, 23 July 2007)"

From Bernard Richards:
Saw your blog about Double Falsehood. I didn't see the production. My production of Cardenio was put on at Queens' College, Cambridge in March 2009. Unfortunately the production team did not get their act together on publicity, and it disappeared without trace. It was also staged at the Edinburgh Festival in 2009. It has six new scenes written by me. There is a photo from my production in Brean Hammond's Arden edition (miscaptioned alas). It was in 17th century dress, and sounds as if it was 'straighter' than the production you saw. There is an edition of my play. £5 including postage (apply to me e-mail address bernard.richards@yahoo.co.uk). I am hoping to have it on sale at the RSC bookshop. It does not sound as if purists are going to enjoy Greg Doran's production. I was very lucky in my production to have some excellent actors. Henriquez and Violante were paticularly good. Easily up to professional standard. It's a pity it did not have more of an impact. I am reviewing the Arden edition in the forthcoming Essays in Criticism.
best wishes, Bernard Richards

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Riding the Buses

It is a shame that we don't see Merry Wives of Windsor done more often. It is a hilariously witty and apt play. This was an absolutely delightful performance to a very packed house. It is a short play, too It started at half seven and let out at 10. If Henry VIII is like this, I should have no problem getting to Euston in time for the half eleven train to Glasgow.

Today I woke late, at about 9AM. Mrs Steel and her friend had gone off to Stratford early in the AM and left my breakfast fixings out. It had rained and was still spotty. This morning I had raspberries, granola with yogurt and honey, coffee and toast. I listened to the BBC and hard Alan Cummings reading from Stuart Kelly's Scott-land, The Man who Invented a Nation. It is a biography of Sir Walter Scott and Cummings read delightfully.

I took a shower and set out by half ten by bus. I caught the 59 just around the corner for Kings Cross via Waterloo Bridge. The ride above ground through London was educational. I passed by the bits and pieces of London I knew only from popping up from the tube. Those pieces were being connected by my above ground transport. When I arrived at Euston, I disembarked and wandered to the 73 which was going to move me towards Tottenham Court where I would wander the book stores of Leicester Square in search of the Kelly tome. I started at Foyle's with no luck. Wandered in and out of the used stores along the lane and gave up. On my way back to Tottenham Court to snag a 242 to St Paul's I happened upon Blackwells and low and behold found a copy.

I meandered through the detours caused by the construction at the Court to find the 242 stop. As I was riding I discovered I was near the Seven Stars pub where Heather and I had met our friend Laurie for lunch during one of our Christmas trips. I remember the food was exceptional, so I hopped off and Chancery Lane and followed the maze to Carey Street and found the pub.

Upon entering a country gentleman was sitting at the bar tethered to two dachshunds. I ordered a cider, a soup, and quail salad. I found a table in the room adjoining the bar and watched the hounds as they kept guard. My soup was a very tasty vegetable soup and the quail was fabulous. I'm glad I stopped here for lunch.

I followed Bell Yard to Fleet Street, which I crossed to get to Middle Temple Lane hidden behind a wooden door with only a small opening for pedestrians. What a small world I discovered of law offices and parks and cobbled stones. I followed this all the way to the Embankment where I took a left and strolled to the Black Friar pub at the Black Friar Bridge. I had a half of a cider and then caught a 45 to Elephant and Castle where I caught a 242 to just outside the Black Prince Pub on Black Prince Road, the next street over from my B&B. I arrived home at half three and decided to take a nap as it was dreary outside. I set the alarm for 5PM.

Upon waking from my much needed nap, the sun was shining brightly and I stepped into the garden to write my day's adventures on the buses. Tonight I will be seeing Double Falsehood at the Union Theater.


Monday, August 16, 2010

The Day of the Fox

Slept well and woke at 8AM for breakfast which I could smell. Perhaps it was the cooking of Mrs Steel that woke me. Fresh strawberries, granola, and toast with cranberry juice started my day. I decided I'd walk to Brixton Market via Kennington Park. Set out by 930 on a cool cloudy day. I was wearing my shorts and tee shirt, with my hoodie.

The park was filled with children and dogs. A camp of soccer players were on the playing field and the elders occupied the benches around the gardens. A lovely park. When I exited the far side, I spied a dead fox next to a dustbin. I was stunned.

The walk down Brixton Road was delightful as I found the homes lovely and the shops of African, Jamaican, and Carib makeup. Lots of renovation of many buildings of residence which is a good sign, methinks. I spied a delightful road to my right with a quaint church at its end, so I walked down this road which found me on Stockwell Road.

I stopped in a bike shop for a map which they were out of. Bikes have really taken over this city. The bike lanes are clearly marked, respected and filled with bikers commuting and exercising. There is quite a push to make this city more bike friendly. Perhaps we will see more of this in NYC too. The bikers are more friendly and respectful here. They use signals and observe the traffic lights. NYC bikers could take note of this, too. Once I got to Brixton, the empty roads I was traveling became a mob of people. The market was just left passed the railroad trestle. What a maze of shops. Fresh fish, meats, vegetables separated by pots and pans, socks and underwear, suitcases, jewelry, CD's, sheets and linens, and cell phones. Everything was for sale and there were more than one shop so you could check prices and haggle. Do you have a locked cell phone? No problem they will unlock it. The maze of shops is all around the railroad trestle, under it, all along Electric road (aptly named), and weaving everywhere. It is a festival of languages. I heard so many tongues and saw so many buyers at the food shops buying in bulk and for themselves. It is quite obvious that this is a place cooks shop as they had baskets of helpers to carry the purchases.

The bus stop was crowded with people carrying their loot as others made their way to the underground. I hopped on a 59 bus and enjoyed the views from the front seat of the upper deck along Brixton Road past my B&B to Lambeth Road, where I exited. I walked down Lambeth towards the Thames and the Garden Museum.

I stopped at Hercules Road for a cafe latte and sweet. After passing under the Waterloo train trestle, I strolled into the Archbishop's Park to find a father with his two sons practicing cricket in a type of batting cage. I returned to Lambeth Road to continue my way to the garden museum.

The museum is in an old church and is well appointed. The graveyard serves as a learning area about gardens. The opening video is about the railroads and early gardens in London. The museum has a great exhibition about gardeners and of tools. The walking sticks that served as pruners, weeders, and the like were absolutely fascinating as was the cucumber straightener. Once in the garden I was taken by the organization around the graves and by the one of Captain Bligh and his wife in the center of things.

The main garden featured a knot garden hedge that served as a divider. It was set up in sections and allowed for other plantings in the spaces provided. On one of the plaques explained how a fox in 2003, had done some damage the the hedge because this variety of hedge was an aphrodisiac to the fox. Eventually the fox was found dead in the park and the damage to the hedge ceased.

Upon leaving the museum I followed the Thames to the Brunel Musuem. At Blackfriar's Bridge, I picked up a basket of fruit (two apricots, two apples, a pear, an orange, a plum) for one pound. Along the way I passed the multi lingual tourists, the parade of joggers, and entertainers of all types. As always when I got to the London Eye, the mass of humanity was crazy. Once past the Globe, the crowds thinned out till I got near the Mayor's testicle, City Hall. Once past Tower Bridge, the path was empty.

When I got to the Mayflower Pub, I stopped for a pint and relaxed my feet and body on the balcony overlooking the Thames. A quick stroll to the overland to catch a train to conect me to the Jubilee line that connected me to the Northern line returned me to Kennington. Upon returning to the B&B, I collected my laptop, took the Magner cider I bought on the way home and put on my flipflops to retire to the garden to write my day's adventures.

When I mentioned my encounter of the fox in Kennington and the Museum garden to Mrs Steel, she mentioned the fox problem they had in their garden. Today was certainly the day of the Fox for me. It is 5PM. I must shower, have dinner and set off for tonight's entertainment, The Merry Wives of Windsor.



Cheers.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Back in London

Summer School ended for me on Thursday. Friday evening I boarded a plane to London. Arrived Saturday morning about 8AM to a cloudy warm day. I was in shorts and a tee shirt and very comfortable. This trip I'm staying in South London in Vauxhall area. The B&B is equidistant between two tube lines so I have good options depending on my plans.

After having a good English breakfast at a local establishment near Vauxhall tube and rail, filled with locals, I made my way to my B&B in middle of busy and pub rich area on Kennington Lane. After settling in, I set out to walk to the Globe through Elephant and Castle. I wouldn't recommend this walk as the E&C double roundabouts are a driver and pedestrian nightmare. Pedestrians are confronted with dozens of undergrounds that weave, intersect, and otherwise create a subterranean world. In addition, right in the middle of E&C is the Strata Tower, the most recent winner of the Carbuncle Award as the ugliest building. Once I finally escaped this maze, I found the lovely Ruse Pub, which had wifi and was showing the first game of the new Premier League season. Tottenham Hotspurs tied Manchester City nil nil. After the game I continued my journey to the Globe and the Union Theater.

On Sunday I will be seeing Henry IV parts 1&2. On Monday I will be seeing Merry Wives. On Tuesday, I will be seeing Double Falsehood, at the Union Theater, a play recently attributed to Shakespeare and not played in 200 years. On Wednesday, I will be seeing Henry VIII. Since I will be taking a 2330 train from Euston to Glasgow, where I will pick up Heather who will be arriving at the Glasgow airport Thursday morning at about 730AM, I headed out to Euston to pick up my tickets and to scope out the commute since it will be a tight commute after Henry VIII to catch the 2330 train. From there we will head up to Skye and the outer Hebrides for ten days. My chores were done, so I headed back the B&B, took a shower and headed to the Black Prince around the corner form the B&B for dinner. I discovered they had wifi, were paying the Chelsea massacre of West Brom. Food was excellent.

In addition to the Strata Tower, their is the massive Oval Cricket Field and the Vauxhall City Farm and the new Barcaly's borrow a bike program.

The sun was in and out all day with sudden showers followed by bright sun. A lovely respite from the heat and humidity of NYC this past six weeks. A good start to my three week holiday in UK.



Cheers.

Friday, August 6, 2010

It's better to say YES

It took me three children to realize it is better to just say Yes. Perhaps the most common communication parents have with their young children, begins with, No. I have made a study of this in playgrounds, in public areas, and in the homes of many parents. The battles that ensue become intolerable and useless as many of these No's become a reluctant Yes with qualifications or exasperation exhibited by the parents.

I had my epiphany one summer when I went camping with my 11 year old son, my third and youngest child. We were going to spend two weeks on our favorite beach at Assateague State Park. We camp on the beach. We play baseball, bike, swim, and spend our entire time in this idyllic environment with the wild ponies. I wanted no stress and decided that when he asked to do something like take a bike ride, go swimming, play ball, cook marshmallows, take a nap, stay up late and so on, I'd say Yes. He of course found this new response very favorable to him and he just went crazy for the first few days until he was exhausted. When he expected No, he would question the Yes response because maybe biking or swimming would be dangerous, and my response was Yes, so be careful. One day when the surf was particularly rough, his response to my Yes, was that he might not since it might be too dangerous and asked me to join him. What I found was the shift in responsibility to correct and safe behavior moved from me to him.

That fall my experiment shifted to my classroom. I have always been an advocate for my scholars to take responsibility for their own learning and have used their webpages as the method to practice this theory. When they asked if they could put graphics on their page, add music, do this do that, I'd always say Yes, and tell them to figure it out using the Style Sheet. If the work they did was inappropriate we would have conversations and do peer review. Within a reasonable time they would do the right thing. It was the scholar's job to learn responsible behavior, not for me to force it on them. If they chose to fail, that was their choice. My responsibility was to have conversations that would help them make the right choice. I couldn't make it for them. I did have to intervene when their behavior would interfere with another scholar's right to learn. I found that scholar learning was on the shoulders of the scholar and I was merely a force that provided the means and guidance for them to achieve success. Their success was dependent upon them and not me.

My point about saying Yes, is that school administrators believe it is their duty to say No and to micromanage education in the schools. We see this on all levels. Mostly I see it when it comes to technology and assessment. Since the easier response from school leadership is No, I realized it was easier to ask for forgiveness then permission. If administrators developed a more Yes we can attitude in their schools our schools would be better. Instead, we continue to mismanage technology because of fear and lawyers who dictate the No response. When it comes to assessment we still use those bad tests because we haven't heard Yes to the idea of the webfolio/portfolio which is a far better pedagogical tool of assessment than those multiple choice tests. Yes is a scary word in education and that fear starts at the top and trickles down.

Saying Yes, was a liberating act for me as a parent and as a teacher. It was unexpected and required the recipient to rethink the request and how to act with this affirmative response. It required trust and patience from me. So often the requester is ready for a negative response and has a rebut waiting in the wings to begin the classic tug of war.

What I have discovered over the years by using the affirmative response, that my life is less stressful and that the requester behaves better, acts responsibly and asks less for permission to do something. Instead the conversation is about how to perform a task for better results. It isn't a matter of "Can I do it?" any more; it is a conversation of "How can I do this?" This simple shift in my behavior has had a more positive response on my children and my scholars. The result has been astonishing.

The classic Yes response comes as a cavaet: "Yes, but." I have a button that I often wear. Lose the "but."


Monday, August 2, 2010

Technology and paraphrasing

I just read a very disturbing article in the New York Times, "Plagiarism Lines Blur for Students in Digital Age" by Trip Gabriel. My immediate response was , "What Bullshit."

I've always had a problem with this line of crap from schools, teachers, and students. The problem has started with the adults who have been too lazy to learn about this new media. Students have been left alone to learn on their own and to abuse the freedom of it without any guidance. Schools are the most responsible for this disaster because they have put their heads in the sand and hid behind lawyers. The schools run by ignorance have led the way to making our schools technologically illiterate. Older teachers have been saved by tenure not to learn how to use the new technologies and the new teachers haven't learned how to use the new technologies in their own education in those elite schools of education in our country. Technology isn't any different than other forms of teaching and teaching about paraphrasing. The problem is we have to get over our fear and ignorance of technology in schools.

Now consider that these very students are alone in their homes using the internet, not monitored by any adult and learning so many bad habits. Schools must take the initiative and learn about these tools and teach them, especially paraphrasing. It is time schools took control of education in this country and wrest it from the hands of the lawyers.

I don't have this problem because my scholars create web pages and use the web for their resources. They are learning how to use the powerful resources of the internet in a responsible and pedagogically sound way. Plagiarism doesn't happen because I am teaching them how to paraphrase, I monitor their work daily, and we engage in peer review. In addition, I teach them how to cite the web pages they have used by creating links in their work to the sources of their readings. Finally, a quick demonstration of how a good search engine will help me find the work they copied faster than they found it.

The Internet is a very powerful tool and when teacher decide to understand this and use it, instead of rejecting it and continuing to follow their old ways; we will then not have this ridiculous situation. This is an adult problem and adults have to solve it by getting out of their rut and moving on. So far, we have done a very bad job. We are concentrating on the wrong goals, like Race to the Top, instead of teaching students how to use the technology correctly. The problem is at the top, they are not educators. Look at those in educational leadership roles in Washington and NYC. Heck our main problem in NYC is constant reorganization and we have a lawyer leading our schools.

The students should know better, but the schools and the teachers have failed them miserably. This is a major issue and one of the key issues contributing to the poor showing our schools are making. In my opinion, if we solve this technology road bump in education the other problems will fall into place. When students are left alone to learn something this crucial, then we will have problems and we have problems. Where are the adults in this equation?

We still don't see schools of education requiring their students who will be teachers to use the technology. In the article, the author quotes someone about how students are lazy, so they copy. Wrong, it is the adults who are lazy as demonstrated by their refusal to learn the technology and to continue to teach as they were taught. We have a new setting and the adults are not rising to the occasion. They come to us ignorant of technological skills. Older teachers are protected from learning and tenure protects them from being dismissed when they don't learn. Schools have filters and provide all sorts of road blocks to successful technology implementation as they hide behind lawyers. We have too many lawyers involved in educational decisions and not enough pedagogues.

There is a way to teach and use technology in any class. I know this because I've been doing it since 1984 and my scholars learn the correct way to use their sources. My scholars aren't spewing stupid comments like the ones I read in this article.

I'm so disgusted with education in this country. I'm disgusted because of the ignorance of our educational leaders and our schools of education. To school leadership I say "Get your head out of the sand or anywhere else it might be and look to technology to cure our educational woes." The current Race to the Top is merely a remix of past failures and a misdirection from the real problems. If something doesn't work, why retry it with a new name. Joel Klein proves this every time he reorganizes Tweed. It's still an incompetent department of education. Race to the Top is nothing new. Technology used correctly in the classrooms, now that would be something new and would improve education in a heartbeat. Repeating the same mistakes over and over again is not the intelligent way to solve a problem. Think outside the box. Oh and teach your scholars how to paraphrase. We want them to be producers, NOT reproducers.