I am typing this sitting on the swing seat in my garden. It's 70ft by 35ft (garden, not swing)_- which the
mathematician in the partnership informs me is a golden
rectangle, and I can quite believe it.
If memorial garden were not such a sad concept, I'd call
my garden that, for everyone I care for is present here,
as are many of the places I have visited over the years.
My mother, who's seven year anniversay falls today, loved
sweet peas - they are aiming for the trellis at the sunny
side of the shed. My marriage to Ray is commemorated in
the violets and primroses which are abundant here. Thirty
eight years ago they were the posy I carried and were
wreathed into my hair.
The evening primroses are the descendants of an ancestor
grown from a packet of mixed wild flowers I bought at the
Post Office in Talkeetna, Alaska. The iaxias, pineapple
lilies and osteospernums redolant of South Africa and the
beautiful white dogwood and the columbines take me back to
the Pacific Northwest...
I have one rose - a double-hearted white one that fades to
yellow called 'The Swan', planted in November 2001, which
takes me immediately to Stratford and fond memories of the
dear friends - all far away now, with whom I enjoyed happy
hours in the company of the Bard.
Two Gentlemen of Verona - An Adventure in !Xhosa
It was a privilege to escort our African friends to 'The
Swan' theatre, Stratford for TGoV. It was going to be a
really exciting event for all of us - but especially for
Nomvuzo who taught Shakespeare at the Senior Secondary
School in Port St John's on the Wild Coast, but had never
seen a performance - anywhere.To say that our party stood
out from the crowd is an understatement to say the least.
Not only were our guests African, but Nomvuzo and Lindelwa
wore tribal dress. (I could have worn mine too, but it
wasn't my night.)
The adventure began in the theatre lobby. Coats deposited
by theatre-goers were hanging on a rack and Landilesa had
an idea they might be for sale. He went and asked an
attendant behind the desk, who obviously misheard the
question and replied, 'Yes'; Just picture it, a black man
going through the furs and high quality woollens (in
search of price tags as it happens). We English are so
polite. No one said a word, but the horror on the faces
of some of those present was really quite funny. I nudged
Nomvuzo who was closest to me and whispered to her,
urgently. I now know what !Xhosa for, 'If you don't stop
doing that you'll get arrested.' sounds like.
Can you imagine what it would be like to be experiencing
live theatre -and the RSC at that -for the very first
time? Our friends were utterly spellbound. They hung
over the balcony and watched entranced. Audible cries
of 'Yo, yo, yo ...' could be heard as the plot warmed up.
The audience were delighted ( I feared the opposite...)
and it was soon evident that the actors were playing to
one particular part of the gallery.
And What's This about Talkeetna?
I defy anyone to find a weirder festival anywhere in the
world than the Talkeetna Moose Dropping Festival. It's
true. I have the tee-shirt. I believe I may even have a
preserved moose-dropping somewhere too.
Alaskans used to make a living in two ways - fur-trapping
in the winter and gold-panning in the summer. I suspect
they still do.
The town has a wonderful Museum in the Little Red School-
house. You can wander in, buy the Moose-dropping Festival
tee-shirt in a range of colours and inspect the fur-
trapping and gold-panning paraphenalia of bygone days.
Then for a couple of dollars more you can buy a map of the
town with the preserved frontier cabins circled for you.
Each one made of logs with a bed, a quilt, a stove a
candle and a wash stand.
And on the walls, pin-ups of Betty Grable, Lana turner and
Marylyn Monroe; The frontier in Alaska was alive and well
in the 1950's.
The gardens were still extant too. I vividly remember a
strawberry patch with a sign that read,'Please eat the
strawberries and pull a few weeds'
(No, I'm not making it up - go and take a look:
Alaska is still a frontier state to some degree. The
Anchorage Times has lifestyle and cookery sections just
like the London variety - but the front page still carries
tales of bar-room brawls and close encounters with bears.
I will recall the story of my encounter with a bear on Mt
Eklutna when I have ceased to have nightmares about it.