Richard Lutz looks back in langour at the past seven days
I am crowbarred out of the city and it’s off to South Warwickshire in a mist of light rain.
I head for a spot of Britain redolent with the whiff of Wm Shakespeare, much of it admittedly the stuff not in the least pinned to hard historical fact.
Supposedly he got absolutely blotto-ed in the small little town of Bidford seven miles downriver from Stratford with a bunch of pals and awoke groggy under an apple tree. Thus ‘drunken Bidford’ in a later ditty. It makes a nice little story.
And in Taming of the Shrew there is mention of nearby Burton on Heath, later to be called Barton, where now sits a riverside caravan site many times flooded by rising waters.
We head for woodland husbanded by the late millionaire hippie Felix Dennis, who planted a million trees, I am told, to restore the Warwickshire forests. Good on him. As we walk up a hill, now spotted with hardwood saplings, we see a bronze statue of the man who stood in the dock of the Oz magazine trials all those decades ago. Felix is peering south toward, well…we’re really not sure. But the sculpturer has engraved Dennis’s poems on the philanthropist’s bronzed jacket. Nice touch.
Shakespeare, of course, grew up not seven miles from this spot in Stratford. And he got it right when it comes to lines in his many plays that reflect the this soft countryside with its dells, streams, and flowers:
“I know a bank where the wild thyme blows,” says Oberon, “Where oxlips and the nodding violet grows
Quite over-canopied with luscious woodbine, With sweet musk-roses, and with eglantine:”
That kind of stuff.
We plough through the woods and, in this early spring, with winter almost behind us, we pass daffodils, wood anemones, bugles, primroses and hints of bluebells that all line a brook that trickles through the quiet woods. Good old Will, there he was knocking out plays by the dozen in dirty old London 400 years ago. But still entranced by memories of his childhood along the Avon.
Back to the future, so to speak. And from the warmth of a wood to the cold staring eye of the flatscreen. All around us we are told about the joys of big time blockbuster tv series- Happy Valley, The Night Manager and Undercover.
I am, though, burying myself in a box-set sized behemoth that everyone else saw a dozen years ago. It is West Wing. My TV set, then a clunky old cathode, missed it. I blame everything on the inert power of machines. It was the TV’s fault.
“West Wing? How long ago was that?” says a friend. He was as dismissive as a dismissive person rifling through a backfile marked Dismissive Things.
Well, it was post-2002 and pre-Obama. Just about. And if you added a storyline about a billionaire bouffant guttermouth who hates Mexicans, Moslems and women, the editor would’ve knocked it out of the plot as too cartoonish. Art precedes reality. West Wing still has resonance, prescient stories and strong characters who drive the series forward. We are halfway through, maybe ten years late, but not at all behind the times. It still works.