Stratford swansong

It’s Mop Fair time in Stratford, and as ever the streets are alive with rides, sweets, screams and bass – and visitors who look increasingly young. It’s bittersweet, as I’m currently packing up my flat, but is fun as ever.

I’ve been visiting for ten years, on and off, and at first I used to go down at lunchtimes and ride the exciting bits by myself. But in the last few years it’s only fun if experienced with other people. So this year my dance partner came down, and we hit pretty much everything. Including the centrifuge, in which you stand against a rotating drum, which speeds up until you’re plastered against the wall like that bit in Hot Shots1, at which the point the floor drops away. I like that one. There was also the most intense waltzer I’ve ever experienced (the woman next to us kept apologising for swearing), the least frightening ghost train in the world (there was green and red paint on the walls, and that was it), and a carousel (on which I was able to ride a giant chicken).

I also won (well, paid £2.50 for – this may seem a lot, but bear in mind I also got to grab a duck with a pole) a monkey who lives in a banana, which I do not understand. Is the banana eating him? Is it a banana sleeping bag? Anyway, his name is Mondeo.

But the highlight of my evening was that after after years of wussing out, I finally held my nerve and took a picture from the highest ride in town. It’s a long arm – seven or eight stories, I’d guess – that spins around a point and has four swinging chairs at each end. If you get lucky they’ll strap you into your chair and spin you up to the top while they load the next batch, so you get a lovely view of the fairground and the town at night. I got lucky, so, clutching my iPhone very, very hard, I took this:

The Mop Fair

Pleased with that. Slightly blurred, but it’ll do.

It’s a nice bookend to my time in Stratford, though I’m more melancholy than I expected. Technically I’m only renting out my flat, and I’m consoling myself that I can come back. But you can’t go home again. I’m very excited about my new place in London, and I’m sure it’ll be great, but I know nothing will ever feel quite like this – different and equally nice, I’m sure, but never quite the same. It’s time to move on, though. Things to do.

  1. possibly Part Deux []


So yesterday’s plan to stay in all day reading Harry Potter didn’t go as planned. Stratford had a little rain overnight:

Isolated lock gates Overflow parking Pedestrians please user other footpath

Presumably business isn't brisk A sewer urchin attempts to escape Wading away from home

Sheep Street from the other side Bancroft Fountain Rose Garden and Clopton bridge

Here’s a before/after of the basin:

Busy busy Flooded gardens

which is pretty bad, but further downstream it was crazy:

Pre-flood Lucy's Mill bridge Lucy's Mill bridge - 2

Not being one of the people who has to clear up, I found it very interesting. Plenty of kids, and some families, were having a great time splashing through the water on the main street, and the residents walking from their houses in wellies seemed in good spirits. These lads asked if I’d take their picture:

Kids in the river - 1

I emailed them a copy, although the initial address bounced back and I guessed at a correction, so hopefully they received it…I was also impressed by and jealous of this couple:

Flood dancing couple - 4

A passing child asked its mother why this was happening. The mother replied that it’s the kind of thing that happens after people have had too much to drink. Which might be true, although I prefer to think they were just having fun, but nevertheless they could actually dance. The cha-cha, unless I was mistaken. A salsa, I’m told. Isn’t that lovely? It was the best thing I saw all day 🙂

Flood dancing couple - 12 Flood dancing couple - 7 Flood dancing couple - 15

The BBC and various other organisations were filming, and there were crowds everywhere. I saw a canoeist set sail from the bandstand in the centre of town and finish a mile or so downriver.

Today the waters had receded from the main street, but parts of the basin and most of the far side of the river was still pretty bad:

Swimming in the evening sunlight My Gosh The RSC is open

and they were pumping out the Swan Theatre. My uncle lived here for ten(?) years and said he’d never seen the theatre flooded. I bet nobody thought it’d happen in July. Thankfully the waters didn’t quite make it to the Courtyard Theatre, so the RSC hasn’t had to close down completely1. It hasn’t rained in the past 36hours that I’ve noticed, so hopefully the worst is over. The entire set of pics is here.

  1. the main RST is closed until 2010; the Swan Theatre is in the same building, hence the flooding []

Wandering around Stratford in the snow

As you may have gathered I was rather excited by the snow, and eagerly headed outside on Thursday to see how the world looked. The streets were very quiet and it was pleasant to walk around / stand in the middle of the road taking pictures. I headed down to Holy Trinity Church, which I thought might be pretty:

There wasn't much traffic Avenue to Holy Trinity Church

Holy Trinity gravestones Wintry Avon Shakespeare memorial garden thingy place

Continue reading Wandering around Stratford in the snow

Tentative inference from bad opposition

There’s currently an insane furore in Stratford over plans to build a bridge across the Avon. I don’t know the detailed arguments in favour of the bridge, but there’s been a bombardment of the arguments against, and they suck. It’ll get in the way of swan flightpaths, for example.

While it is of course the job of the proponent to justify the case, I don’t think it’s unreasonable to get a tentative sense of which side is in the right based on the strength of the opponents’ arguments. In this case there’s only one objection that seems to warrant a reply from the council, and I suspect that has an easy answer. I’m certainly not informed enough to start arguing about it properly (and that would possibly get me lynched, given the ferocity of letters to the local paper – maybe I missed the plans to pave the bridge with the crushed bones of small children) but I can suspect who I’d end up agreeing with if I actually put the effort in. It is, however, just a bridge, and I have better things to do.

I’m in a similar situation regarding pay-per-mile road taxing, except it actually matters. Intuitively it seems like a reasonable idea, and although I don’t know the exact justifications every argument against has seemed either paranoid or selfish. Thankfully B4L has actually researched the matter, and does a good job of demonstrating why it makes sense.

Stratford Christmas Lights

I was out for a walk on Thursday afternoon, and as I approached the town centre I heard a choir. I love listening to street carol singers around Christmas, and headed towards the noise, only to find it was the town’s Christmas lights switching-on ceremony (there must be a better way to write that). A children’s choir and orchestra sat in front of the town hall, and a large crowd had gathered to watch.

High Street Lights Choir in front of Town Hall Watching from the Chinese Restaurant

I hurried home to grab my camera, and arrived back just as the songs ended and the speeches began.

It was not, you could say, the best ceremony ever. At least one street’s lights were on already, the vicar’s prayer was greeted by indifferent hubbub, and the town hall display, proudly switched on by its schoolchild designer, sadly failed to work. Most of the main lights flickered to life a minute before the switch was officially thrown, too. Still, they made an attempt, and the choir and orchestra were great. Santa arrived a few minutes later, in a unique sleigh:

Santa's 'Sleigh'

He briefly said hello, then walked across town to his grotto in the pedestrianised area, followed by many families. There was an enormous queue when I walked past it later. I always like wandering around in the dark with the Christmas lights, so did so for a while. They seem to have put in a lot of effort this year, although sadly there’s nothing by the river as yet.

Bridge Street Lights - 2 Sheep Street Lights Lights leading down Church Street

There are rumours of an outdoor ice rink, which would be great, but I can’t find any details yet. I don’t know what it is about outdoor ice rinks, but they appeal to me greatly.

I was quite pleased with the pictures. Even my f1.8 lens couldn’t cope without a flash, though, resulting in one turning out all Sean of the Dead:


That’s just scary.