While strolling through the Up-Market Craft Fair in Stratford-upon-Avon, I came across local artist, Mark Kaiser. As I walked by his table, he greeted me eagerly and began showing me various prints of his paintings. After flipping through a few of his prints, he paused for a moment and asked me if I recognized the image that he had stopped on. I replied, “Yes.” It was a beautiful painting of Holy Trinity Church from across the Avon. Mark then pointed out two couples in two little boats. He explained that one of the couples in the image was Shakespeare and Anne Hathaway, while the other was Romeo and Juliet. Then, he paused for a moment and told me that he liked to imagine that maybe Shakespeare was inspired by other couples that he saw around him in Stratford-upon-Avon, maybe even along the nearby river. –Jessica
I too met artist Mark Kaiser. I was a little taken aback by his friendliness, but he seemed genuine and kind, and we found ourselves talking about art and traveling. He asked me about my studies in England and my initial impressions of Stratford. When I asked him about his paintings, he shared that part of his practice involves world travels—from Venice to Canada and beyond—during which he paints landscapes he sees, adding whimsical touches and playful hues. He offered me two greeting cards free of charge, one of which features Shakespeare’s original home and one of Shakespeare’s most recognizable characters—Bottom, the man with a donkey’s head from A Midsummer Night’s Dream. –Samantha
Max: I am from Australia and have lived in this town for over 30 years. Ha, but I have forgotten much of my Australian accent now. “Right, mate?” I would love to go the Globe, but unfortunately I haven’t been yet. I am an engineer, and I am really fond of theatre settings, especially the Globe—beautifully done wood structures. You are doing The Merchant of Venice? You need to go to Venice then! An Italian guy called Marco something made a documentary about his research on a mysterious English poet wandering around Italy. There is a seven year period that there is nothing documented about Shakespeare’s personal life. Google it, for your research.
Me: I came say hi to you because I admire the bold color choices of your dress.
Max: Ha, yes! Look how my shoelaces match my pants as well as my hairband! Go ahead! Take a picture of me – do you think I am shy?
This sweet dog is named Albert. I met him and his owner at a little store in Stratford-Upon-Avon called “Ladies Boutique.” It was a cute little shop. I had a nice chat with the owner. The conversation started with getting to know Albert. I asked questions about Albert, who Albert belonged to, and how long she had had him. I watched her play with her friend Albert and watched as Albert took her playful-teasing like a champ. Then the conversation quickly moved on to other things. We talked about what I was doing in England and where I’m from in the States. She said she loved the States and particularly enjoys the East Coast. She goes to the States for business, but also for vacation. She was very happy to talk with me. This was the easiest time I had conversing with someone. With a handshake we said goodbye. –Barbara
I met this woman at a perfume shop in Stratford-upon-Avon. She was very friendly and asked questions about where I was from and where I had travelled. She was also happy to share with me part of her own experience. She expressed great fondness for the Lake District when I mentioned that I had begun my study abroad there and said that while she was growing up, she visited the Lake District with her family almost every year when they went on holiday. Though she loves living in Stratford-upon-Avon, the Lakes are like a second home to her. –Genevieve
Marcus is a man who enjoys the finer things in life, specifically, grabbing a group of mates and traveling across the entire western coast of Australia. He is a man of adventure and a fan of a good joke. As an English resident, he spoke of his home country as if it were part of his family. Sure, it has its issues, but he stays because of the connections and memories found here. It’s family, and no rainy day (or year) can keep this lover of life away. Australia and Scotland may be great places for adventure, but only England can be called home. –Cole
To My Grandmother
These last words; these last few moments
I give to you,
because of all the humans of England,
You are my number one.
Because you are sitting next to me, here,
in the car on the way to Highnam
for our last family get-together.
Because autumn is upon us –
you need only ask the unbaked apple crumble in the back seat –
and in autumn, things change.
We wind our way through Cheltenham on multicolored roads:
Trees are red, yellow, green, orange and crisp.
I am smiling, thinking to myself
of the way you stood in your kitchen,
of your words when you banged your cane on the ground,
“I’m not going into hibernation,”
Susan, who I met at Anne Hathaway’s cottage, proved that she does not only work there, but she is greatly invested in the history of the place. Anne Hathaway is famous for being a dedicated mother and the wife of William Shakespeare. Susan thinks Anne is more than these things: she respects Anne’s position as a woman who stood by Shakespeare and who faithfully served at home when her husband was busy on tour. Susan is a proud human of England who rejoices in sharing the wonderful stories of Stratford-Upon-Avon, a small town where William Shakespeare was born, raised, and made history. Susan is a delight. —Hadassa
This is Denis. He is a local here in Stratford and is a regular theatre goer, sometimes on a daily basis. If he can, he will try and see the same play more than five times to see more of the director’s intention, things he may have missed before, etc. He even started to talk about The Merchant of Venice with Riley and me. He said that he went to the 2008 performance of it and had a blast. He talked about his view of the play and what it meant to him. He told us that he thought the play revolved around money and what it can do to people. He said that, “money controls everything in this world, so if you lose money, you essentially lose everything, your home, etc.” It was a pleasure to meet this man and to share our love for theatre! –Tyler
I met Marcello in the Encore, a restaurant by day and a pub by night in Stratford upon Avon, where he was performing covers of songs that old men could sing along to. After his performance, I went up with the two girls I was with to thank him for his performance and ability to keep up with the rowdy older crowd. He was very kind and asked where we were from and what we were doing in Stratford. We told him about our study abroad, and he shared with us that he has little knowledge of Shakespeare and had recently graduated from a university in Brighton with a degree in music. He is now traveling and playing at pubs for fun while he works on his own music and hopes to one day make it big. –Becca
Drunk Guys at the Pub: need I say more? Leigh Ann, Chrissy, Mark, and I were at the Lamplighter pub for the open mic night where Tyler was performing. It had been relatively quiet in the pub when, halfway through Tyler’s set, in stormed a group of maybe 15-20 guys who were all already drunk. Leigh Ann and I had been sitting with Chrissy and Mark, but they moved to get a better video of Tyler, which opened up the seeming floodgates for rowdy guys to come over. The first one came over and tried to demonstrate to us his ability to wink, then came another who, with the guy from before, pulled us from our seats to dance in the very small space while everyone else cheered them on. It was quite an experience to say the very least! —Kayleen
English societal norms are completely broken once you put a beer in an English man’s hand—their usually quiet demeanor completely disappears. As Kayleen noted, these men were already drunk when they arrived. This was clearly not their first bar of the night. Later we came to find out that they were a group of farmers, and they were celebrating someone’s birthday. One farmer took a liking to me and asked me at least six times how long I had been in England, and I had to find a different way to answer him each time. The picture included above says it all. –Leigh Ann
We met Kate unexpectedly on our last morning in Stratford-upon-Avon, and I could not be more glad that we did. We went downstairs for breakfast in our B&B, the Quilt and Croissant, and for the first time in two weeks we had a person from outside our group joining us! As we started talking, she told us how she is an architectural archeologist who has been working with the Stratford Guild Hall and how she is an active member of a Renaissance-style mercantile guild in York. As this subject falls exactly in line with my research topic for Merchant of Venice, she kindly shared some of her experiences, as well as information on a painting that used to be in St. Paul’s Cathedral in London titled, “Dance of Death.” She told stories of feasting and of merriment at the guild gatherings that made everyone in the room wish to instantly take up a guild membership and join the festivities. –Ashley
All throughout the abroad I found the English people extremely friendly and kind. Emma, one of our B&B hosts, was a great example of this. She warmly welcomed us into her B&B, which was also her family home along with her partner, a young son, and teenage daughter. I learned from living in her home how loving English families can be—this through her devotion to her children, the kind way in which she reacted to little crises with her son, her affection for her partner (I caught them kissing in the kitchen one morning when their son opened the door to the kitchen from the hall where I was standing.), and the way she and her mother (who lives next door) help each other with the daily chores. Our experience with Emma solidified for me at the end of our trip my opinion that the English have a kind and loving way about them both for visitors and their own families. It was wonderful to be in her home and a part of her family.—Mark
Our last night in England, a homeless man in Manchester who, for reasons of security, did not wish to give his name or have a picture taken, discussed at length the problem of gun violence in America with Ian and me. He was confused by the fact that Americans are so permissive with their gun sales, claiming such a thing would be horrifying anywhere else in the world. He discussed how he always was shocked and viscerally depressed when he heard the reactions of family members of victims, saying he couldn’t imagine such a thing happening in Britain. –Alden
When the homeless man approached us, I unfortunately didn’t have any change, but Alden did. He asked us where we were from. We said we were students from America. We then had a deep conversation about the terrorist situation that happened in Las Vegas. He said, “It’s really sad. There’s just no need for it.” What struck me was his care for another nation when there is a lot happening in England—some good, some bad. I was very grateful to have met him.
On our last night in England, Heidi, Mark, and I had some time to explore in Manchester. Many people were out on the lovely, cool Friday night, shopping, dining, or strolling along the pedestrian walkways. We came across Gnawa Manchester who plays Moroccan spiritual trance music on his hand-made guitar-like instrument. Before he played, he gave us a brief history of Moroccan music. Several people stood by listening to him, appreciating his joyous sharing of his culture and music. One man, swaying to the music said, “This puts a smile in your evening.” Indeed it did!—Chrissy
Waiting in a queue with the English and complaining about things that go wrong (a national pastime) is great fun—don’t knock it till you try it. Outside this window is Reykjavik, Iceland. This was my destination flying out of Manchester, England. When everyone at the airport was waiting for the baggage check counter to open in an orderly fashion, and all very patiently too, the airport neglected to announce that the counter had moved to the opposite side of the room. This meant the entire line was thrown off balance, and people not only lost their spot in the queue while everyone moved, but some people who were at the front were neglected and pushed to the back. We all contributed to the group complaining that followed this shift, using the classic English phrases of “Typical…” and “Of course!” –Riley
We had a wonderful seven and a half weeks traveling in England. We’ve met some marvelous people and learned so much about English culture. This group of sixteen energetic and enthusiastic students remain some of our favorite Humans of England. –Heidi