Charles Dickens, on top of everything else he was doing, used to walk miles every day. It was, of course, part of his nature to do nothing by halves so he would cover up to 20 miles per walk and use this as thinking time, planning his writing and his future activities.
I think I must be the descendant, at no great distance, of some irreclaimable tramp (C.Dickens)
Ever one to take a leaf from the book of a great literary figure, I decided today to try the same sort of tactic to try and rationalise where I was going to go metaphorically by going somewhere actually.
The previous ten days had seen the final performance of the Royal Shakespeare Company’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream: A Play For The Nation and having been involved with this project for 18 months I found myself at a spiritual loose end, somewhat depressed by the realisation that everything was over but full of half formed plans and ideas for what might take its place. Not that anything actually could – and if all this so far makes no sense at all I would suggest you take a look at my previous blog Bottomdream16 where I tell the full (and I warn you, when I say full, I mean full) story of this glorious experience about the time when I got to play Bottom for the RSC.
So a good long walk was in order. Now I prefer to have a goal or purpose when I’m walking. Parading the same old route doesn’t particularly interest me so I wanted to see something new. You know how when you live near to something it’s the last thing you go and see? I never got to the Millennium dome for that very reason. Despite living slap bang next to Epping Forest for thirty years there are many bits of it I have never been to so I decided it was time to rectify that situation.
Beginning in Loughton I thought I would walk home the long way; a straight road would normally take about half an hour. This route (basically made up as I went along) took about three hours. To begin with I walked up to the area known as the Warren Wood. This was so named after the ground was used to breed rabbits regularly served up in pies at the local hostelry (once called The Reindeer but now also called the Warren Wood). The morning was warming up nicely though a little overcast and the forest was looking particularly lush– one of the few benefits of the rain that has fallen recently. Clumps of purple loosestrife were particularly in evidence and seemed to be attracting a number of generously hued butterflies. Despite it being the school holidays there were few people about. In my childhood we would have been trusted to go cycling or adventuring in this sort of area but the modern preoccupation with “stranger danger” seems to have put paid to that – understandable but still rather sad.
Soon I found myself crossing the main Epping Road onto the area known as Chingford Plain. Here I spent some time walking round and admiring Connaught Water which was rather a haven for wild birds and multitudes of dragonflies. Suddenly the sun broke through and at the same time it immediately began to rain (gotta love the British climate!). Fortunately it was only a fleeting shower so there was no need even to take cover.
My ultimate destination was Queen Elizabeth’s Hunting Lodge, a three storey building which I had always assumed provided an overnight stop over for the Tudor monarchs who caused it to be built. That turned out not to be the purpose at all. In essence it was a grandstand from which assorted lords and ladies could watch the royal hunt chasing down and exterminating the local deer population. Thus the first floor provided an entry chamber and the kitchen; the second floor was the dining area and a place where archers could join in “the sport” if the hunt got close enough; the top floor was essentially the viewing platform. It’s an interesting little spot, free to enter and doesn’t take long to go round. One local myth suggests that Queen Elizabeth I rode a white horse up the stairwell on hearing of the Armada victory – I think that’s probably more redolent of what comes out of the rear end of said quadruped.
After a refreshment break at the pleasant Butler’s Retreat café next to the lodge it was time to head home. How about those plans which were fermenting in my head? Well, I made some decisions, considered and rejected others, put some on hold and tried to think through the pitfalls of yet more. It’s probably a bit too early to reveal what they are yet and, in any case, I have to keep readers coming back somehow! Suffice to say that one decision I did make was to start another blog in which I might record the aftermath of playing one of the Mechanicals in a professional production….and what he did next. And here is the result. I don’t think it will be such a regular or even full blog as the last effort and neither will it have the coherence and continuity that writing about a single subject provided but as an outlet for my verbal incontinence it should pass muster. Look out for further adventures in the world of theatre, some drama, film, music and book reviews, educational musings, reports of outings and the occasional picture of a cat. Thank you for joining me yet again (or indeed for the first time). I commend to your kind thoughts and gentle approbation this first post of 2ndFrom Bottom.