Some years ago my best friend and I walked sections of the Pembrokeshire Coastal Path and very lovely it was.
She was map-reader in chief and my role was to enliven our walk with snippets from a guide book.
‘As you rise steeply from the beach you will be passing the site of XX Castle – of which no trace remains,’
Now, there were a lot of similar sentences in that book and whilst I am prepared to believe that there were a lot of castles on the coast of Wales, for so many to have left so few traces is rather suspicious.
It is not as if the stone has been used for local dwellings which is often the case with under-used castles, because the local dwellings are usually pebble-dashed bungalows and I for one, am not convinced they have a strong layer of castle stone underneath all those pebbles.
Anyway, I was reminded of this ‘no trace remains’ phrase when we were recently in Stratford-Upon Avon, home of the bard.
Of course there are loads of references to Shakespeare – every second shop is Shakespeare’s bakery or bookshop or something- but not much of a real trace remains.
Yes I know,there is the house where he was born with several engaging guides dressed in appropriate costumes who can point to gloves like those which Shakespeare senior might have made in this workshop and painted wall-hangings like those his mum might have brought as part of her dowry.
And there is a child’s sized bed which pulls out from under the adults’ and its base is a criss-cross of rope with a device to pull the strings taught – from which comes the phrase ‘sleep tight.’ Which is interesting but no one has the faintest idea if Shakespeare slept on something similar.
And then there is the place where the house he once owned stood – now it is a garden, unimpressive very small museum, and of course, expensive gift shop.
But all in all, not much of a trace remains.
Which, of course, is not putting off the millions of tourists which go there to see the merest sniff of a trace magnified into various ‘attractions.’
We stayed in the White Swan which was all very nice and old and cosy etc etc. (As far as I am aware it has no real connection whatsoever with Shakespeare.)
Above the mantlepiece there was a quote written in suitably Olde Englishe script and it said, ‘I would give all my fame for a pot of ale and safety. Henry Vactz. ‘
‘ Well,’ I said to my best beloved, ‘ At least half of that quote worked. I have never heard of him. Looks like he might have been Czech though.’
‘What?’ he said, ‘ That’s Henry V Act 3.’