SHAKESPEARE AND THE LOCAL LONDON

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I’ve thought about a few ways to approach this blog post because yesterday was quite interesting for me, but I suppose I’m just going to start at the beginning. I finally went on the tour of Shakespeare’s Globe. This modern reconstruction of the theatre only opened in 1997, but nonetheless, my tour guide was really informative and the experience gave me the real feel of what it would have been like in the heyday of the Elizabethan Era.

The poorest of people apparently stood congregated right in front of the stage at the lowest level; they stood in mud, they stood dirt, and they stood in shit. The guide did note that there were no toilets, so really everyone just kind of went wherever. Can you say… unsanitary!? The more money you paid to see a performance, the higher up you got to sit. I can’t imagine it would have smelled any better up there, but hey, at least you would have gotten the advantage of not catching the rampant plague.

Anyways, in the past I have wondered why in the world “The Winter’s Tale” features a character that gets eaten by a bear. I got my answer for Shakespeare’s inspiration yesterday. Apparently, during his time “bear-baiting” was a widely esteemed sport. A bear would be chained down and dogs released to attack it… Fun.

After leaving the Globe, I headed to Tate Modern once more to see the rest of the art I missed the day before. I cannot stress enough how incredible this place is and I am so glad I went back because I totally omitted the magical realism of Weimar Germany. Afterwards, I decided that I needed to have some traditionally English food. I went to The Anchor by the Thames River. This multi-level historic pub with outside seating is a few centuries old. It is said that Shakespeare used to be a patron so as you see, I had to go in. I enjoyed their signature Epping sausages in gravy with mashed potatoes and peas, or just mash. It tasted… homely? Yes, homely I suppose. The sausages were reminiscent of American breakfast sausages but thicker and just a bit tastier. Although I was happy with the huge plate, it wouldn’t be something that I order again.

Considering that I am leaving for Amsterdam today, I had to go back to the hostel and do some much needed laundry. What a fiasco this turned out to be, but in the best way possible since it was yet another opportunity to talk to other people. There is only one washer and dryer here and as soon as I got in, someone was doing their laundry. I said I would be back and thankfully right in time to be second in the queue because right after me, two more gentleman arrived.

The first gentleman I spoke with over the laundry turned out to be a Polish immigrant that has lived outside of London for over 17 years now. He was staying at the hostel because the transportation from where he lives to his job just took way too long. I remember him saying something like 3 hours which, indeed, is way too long.

His wife and son who is now 11 years old moved back to Poland, but he remained here to work as a supervisor of a construction sight. He said he doesn’t want to downgrade to the wages at home because a job like his current one would be impossible to find. His family moved back because his son was getting older and in his opinion, the educational system in Poland is far better in comparison to the UK. Besides, his wife never liked the chaos of London.

He plans on moving soon, but once more, as an immigrant to Berlin. It is a much shorter distance away from home, but the wages are still competitive. I felt a lot of frustration from him, a lot of longing for his home and family, a lot of wanting to be done with the immigrant life. He goes home twice a month, but it’s just not enough. With Polish products like cheese and juice for sale at stores in Greenwich and other areas, I can only imagine the thousands of Poles here that feel just the same way.

I met another man over doing laundry who came to London some 23 years ago. Unlike my other friend, he stayed here rather unwillingly. Born and raised in South Africa, his citizenship had been revoked and he can now only travel to his homeland for short stays.

He spoke of a massive polarization that is occurring in this country. According to this gentleman, London is highly multicultural, but if one goes 60 miles outside of the city, locals are simple people with nationalist, perhaps even racist, ideals. If I wasn’t going to Amsterdam later today, I would have definitely taken him up on that offer. With a huge influx of immigrants to the UK, he said that the English people have been feeling as though their identity is being swept away; many of them are simply not okay with it. Indeed, walking around London Bridge, a man on a bike was cut off by a car and so he yelled: “Fuckin’ idiot! Fuckin’ immigrant!”

Hate is never good, yet I can’t really have an opinion on this matter. I don’t live here, I’m just relating what I’ve observed and what I’ve been told. I’m on a train right now and a man is openly drinking a beer. I thought that I would note this too.

Anyways, you’ll be relieved to hear that I have found a hostel in Amsterdam. It cost me far more than originally expected, but at least I will not be without a bed tonight.

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