(As You Like It, Act III Scene V)
Oh, my head! It’s been a long time since I was full of studying and learning. My days, for far too long, have been filled with things other than academia. I’ve made choices over the years that have kept me from ding what I know is in my heart, but life sometimes has to lived, not in a straight line, but in a scribble of swirls and cross-outs. And so now, at 50, I’m back at it. I feel old sometimes. My fellow students, for the most part, are right out of university and bursting with vim and vigor. But I am loving it.
I’m not loving being reminded of what I may have been in my own youth. Overbearing and opinionated. But surely that wasn’t me. I couldn’t have been one to take over a class from the professor by ending a conversation abruptly and moving to the next student. I couldn’t have been one that rambled on about my own experience taking up minutes before actually getting to my point which really has nothing to do with my point other than I just really want to shine a light on me and the wonderfulness thereof. Surely that wasn’t me. It gets exhausting. Listening to Me, Mine, My, and I with the start of every observation or every question put out there. I need more patience. In someways having to wear a mask in class is a good thing. At least my whole face doesn’t give my irritation and exasperation away.
But really, even with the exhaustion that is youth, I’ve missed this – the reading, the lectures, the discussions, the note taking, all of it. My modules are spaced so I have time to get it all done before the next class starts. I can walk the girl part of the way to school and get back to enjoy a second cup of tea while diving into part one of online lectures and reading…reading…reading.
Reading of how David Garrick created the first Jubilee in celebration of Shakespeare and started the snowball of Shakespeare kitsch/tat and why you now have to study Shakespeare as part of a national curricula. Reading how Shakespeare wrote about smell being important – that sight could be deceiving, but other senses could provide evidence. Joint lectures where we hear from a director or an author, get to engage in questioning and fuller discussions of works. Learning about the people’s library in Birmingham, The Shakespeare Memorial Library that was created for the people of Birmingham which is full of items from around the world. Understanding of stage technique, acting technique, what the five senses can tell us of early modern playhouse culture. I feel so tiny at times because I see the vastness of the ocean of Shakespeare Studies and I am but a drop of water in it seeking to add myself into it and have it become part of me. It’s wonderful. It’s bliss. My head and heart are full!
And while I dive deeper into studies and continue to annoy my girl with finding references of Shakespeare everywhere…everywhere! Do you know how often Shakespeare is referred to out there? On television, on radio, in your own conversations? Little snippets of phrasing, an expression, a re-wording of a line? Stop and listen and you may just be amazed. But while I dive deeper, AEB seems to be finding peace here. She likes the quiet of the streets and the walking everywhere. We’re still looking for the right full-time place to rent. We’re still in our temporary digs, but hopefully the right thing will come along shortly. In the meantime, she has started year 10 and is slowly making friends at school and feeling more settled into the routine. One of them facetimed her last night, so it’s getting better. But I know it’s lonely without the friends she’s had since grammar school. Some she’s known since she was nearly three. But she gets to text them, 5 hour time change is a bit rough when they want to chat in the evening and it’s midnight here. It’s not easy. She’s the only American. She gets questions. She gets sympathy. And sometimes she gets asked to just speak, say anything, so they can hear her ‘cute American accent’ which they seem to love.
We’ve started another nationwide lockdown as of today. Schools will still be open and operating until told differently. So classes will continue in person with a few more regulations and hand washing than before, but the protocols already in place are very strong. Sometimes it feels like life in lockdown, or life in a mask is going to be a never ending experience. But, for the most part, people are pulling together and helping each other get through all this. ‘Hands. Face. Space.’ is the NHS mantra and in advertising everywhere. Wash your hands to kill the virus. Wear a mask to protect others. Give two metres between yourself and others to protect yourselves from the virus. We’re in this together and we want and many of us to make it through without dying. It’s a different message than what is being given in much of America. I do worry about the girl and being in her year’s bubble, but I know that the protocols and the safety nets are in place and we hope all will be well. May it be so.