#MindTheBard 2020: Diary


Once again I thought it might be a good idea to keep a diary throughout this week, as it gives an opportunity to keep an eye on what’s been going on during each day – including each #BardFromTheBarn offering, which play has been seen, and maybe even a quote of the day. Make sure you check out my Insta stories for regular updates throughout the day, and also remember the hashtag #MindTheBard.

Rosemary for remembrance G&T

Wednesday 12 August 2020
First thing on the cards today was a walk; in order to avoid high tide, the hottest part of the day, and (potentially) heavy rain it needed to be the first item on the agenda. I’m over in Somerset at the moment, so plenty of options! Today was a walk to Doniford Beach, involving lots of walking on the road and tucking my trousers into my socks – for some reason I thought it was an entirely pebble beach, so the sand was a surprise…

The afternoon was slightly more focused, as I started listening to This is Shakespeare by Emma Smith, skipping ahead to the Hamlet chapter. Then it was full steam ahead for my TSMGO tweetalong prep! It’s a lot of effort, but well worth it. Plus I managed to get some tenuous refreshment links: Danish pastries, omelette (see Something Rotten), and my own fancy G&T (‘Rosemary for remembrance‘).

My family all fancied joining me for Hamlet, so I got to see TSMGO on a big screen for the first time ever! What a moment to pick, with an incredible allstar alumni cast on absolutely top form.


“O blessed breeding sun, draw from the earth
Rotten humidity; below thy sister’s orb
Infect the air!”

Timon of Athens, Act 4 scene 3

William Shakesbear introduces As You Like It

Thursday 13 August 2020
Nice trip to see my Grandma this morning – I’ve not seen her since February (though I did send her some Baileys chocolates to cheer her up a few months ago!), so it was good to have a little bit of a catchup over a coffee & the cricket.

The rest of the day ended up as a bit of a cooking/Shakespeare to & fro; assisting with some quiche prep before getting on with some writing, listening to more This is Shakespeare, cooking the dinner (a lamb & pasta concoction), and finally CtrlAltRepeat’s As You Like It. Write-ups haven’t gone exactly to plan, due to the continuing crapness of my laptop and my GIF-making website going down again. It’ll pick up as the week goes on (I hope) – and in the meantime William Shakesbear can distract everyone…

The As You Like It was great, by the way, and a wonderful follow-up to their previous Shakespeare offering (Midsummer Night Stream).

“Men of few words are the best men.”

Henry V, Act 3 scene 2

William Shakesbear introduces Othello

Friday 14 August 2020
So much for all my plans of catching up on things… I’m more patient these days, but waiting 20 minutes after logging in to your laptop for one website to load – and then crash? Nope. Multiple restarts & scans later… Hours lost and unnecessary worry about whether it will end up working at all (vitally important as I start work again in a few days after this leave), only for it to suddenly start working in a “what were you worrying about?” kind of way. Annoying.

I had all my posts written in preparation (I’d hidden myself away to be able to concentrate), so it just ended up being a bit of a barrage in the afternoon – in between listening to more of This is Shakespeare and cracking on with today’s production. After going to a talk from Iqbal Khan earlier this year, I was even more keen to see his Othello, starring Hugh Quarshie in the title role and Lucian Msamati as Iago. Unlike the underwhelming Globe production from 2018 (with Rylance phoning in his performance) this one really hit the spot.

“How poor are they that have not patience!
What wound did ever heal but by degrees?”

Othello, Act 2 scene 3

“Fear no colours” cupcakes

Saturday 15 August 2020
A different kind of frustration on offer today, as the idiotic ICC bad light regulations meant there was no cricket at all – so I turned to baking to pass some of the time. I had planned for some ridiculously colourful (& E number-packed) cakes, but upon closer inspection it transpired that the food colouring supplies were fucked. Red was fine (it always is), yellow disappeared on contact with the mixture, and blue… HAD TURNED INTO RED! I managed to improvise though, so my marbling idea worked out, albeit in a slightly different way.

As I went OTT on posts yesterday (making the most of my laptop eventually springing into action) I thought it was fair enough to ease off today, instead catching up on reading, Italian & audiobooks.

I did still fit in a play, of course, even though this one made me kick myself for not going to see it at the time. In my TodayTix basket I had Rush or possibly sale tickets to the all-female Shakespeare trilogy during its transfer season at the King’s Cross Theatre, but I decided I couldn’t be arsed to put the effort in to actually go. Within about 10 minutes of their Henry IV (thank you, BritBox) I found myself regretting it! It’s exactly my cup of tea (though admittedly back then I hadn’t quite developed my taste so much), with a bunch of Emilia actors in the cast to boot. Anyone fancy reviving it?

“Dost thou think, because thou art virtuous, there shall be no more cakes and ale?”

Twelfth Night, Act 2 scene 3

Shakespeare & Somerset

Sunday 16 August 2020
Last day in Somerset! So how better to spend it than having a roast dinner and writing a typically tenuous blog post about Shakespeare & Somerset? There was also time to catch up on a bit of reading as there only ended up being about 10 overs in the cricket. There I was, thinking I’d get to watch so much cricket on my break – I’m just going to have to watch it as I work (again) from this coming week onwards.

A bit more This is Shakespeare later to tide me over, and it was time to watch today’s play. I needed a bit of farce to help balance out the weight of tragedy in the week, so The Comedy of Errors it was! It was nice to be able to give some more money to the Globe, choosing the 2014 production on the Globe Player. I do wish I could have seen this one at the theatre itself, especially as it had a pre-Benedick Matthew Needham in excellent form.

“A man cannot make him laugh. But that’s no marvel; he drinks no wine.”

Henry IV, part two, Act 4 scene 2

William Shakesbear introduces The Merchant of Venice

Monday 17 August 2020
Back to London! And it’s the last day of my annual leave, too… Perhaps I didn’t quite think that through. Anyway, the journey back was fairly smooth; probably the only near-hitch was the display at Taunton stating the wrong zones for first class, so I was stood in the wrong place and had to peg it down the platform to find the right carriage. Yes, I said “first class”! Not knowing how busy it might be, and remembering that GWR have some solo seats, I thought it was worth paying a couple of quid more to try and get some more space. It was nice to get on a quiet train again, and it also gave me time to do a bit more This is Shakespeare listening.

Initially I was going to save on public transport costs and get the buses back from Paddington, but I wasn’t keen on masking up in the rain – so I got on the Tube sooner than I thought I would – though does it really count if it’s the Circle line? Just time to buy some basic groceries before then getting the train home (it’s so weird seeing Southeastern run on time), as I didn’t want to have to go back out again.

Especially as I had SO MUCH FUN POST waiting for me. Hello, Books That Matter subscription! Hello, Off Menu merch! Hello, Shakespeare Deck! It’s the little things. By then it was time to watch today’s play (one which I approached with a bit more trepidation & awareness following the TSMGO version): the RSC’s 2015 The Merchant of Venice. It was superb, and made some really interesting choices that cast new light on the play and its characters without switching too much up (as far as my limited knowledge of it could tell). And it had Patsy Ferran, so I couldn’t not watch it, right?

“What is the city but the people?”

Coriolanus, Act 3 scene 1

Hamlet (RSC, 2016)

Tuesday 18 August 2020
The dreaded first day back to work… Not at work, at least – I’m still working from home, but there’s always so much to unpick after a few days off, let alone a week and a half. Unsurprisingly it managed to undo a lot of the good work my break had done within a couple of hours, but never mind; it would’ve been worse if I’d just ploughed on blindly without any break at all, so at least I was refreshed before getting stressed out again!

It’s more working out how to prioritise things that seem to have equal levels of importance – someone’s always going to be unhappy about how you go about things. If you’re consistently given the work of two people, they either have to put up with occasional errors or lack of time, or hire someone to help.

It meant I didn’t really have much brain space for Shakespeare, listening to a few chapters more of This is Shakespeare before giving my mind a rest. But by the time I got to play o’clock, my head was all ready for the RSC’s 2016 Hamlet! For some reason it seems to be a play that attracts a lack of direction, but this production was bang on – and Paapa Essiedu was as brilliant in the lead role as I’d expected, after seeing him in such diverse roles as Edmund in the RSC’s King Lear and Kwame on screen recently in I May Destroy You. It’s on BritBox and iPlayer, and definitely worth three hours of your time.

“Things won are done, joy’s soul lies in the doing.”

Troilus and Cressida, Act 1 scene 2


Wednesday 19 August 2020
Last day! It shows how much work screws with these challenge weeks; not just peskily requiring me to do my job rather than write, but also taking up way too much of my energy and brain space – even working from home! I suppose WFH sort of makes it worse, in a way, as I’m back to existing in one room for 90% of the day (instead of being able to at least split things more evenly between living room, dining room & bedroom – trust me, it makes so much of a difference). I managed to finish listening to This is Shakespeare, but my aspirations of extra posts (in between working) went out of the window pretty quickly, which really sucks. I had loads more ideas, so perhaps I’ll just wait until the next #MindTheBard..?

At least I had Twelfth Night to look forward to – and I really was giddy with excitement! I woke up in an amazing mood & everything, all but skipping down the street to Northern Soul as I headed out in the rain to get supplies for the evening’s festivities. Ksenia & I were #twinning (as per the dress code) – obviously it was Sunny Afternoon shirt time, and yellow socks (mine arrived in the nick of time!). I’d have attempted the lemon cake and Sir Toby’s Tipple had I still been at home, but shop-bought lemon drizzle cake and Yellow Stockings G&T (lemon gin with tonic, basically) had to do instead – plus one last “Fear no colours” cupcake, of course.

And the show? Well, I was crying with laughter at Jeffrey Weissman’s Sir Toby by the middle of his first scene, if that gives you any clues… It was everything I could’ve hoped for and more – and the perfect way to end this extended Shakespeare week. I almost went straight back to the beginning to watch it again!

“A great while ago the world begun,
With hey, ho, the wind and the rain,
But that’s all one, our play is done,
And we’ll strive to please you every day.”

Twelfth Night, Act 5 scene 1

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