I’ve been to Stratford-upon-Avon dozens of times in my life. It’s less than an hour’s drive from where I live.
I’ve never been a great fan of the place to be honest, the park and river are nice enough but the rest of the town including the Royal Shakespeare Theatre are non-descript in a modern sort of way.
I often imagine it must be a bit of a disappointment to the thousands of tourists who visit each day from all over the world. Having said that it’s somewhere I’m familiar with, a constant in my life … until yesterday.
Virtually deserted. it was, around the main Shakespeare tourist sites with very little sign of non-essential shops getting ready for Monday’s big reopening.
With nothing much else to do we headed purposefully to that quintessentially middle-class shop Marks & Spencer to pick up some Chinese food for dinner.
Some 30 minutes later we emerged to the alarming sight of a Black Lives Matter demonstration heading our way. There were a few hundred of them marching up from the park making quite a din with their drumming, whistling and chanting.
Some around the periphery of the march looked decidedly thuggish and with the majority wearing face masks there was a definite air of menace as they snaked towards us.
Almost all of them were white in their late teens or early twenties, probably from the nearby University of Warwick I suspect with very little experience of any sort of oppression, but there’s nothing wrong of thinking of others, of course.
Most shoppers stood and watched them pass with a rather British pained expression bordering on the grumpy but not quite so as not to cause offence.
The scene of this usually thronging middle England tourist town otherwise deserted except for demonstrators was completed on this weird weather day by the blanket of a dark black cloud which enveloped all making it feel truly dystopian.
As the students angrily stomped by I felt like shouting that clichéd protestors chant ‘What do we want?’ as frankly I’m not clear what they’d say.
Maybe they were heading to deface some Shakespearean statue as nothing seems sacred right now. Our Westminster statue of national hero Churchill is encased in steel to protect it from tonight’s anticipated protests.
So too is the Cenotaph – the Cenotaph would you believe – that memorial to our country’s war dead who fought for and won our freedom.
These are strange times indeed and as a white 60 years-old male I’ve rarely felt so discombobulated as I did yesterday.
“Love all, trust a few, do wrong to none,” wrote the Bard. Let’s hope all’s well that end’s well.