Sunday, May 14, 2006

"Who are you - who-who, who-who...? 'Cos I really wanna know..."

April 23rd is St George's Day. It also happens to be William Shakespeare's birthday. And his death-day.
Yes, the Bard is - according to what scanty records still remain - one of those unfortunate souls whose seven ages of man reached their end on the one day of the calendar year which should be saved for tearing open oh-so-hilarious cards which don't contain any money (but pretend they do), wheezing out candles, and smiling politely as another angora vest, or pair of mohair mittens, or trio of steel-wool socks arrives, destined for the next charity shop collection...
Hmm, dying on your own birthday. Not a nice thought.
And a fate which has our esteemed Queen in double the danger, of course... (to shamelessly crib an Alan Partidge-ism there... Spiceworld.)
But anyway... Coming from a family of literature-lovers/drama-queens (delete as appropriate), we've enjoyed many happy trips to Stratford, but one which sticks in the memory most was on the occasion of April 23, about 15 or so years ago, when we finally got around to joining the parades through town and general, glorious hoop-la put on to mark the day.
Well, at the end of a typically harried, Saturday morning drive up the M1 from London, we got there even-more-typically behind schedule, scruffy as anything, piling panicky out of the car while strewn with crumbs and butter smears from the toast frantically dragged along with us; the crumples and creases from cramped-car lolling; oh, and no doubt a few stray crotchety niggles among a restless collection of four brothers and a mother...
Yet so long as we caught up (finally) with the crowds, we were fine. We even got our hands somehow on springs of rosemary, traditional tokens to be borne by everyone - or, almost everyone - taking part in the parade. All through the town, past all three theatres and culminating at the church where his resting-stone takes inevitable pride of place.
And still on, and on... And here's where it all went a little weird. For, almost as suddenly as we pitched enthusiastically into the hordes, those selfsame hordes had somehow slipped away from us, and we and just a few others were being escorted through the gardens of Shakespeare's cottage, along the manicured paths and through ankle-high gates, greeted by museum staff in Shakespearean servant attire, beaming and shaking our limp hands and ushering us through the living quarters, where more and more doughty domestics were gushing their gratitude for us coming - even as us jeans-and-tatty-jacket-toting nobodies were clearly trailing incongruously in the wake of the grandiose, chain-swinging mayor, or the Ascot lady hangers-on, or the stiffly-besuited bureaucrats of the local council or the Royal Shakespeare Company or...
... Well, we didn't stop to make their further acquaintance, cutting our losses and whisking ourselves away upon exiting, before we inadvertantly gatecrashed another civic reception and - more to the point - got rumbled...
Back to the hoi polloi, we went, especially relieving for me as I felt massively guilty as soon as realised our error.
Well, maybe that's just a built-in reaction. It's not as if we could have got in any serious trouble, after all, with any stern "Bard Guards"...

It was just Josef K syndrome kicking in, as per - and as the great Anthony Perkins put it, in Orson Welles' 1962 adaptation of Kafka's cherishably chilling The Trial:
"You know at school, when the teacher said something was missing from her desk...? 'All right - who's the guilty one?' ... It was me, every time. I'd feel just sick with guilt... And I didn't even know anything was missing...!"

All of which is a rambling prelude to expressing sympathy for the hapless taxi driver plastered all over the papers today, for finding himself somehow shuffled in front of a BBC News 24 camera and exhorted to give his verdict on the complex Apple Corps/Apple Computer copyright courtroom battle of last week... in place of the real expert he'd merely been sent to White City to escort home.

Said expert has had his indignant say, both in the Press and on his own blog.
All that remains now is for the mysterious, French-sounding taxi driver to put a name to this footage of the poor bloke looking, frankly, terrified before struggling manfully on and finally being allowed out of his televised misery...

Then again, considering what little he had to say - it sounded to me at least as useful and illuminating as anything Nicky "King Smarm" Campbell has to offer on Radio Five in the mornings.
Find this mystery man... and give him his own show.

After all, it's not often you'll find a taxi driver lost for words.

No comments: