Shakespeare: poetry, prose and the garden – and other parks

They are big on Shakespeare in New York. I found myself in Central Park with Alfie at the beginning of this trip and happened across the 7th Annual Shakespeare Birthday Sonnet Slam at the Naumburg Bandshell.

All 154 sonnets were being read. I volunteered to fill an empty slot that had become available and ended up reciting, onstage, Sonnet 17 with Alfie in tow:

“Who will believe my verse in time to come

If it were fill’d with your most high deserts?

Though yet heaven knows it is but as a tomb

Which hides your life, and shows not half your parts.

If I could write the beauty of your eyes,

And in fresh numbers number all your graces,

The age to come would say, ‘This poet lies,

Such heavenly touches ne’er touch’d earthly faces’

So should my papers (yellowed with their age)

Be scorn’d, like old men of less truth than tongue,

And your true rights be term’d a poet’s rage,

And stretched metre of an antique song:

But were some child of yours alive that time,

You should live twice, in it and in my rhyme.”

Onstage at the time was Richard Thomas (John-Boy in the Walton’s) and another actor. When we had finished they were happy to have their pictures taken with us. Such a lovely way to spend a day in Central Park! As usual, everyone made a fuss of Alfie and he was impeccably behaved on-stage!

The whole thing was filmed and I was sent the link afterwards. It felt great to be part of this – and I was the only English person who participated!

A few weeks later, ‘Julius Caesar’ by the Public Theatre began its run at the Delacorte Theatre (that seats 1,600 people) in Central Park. People line up from 6 a.m. in the hope of getting tickets – they are free. There is also a queue for over 65s and another for disabled. Debbie and I pitched up with Alfie and Ellie, her Seeing Eye dog and jumped all the queues to get tickets – I guess she has to have some benefits!

What a brilliant piece of theatre! Oskar Eustis, The Public’s Artistic Director, as well as the director of the production has said that he decided to open the summer season with Julius Caesar as soon as the F.ckwit got into power. And so there are some very funny references to the orange idiot, such as wearing a very long tie, having silly hair, moving his hands in a weird way when speaking, saying he could go out on 5th Avenue and kill someone and no-one would do anything, wear a bathrobe (that was hysterical, getting naked out of a hot bath, showing his genitals, that he is sharing with his wife who had a voice like Melania T). At one point one of his lackeys wears a bullet-proof beige vest over a blue suit, just like the orange idiot’s son-in-law did when in Iraq.

This is pure New York. The orange one may have his primary residence in New York but he is hated by so many people here who are not afraid to be extremely vocal, such as many of the media and artistic community and I love it!

At one point, ‘members of the audience’ (actually part of the theatre company) jump up and start shouting – where Debbie and I were sitting that meant the 4 people in front and the 4 people behind us – a photo shows Debbie sat between some of the actors.

Before the play started, we could walk onto the stage and write comments on 3 different boards, which I did – ‘innocents lost’ was my contribution to the board ‘I mourn for’ – this was a couple of days after the dreadful event in Manchester.

At the end of the evening it was lovely to walk through Central Park at night with lots of other people.

Next to the theatre is the pretty ‘Shakespeare’s Garden’ that Alfie and I visited on a rainy day, taking some pictures of the flowers and foliage: another lovely gem in wonderful ‘Central Park’

Three other beautiful parks are Riverside Park – where Alfie and I walk every morning, and Battery Park that we visited again recently.

A frequently-seen bird is the American ‘robin’ that sings very sweetly but is a different bird to our English robin (pictured here).


When we went to Battery Park Alfie and I visited the memorial to 9/11 (that is now free to visit and no longer hidden from view as the last time I visited).


It was ‘Fleet Week’ and so the park was teaming with sailors. Apparently it is a week when single young girls in NYC get quite excited. Most of the sailors looked about 16 to me!


I chatted to 2 of the special anti-terrorism police, who were very friendly and very upset about the children killed in Manchester.


Despite the orange one’s behaviour towards my country there is still a lot of genuine affection between ordinary Americans and Brits, thank goodness. 







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