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Leacock Medalists, a Canadian Baby, and the Bard's Bookshop

In Stratford-Upon-Avon, on the day before we began our walk to Oxford in 2015, we dropped into a unique book store, a place that provides the perfect launch point for the walk down Shakespeare’s Way.   

The Shakespeare Hospice Book Shop sits on Rother Street a couple of blocks from the Virginia Inn, our first B&B, making it an easy first stop on our tour around town. 

Visiting the shop allowed me to indulge in a favourite pastime. For me, a student of comic-tragic literature and developing writer, the old books, CDs, maps, and material about and by the Bard linked the walk to my personal interests and to my most recent project, which was fuelled by many visits to used bookstores in Canada.

As its name announces, the bookstore raises funds for the Hospice, a charity that, among other things, maintains a residential home for those with chronic disability or terminal disease. The Hospice volunteers fundraise through many instruments including a store that sells second hand items of all kinds.  So many people in this highly literate community donated used books that a separate, spinoff store had to be created for this purpose alone. 

We dropped by the book shop just after opening time. 

It was already busy, yet the staff was surprisingly enthusiastic about my self-serving donation of my books on the Leacock Medal and took time to talk about them. 

The gesture thus allowed me to support the charity and to tell myself that my writing would be sold alongside the works of Shakespeare in the Bard’s home town.  But this is not the reason for using this store as a starting point for the walk.  The genuine and nobler one comes from the Shakespeare’s Way Association which actively encourages people like us to give meaning to their walks by using them as fundraisers for the Hospice. 

 The Association also passes all profits to the same charity, and given how much we benefited from those publications over the following week, we were pleased to make a donation at the end of what the Association calls a “journey of the imagination.”

Of course, the store is merely the touchstone within the frame, which is the town of Shakespeare’s birth and burial.  Like all visitors to Stratford-upon-Avon, we logged a few kilometres for our journey before leaving town.

In the well- trodden tourist itinerary, we visited Anne Hathaway’s Cottage, a pub, Holy Trinity Church, a tea room, Mary Arden’s farm, another pub.  We even clocked a few extra metres walking by the Bard’s birthplace and home twice before noticing the bush covered panel for the entrance of the Shakespeare centre.  Inside, our backpack flag invited a beaming account of the 2014 visit to the centre by another Canadian, the then one-month-old Suzana Kirk.   Her parents came to Stratford-upon-Avon for her birth and baptism in Holy Trinity Church.

A Curse - discourages DNA Testing
Her father, originally from British Columbia, is directly related to Shakespeare's sister.  Unless DNA testing someday reveals illegitimate descendants of the Bard’s stops along Shakespeare’s Way, the little Canadian Suzana, Shakespeare’s 14th great-niece, remains a vital continuation of the line.

We missed the tour of the Royal Shakespeare Company theatres, and because the RSC was not performing a Shakespearean work, we skipped the play settling instead for some souvenirs.

I bought a mug with a quote from A Midsummer Night’s Dream to encourage Michele, my own little Canadian, in the 100 kilometre walk ahead of us