Sunday, 13 July 2014

England – Famous bards and chocolate bars

July 10-11

Hello everyone!

Having read through my previous post, I have come to the conclusion that I was overly critical of Birmingham. This conclusion is based upon two unrelated ideas: firstly, that I lack the interest and intelligence to understand and appreciate art; more pertinently, we didn’t actually spend much time in Birmingham.

You see, Birmingham’s main attraction is arguably its location and its close proximity to two fantastic places. One of these is a short train ride to Bournville, which may be a hint to any British confectionary consumers. The other, an hour away on the train, was the home to a man of imponderable significance to me, you and just about every person who speaks English on our dear planet. A man called William.

No, not him. This one…

Stratford-upon-Avon, a delightful town in its own right, was also the birthplace of William Shakespeare. You will have heard of him. To be or not to be and all that. As an homage to the man also known as ‘The Bard’, I will attempt to write this blog in iambic pentameter.

When Will was young, he grew here, in Stratford.

The house in which he came to us is here.

My goodness, this is so hard to achieve.

Now I’ll stop or else you’ll stop reading this.

The amount of time I spent (probably incorrectly, as I focused on writing ten-syllable lines rather than strictly following the unstressed-stressed pattern) constructing those last four lines arguably shows my limitations as a writer, yet also demonstrates how impressive a writer Shakespeare was. Iambic pentameter is evident in two of his most famous plays: Macbeth and Romeo & Juliet. We also learnt of many commonly-used expressions which are said to emanate from his work. These are listed in red in the picture below, including ‘in a pickle’, ‘short shrift’ and ‘foregone conclusion’.

The fact that such a prodigious talent was raised in Stratford-upon-Avon has led to the town becoming a popular tourist destination. It has been for longer than you would imagine. People were said to have made pilgrimages to the house in which he was born as early as the early 18th century. Not just ordinary folk, either: signatures of Hardy and Roosevelt are in the guest book.

Clues to his importance and popularity are regularly found when strolling around the centre of the town.

Is there more to this town than Shakespeare? In reality, not much. Yet does there need to be? Not at all. Similarly, does there need to be anything else in Bournville besides this place?

The home of Dairy Milk, Wispa and the revered Crème Egg. The producer of chocolate-stained grins on beaming children’s faces for over a hundred years. Cadbury World.

After arriving slightly late due to the fact that we were waiting for friends at the staff entrance, we ventured into the entertainment branch of this British confectionary institution. There are many things to do, see and, most importantly, sample. Being given a bag of Buttons and a Wispa upon entering a series of tunnels explaining the history of chocolate.

The history of Cadbury’s is interesting in its own right. From John Cadbury opening a small shop in Birmingham in 1824 to moving their production away from the factory fumes of the city and into the countryside, the tour of Cadbury World emphasises a certain ethical philosophy. This is indeed why we were in Bournville, with the company building the amenities needed for a happy workforce.

The adjoined factory is fully functioning, and produces a ridiculous amount of chocolate. Here are some random facts about Cadbury’s production:

250 million bars of Dairy Milk are produced every year;

More than 160 million Crème Eggs are sold in the UK between January and Easter;

The amount of milk used in a year’s production of Cadbury’s Dairy Milk chocolate would fill over 14 Olympic size swimming pools.

 Walking through the factory is a sweltering ordeal, as temperatures in some areas are in excess of 45’C. It is in this section where you get arguably the highlight of the tour: liquid chocolate. Melts in the mouth and certainly melts your heart.

The site is geared towards children and entertaining them. Consequently there are many interactive areas for them – and adults – to enjoy. Games include arcade-style machines using Crème Eggs as bullets and an amazing screen which drops buttons for you to balance and manoeuvre using your shadow. The technology on show both in the factory and in the entertainment zone demonstrates how the company, now owned by the American manufacturing and processing giant Kraft, has kept up with the times and stayed at the top table of British confectionary production.

Linked to this embracement of technology, there are also two ‘rides’ for you to enjoy at Cadbury World. The first is reminiscent of ‘It’s a Small World’ (found at any Disney World), complete with vibrating snowman which didn't really seem appropriate. The second was a 4D film in which you are transported through a whole new Avatar-esque world and ride along many of Cadbury’s famous adverts.

Cadbury World is a great day out: captivating for children and entertaining enough for adults. Well, unless you don’t like chocolate.  

Both of these places clearly revel in their history. Stratford-upon-Avon has maintained and played up its Tudor heritage. Bournville’s sweet, chocolaty air drifts aimlessly through the streets. These are two fantastic, educational and entertaining days out. All just a short distance from Birmingham! See, it’s not so bad after all…

Love you all


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