Current Events, Special Days and Historic Anniversaries Brought to Life by Teddy Bears, Pandas and Other Cuddly Creatures
Monthly Archives: April 2016

Alas, Poor Shakesbeare!

by Elspeth

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400 years today, William Shakespeare shuffled off this mortal coil on what is also thought to have been his 52nd birthday. (No birth date was actually recorded for him but, as he was baptised on 26th April, a ceremony usually carried out on a baby’s third day of life, it’s more than likely that Shakespeare was born on 23rd April 1564.)

Shakespeare holds a number of records like the fact that more books have been written about him than there have been about all other British writers put together and Hamlet is the most frequently performed and adapted play in the world.  His works have been translated into 80 languages, including Esperanto, Klingon and Interlingua.

Shakespeare wrote or co-wrote a mere 37 plays that we know of, far fewer than many of his contemporaries, and 154 sonnets. While it’s estimated that most labourers living in his day would have had a vocabulary of about 300 words, it’s astonishing that Shakespeare, a glover’s son who never went to university, used around 15,000 words in his plays, compared with the mere 6,000 used in the Bible.

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Shakespeare is credited with inventing the names Olivia, Miranda, Jessica and Cordelia as well as over 300 words in common usage today like accommodation, apostrophe, assassination, bump, countless, courtship, generous, gloomy, laughable, lonely and suspicious. The Bard is also responsible for phrases like bare-faced, breaking the ice, catching a cold, disgraceful conduct, foregone conclusion, heart of gold, hot-blooded, one fell swoop, too much of a good thing and the phrase with which I started this blog, to shuffle off this mortal coil.  This means that nearly every time we speak, there’s a good chance that we’re actually quoting Shakespeare!

This year, I was in Washington DC  on 23rd April and had the pleasure of attending Shakespeare’s birthday party, held each year at the city’s Folger Shakespeare Library, at which the guest of honour is always Queen Elizabeth 1.  While there, I had the privilege of wondering at the amazing reading room, open to the public only once a year, with its beautiful stained glass window depicting one of the Bard’s most famous quotations, ‘All the world’s a stage’ from ‘As You Like It’ and of viewing one of Shakespeare’s First Folios.  The world- famous playwright never actually published any of his plays and it wasn’t until seven years after his death that two of his fellow actors recorded and published 36 of them, known as ‘the First Folio’ which is regarded as the most reliable version of Shakespeare’s works.  Only 233 of the 750 printed are known to have survived.  

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For a number of years, The Bears in the Windows have also marked the day on which William Shakespeare was born and died and so, before I left for America, I helped to transform them into characters from some of his best known plays.  I wonder how many you can spot!   In pride of place is, of course, Will Shakesbeare himself who, armed with his trusty quill in his paw, looks as if he’s working on the plot for his 38th play or perhaps a love sonnet to his sweetheart!

PS You may have spotted that there are actually two ursine ‘Beards of Avon’.  The first, who always remains behind the scenes, is a one-of-a-kind bear made for me by a talented bear artist friend, the other an unlimited edition ted who, like his actor namesake, likes nothing better than treading the boards each year in the my Shakespeare tribute window.


Happy St George’s Day

by Elspeth

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The Bears in the Windows are proud to be British and so celebrate the saint’s day of each of the countries which make up the United Kingdom.  Today it’s the turn of Saint George, the patron saint of England.

In the window, there are two beanie bears, one with an embroidered St George’s cross, the other with a Tudor rose, and a Tudor queen.  The star is, of course, a dragon-slaying St George bear who seems to be on quite friendly terms with his arch-enemy,  the dragon, and may, on this occasion, spare him!


Happy Birthday, Your Majesty

by Elspeth

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Today, Her Majesty the Queen, already the longest serving monarch in British history, reaches another impressive milestone – her 90th birthday.  She is still remarkably fit, physically and mentally, and even rides out on her fell ponies at Windsor when time permits.  Last year she undertook 360 engagements at home and 35 abroad and continues to attend to her daily boxes of government documents and meetings with officials.

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Well-known for her dedication, sense of duty and humility, she occasionally lets her image of sombre propriety slip to reveal the mischievous side of her personality.  Having never known another monarch, I can’t begin to envisage the day when the Queen is no longer on the throne.

In my birthday tribute window, I’ve created a tableau of the Queen’s life, depicting her Coronation, her love of horse racing and the Duke of Edinburgh and her passion for dogs, corgis and Labradors in particular.  

The Bears in the Windows join me in wishing Her Majesty many happy returns of the day, with the fervent hope that she’ll outlive all of us.

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Cherry Blossom Time

by Elspeth

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April is the time of year when people from around the world flock to Washington DC to marvel at the cherry blossom trees which turn the city’s Tidal Basin into a mass of pink and white.

Washington’s association with cherry blossom dates back to 1912 when Mayor Yukio Ozaki of Tokyo gave 3,000 flowering cherry trees to the nation’s capital.  In a ceremony at the Tidal Basin on 27th March that year, First Lady Helen Herron Taft and Viscountess Chinda, wife of the Japanese ambassador, planted the first of the trees.

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As a show of gratitude for the generous gift, in 1915, former President Taft arranged for 50 flowering dogwood trees to be sent to Japan.  These gestures of goodwill fostered a rich tradition of exchanging trees which still continues to this day.

After the long winter months, each spring, the dogwood and cherry trees bring renewed life and showcase the natural splendour of the two countries where annual festivals echo the spirit of friendship forged in 1912.   With their stunning displays of colour and rich history, these trees continue to be symbols of the close bond that exists between the US and Japan.  

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Unfortunately, by the time I arrived in DC on 18th April, the National Cherry Blossom Festival, which spans four weekends, was over and the cherry trees around the Tidal Basin had reverted to their standard green for another year.  Nonetheless, there were still lots of cherry trees to be found in various locations across the city which, although not quite as dramatic, were still a reminder that spring had finally arrived.

I never have a problem finding suitable bears for my Cherry Blossom Festival window as I have several pandas dressed in kimonos who, along with beanie bears representing the US and Japan, are just perfect for recreating this magical time of year.  

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