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Rosencrantz & Guildenstern Are Looking Peaky

“Every exit is an entry somewhere else.” -Tom Stoppard

The Czech-born British playwright philosophising about the need to remain positive and prepare for alternative opportunities when life deals you a rum hand. The former child refugee, whose family fled Czechoslovakia when he was a boy to avoid imminent Nazi occupation, also highlighting useful information from the Highway Code..

Stoppard also advocating “A healthy attitude is contagious but don’t wait to catch it. Be a carrier.”. I’m assuming when recommending the recipient be a carrier, the writer of Rosencrantz & Guildenstern are Dead means transmit a positive outlook on life, not become a Tescos shopping bag….. The latter being the most preposterous of notions!

Born Tomas Straussler in the city of Zlin, a city dominated by the shoe manufacturing industry, Stoppard’s parents left their home shortly before the German armies arrival. His father, a doctor at the Bata shoe company, was transferred out of Europe along with other Jewish employees before Hitler’s troops tarried to the Moravia region. When they did arrive, not only did they become the owner the Czech territory, but also the finest jackboots in Europe.

Initially, the Straussler family fled to Singapore, but the upcoming Japanese invasion saw him, brother Petr and their mother sent to Australia. Which is a bit like being sent to Coventry, just warmer and the people talk to you a lot more. Knowing his medical skills would be required after the Japanese invasion, Tomas’ father stayed in Singapore; sadly dying at the hands of the Japanese in 1942.

By that event, Tomas, Petr and Mrs S had been evacuated to Darjeeling, India. Here saw him became Tom and brother acquire the moniker of Peter. In 1945, his mum remarried; his new stepfather British Army major Peter Stoppard, whose surname he took…… Well, I’m assuming that’s how he got the surname Stoppard, and the moniker amendment wasn’t just a coincidentally random stage name later adopted in adulthood..

Peter Stoppard was a strong advocate of the Cecil Rhodes quote “To be born an Englishman was to have drawn first prize in the lottery of life.” Something which fed Tom’s desire to become an ‘honorary Englishman’.

On moving to Britain, still in childhood, Tom Stoppard was educated firstly at Dolphin in Nottinghamshire where he learned the benefits of sporadically coming up for air. His later and final alma mater the zero tolerance Pocklington School in the East Riding of Yorkshire.

An erudite child, Stoppard gained plaudits from Pocklington masters for becoming the first member of the school to use the word juxtaposition in essay. His prize six lashes of the cane, permission to forthwith eat his soup from a bowl instead of a napkin, and a thruppenny voucher for Harry’s Pasty Emporium in Wetwang.

While living in Yorkshire he learned all 752 verses of the counties anthem ‘On Ilkley Moor Ba’Tat’. He’d no idea what he was singing about, however as even Yorkshire folk don’t understand the old colloquialisms within the lyric, he, was re-assured by his peers not to worry.

On leaving Pocklington School, at 17 years of age, the young Stoppard ventured south west to Bristol to work as a journalist for the Western Daily Press where he was presented with a ‘I work for the Western Daily Press’ t-shirt and paid in millet spray. Most of the latter consumed by his budgie Arthur.

On leaving Pocklington School, the future playwright said he felt a huge weight lift from his shoulders. This a consequence of finally being allowed to remove the anvil he’d been carrying on his back; a ‘perk’ consequential from being the alma mater’s head boy.

Bristol was the making of the Czech-born young man. Although starving from his millet spray diet, he remembers these fledgling adult days in the company of Arthur with great fondness. The tough early years during WWII, strict schooling and meagre rations of a rookie journalist building his character; underpinning and contributing to the whimsical drama he would go on to produce. Essays which would ultimately lead to him receiving a knighthood in 1997.

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