• Sunday, June 23, 2024
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Shakespeare for breakfast (and forever) 1



While the rest of Britain was agonising over whether to remain in the loveless and forlorn marriage with the European Union or exit after 43 years (BREXIT), the retired partners of KPMG who are still awaiting their gratuity and pension voluntarily made their way to Stratford-on-Avon in order to refresh their joyous and elevating love affair with William Shakespeare who is undisputedly the greatest playwright, actor and poet of all time – not just in England but in the entire universe, not excluding outer space.


We were in this picturesque part of England to celebrate 400 years anniversary of Shakespeare’s death.  He was born on April 26, 1564 and died on April 23 1616.  Hard to believe that considering his prolific writing and the vastness of his knowledge, he lived for only fifty-two years exactly.  It was Shakespeare who coined the phrase “Forever and a day” which according to one of our erudite colleagues, Professor John Godwin means indefinitely.


“Of course, forever and a day is a dramatic construct with no literal meaning.  For ever is (mathematically) forever.  You cannot add or subtract a day from it.”


William Shakespeare first used the phrase in 1596 (“The Taming of the Shrew):

Biondello:      “I cannot tell; expect they are busied about a

counterfeit assurance:  take you assurance of her,

“cum privilegio ad imprimendum solum” to the church;

take the priest, clerk and some sufficient honest

witnesses: If this be not that you look for, I have no

more to say, but bid Bianca farewell for ever and a                   day.”

Shakespeare repeated it in 1600 (“As You Like it”):

Rosalind:  “Now tell me how long you would have her after you have possessed her.

Orlando: Forever and a day.”


Hence, it is a moot point whether or not our love affair with KPMG is forever and a day !!

Anyway, we had a sumptuous breakfast at the exquisite Stratford Hotel which is located close to Union Square.  It has been in existence since 1907.  Hence, it has survived two World Wars (1914 to 1918; and 1939 to 1945).

Our hostess Mrs. Jane Butterfield presented us with a huge plaque with the following inscription:

“There is a tide in the affairs of men which, when taken at the flood, leads on to fortune

Omitted, all the voyage of their life

Is bound in shallows and miseries

On such a full sea are we afloat

And we must take the current when it serves

Or lose our ventures.”

After a hearty full English breakfast, we were treated to a most fascinating  and spellbinding reading of a selection of Shakespeare’s plays and poems accompanied by superlative professional actors and actresses who succeeded brilliantly in transporting us back to the era of the great playwright and poet.


Ironically, the more valiantly they strove to capture the essence of Shakespeare and his mastery of imagery as well as conquest of the mismatch between fanciful imagination and harsh reality of history, the more they conjured strobes of heroism, wars, greed, romance, and adventure.  It was a seamless catalogue of the triumph of virtue as exemplified by courage and determination over corrosive vice – betrayal, treachery and mendacity.


Regardless, the sage remained a beguiling enigma and volatile mystery for both believers and non-believers.  The recurring decimal remains unresolved – how could so much knowledge be bestowed to one single mind and brain?   Where are we to draw the line between the court jester and the magician (or fortune teller)?  We were captivated and lured into a trance.  As we exited the Globe Theatre, we had a common resolve – to reconnect with William Shakespeare and the delightful memory of days gone by when we savoured our first acquaintance with the genius.


Our hosts surpassed our expectations by presenting each one of us with a copy of “The Complete Works Of William Shakespeare” – book; tablets; CD; and digital.  They even offered to provide us with the Braille version of the products of a great mind and pen which four hundred years have neither diminished nor corrupted.  Timeless bliss and eternal gratitude were the main dishes on the menu.


Our next stop was lunch in Leamington Spa, just a short distance away, where our hosts Professor Cedric Henderson and his charming wife Ellen had invited some of their friends to join us


What turned out to be a huge surprise was that at such a short notice our hosts had been able to summon ladies and gentlemen who in one way or the other had connection with KPMG and Nigeria – going back almost fifty years.  Mostly, their parents had served in the colonial civil service at a time when the government relied almost entirely on the accountancy firms to deliver excellent professional services at a reasonable fee without ever compromising their integrity, diligence or independence.  In addition, the accountancy firms provided financial advice regarding the budget and the monitoring thereof.  They provided a formidable barrier against reckless government expenditure, fraud, treasury looting and brigandage.  Hence, it was inevitable that auditors would be highly respected for their commitment to ensuring that prudent management of resources of the nation in the interest of the public prevailed over gangsterism and ruthlessness in the pursuit of personal interest.  Back then what eventually became KPMG was known as Cassleton Elliott which started off in 1923 in Jos before moving to Marina House, 63, Marina Lagos in 1928.  By sheer happenstance, their landlord was late Dr. J.K. Randle!!


According to our hosts and the other guests, sleaze and corruption were almost unheard of (probably non-existent).  Even the mere hint of unscrupulousness or crookedness earned the culprit severe reprimand.  For the expatriate offender the penalty was instant deportation on the first available ship – M.T. Aureol; M.T. Liverpool; etc or by air on British Overseas Airways Corporation (BOAC) back to Whitehall to face the full weight of the law – either an administrative enquiry or investigation by Scotland Yard followed by arraignment at the Old Bailey.


What our hosts learnt from their parents (as well as firsthand experience) was that under the right leadership Nigerians were as honest, trustworthy and brilliant as their counterparts anywhere in the world – in medicine, engineering, architecture, accountancy and indeed the civil service.  We were the pride of the black race and legitimate inheritors of an illustrious heritage.


According to our hosts whenever their parents were back in the United Kingdom on leave, they would go out of their way to cultivate Nigerian students who were studying there.  They found a willing ally in the British Council whose representatives would quickly link them up with Nigerian students at nearby colleges and universities.  Hence, it was not uncommon to find on the students’ notice board messages that read as follows:

“English couple living in Esher, Surrey would welcome Nigerian students for tea on Sunday in their home.  Please telephone Fred Marks on Esher 5357 to arrange pick up at the train station.”

Another variant was:

“The Methodist Church invites Nigerian students to tea and dance at the Methodist Hostel, Inverness Terrace, Bayswater, London at 4 p.m. on Saturday.”


J.K. Randle