Thursday, December 29, 2005

Merry Blogmas and a Bloggy New Year

Of course, I should have blogged this about a week or so ago, but what was I supposed to do? Christmas! Busy or what?
My final Henry of the year was at Parkfield School in Taunton and they were just wonderful. Great kids, lovely teachers and a really good day was had by everyone. They even bought me some lunch, bless their hearts. The Head Teacher, Mr Sides, said at the end of the day that my presentation was the finest educational experience he had seen in 30 years of teaching. I was very moved and asked him if I could use that as a quote. He said he was happy for me to use that. They want me back next Christmas!
The 17th December we had our pre-Christmas drinks party at home. My Mum and Dad came down, as did Amanda's Mum and Dad, my sister Susan and her husband Trevor drove down from Carmarthen, close friends Pete & Jo, Ali & Ian, Anna, Anne & Jack, Suzi & Julian, and David & Jilly all turned up and, I think, a good time was genuinely had by all. I know I was three, or maybe even four sheets to the wind by the time I fell asleep that evening.
The 18th December we went to Pizza Hut in Yeovil for my son's 3rd birthday party. He had a whale of a time and really enjoyed being with his parents, grandparents and friends.
We had a lovely quiet Christmas at home, just the three of us, but had lots of calls froms friends and relatives and plenty of good food and wine.
And now, as the New Year looms large on the horizon, I find myself once again embroiled with an ongoing battle with Lloyds TSB. The Bank that likes to say "MORE! I WANT MORE!" It is amazing. The entire time you have money they can't do enough for you - and keep offering you more. As soon as you are skint they treat you like lepers and wouldn't urinate upon you even if you were on fire. I won't go into all the sordid details but suffice to say that their latest letter prompted me to try and phone my half wit who I normally deal with there, only to be told that he is off having yet another well deserved holiday. The young lady on the phone asked if I had a message to pass on to him. I told her to tell him that I wanted to thank him for ruining Christmas and my life. I would tell you the rest of what I said, but there might be some children present. Thanks to their intransigence, we now cannot get back to Essex to see my parents and Amanda's parents and will be having to spend New Years Eve alone. Thanks Lloyds! Love you long time!
Anyway, knickers to Lloyds TSB. They can't hurt me anymore. They have bled me white and I have nothing left to give. So I will simply batten down the old hatches, have our friends Pete and Jo over and have ourselves a very peaceful New Year. You have fun too. Unless you work for Lloyds TSB in which case you can **** ***. I'll leave the bankers to work that one out for themselves. Night!

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

In need of a good blog

I suddenly realised that it was nearly a month since my last blog. I obviously need lots of roughage in my diet. So what has been occurring since my last missive? Well...
25th November I was back at St Cecillia's School in Sutton, Surrey, which is not the sort of address you want to be attempting if you have a lisp. It was nice to see everyone there again, and once more the children and teachers had come up trumps with fabulous costumes and a good day was had by all. The drive home afterwards was tiring to say the least, so I shall leave it at that.
27th November I drove to Essex to stay at my folks again and do a load more Tudorish things at a variety of schools.
28th November I had to get up early and head for Stradbroke School in Gorlestone near Great Yarmouth. Now as some of you may know already, Great Yarmouth is not my favourite place on Earth, being somewhere on a par with Krakatoa and Ulan Bator as places I really must visit again soon. However, the kids and the school at Gorlestone came up trumps and we had a really good day of it.
30th November I was at Bawdsey Primary school near Woodbridge in Suffolk. I had stayed the night before at my friends Sue and Ian's in Hitcham so I didn't have too far to go. This was just a half day but tremendous fun. All the teachers, and about 99% of the children had dressed up and they had even laid on a Tudor feast at lunch time. Great stuff! When I got back to my parents, Amanda and James had arrived from Somerset, so life got even better!
3rd December. Still in Essex but now struck down with a mild bout of food poisoning. Nothing to do with the Tudor feast at Bawdsey I hasten to add! Probably a rogue sausage.
4th December. Took Amanda, James, myself and my fragile constitution to my Father's Rotary Club Christmas bash in Margaretting. I survived remarkably well, however my poor sister Susan had now come down with the same thing and missed it. While we were sitting and waiting for the event to begin, James was sitting on my lap. I asked him if he was going to see Father Christmas that day. He replied: "I hope so". Not bad for a two year old!
5th December. I drive back to Somerset, only to be greeted by the phone ringing as I enter the house. It is a school in Gravesend in Kent asking if I had remembered that I was visiting them the next day. I had nothing booked on that day and was due to visit my friends in Southampton. The lady was very insistent and so consequently I had to postpone my Southampton visit until Thursday. And then...
6th December. I had to get up at 3.30am and drive to Gravesend to do a Henry day at Riverview School. Easy enough to find but exhausting. The day was GREAT though. A real belter! 120 kids, all very bouncy and exciteable, but it just went so well! However I was virtually in a coma by the time I had managed to drive home again.
7th December. A planned meeting at Taunton Castle was postponed until after Christmas.
8th December. I drove to Southampton this morning and met up with Julian Chalmers, Julie Beard, Mike Clarke and Sue Winfield - all old colleagues from Skandia. Had a nice few drinks with them and also met up with Rod Davies of Skandia a bit earlier. I then had to drive up to Essex and stay at my folks again. They were both out this evening so I went up the pub myself and bumped into dear Sara Turner again. Still as lovely as ever!
9th December. Little Heath School in Potter's Bar in Hertfordshire. A pretty good day all round and much fun had by all. But then the drive home. It took me just short of two hours to drive the 30+ miles to the M3 turn off on the M25. The traffic was dreadful. How on Earth did I ever manage to live in the South East without going completely Tonto is beyond me now. I finally got home at about 7pm, the entire journey taking over four hours.
Today? 13th December? We are getting ready for a house full of guests and visitors this weekend. A pre-Christmas get together which should be fun. Also a good excuse for a birthday party for James who will be 3 on the 20th. I have one more Henry before Christmas - the 16th at Parkfield School in Taunton.
Finally, I am awaiting a follow up phone call from someone at Dillington House near Ilminster. This is a great Adult Education centre near us based in a magnificent grand old country house. We have visited it occasionally and seen people like Mick Aston and Robin Bush from Time Team giving talks there. If they want me to make an appearance, this would be a great honour. Watch this space for more info!

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Cider With Henry

This has been a hectic couple of days. I drove up to Gloucestershire yesterday as I had a meeting with the people who run events at Sudeley Castle near Winchcombe. It is nearly a 100 mile drive to get there, but when I did it was instantly worth it. This is a delightful old Tudor House/Castle in a magnificent setting. I was due to meet Danielle from the Castle there. From what her voice sounded like on the phone I imagined some quite stern, tall and slightly officious lady somewhere in her 30's. How wrong can you be? She was this charming tiny little lady in her mid-20's who had a great sense of humour. We had a quick chat in their main office which is set up high in one of the Castle turrets! They wanted to hear some of the Tudor instruments I played, so I gave the office staff a quick tootle. I also brought along a load of the photos from the Barrington Court day and some of the unsolicited testimonials from my days at the County Museum in Taunton. Danielle then took me for a quick tour of some of the castle exhibits, which was very nice of her considering the castle had been closed to the public since October. It is a wonderful place. Hopefully they want me in May next year for a Tudor day. Fingers crossed, it would be lovely to work with them.
I drove back into Winchcombe and had a wander round it's lovely old streets and stopped for lunch in a pub called the White Lion which had all the atmosphere of an autopsy. But the fish and chips I had were very nice. I then headed back on the road to Cheltenham, and then on down through Birdlip to Slad, the village I was staying in over night. Slad is where Laurie Lee lived, and where he based and wrote "Cider With Rosie", one of my all time favourite reads. I stayed at the Old Chapel B&B, a place I stayed at about 10 years ago with my late lamented Grandfather. It is still with the same owners after all these years and I was very warmly welcomed. I settled into my room, put my feet up and opened my newspaper. Next thing I knew it was about 2 hours later and I had been asleep in the chair. Poor old git!
I got up this morning at about 6.45am and wandered down to my cooked breakfast from Mike the owner of the Chapel at about 7.30. Fabulous - omelette - cooked to perfection, crispy bacon, some herby sausage and plenty of toast and tea. I could get used to this. Next I was off on the road up from Stroud to Gloucester and my appointment at Grange Junior School. We had a really good day. About 90 kids, all very interested, great sparky questions and lots of laughs. The teachers were lovely and really couldn't do enough for me, even going as far as to nipping out at lunchtime to buy me a sandwich - bless 'em. The afternoon zipped by and we ended with a deafening Jousting tournament in which a simply superb boys team blitzed everyone! After payment and packing I was on my way. I had guessed when telling Amanda what time I would be home that it would be about 5pm. I pulled up on our home drive as the 5 o'clock news began on 5 Live. How's about that for a prediction?
A day off tomorrow, then a long long day driving up to Sutton in Surrey and back again. Then heading to Essex and more East Anglian frolics for a week. This has been a good couple of days.

Thursday, November 17, 2005

Knock Football and Gertie Millar

This all begins on Remembrance Sunday. I had to drive back to Essex for three Henry VIIIth visits in the week. I would be staying at my parents again (they are SO lucky!) and as ever they were wonderful, kind and not too vicious with the rent book.
Monday I was at South Green Junior School in Billericay. Lovely and close to my parent's house, therefore slightly more of a lie in than usual. Lovely school, good teachers and great kids. We had a good time and the children seemed to really enjoy themselves. Good costumes again. That evening I went for a swift drink down at The Hoop, my old local pub in Stock. Little did I know that I was witnessing the end of an era. It was the last night the old bar would ever be as I remember it... I had a couple of drinks with Dan again, but went home relatively early on the vague promise of seeing Dan again the following night and maybe going on somewhere else.
Tuesday I was in Silver End between Braintree and Witham. I had tried to contact our friend Simon Runagall on my first arrival in Essex as he had recently contacted me to let me know he had managed to pick up some Gertie Millar post cards for me. Gertie Millar is a musical theatre artist from the Edwardian era and I, somewhat anorakishly, collect old post cards of her. Look, I know you are still out there reading this as I can hear you breathing. I knew Simon's parents lived in Silver End and so I attempted to contact him to see if we could meet up. It was arranged that I would meet him at his parent's for lunch during my break from being a Tudor monarch. But right at the start of the day I was in for another surprise as I was walking into the school with my props. I was followed in by a bloke I seemed to recognise, I wasn't sure where from. Crimewatch possibly. It turned out he was business partner with an old friend of mine from Maldon, Kevin Rowley, and he was at the school to tune their piano. The school was really good. Fabulous kids, great teachers and a good day was had by all. I got to meet Simon and his parents at lunchtime, collect my Gertie's and also some lovely photos Simon had taken of my son, James, on his last visit down to us. You will note the excruciatingly cute picture at the top of this posting... That evening I went back to the Hoop which resembled a war zone - the old bar had been completely hacked in half and was being systematically replaced with a new bar top. Too much for me. I ended up at the Bell at Rettendon with lots of friends and best of all a chance to see my dear old friend Sara Turner for the first time in about 7 years. Too long! I got back late. Thank God my mother (bless her!) had sat up to let me in. (Bless her!).
Finally, Wednesday at Southminster. This day was hard work. I was already tired from the previous two days shows, added to which the children in the group were very challenging and hard work to keep going with. By the end of the day though, I felt I was winning, but by 'eck! I earnt my corn this day. But that wasn't the end of the fun. I still had dinner with my parents and then the 2oo mile drive back to Somerset. I slept well that night. Most of it on the A303.

Thursday, November 10, 2005


Another good day. I had visited Dunster school last December as Henry and they had re-booked me for today. It is a long old drive out to Dunster from our house, so I had to leave by 6.30am to be sure of making it on time. The roads were dark but relatively empty. I got the usual friendly welcome from all the staff at the school, they are so nice. And the tea wasn't bad either.
What a great group of children! Very responsive, very eager to learn, great questions, loads of laughs. We also had another nomination for best answer to a question this term. When I asked them what was the most famous piece of music Henry VIIIth was supposed to have written, one lad put his hand up and answered confidently: "Greenpeace!" He was half right I suppose.
The lunch was almost as good as last year, and then we launched into the afternoon programme. The jousting was magnificent with all the teams coming so close to winning, but in the end it was the girls who triumphed. In the final jokey teacher's race, one of the little girls who was autistic wanted to join in. She did really well, but her team lost by a whisker. She then insisted that she wanted to go in the stocks for a photo with me! I was only too happy to oblige. Then the magic happened - right at the end of the day, I was saying goodbye as the children left the hall, and this little autistic girl, called Edie came up to me with her teacher and whispered "Thank you". I melted on the spot. How's about that for an end to the day?
A long drive home, a cheque in my pocket and a warm greeting from my lovely wife and son as I arrived back at the old mansion. Everybody needs days like this. Thank you Dunster. I shall return.

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Barrington Court

This has been a fantastic day! It was a relatively early start for the drive over to Barrington and my day with the children of the school in the village at Barrington Court, a wonderful old Tudor house. The hardest part of the day was lugging all my props up the main staircase and then the spiral staircase up to the long gallery on the top floor. They should definitely have had Stannah Stairlifts in Tudor times. I got some lovely help from Matthew Applegate who works for the National Trust on site - a genuinely nice guy. After I had got over several heart attacks, it was time to get changed and await the arrival of the children. It was very exciting as Alison Tulloch (the teacher from the school) hadn't told them I was going to be there - they thought it was just going to be a normal day up at the old house! I could hear all the children coming up the stairs. I had primed Matthew to warn them about possible "ghosts". They spilled out on to the main gallery, but at the far end from where I had set up. I stood stock still - like a waxwork, and was treated with some marvellous comments as the children walked down towards me.
"Hi Henry!" and "It's Henry!" etc. Suddenly, I moved.
"AAAAAAAAAAAARRRRRRGH!" The children all screamed and ran back down the gallery! Wonderful! We had a fantastic day, only 15 children but they were really up for it. A lady came along to study me from Montacute House near Yeovil, so you never know, she might want to book me.
Out of the group of 15, only 3 were boys, but believe it or not, during the jousting session, the boys not only won their heat, they also won the final and picked up their certificates full of the joys of life! Another amazing thing today was that the children loved their teacher Mrs Tulloch so much, they refused the opportunity to put her in the stocks! Another first!
At the end of the day, after another exhausting movement of props up and down the grand stairs, I had a chat with Matthew Applegate again. He was very keen on the idea of getting me into Barrington Court for some summer Tudor feasts. I am all for this and think it will be a wonderful idea. I must pre-warn Tris from Bilby's.
When I got home, there were several enquiries about Henry from a variety of schools in the area. Things are starting to hot up. This has been a wonderful day and I wouldn't change a thing. Tomorrow? Dunster near Minehead. A return visit after I went to see them last December. A good school, so I am looking forward to it. Night night!

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Chesil Beach Boys (nearly)

It was back to being Henry again today. A booking at St John's Primary School in Weymouth. This is a nice easy ride down, skirting Dorchester and then on down into Weymouth itself. The school was nice, but it was odd to be working with Year 3 pupils when I have most recently been working with Years 4, 5 or even 6. But they were good and responded positively to most of the day, even though they have barely started on the Tudors. Once again the teachers had come up trumps with their magnificent costumes and there was about a 60% uptake in dressing up from the children. There were some great answers to questions again today - when talking about my Bear Paw shoes again, I mentioned that the animal the name was based on was big, furry and in possession of big teeth and claws and one little girl asked me if it was a Panda... She later asked me how I had caught the Panda in the first place to actually make the shoes. Ahem. With another group and again talking about the shoes, another answer I got was "Elephant". When I pointed out to the young chap that Elephants aren't furry he came back with the reply "alright, a Mammoth then". Good effort.
The afternoon session with the stocks was again amusing. Asking the children what they would throw at people in the stocks some of the answers were bizarre. Fruit juice for instance. Twigs. One child even suggested cherries. The jousting was a great effort. For a change the boys won and collected their certificates later.
Lunch was a bit of a pain. I was told there was a local Tesco just around the corner. It was actually about half a mile away and in the limited time afforded by a lunch break I decided to drive around. First I nearly missed it, it was one of these little Mini Tescos. Then I couldn't find anywhere to park the car and when I eventually did and had chosen my sandwiches, I found the queue for the two tills was snaking right the way back down a complete aisle. In front of me was a sea of lanky students, all clutching single bottles of diet coke and a sandwich and each with a debit card in their sweaty palms. If I had stayed with the queue I have a feeling I would have still been there.
Tomorrow is Barrington Court near Ilminster. I can't wait! Should be a great day. Read all about it tomorrow.

Friday, November 04, 2005

Norfolk but no Turkeys

An exhausting few days has just passed. Tuesday I went to see Judy who is making me some new items of clothing for the Henry costume. She lives in the back of beyond, way down this tiny farm track. I never thought I was going to find it. She has some great ideas for updating the costume. I have left the ball and the ideas in her court.
Wednesday I drove up to Essex to stay at my parents, using their place as a staging post before heading up to Norfolk. Amanda and James were there when I arrived and it was so lovely to see them both and get lots of cuddles off both of them. Later that evening, with James safely tucked up in bed, Amanda and I went out to dinner. This was our first chance to be out alone together for yonks and we enjoyed ourselves, going to The Raj Indian restaurant in Billericay.
The next morning I had to get up at about 5am and head on up to Wymondham in Norfolk and my appointment back at Robert Kett Junior School. I only got slightly lost finding it this time and it was really nice to see all the staff again. Poor old Natasha from last year had a stinking cold and really did look poorly. But it was another great day. The vast majority of the kids had dressed up and they looked great. All the teachers and teaching assistants had done likewise and had done me proud. It was a big group, about 160 kids, but great fun. Very sparky and very bright. The noise of 160 kids cheering on the jouisting tournament was almost enough to blow the roof off the hall we were in! The girls triumphed again, and more certificates were dished out. I drove back to my parents, but by the time I got there I was so tired that the whole idea of me then hacking off back to Somerset was cancelled and I phoned Amanda to let her know I would still be in Essex tonight. I allowed myself a slight detour in the evening to visit my old favourite pub, The Hoop at Stock. I was a little worried that their wouldn't be anyone left there I knew. How wrong I was. Andy Banks and his lovely wife Libby were there, as was Gareth Clipstone and his wife Wendy. Good old Dan and his four-legged companion Thistle were in attendance. And to cap it all off, David Kitchin turned up (former landlord's son). Splendid!
This morning I woke with only a partially thick head and contemplated the drive home again. It HAD to be done I guess. And as I am typing this in my office, I reckon I made it. MORE WINE! Called the King. And it appeared. Lovely.

Monday, October 31, 2005

All Work and No Play

I was awoken by the phone ringing. Good grief, it's 9am! It was South Green School in Billericay in Essex enquiring where their information pack was. I was due to be posting out a big load of them today. I assured them they would receive it by Wednesday this week at the latest. I put together a further 11 info packs and also packaged up some more stuff I have sold on Ebay recently. When the post arrived there was a nasty shock waiting for me. No, not my National Trust cards which eventually turned up, but a letter from Bridge and Patrixbourne School complaining about a couple of things from my recent visit. I was very upset to receive this letter and it took me a good time to calm down. Eventually I went for a drive to the Post Office at Shepton Beauchamp to see Jo and Blue, post all my stuff and settle myself down. I phoned and spoke to Amanda when I got back and finally started feeling more like myself.
I got a nice phone call from Stradbroke School in Great Yarmouth booking me for the 28th November. Robert Kett School in Wymondham also confirmed finally that they wanted me on the 3rd November, and I also got an email from Little Heath School in Potters Bar confirming a booking for the 9th December.
I am due to see Judy, my costume maker tomorrow, so hopefully some new ideas can be sorted out. One final nice thing from today was the arrangements for me to go into Southampton in December to meet all my old friends from Skandia for a pre-Christmas lunch drink. I am looking forward to that. And now I am going to listen to Manchester City take on Aston Villa. Come on City!

Sunday, October 30, 2005

Peace in our time

Now that is how Sundays should be. I had a lie in. Yes, you heard me right - a LIE IN. Probably the first one I have had since James was born. He and Amanda are still in Essex with the in-laws. I woke and saw that the time was 8am - yes, that is a lie in when you have a toddler in the house. But of course, it wasn't. Guess who had forgotten to put the clocks back last night? Me. And it was actually 7am, but I didn't care. Any thoughts of me treating this day off as an opportunity to hack around various car boot sales was quickly dampened by the fact that there was the English equivalent of a hurricane screaming round the house and horizontal rain spattering against the windows. Even the cat wasn't interested in going out this morning. So I did what any sane, fine, upstanding English gentleman would do on a morning like this - I ate the remains of my cold curry from the night before for breakfast and sat and watched "Match of the Day" with my feet up and with a cup of tea. Oh, how sweet to watch Manchester United being well and truly PAXO'D by Middlesborough...again. I sort of pottered around for the rest of the day. I had two phone calls, one from Amanda and James, and one from my Mother, but both of the calls came while I was actually trying to go out the front door to go and buy some diet coke. Never mind. My vastly edifying and enjoyable day was rounded off with some more red wine and watching "Goldmember" on Channel 4. I am not ashamed to admit that I laughed like a drain. And on that note, he went to bed.

Meanwhile, over at the Taunton place...

Another fine day at Taunton Castle today. I arrived just after 9am and, having left all my gear there overnight, there was no need for me to have to set everything up again. I nipped up to my luxury changing room, which looked suspiciously like an old meeting room, and threw on my Henry gear. The first group in were a little disappointing in numbers, only about 10. But they more than made up for it in enthusiasm. We had a good time. Now, whereas yesterday when I finished my first group there was a veritable chorus line of people storming the doors to come in for the next sitting, today there was hardly anyone. Eventually I was left with one family, of a mum and dad and a young daughter. It was just too few to be going on with. I sat and talked to them and explained it would be difficult for me to do the presentation to such a small group, and suggested that maybe they would like to come back for the 2pm show when, hopefully, there would be a load more people. Therefore, I was stuck with a 2 hour lunch break in Taunton, something I used to dream about when I worked at Debenhams. I had a wander round, checked the charity shops, as is my habit and then got a newspaper. I strolled up to Loafers again and got myself a roll and was delighted to see that they sold tiffin! I haven't had tiffin in years - it was delicious! I got back to my luxury meeting room and put my feet up, eat heartily and read the paper, pausing only to glower at the Giles Coren page in the magazine. Thank God there is no such thing as nepotism in the British media...
I was alerted by one of the workers in the castle shop that there was a large group gathering at about twenty to two. I got back into my robes and headed down the stairs. At first I was a little worried as, again, there didn't appear to be that many people around. I was wrong. It was a massive group, barely room to fit them into the small area in the front of the Grand Hall. They were a fabulous group as well, and I was delighted to see that the family I disappointed at 11.30 had come back. We had a great time, lots of laughs, lots of questions and yet more children from my visit to Milverton last year. Good to see them again. We finished with another great jousting bout and I ended with loud applause ringing in my ears. Everyone was lovely. A load more of my leaflets were taken away to various schools and another sheaf of feedback letters from the audience were all favourable. I packed everything away, had a nice refreshing cuppa with the front of house staff and a chat about what possible future appearances Henry could make at the County Museum. It all looks very favourable.
The drive home wasn't half as bad as yesterday, but it was home to an empty house. Amanda and James have nipped up to Essex for a few days to visit the relatives. I miss them both dreadfully, but it will be nice to have a real lie-in in the morning! The evening joy was completed with a nice home made curry, a bottle of red wine and the news that Manchester United had been thumped 4-1 by Middlesborough. Now that is what I call a good day. Right, whats on the telly....? Night night folks.

Saturday, October 29, 2005

They're Storming the Castle!

Wow! What a good day! I got up and set off to Taunton with a slight hangover and in pouring rain, plus it was still pitch dark. Not good omens for the day, I assumed. However, the traffic was remarkably light for a rush hour daliance in Taunton and I arrived at the County Museum at the Castle smack on 8.30am as promised. I was let in and greeted by a charming man who, better still, made me a cup of tea. I got all my props set up on a lovely big old heavy wooden table they normally have in their alms house. When this was draped with a heavy red cloth it really looked the business. I was doing three sessions today - one from 10am to 11.30am, 11.30am to 1pm and then 2pm to 3.30pm. The first group came in a seemed a little thin on the ground and a lot appeared to be startlingly young children, some still in push chairs. I hasten to add that they had their parents with them, they hadn't just decided en masse to wheel themselves down to Taunton Castle. That would be a just a bit too bowel loosening. I started and they were an OK group if a little low on numbers. I was disappointed with the showing as the staff at the museum had been saying what a great deal of interest in my appearance there had been. Anyway, when we had finished the first group, there was a sudden influx of people for the second group and we were packed out! It was great. A superb group, lots of laughs and interest and the kids were cool too. We had one great answer in this group. I was talking about the fact that Henry VIIIth and Katherine of Aragon actually had a son first, but that he died very young, so I asked the group what they called their first son. There was a slight pause, and then a little lad who couldn't have been much more than 5 years old put his hand up and said "Jesus?" Cue much spontaneous "Aaaaw-ing!" from all the collected Mums there. The jousting in that session was really close, a good contest. I broke for lunch at 1pm and got changed for a wander down to Loafers Sandwich bar which I used to frequent during my horrific year of working for Debenhams. Of course I bumped into Steve Lindley, one of my erstwhile colleagues from Debenhams. Nice to see him. Back to the museum for lunch and burping, then just time to throw the glad rags back on and back for another session. Another sell out. The group was spoilt a little this time but one mother bringing in a child who was way way too young to appreciate the whole thing, he was even younger than my James, and he spent most of the talk competing with me for loudest voice. He had the added armoury of frequently banging a set of keys on a display cabinet as well. I did find this very distracting. The jousting was hilarious. I picked two little brothers to appear together on one team. They were great fun, but utterly hopeless, constantly going in the wrong direction and trying to hook the other team's quoits. Amazingly, and against all odds, they won! There was a lovely group there from Milverton School who I visited last year and they had a great time. I gave out a load of my leaflets as well, so hopefully I can pick up some more bookings and interest.
I finished and went off to get changed and phone Amanda. On the way down they asked me to sign their visitors book and then showed me some of the feedback forms from customers. All hugely positive, which was wonderful. They are talking of having me back at Christmas and next Summer as well which would be wonderful. I then endured the hell filled drive home to end all, taking just over an hour and a half to travel the 20+ miles from Taunton to my home. ABout 95% of that time was spent trying to get out of Taunton. Perhaps this can be the basis of a new exciting Hollywood film - "Escape from Taunton" starring Kurt Russell as Yokel Plisskin. Remember, you heard it here first. Night night!

Friday, October 28, 2005

Why didn't they ask me?

I have just watched, with a sense of shock and awe (to paraphrase George Dubya Bush) a documentary about Henry VIIIth on ITV2 or even possibly ITV3. Whatever. It was DREADFUL. Some of the facts were wrong, the voice over artists sounded like he was on mogadons and worst of all was the man playing Henry! For a start he was about 50, which wouldn't be so bad when he was with, for instance, Katherine Parr, but to see him cavorting around with Katherine of Aragon was a bit much. His costume was almost as bad as the lummox in the orange outfit at the Rolf on Art day for the BBC, and he had a bright red stick on beard! You could see the glue holding it on in close up! Added to which, he appeared to be reading his lines from an autocue. He also had a bright ginger wig on, with his own dark curly hair showing through at the back. Ooh! I could have stamped my Bear Paw shoes in frustration!
Ho-hum. Tomorrow should be interesting, the first of two days at Taunton Castle Museum doing presentations to the great and good of Taunton as Henry. I will be trying to get some kids interested in doing some jousting as well. Therefore, after a glass or two of jolly nice Australian red wine, I shall now get my stuff together for the morning jaunt and will fill you in with the full bits and pieces tomorrow.
By the way, the new Kate Bush single is wonderful! Any news of anything new from XTC???

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Been a long time since the Blog and roll

Hello! I bet you thought I had forgotten to blog. And you would be right. I haven't had a good blog in about two days. Too many eggs if you ask me.
Well the weekend was cool. Simon came down and was as late as he usually is so inevitably I had to meet him at the football ground, rather than at home. So the relaxed mid day lunch ended up being a rush sandwich and then a dash to New Huish Park for the Yeovil Town v Nottingham Forest match. Simon eventually arrived about 5 minutes before kick off. The place was packed and as usual I always seem to end up standing in front of the football fan equivalent of a dork. This one seemed like a regular at Huish, he certainly knew who all the players were, however his general grasp of the laws of the game was as depressing as his lack of eloquence. For instance, Forest get a free kick and try and take it quickly and from the wrong place. The referee, quite rightly stops play and makes them go back to where it should be taken from. Dork behind me says loudly "Why isn't he booking them?" I started to half turn to see if he was joking, when he continued. "I thought if they kicked the ball away it was a booking." What? Why would Forest players kick the ball away from their OWN free kick? His reaction to Yeovil's first goal was also very predictable. Yeovil player gets hacked down while in possession, the referee plays a great advantage - Dork starts frothing and snarling about the F***ING REFEREE, during which time Yeovil sail up the far end of the pitch and Phil Jeavons slams home a fabulous long range shot. Dork goes mental with delight. Ho-hum. Yeovil go on to win 3-0 and Simon is delighted that the Forest efforts are rewarded with another rendition of his favourite chant from Yeovil - "OOH ARR! IT'S A MASSACRE!" to the tune of "Go West". My favourite chant is the more common - "CAN WE PLAY YOU EVERY WEEK" and the not very nice "YOU'RE NOT FAMOUS ANY MORE!" to the tune of "Bread of Heaven".
A hopeless Sunday of going to car boot fairs that aren't on ends with Simon leaving just after lunch. James thought he was great, hugely entertaining. Added to which, Simon's party piece of being able to lick his own nose with his tongue is apparently paralytically funny when you are just short of your 3rd birthday. I must remember that one.
Monday has been quiet, as has Tuesday. The highlight of today, aside from a nice lunch at Bilby's in Crewkerne with Amanda, was finishing re-decorating James' bedroom while he was at nursery. It is now a lovely sky blue, with loads of pictures on the walls of Thomas the Tank Engine, Balamory characters, and James' old Manchester City shirt. Lovely.
Next gig? Appearing at Somerset County Museum in Taunton on the 28th and 29th October this week. Should be fun!

Friday, October 21, 2005

Stiff neck and postponed gigs

Awoken after the nice nights sleep with a neck stiffer than a corpse. ARGH! The pain! From then it is neck ache and driving James to his nursery, followed by more neck ache and driving up to Street with Amanda. I then took my neck ache for a walk round the charity shops as usual. The neck ache and I found some lovely old piano sheet music in one shop and bought a few of them. One was a lovely old Henry Hall and the Savoy Orpheans tune "Play to me, Gypsy". I shall hum it at the next village hall meeting complaining about travellers.
We stopped off at Shepton Beauchamp for lunch on the way back and Hayley at the Duke of York pub asked me if I was still Mayor. Mayor? Bless. King and Mayor, very easy to get confused. We spent the afternoon preparing the house for Simon's arrival tomorrow for the Yeovil v Nottingham Forest match. All our tidying and cleaning work was put to the sword within 5 minutes of James' arrival back from nursery.
There were two messages on the ansaphone, one from a school in Kent who had provisionally booked me for the 10th February suddenly changing their minds, and another from Mrs Carter from Stradbroke School in Norfolk who want to postpone my visit for 2-3 weeks. STILL no cheque arrived from the Waltham Abbey school. I'll send the boys round shortly...

A Local Gig

This is what I have been waiting for! A local appearance! No silly old driving up to and back again from High Wycombe in a day! Not traipsing over to Kent to see my sister (however nice that is) and then hiking back to Somerset after the show!
The drive over to Long Sutton was lovely - hardly any main roads and virtually no traffic. I arrived at smack on 8am and was immediately given a nice cup of tea. Now that is what I call a welcome. After some confusion as to when and where I had to be out of the hall we began the day. A nice group of about 58 children, most of them good fun, aside from one loud mouthed individual who made it perfectly clear from the moment I began that he wasn't interested in Henry VIIIth one iota. I pressed on and had the rest of them laughing and enjoying themselves as usual. I split the group up after that and the morning progressed - until I got the group with the loud mouth. Believe it or not, he suddenly started showing an interest. Lunch was good fun - I walked down to the local shop in Long Sutton and bought some sandwiches, and then sat in the bright little staff room at the school with the lovely ladies. I was back in the hall ready for the afternoon, but was constantly heckled through the door of the hall by some loud mouth who kept disappearing when I turned round. I went outside - I bet you can't guess who it was? Yes the loud mouthed little git from earlier. I told him that unless he shut up I would chuck him out for the rest of the day, and that included missing the jousting session - always the ultimate threat against any child at my days. He proclaimed his innocence by saying "But I only shouted a bit this morning! And some now!" More than enough for me. As the group came back in for the afternoon session I mentioned right at the start that someone in their group was being a loud mouthed half wit and I wasn't going to accept any more. He though this made him look clever and kept saying "that was me!" and waving. It merely proved he was even more dense than I anticipated. I did the crime and punishment bit, but toned it down a little as there were some year 3's in as well as the 4's. The Tudor school section was fun and the stocks were hilarious. The jousting - I had the ladies up first, demonstrating and then competing and we found our ladies champs. Then it was the boys. I finally, reluctantly picked the loud mouth as I thought it might make him more interested. He feigned slight interest. I am delighted to say his side were thrashed and he never even got a go. Awww! How sad. The grand final ended with the girls thrashing the boys and carrying off the winners certificates. It was so nice to put everything in the van and set off and KNOW I was going to be home by 4pm! The school seemed genuinely thrilled with the day and have requested I return in the future. I would be happy to.
The evening was nice. Sipping a little red wine and watching all the excitement that Grasshoppers Zurich v Middlesbrough can generate. Which is just slightly more than naff all. And so to bed and snoring...

Thursday, October 20, 2005


Got them! Got them! Got them! Yes, I finally managed to get to New Huish Park in Yeovil and purchased the aforementioned tickets for the Yeovil Town v Nottingham Forest match this Saturday. £30 for two tickets. Thank God I don't live near Stamford Bridge. While at the ground I decided to do some investigation work. My late Grandfather, Stan Farley, had often told us of the handful of matches he played for Yeovil Town in the late 20's and early 30's. They have just released a book about the history of Yeovil Town and there is masses of information in this book about who played for them and when. Everyone who has made a first team appearance for the Glovers should be mentioned. I went through the book with the Yeovil Town press officer. My Grandfather wasn't in it. Either the author had got his details wrong, or Stan had been fibbing. I hate to think what the actual answer is.
When I got back home, my poor wife was very under the weather with a stinking cold and all she wanted to do was go back to bed. So I took James over the Ilminster for a visit to our usual hang out - Bilby's cafe. Lovely, had our usual of ham, egg and chips, and James did his usual toddler job of charming the pants off the waitresses, Penny and Wendy.
Back home, there are messages for me from Robert Kett Junior School in Wymondham in Norfolk who want to see me in November, and an email from the very wonderful Willow Foundation Charity saying they have added my details to their records, should anyone happen to want to meeet Henry VIIIth. Tomorrow is nice a relatively local - a day at Long Sutton School near Langport. Lovely!

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

To Kent and back

Hello Henry fans everywhere. I know you're out there, I can hear you breathing. I had a hectic start to yesterday, I was supposed to drive to Huish Park in Yeovil and once again attempt to get tickets for the Yeovil v Nottingham Forest match this Saturday - just as I was leaving my wife offers me a smashed up old chair.
"Take this to the dump in Crewkerne." So I did. I then headed on down the A303 and on to Kent to stay at my sister Catherine's place near Sittingbourne, prior to a Henry show today. Only when I had been at my sisters for about three hours did I remember I had forgotten to stop in Yeovil and get the said tickets. Well, my sister and I had a splendid evening drinking far too much red wine and watching "Team America" on DVD and laughing like drains. God, someone should show this movie to George "Dubya" Bush. He'd probably think it was a documentary.
My alarm went off horribly early and I set off from my sister's place, and headed for Bridge, a small village near Canterbury and my date with Bridge and Patrixbourne school. I soon found the place and it was so nice to see all those old familiar faces again. Miss Buchan was again as charming and lovely as ever, but then so was everyone else, including the lovely lady from Cork who's name escapes me - sorry. They had built me this most wonderful throne room on a stage in the main hall of the school! Complete with throne and tapestries! This was a room fit for a Royal Tudor King! We had a great day, some wonderful sparky kids, lots of laughs and another great jousting session, this time the final just being sneaked at the last moment by the boys. The teacher's race after that nearly blew the roof off the building. I then posed with the children and the teachers as my "wenches" for some more photos (copies please! I can put them on the website!) and that was it. The winning jousting team helped me load the props back into the van and I was on my way.
At about 6.30pm I arrived home at "Chez Henry" and my wonderful wife had cooked dinner. Perfect. Even better I then sat and drank some more red wine and laughed a lot as Manchester United completely failed to beat Lilles in the Champions League. Champions League? How did Man Utd get in? The last person seen in their trophy cabinet was Osama Bin Laden. He said it reminded him of the Tora Bora cave complex - dark, cold and empty and recently taken over by Yanks. (Ba-doom-tish!).
When I got home there was some mail waiting for me - a whole bundle of fan mail from Knightwood School in Chandlers Ford. Fabulous stuff - great letters, wonderful pictures - it just makes it all worthwhile. I shall try and pick out the best letters and put them on the website.
Tomorrow? Another day off and then on Thursday Long Sutton school near Langport in Somerset. A local "gig". Great!

Monday, October 17, 2005

Mock Tudor Monarch Stuck for Something to Say!

A blog? Everyday? Now there is a law I must put a stop to. What the hell can I write about today? The main highlights were:
  1. Driving to Yeovil with my wife to look for her ******* bagels again - we found them you'll be thrilled to hear.
  2. Mowing the back lawn that was beginning to resemble the Matto Grosso.
  3. Listening to Manchester City stuff West Ham United on Radio 5. (Actually, that bit was quite good).

I am off to Kent tomorrow, to stay with my sister Cathy and her husband Julian as I have Bridge and Patrixbourne School to do near Canterbury on Tuesday morning. I shall try and post again on Tuesday evening. Oh, and James did something naughty this evening and immediately referred to himself as "a little git". I guess I have to start watching my language.

Sunday, October 16, 2005

Saturday 15th October

Another day off? Surely not. I suppose it is one of the perks of being King. The baby prince had a bit of an escapade last night. At about 11.30pm we heard a loud thump followed by crying from his room. I went in to see if he was OK, but couldn't find him. I eventually located him UNDER the bed. He had obviously fallen out of bed between the wall and the mattress, had woken up and wondered where the hell he was. I had to pick the bed up to get him out. He ended up in my bed with Amanda and I finished the night asleep on the sofa downstairs. Not very Kingly.
Today was spent on fruitless searches. My wife wanted a particular type of bagel today, so I ventured out to Yeovil to find them - none were around in any store. I also wanted to get tickets for the forthcoming Yeovil Town v Nottingham Forest match next week, when our friend Simon is coming to stay, so I drove to the New Huish Ground to find that on away match days (like today) the ticket office is closed all weekend. I'll go back on Monday.
I have contacted the charity the Willow Foundation, offering my services as Henry should anyone actually want to meet the famous Tudor monarch. I heard Bob Wilson interviewed on the radio this morning about the charity and the wonderful hard work that they do, and it seemed so selfless and worthwhile that offering my services seemed like a good idea. Whether or not anyone wants to meet a despotic old King is another matter all together. I've said it before, and I am sure I will say it again... watch this space.... Night night!

Friday, October 14, 2005

Friday 14th October

A day off. I needed it. Funnily enough my son obviously didn't, as he decided to get up at 5.15am and jump up and down on our bed. People died for far less in the original Henry's day. Perhaps that was why Henry did away with Katherine Howard. She was a lot younger than him, so maybe she kept running into his bedroom at 5am and bouncing on the end of his bed. Perhaps Mary Tudor had Thomas Cranmer burnt at the stake for chasing her cat and not eating his greens. Who knows?

Well, our little crown prince has been at nursery all day, and Amanda and I decided to go up to Street for the day (near Glastonbury). A nice drive and a pretty good, if plain, High Street. After lunch we returned and there were messages for me from two more schools, enquiries for possible bookings. One was in Yeovil and the other - well, I didn't quite catch the name, but they said I had visited before. I have tried to call back but the people I need to speak to are teaching at present. More bookings are needed as December is looking a little blank. I have bookings after Christmas, all the way through to next July, but some in December would be nice.

A visit to Godstowe Prep School, High Wycombe

What a day today has been! The worst part was the early morning and the alarm going off at 4.15am. 4.15am? Surely there is a law against things like that? It was going to be a long drive from my home in South Somerset to High Wycombe in Buckinghamshire for this Henry VIIIth appearance, but hopefully worth it. The morning weather didn’t look too promising – everything Bible black and rain hammering down. I shouldn’t really have had my late-ish night, watching England beat Poland 2-1 in the World Cup Qualifier, but I was soon on my way.

After steady, but unspectacular progress up the A303 and M3, I stopped at the services at Fleet for some diesel. At present I am trying not to use my credit cards if I can help it, not out of some desperate urge to stick two fingers up at credit companies, but because both of my cards are virtually screaming for mercy. As I got to the counter, the woman behind it appeared to be German. How did I know? Well, the towel draped across the counter and her frequent invasions of the next door till were a bit of a giveaway. I first asked her if she could print a cheque.
“No. Vy don’t you pay mit zer credit card? It is qvicker.” There was a rapidly expanding queue of huffing and puffing white van drivers and reps behind me, so for a quiet life I got my credit card out and put it in the machine. I tapped in my pin number. “Zis card hass been declined!” She announced, loudly.
“I KNOW! That’s why I wanted to use my ****ing cheque book!” I angrily wrote out a cheque. She took my guarantee card and wrote all the details on the back. Then she took my card and the cheque and started disappearing out the back. “Where are you going?” I enquired.
“I haff to get zer authorisation for der kard.” She told me. And so off she went to do just that – for what seemed like about 6 months. Thankfully another till opened and the white van drivers and reps plodded over there and started huffing and puffing at the new till instead. Eventually she returned all smiles. “Here iss your kard, unt a receipt.” All she needed to do was click her heels and wear jackboots and she had the part. But I was now on my way.

Terrible road works and more rain on the M3 gave over to the usual terrible traffic and even worse driving on the M25. At last, the M40 and finally the promised land of High Wycombe. I find the school and slither to a halt on their posh gravel drive. My horrible old Toyota looks stunningly out of place next to all the Mercedes, BMWs and Saabs. Meet the teacher, a charming lady and I am greeted by the receptionist with “Hello Henry!” even though I am not yet in my costume. We have a great day – lovely kids. It is an all girl’s prep school, very posh and well to do, but not overbearing. Best question of the day? No contest really. One girl, who looks and acts suspiciously like Hermione Grainger from Harry Potter, tries to answer one of my questions about my Bear Paw shoes. I give them the usual hint of them being based on the paws of a big ferocious animal with teeth, claws and fur and ask them what animal they think it is. She shoots her hand up – I point at her. Her answer?
“A duck.” Close, but no cigar. Another girl later suggested that people were pelted with grapes whilst in the stocks. I suppose that could be a bit vicious if you left the pips in. We have a nice lunch with the pupils, then more mayhem in the afternoon finishing with another rip-roaring jousting session. The winning team get their certificates, more photos and that’s it – I am on my way.

Another three hours later, I arrive home just in time to kiss James, my son, goodnight and collapse on the sofa with some dinner from my wife. All this, and not a drop of wine in the house. There should be a law against that sort of thing. Hang on – I’m the King, I could MAKE a law! There are messages for me from Anna from the BBC, who was my runner on the Rolf on Art programme, and who is trying to get me involved in Children in Need coming up. No more definite news, but she is still trying for me, bless her. A note that next weeks show at Barrington Court Tudor house with the children from Barrington Village School in Somerset has been postponed for three weeks, and confirmation that the lovely people at Sudeley Castle in Gloucestershire want to see me for a pre-show meeting on the 22nd November. A good positive day all round really.

Thursday, October 13, 2005

Another enquiry...

I have been contacted by Sudeley Castle in Gloucestershire who want me to be Henry for them over the 2nd May Bank Holiday weekend next year. This sounds wonderful as it will involve me wandering around the castle and grounds, chatting to visitors and showing people my Tudor instruments. If this doesn't result in an arrest and custodial sentence then all well and good.
This sounds like a good opportunity. I always enjoy visits to museums and castles and meeting people face to face as Henry. When I did the Kingsbury Episcopi festival last May, I met everyone from terrified toddlers, lovely wobbly old ladies, cocky teenagers and some completely mashed new age travellers. I might even get the same at Sudeley - you never know!

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

A new blog has begun!

How difficult is it to start a blog? By my reckoning - very! I had been wanting to add a blog to my website for ages, but I had little knowledge of setting one up. I therefore waited to ask Steve "font of all knowledge" French, who looks after my website, and he had no idea what one was either. The blind leading the blind! I wanted this blog to show what happens in the world of Good King Hal, Henry VIIIth look-a-like and re-enactor par excellence! Therefore you can now check back every day and see what has been occurring.

It has been a hectic few weeks for me really. I have picked up a nice booking to go to Leeds Castle in Kent for the February half term next year - all nine days! Then I was asked by the BBC to take part in the "Rolf on Art - The Big Event" day at Trafalgar Square, London. This involved the re-creation of Holbein's lost masterpiece of Henry VIII, painted by many different artists to build up into a gigantic portrait of the famous Tudor monarch. It was a great day, but exhausting. It was nice to meet the other Henry VIIIth's and compare costumes.

I have been back visiting schools again since the summer holidays finished. Seeing some old friends again at places like Manor Court School in Chard and Blean School near Canterbury in Kent, and some new venues such as West Flegg School in Martham near Great Yarmouth, Friends School in Saffron Walden, All Saints C of E at Great Oakley near Harwich, Puriton School near Bridgwater, Somerset, Hillhouse School in Waltham Abbey and Knightwood School at Chandlers Ford in Hampshire. We had good days at all of these.

Well, the King shall be cheering England on again this evening against Poland. I might threaten Sven-Goran Eriksson with be-heading if we lose, so watch this space for more. Tomorrow? A very early morning and a drive up to High Wycombe in Buckinghamshire to visit Godstowe Prep School. I am looking forward to it!