Friday, October 14, 2005

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.

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