Thursday, December 28, 2006

And now for something slightly the same.

In my previous blogs I had forgotten to thank a very special person in particular, that person was Amy who was one of three different Tinkerbells during my various days as Father Christmas at Leeds Castle.
On one of my final days I was taking photos of a lot of the different people who had helped during our time there. I took this one of Amy and she urged me never to show this picture to anyone. When I mentioned I had a website ( she was terrified that I might publish it on there. I assured her I would never do such a thing. But I never mentioned anything about my Blog site! So here is young Amy Creasey, as I believe her full name was, in her full Fairy Glory! Thank you, Amy!

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

A Belated Merry Christmas from Henry the Santa...

As you can see, from this horrific image, I have been terrorising the good families of Kent in my guise as Father Christmas at Leeds Castle. It has been quite a couple of weeks...
It began with me driving down to Southampton on the 15th December to meet up with old friends from my days working at that most wonderful and cuddly of employers, Skandia Life. I had lunch with the lovely Sue Marsh at Piccolo Mondo, a wonderful little restaurant near Skandia House, and then it was a short walk to the Old Fat Cat Pub to meet up with Julie Beard and Matt Keane. After leaving Southampton I drove up the M3 to the M25 and shot over to Kent to head back to my sisters for another week and a bit being Santa at Leeds. It was a great week, but hard work. Now you wouldn't believe that sitting on your bottom and asking children if they have been good was hard work, but by God it is. After the first couple of hours your mind starts to wander and your bottom starts to feel like barnacles have been welded on to it. The rest of the people, as with everything I have done at Leeds Castle, were wonderful and it was so nice to be back amongst this group, who are now like a new family for me!
During the week I finally got to see the film "Borat". It was wonderful. I haven't laughed so much at a film for a long long time. Highly recommended. The rest of the week continued apace with some incredibly cute children coming to visit Santa. One little lad was sitting happily picking his nose while telling me what he wanted. His father said "Stop that, Jack!" Young Jack promptly removed his finger from his nose, with a nice big juicy bogey on the tip. "Oh, Jack!" admonished his father, "get rid of it!" Jack duly did, by smearing it down the arm of his father's jacket. In the words of Mastercard - priceless.
My sister Cathy and Julian had a burglary at their house in the early part of the week with Julian losing a motorbike from their front yard. He increased their security at their home with a new massive set of steel gates at the top of their drive.
I continued at Leeds Castle until Christmas Eve and thoroughly enjoyed myself. I would like to say a big thank you again to the lovely Darlene Cavill for organising the whole thing, and to her assistant Helen for frequent lifts from the Maiden's Tower back to the Estate Office. And for her wearing a silly hat. And giving my wife and I a nice box of posh biscuits for Christmas. And to Jeanne and to Barry and Carole and Ann and Ann and everyone who helped make it such a memorable experience.
Christmas Day was at my parents in Essex with my wife and son, and my sister Cathy and husband Julian. Amanda and I had a bit of a fright on Boxing Day when my left leg came up with a very sore area at the bottom of my calf. We were frightened that it might be a deep vein thrombosis brought on by too much sitting around as Father Christmas, so it was off to accident and emergency at Basildon Hospital for me. It turned out to be just a skin infection and I am now taking ibuprofen to help sort it out.
We drove back to Somerset on the afternoon of the 26th and are now safely ensconced here. Next Henry is on the 11th January at Friends School in Saffron Walden. Happy New Year!

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Kingston St Mary

After a couple of days of either (a) looking after James, and/or (b) Christmas shopping, it was quite a relief to get back to being Henry again, even if it was for only half a day. But what a half day!
I had been booked to appear at Kingston St Mary school in the village of the same name that lies just to the North West of Taunton. I had been recommended to the school by one of their teaching assistants who had seen me at Taunton Castle Museum's Christmas Fayre back in November (hence my use of this picture at the top of this blog - from left to right: Superannuated Wench #1, Me, Superannuated Wench #2, Sparky the Dragon [don't ask] and a lute player. So now you know). A recommendation like this is a real God send as mostly the school knows what to expect. Anyway, after the usual awful drive through a Taunton rush hour I arrived via some back roads in the village of Kingston St Mary - and it is delightful! A little hidden gem of a village. The school itself was very easy to find and the teachers were overwhelmingly friendly and attentive. I set up and the combined years 3/4/5/6 came in for the opening talk. If I say so myself, they loved it. Plenty of laughs and some good answers from the children, particularly from one young lady called Ellie. After a quick break it was back with just years 3/4 for some Tudor crime and punishment, then we had some fun with the stocks and finished just before lunch with an excellent jousting session, which the ladies won to keep things back to how they should be!
After driving home and having lunch, Amanda, James and I headed off to Yeovil for some more Christmas shopping (will it EVER end?) and then tonight my wife and I are going to spend a passionate evening - wrapping up presents. We know how to enjoy ourselves!
Tomorrow I am driving to Southampton to meet the Skandia bunch for some lunch and drinkies, then it is on back down to Kent to Cathy and Julian's place again for another nine days at Leeds Castle as Father Christmas. I shall try and have a quick blog from time to time as my spare times allows me.

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Santa Claus is coming to Leeds...

Variety is the spice of life, so they say. So this weekend I have been trying something a little bit different. Yes, I have been back at Leeds Castle again, and yes I am working for the lovely Darlene Cavill and Helen Budd again, but no, there is not a pair of tights or a cod-piece in sight! I am, Father Christmas! Darlene and her bods have put together a Santa's Grotto in the Maiden's Keep just inside the gatehouse and I hold court there all day as the children come and visit me! Superb fun!
I drove to Kent on Friday morning to go to my sister's as usual for when I am at Leeds. We settled in for the weekend with a couple of bottles of wine and a Chinese Takeaway. Saturday morning I was straight down to Leeds Castle via the Broomfield entrance as usual and then it was off to Helen's office to get changed into my Santa gear! The costume looks great. After a little bit of a hold up I was off via "Santa's Lapland Express" (one of the Land Trains from the summer months!) and up to the Castle and a short walk to the Maiden's Keep. Inside, Darlene and co had produced a minor miracle. A wonderful winter wonderland, complete with twinkling lights, fir trees, ice skating mannequins and even the odd Penguin or two! In the middle of this magical labyrinth was my "Santa's Study" complete with sparkling fire place and my own Christmas Tree! With the beard and wig, some red rouge for my nose and cheeks, I was away. The children were wonderful and come in some distinct groups. You get the just plain stunned ones, who spend most of the time staring at you in utter bewhilderment, or hiding behind their parents. You get the criers, who on the very first sight of me in my finery burst into tears and are beyond consolation, even if I do give them a present! You get the chatty ones who sit down next to me as though we are old friends and reels off their complete Christmas present wish list without pausing for breath once. And finally, you get the cocky little so-and-so's who probably would like 20 Marlboro's for Christmas and know full well you aren't Santa and are going to make damn sure the poor parent who brought them in knows this. But they, thankfully, are few and far between! The first day I probably had about 150 children in and I would imagine on Sunday we might even have surpassed that figure. I have been inundated with wonderful letters with requests for presents from Santa, each lovingly written out by the child. It is lovely! One letter on the Saturday was from a little girl called Tegan, whose Christmas list ran to three pages of quite small writing and who finished her entry off with the classic line of: "and that's it!" Brilliant!
Saturday night my sister Cath, her husband Julian and myself went to the cinema where we met their friends Darren and Karen. We went to see "The Covenant". I strongly urge you, with all of my heart to avoid this film like the plague. Thankfully my slumber was left mercifully undisturbed as everyone in the film hits everyone else a lot and the whole production resembles the final super-8mm film my grandfather shot of a Margaretting Rovers first XI home fixture. After this cinematic travesty we went to a Frankie and Bennie's restaurant for a largely disappointing meal in deafening surroundings, with a mixture of over loud music and strident cackling hen parties vying for the most annoying noise of the evening. I was recognised by a very sweet young Terry Wogan. So that's her off my Christmas list.
Sunday was another Father Christmas day at the Castle and I drove home this evening through horrendous rain and wind, but home for a kiss and cuddle from my wife and son, and a frankly unwatchable episode of Torchwood. And so to bed.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

St Cecillia's in Sutton in Surrey

As you can see from the title of this piece, St Cecillia's in Sutton in Surrey is not the sort of place someone like Chris Eubank would want to visit. He could quite possibly lisp himself to death.
It was a very early start for me this morning. Up at just before 5am and out of the door before 5.30am. The A303 wasn't too bad, but as I got on to the M3, the heavens really opened and for a short period you could barely see where you were going at all. Driving slowed to almost walking pace and even with wipers on at full speed, visibility was still virtually impossible. Thankfully this passed. Next step was the M25. Thankfully I was only on for two junctions, but even then I managed to get caught in a traffic jam. I was soon at the school having paused to get a sandwich for breakfast and another for lunch from a small local Tesco Store. As usual, I was warmly welcomed by all the teachers at this lovely little Catholic School. Who would have thought that Henry would get such a warm welcome at somewhere like that? The kids were a really great group as well, in some more fabulous costumes. All the schools I visit, it just amazes me the amount of time and effort put in by parents and relatives to get these children such authentic and good looking Tudor costumes. But then the teachers had excelled themselves as well! We had a great comment this morning from one little girl. She solemnly informed me that Henry VIII's favourite sport was "jostling". Or maybe it was Jocelyn? Now there WAS a sport Henry could enjoy! Priceless.
The afternoon was a good one and culminated in the ladies finally getting back to winning ways by trouncing a rather over confident gents team comprising of all those dressed as exectutioners in the "jostling". My journey home wasn't too bad being only mildly sanity attacking at points on the A303 near Stonehenge and again in Crewkerne High Street, which currently resembles a battle zone on the West Bank.
The new picture above was taken at Taunton Castle's Christmas Fayre and shows me doing a passable imitation of a startled Tudor rabbit caught in headlights during one of my talks to the assembled throng.
Tomorrow I am off to Kent for a couple of days to appear in my alternative guise as Father Christmas at Leeds Castle. Should be fun.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

New Improved Website!

As you can probably see, particularly if you navigated in by it, the Good King Hal website has been drastically altered. New graphics, new look, same old rubbish! This is all down to the brilliant technical skills of Mr Steve French, a man who makes Professor Stephen Hawking look like a pullover. Sorry, that should be a push-over. He has worked long and hard hours on this website to make it the technological marvel that you see now. It is amazing what you can achieve just using an Etcha-Sketch and a Sinclair ZX81. Ladies and gentlemen, the toast is: Mr Steve French! (the cheque is in the post...)

Parkfield Primary - one of the best!

This week is quite clearly my Christmas treat to myself as I seem to be spending most of my time at my favourite schools! After Monday at the lovely Dunster, Tuesday found me back at Parkfield School in Taunton. I was warmly welcomed back by Mr Sides again, who was his usual charming pleasant self. This school really is somewhere special. The staff are all lovely, generous to the extreme and really switched on to their pupils. The two main class teachers had dressed up in full Tudor togs and looked beautiful indeed! The group, which was about 65 children, gathered in the main hall for my opening talk. As ever, this little school produces some of the brightest sparkiest children you could ever want to meet. They ALL got the jokes. They ALL had great Tudor knowledge, and they all just wanted more, more, more! We had a truly special day. It is even the little things at Parkfield that make the place special. When I was first unloading in the morning I discovered one of my jousting targets had a slightly lose top. This is immediately whisked away from me by the caretaker who fixes it in no time at all. I have cups of tea lavished on me all day, and not just during breaks! My lunch is not only bought for me, but it is also collected for me from Tesco's during a Monsoon! And at the end of the day the children all become my roadies and help me load the props back into the Henry-mobile! Fabulous. The afternoon was particularly fun, with loads of laughs and jokes around the stocks and a rip-roaring joust. Yet again the boys triumphed. Perhaps they have finally perfected the way of winning. The press came and took some photos and even one of the Governors had come in on his day off work to see how Henry was doing! Parkfield, you are wonderful and I salute a premier school!
I have had today at leisure (if that is how you can describe going shopping with a 3 year old) before tomorrow when I am up at the crack of dawn and heading off to Sutton in Surrey for a third return visit to St Cecillia's Roman Catholic School. And after that? The weekend has Father Christmas written all over it at Leeds Castle. See you there!
The picture above this time is also from the Christmas bash at Taunton Castle and shows the King this time just testing the cooking skills of the wenches on the hog roast. Just don't tell his Rabbi.

Monday, December 04, 2006

Back to Dunster

Today was a day to look forward to as I was to return for the third year to one of my favourite schools - Dunster, near Minehead. Every year when I go back I am always heartily welcomed by the teachers, head teacher and the fabulous kids they get at this school, and this year was no exception. The day did start badly. I woke up in daylight, something I should not have been seeing as I set my alarm desperately early as usual. I had overslept and it was almost 7.30am when I awoke and I had promised Dunster I would be with them by 8.30am. I got ready quickly and shot out the door. My sat nav still reckoned I had a good chance of being at Dunster by 8.45am. It had reckoned without Taunton. The place was gridlocked. By the time I had got out the other side of the town my sat nav reckoned my arrival time was more like 9.15am. In the end, with much screaming, acceleration and verbal badinage with various other drivers I managed to get to Dunster by 9.00am. I set up and got changed in about two seconds flat and then was on. The kids were just fabulous as usual. Such a fantastic group to work with, they laughed at all the jokes, had great Tudor knowledge and just wanted more, more, more! After another memorable lunch of stir fry chicken noodles and rice pudding ( in seperate bowls I hasten to add), it was on with the afternoon. The jousting was great and a real surprise was the gents winning yet again. All this and I got paid on the day as well. The drive home through Taunton wasn't nearly as awful, but the weather was.
This evening I am off over to Dinnington to see Matthew Applegate from Barrington Court again, and then tomorrow I am over to another favourite of mine, Parkfield Junior in Taunton. See you there.
Hope you like the pic above - it was taken at the Christmas bash at Taunton Castle recently and goes to prove that Henry only liked a nice cup of tea and absolutely nothing stronger than that. Honest.

Saturday, December 02, 2006

Nelson Primary in East Ham

Friday morning dawned in Essex and I was due for a relatively early start with a belt down to Leeds Castle in Kent to try on my Father Christmas outfit for my imminent appearances! I drove down the A12 to the M25 to be greeted to the sight of virtually static traffic heading south and dot matrix boards indicating that there was "Congestion Junctions 28-3" - i.e. right across the Dartford Crossing and into Kent. If I was to get to Leeds Castle and then back up to East Ham by 1pm, I should have left about 2 hours before. I abandoned the idea very early, headed back to my parents' and phoned Darlene at the castle to explain the situation. She was fine about it. She said she would leave the costume in her office and I could pop in and try it on the following day (Saturday) on my way back to Somerset.
So, at about midday I began my drive up to East Ham. Now this was a real throw back for me as getting on for 20 years ago, I worked for the London Borough of Newham in their education department (Hello Caroline Lewendon! Hello Steve Newman! Hello Anne Edwards! Hello Maureen Pammen! etc etc) and had some dealings with Nelson Primary School, the school I was due to visit. I found the place very easily and soon found myself welcomed into a warm and cosy staff room and plied with cups of tea. The children had put together a Tudor banquet day and I was their guest of honour. I was very glad to be there! After getting changed into my Henry gear I was brought up to the top hall where a trumpeter heralded my arrival on the red carpet. The children broke out into spontaneous cheering which was WONDERFUL! All the teachers had dressed up as Tudors, as had the children. They all looked fabulous, some of the lady teachers looking particularly nice, I must say...! I sat on my specially built throne and fielded questions from the 150+ pupils, which was good fun. We then progressed down to one of their lower halls for the banquet itself. I wandered round the tables answering questions and playing music for the guests with my instruments. Then there was more entertainment - a series of musical pieces written and arranged by the children themselves, which were really great, then some fine Tudor dancing and a bit more home made music. It was all truly wonderful and I thanked the children for all the effort they had put in with the music, costumes, dance - everything! A really wonderful and magical afternoon. Thank you, Nelson Primary!
In the evening I drove up to Danbury near Chelmsford to meet my old friends Mick Stephenson and Deborah Dixon at the Bell Pub which is now run by Deb's sister, and another old mate of mine, Lesley. It was really nice to see them all again. Mick was, as ever, great company - this man I can safely say was the finest wicket keeper I have ever seen play. A natural. Deb and Lesley still looked as lovely as ever and it was nice to catch up with them all again after so many years. Lesley and her husband Peter were fine hosts. The Bell Inn in Danbury - by Royal Appointment. You heard it here first folks.
Saturday morning I drove back to Somerset via Leeds Castle. The Father Christmas costume was magnificent and I can't wait to start next Saturday! Before that I have visits to Dunster on Monday, Parkfield School in Taunton on Tuesday and St Cecillia's in Sutton on Thursday. Watch this space for more fun and frolics. Or something like that anyway.

Thursday, November 30, 2006

Tatworth and Boxted (with some Bilbys thrown in)

More mileage on the car and a few more grey hairs. It must be another week of being Henry! My first visit of the week was to Tatworth School in South Chard, so nice and local to begin with. I had last visited Tatworth School about 18 months ago and to be honest I was racking my brains trying to recall anything about my previous visit. My main problem is that I do visit so many schools throughout the year (and I in no way wish to sound smug or demeaning to any school) but after a while, unless they are particularly memorable or outstanding they can somewhat blend into each other. However, as soon as I arrived at the gates of Tatworth it all began flooding back to me. All was there to remind me, the friendly teachers, the lovely kids and the great facilities. It was only a half day on this particular Tuesday, so I got my chance to do all my favourite bits, the talk about Henry’s life, the stocks and some jousting. It was a fine jousting session and for once the Gents walked away with it. It was nice to be back and I hope to return to this lovely school at some point soon.
Wednesday was spent with my son as my wife was at work, so I took him into Yeovil as I needed to get a Father Christmas beard and wig for my forthcoming appearances in this role at Leeds Castle. We later drove over to Ilminster for lunch at Bilby’s and I once again nagged Tris into sending me the photos from our banquet at the County Museum to put on the website. Thankfully his lovely daughter Emma forwarded the pics to me this evening and so once I am back in Somerset, aka the Land of the Living, I shall send them on to Steve French and he can amend the website.
Wednesday evening I drove to Essex for an appearance today at Boxted School near Colchester. I last appeared at Boxted again, about 18 months ago, but my how things have changed. Gone is the sweet little Victorian School House down the wee muddy lane and is now replaced with a state of the art school with massive rooms, an atrium and ample parking. Lovely! It was nice to be back again. I had forgotten just what a nice place Boxted was and also how nice all their teachers and teaching assistants are. They are quite cruel to some of their staff, locking them in cupboards and making them create costumes for children’s shows for a start! They are also one of the very few schools I know of that possess a caretaker who looks like Daryl Hannah and Sharron Davies rolled into one! I think all schools should have one of these! The day was a real belter. Lovely kids, great staff, a passable lunch and lots of laughs. We finished with another great jousting session and once again the boys triumphed. This could become a habit you know…
Had a nice email this evening from Hazeldene School who I visited some time ago saying that their pupils are doing an end of year show highlighting their favourite moments of the year gone by, and they have chosen my visit as the main highlight of their year. Ah, bless! Tomorrow I am down to Leeds Castle for a costume fitting for my Father Christmas gear and then I am off to Nelson Junior in East Ham for a banquet. I should be back in Somerset sometime on Saturday. And so to bed!

Saturday, November 25, 2006

Modbury and Hadleigh - Cross Country

Before I beging this addition to the Blog, can I just put it on record that I adore my job. I am very very lucky to be something for a living which is fun, silly and allows me to act like an 8 year old. However, it does have one enormous draw back - the travel and distances that are sometimes involved. I normally try to negate this problem by ensuring that I have all shows in the same, roughly geographical area. So, if at the beginning of term I get someone booking me in Broadstairs in Kent, I will endeavour to push any other school from that same general area towards that date when, and if, they show an interest. However, it doesn't always work that smoothly, particularly if other people get involved in doing the bookings for you! I had already been booked for a little while to appear at Modbury Primary School. Modbury is a small town sort of half way between Buckfastleigh and Plymouth in South Devon. While I was away in Essex recently, my wife had taken a call from Hadleigh School in Southend-on-Sea in Essex who wanted me to come and visit very soon. Amanda had a quick look at my wall planner and managed to decipher my childish scrawl on the various dates. Sadly, for Modbury in Devon, she read Danbury in Essex. Therefore, to cut a long story mercifully short, instead of doing the show in Modbury and then heading home for an early night and a lie in the next morning, I had to leave Modbury, head for home, pack a suitcase, throw it in the car and then drive to Essex, then get up at the crack of dawn and head down to Hadleigh. In the end it wasn't too bad and both schools were so lovely it was well worth the mileage!
Starting at Modbury, I drove down the A38 and was delghted to discover that Modbury wasn't nearly as far west as I had been led to believe. It was a charming little town, quite hilly and the school was delightfully old fashioned and creaky! The children were fabulous, very keen to learn and full of enthusiasm for all things Tudor. I did the whole school in one shot, which basically means I won't be going back to that school as Henry for a few years as they have all seen the show! After a lovely lunch of gammon and roast potatoes it was back for the afternoon and the usual noise and nonsense. For a nice change the boys won the jousting, and this after I had predicted to the teachers that the girls were bound to win! I packed up and headed for home. When home I got a suitcase together and struck out for Essex at about 6pm. I arrived at my parent's house just after 9pm.
The next morning I was up and off to Hadleigh Junior School. This was another fine day, very kind friendly teachers and some challenging, excitable and bouncy pupils. I even had a nice chicken sandwich bought for me by my most charitable hosts. After a slightly fractured afternoon (we had to break for an afternoon break as well as a morning break) the day culminated in a great jousting tournament that the ladies simply walked away with. The gentlemen proved themselves to be true gentlemen by congratulating the ladies on their victory and shaking hands afterwards. Well done gentsI have had a couple of days off now, but I will be back as Henry on Tuesday next week, beginning with a half day at Tatworth School near Chard. Then I am up to Essex again for a visit to Boxted near Colchester, a quick visit to Leeds Castle for a fitting of my Father Christmas costume and then on to East Ham and Nelson Primary for a Tudor Banquet! Lovely

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

The Maynard again

Today I was due for another return visit, this time to The Maynard School in Exeter. The Maynard is a very old private school for girls. I had last visited here back in about March 2006 and I was looking forward to going back. I was very warmly greeted by the new Head Teacher of the Junior School, who even better still proved himself to be a worthy roady! Then I met up with Keagh again, the charming lady from my last visit. It was so nice to see her again, and also to see her "blossoming" so well - nearly eight months gone! The last time I visited we had a very small group of about 15 young ladies, but today we had two classes together, so there was something like 30 today. It was a good day all round. The young ladies certainly knew their stuff about the Tudors, especially one young lady called Catherine who proved to be a font of all knowledge! It was even rumoured that Noel Edmonds' daughter was in my group, but I resisted the temptation to do any "Deal or No Deal" gags.
After a fine lunch it was on to the stocks and jousting. I resisted the temptation to put either of the teachers in the stocks, firstly because Keagh was so heavily pregnant and secondly as I hardly knew Miss Bacon, the other teacher and didn't want to upset her!
Being an all girls school, the ladies inevitably won the jousting! And I got paid, a rarity these days! Thank you The Maynard, a fine day all round. Tomorrow - Modbury and then a trudge up to Essex...

Monday, November 20, 2006

Christmas Lights - Taunton

Sunday and I was back at The Somerset County Museum at Taunton Castle for a Tudor Christmas Experience! Some wonderful flyers and posters with my ugly mug on them had been plastered around the town and were being liberally distributed amongst the good people of Taunton by a Jester! I was due on for three talks during the day as usual, plus a few bits of wandering about and chatting to people. Also adding to the fun was some Tudor crafts for people to have a bash at, the alms house people were showing off their Tudor lifestyles, we had a hog roast in the main courtyard of the Castle and various volunteers selling mulled wine, mince pies and selling raffle tickets, with prizes that included signed copies of some of Mick Aston's books from the other night. To add to the fun we also had "Sparky the Somerset Dragon" in attendance, and he was going down a storm with the kids all day.
My first talk went pretty well and we had a pretty hefty turn out - but nothing compared to the second show. Simply masses and masses of people, many of them lined up on the balcony overlooking the area in which I was speaking. It went really well, everyone seemed to enjoy it, and I am pleased to say the applause at the end was relatively deafening and went on for some time! Wonderful. The final group was hard work as I was getting tired by now, added to which they were quite quiet. My wife and son turned up again, but as James has the attention span of a mayfly I didn't see much of them! I finished, said goodbye to all the usual lovely people at the Museum, including Steve Minnett again, Carrie Blogg, Barry, Teddy and everyone else, and then hurried home. My wife and I were thinking of going to see the lights switched on for Christmas, but we were too tired for words, so we went home instead! To cap a good day, I then went and got some fish and chips for the evening, and most welcome they were!
Tomorrow, I am at The Maynard in Exeter again, but then off to Modbury in Devon for my first visit to a new school. Should be fun!

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Time Team and Mick Aston

This has been a great evening. I had tickets for a talk Professor Mick Aston of the Channel 4 series "Time Team" was giving at the Wellsprings Leisure Centre in Taunton. This was to raise money for the Somerset County Museum appeal. A very good cause. I was going with my wife, Amanda, and friends Matthew Applegate and his lovely wife Sue. However, due to a lack of babysitter on our behalf, Amanda couldn't attend.
I was really looking forward to this evening as I had met Professor Aston before, back in about 2000 after he gave a talk at an Archaeology Group in Southend in Essex. I had been fortunate enough to have dinner with him afterwards and then drive him back to his hotel, which somehow I found after getting lost for what seemed a lifetime.
His talk this evening was about "Time Team" and generally the background of the show, how it gets made and what to expect from the new series. He did a question and answer session at the end. Then he hung around and signed books for people and chatted nicely. I waited my turn to talk to him. While I was waiting I was recognised by a few people as Henry VIII which was nice, and one lovely lady who thanked me for the show I did at Archbishop Cranmer school and also for the nice things I had said about the school in this very blog! Well, I shall continue saying them, as I love Archbishop Cranmer school!
Finally, I got a chance to talk to Mick, and believe it or not, he actually remembered me from that meal in Essex all those years ago. He reckoned the curry he'd had that evening was one of the best he'd ever had! I let him have some of my Henry leaflets and he assured me he would get them to the right people at Channel 4 and should they be doing a Tudor Time Team soon, I would be hearing from them. Music to my ears! He even gnashed his teeth and wailed at the fact that I hadn't been available when they had filmed at Richmond Palace and Greenwich! So did I...
Matthew, Sue and I stopped at the Royal Oak at Barrington for a couple of beers and then it was on home. A lovely evening!

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Knightwood Junior School, Chandlers Ford

After two days being ill with a thick cold and early nights, it was back on the treadmill again today. Up bright and early... well, early anyway, and then off down towards my old work place of Southampton and the town of Chandler's Ford and my return visit to Knightwood Junior School there. It was a fairly awful journey down, loads of traffic and I didn't actually get to the school until just after 8.30am. I was welcomed with a cup of tea and given my own changing room, which was nice, despite it having glass walls on nearly all sides! Thank God for blinds. It was a nice group today, 61 children, most of whom were very quiet. Some of their knowledge of the Tudors was remarkably good considering they had only started studying them after the recent half term break. The afternoon went very well, with the stocks proving very popular. The final jousting tournament was won by the Ladies - AGAIN! How is it they win nearly all the time? I am sure some scientific boffin somewhere could tell me that.
Back home this evening and taking it easy. I read up on the Bales Worldwide website from Amanda Nickerson, the MD of the company from the corporate bash last week. On her on line diary she wrote the following:
"This year we chose a medieval theme as we are aware that travellers coming to the UK, love our history, We had fire eaters, jugglers, magicians, harp music and the great man himself King Henry VIII who I have to say you had to a take a double take on as he really did look like the original man !! "
What does she mean, look like the original man?? I AM the Original Man! But thank you anyway for your ringing endorsement.
Tomorrow night I am in Taunton to see Mick Aston of Time Team fame and then I am back at the Museum in Taunton on Sunday for the Christmas launch there! Should be fun!

Monday, November 13, 2006


The King has been struck down! This is no Battle of Hastings scenario - this is a coughing, sniffing and snot scenario... One of the only draw backs of this fabulous job I am lucky enough to do, is that with all the schools I visit and the children I meet, I catch cold after cold after cold. Since September I seem to have had either a chest infection or a sniffle of some sort or other. But it was bound to get worse, and I am now struck down with a full blown, proper cold. Temperature, cough, sore throat, dizziness and more snot. Horrible. Thank God for the wonderful invention of Lemsip. It may not cure it, but by God it makes you feel better. An early night last night, another one tonight and I should be OK for the trip to Chandler's Ford in Hampshire tomorrow morning. Sniff. Sneeze. Wheeze. Pass the Lemsip...

Friday, November 10, 2006

St Teresa's, Bales Worldwide, Robert Kett and Wickford!

This has been an incredible week. I started on Tuesday, driving up to Essex to stay with my parents as I was doing a load of visits and schools in Essex/East Anglia. Things kicked off on Wednesay morning at St Teresa's Roman Catholic School in Basildon. I am always a little wary of going into a Roman Catholic School dressed as Henry VIII as it is tantamount to going to a Vegan Society Meeting dressed as a Cumberland Whirl. I had no need to worry and was welcomed very warmly by a lovely group of teachers who were all dressed up to the nines. The children in the group were fantastic as well, full of laughter and ready to roar on the participants in the jousting. The day finished with the inevitable triumph of the ladies team. Now where I would normally have just gone home and put my feet up, tonight was a bit different. I was due up at 2, Temple Place in London for a corporate event for Bales Worldwide, a very posh travel group. The journey up was awful. My dear father drove me up, but where the 20+ mile journey should have taken about 40 minutes, it was nearer an hour and a half. Just as we were approaching the place I got a panicked phone call from Emma from the agency who had booked me, desperate to know where I was. Luckily for me, all the guests were similarly held up in the gridlocked London streets. Temple Place is gorgeous, a large Victorian Gothic pile, once owned by the Astors and full of high ceilings, pannelled walls and massive fire places. Bales were entertaining their agents from their far flung resorts, and I was soon to be rubbing shoulders with people from the likes of Bhutan, Nepal, Mongolia and Kyrgyszstan (or however the hell you spell it!). My initial job was to stand at the front door with two comely wenches (one of who was from Hungary!), two heralding trumpeters and two jesters juggling with fire (one of who was Stuart Fell, well known to all us Doctor Who fans as "that bloke in the plastic bubble wrap in The Ark in Space"). As each guest arrived they would get a fanfare of trumpets and a welcoming shout from Henry, they would then have to pose for some shell-shocked looking photos before being whisked inside for a drink and a calm down. I was then brought inside for some more posing photos before my job as announcer for the evening cut in. I had to announce dinner, the speeches, that the men could remove their jackets (but not their trousers), and also to tell everyone to clear off at the end. It was a fun evening and we were treated royally by the agents and Bales Worldwide. One of the guests, who just for a second I thought was my old mate Mike Clarke from Skandia Life, came up to me at the opening reception and said in a very smooth, Etonian accent: "So you're supposed to be Henry VIII are you?" I announced that I was. "And I suppose during the day you're just some boring little office oik from somewhere ghastly like East Cheam, aren't you?" I bristled a little.
"No, I am Henry VIII full time..." He blanched.
"Really? What you travel all round the world doing this full time?"
"Yes" I lied a little. "And what do you do?" I enquired.
"I work in an office..." he said tamely, and wandered off. One nil to Henry. I finally left at about 11.30pm. A lovely friend of my father's Ralph Hayden picked me up in his car (his wife Jean was with him) and they drove me home to my parents. Ralph works as a professional driver, so please don't think I was exploiting him too much!
After getting to bed at after midnight, it was a bit of a shock when my alarm went off at 5.45 am. I was on my way to Wymondham in Norfolk and my third visit in three years to Robert Kett Junior School. I love going to Robert Kett as they are all so nice and welcoming there. The journey up was awful with a bad accident in Long Stratton holding me up for half an hour and nearly making me very late. But the kids were wonderful as ever, the teachers as welcoming as ever (Natasha my usual host there was off on maternity leave, so hello Natasha and new little girl!) and the food delicious! The King was very pleased. The costumes were absolutely stunning this year, but then Robert Kett school always seems to have some of the best costumes. A very quick afternoon session ended with another victory for the girls in the jousting.
Friday I was at another school I hadn't visited before - Wickford Junior This was another superb day. About 90 children, all really excited and up for it. Three lovely teachers, all in splendid costumes and a nice lunch of spaggy bol! I shall return, if they want me of course. The finale at the jousting was amazing, as the boys won! Now that really was a red letter day. I stopped on the way back from the school in Billericay to pay some cheques into my account, and I am due to drive back to Somerset tomorrow morning (Saturday). My next Henry is due at Chandlers Ford in Hampshire near Southampton on Tuesday. Another return visit which I am looking forward to. Have a nice weekend everyone!

Monday, November 06, 2006

Leeds Castle and Whiz Bangs...

A very nice if somewhat peculiar day occurred on Saturday. I mean apart from the usual horrendous loss by Manchester City, I don't think I can recall a Saturday like it. I woke up at my usual sort of time, 7am, and pottered about a bit. I then loaded the car with my Henry gear and headed up the old A303. I was off to Leeds Castle in Kent - again! But this was with a slight difference from normal.
The journey to Kent was easy and I soon arrived at my sister's house in Stockbury, near Sittingbourne, and had a nice cup of tea and a chat with her and her husband, Julian. She cooked me a lovely lunch of chicken enchilladas, a quick tour of all the house work they are having done and then I was off over to Leeds Castle itself. I was to help out at a Fireworks Party being held in the main castle. A large company had hired the castle and had invited various clients and their children for a days entertainment, culminating in a firework display attended by the general public as well - and there were 1,000's of them there already when I arrived! I got changed in the estate office as usual and was then whizzed in an open top golf buggy up to the main castle. This was the most frightening part of the day as the man driving me obviously reckoned he was Michael Schumacher and I had nothing to hold on to, including my dignity. My main job at the do was to meet and greet people at the front door of the castle as they arrived. After battling past me inside was a veritable Aladdin's cave of goodies and fun for the kids. There were rows of Sega car and motorbike racing games that the children could play for free, face painting and henna hand designs, oodles of good food, a cool jazz quartet in the old library and an amazing magician and balloon artist. I started at 2pm and was allowed to go by 4.30pm as the children and their families were off to watch the main firework display. Therefore, after getting changed I was on my way back to Somerset by 5pm and home by 7.30pm. It didn't really feel like I had been to Kent and back at all!
I had a nice relaxing Sunday, pausing only to watch Torchwood and throw buckets of icy water over my wife everytime Captain Jack Harkness appeared on the screen, and so on to this week. Tomorrow (Tuesday) I drive to Essex to stay with my parents. On Wednesday I am at St Theresa's School in Basildon in the day and in the evening I am at 2, Temple Place for a corporate do. Thursday I am up bright and early and off to Robert Kett Junior again in Wymondham, and on Friday I am at Wickford Junior Exhausting and fun. Which is how my wife reckoned Captain Jack Harkness might be.

Friday, November 03, 2006

Archbishop Cranmer - the school not the man...

This was a nice return visit for me. I hadn't been to Archbishop Cranmer School in Taunton since September 2004, so it was nice to get back to them. I had fond memories of my previous visit and was looking forward to seeing Tracy, the teacher I deal with there, again. I arrived smack on time and walked up to the main office to announce myself. The nice lady in the office gave me a swipe card so I could get into the school gym as that was where I was to spend my day. I began setting up my stuff. I heard the approach of footsteps and two people came in - one was Sally, a lovely lady who on my previous visit was unfortunate enough to have her foot in plaster and was unable to really join in the whole thing. Today she was back on top form and dressed as Anne Boleyn, complete with the obligatory green sleeves. She was accompanied by a nice small lady dressed as a fine Tudor wench. That was a fine sight for a King first thing on a frosty morning! What I failed to realise until it was almost time for me to leave was that this tiny wench was in fact Tracy who I normally deal with! I didn't recognise her! She has lost some weight and changed her hairstyle and that combined with the wench costume fooled me completely - Tracy, if you are reading this, many many apologies! You looked great!
The day went swimmingly. I have been suffering of late with a sprained ankle, but have been giving it regular treatments of ibuprofen to stop any swelling and that, combined with an ankle support saw me through the day fine.
The kids group were great - it was years 3 and 4 and they were wonderful. Really interested, very ready to laugh and had some great, if occasionally bizarre questions! We had a break in the morning for the children to take part in a song for worship assembly, but the rest of the day went as usual. The afternoon stocks session was very good and poor old Tracy got picked by the class to go in as the teacher who needed punishing. The jousting was a fine session. I picked a ladies team to help me with the demonstration before the racing in earnest began. They were very slow and didn't really seem to get it. I thought to myself that if these ladies win this tournament I would emigrate to Siberia. Well to be honest, I should be packing my bags for the long train to Tunguska region as somehow, against the odds, these ladies battled their way through the ladies championship to the grand final and then defeated the gentlemen's champs as well. Hats off to those ladies. A wonderful win!
I then packed up and headed for home, tired and happy. And by the evening my ankle was still feeling OK. So a good day all round. I am off to Leeds Castle tomorrow for a fireworks party! See you there I hope.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Somerset Rural Life Museum

I was quite excited about today - a visit to Glastonbury and the Somerset Rural Life Museum. I was due to give three talks here today. I arrived at just before 10am and was due on for my first Henry at 11.30am. The people I meet at all these schools, castles and museums that I visit never fail to amaze me with their warmth, charm and good nature. They couldn't do enough for me this morning and I was introduced to all these fine people, so many of them volunteers. I was due to be giving my talks in the great Abbey Barn in their grounds and it was a wonderful venue. With it's high vaulted ceiling and rough dirt floor, plus the secluded lighting giving an impression of candlelight, all just added to the atmosphere.
My first group came in, probably somewhere in the region of 30+ people. It was nice to chat to them and get some laughs as well. I wheedled in some info about the Dissolution of the Monasteries as requested by Mary at the County Museum. It went really well and I got some lovely comments at the end of it, from young and old alike. All commented on how much like Henry VIII I was, more than any other Henry VIIIth look-a-like they had seen, which was extremely gratifying.
After a lovely meal of a kind of Ploughman's lunch with farmhouse cheddar and home-made apple pickle (which was fabulous), I was back in the Barn for the two afternoon talks. The first of these was particularly memorable for me as the jousting was contested by a lovely little lad called Cameron who made up for any lack of jousting skill with sheer enthusiasm and speed. Quoits, horses and targets flew in various directions and hardly anyone really noticed when the other team won - all eyes were firmly on Cameron's team!
The final session was packed out and with some lovely people. One family had their fourteen year old daughter with them who is into role play and history, and was she delighted to discover you could make a living out of historical re-enactment. She reckoned this was the career that beckoned her after school. Good for her! Another couple stopped me as I was packing stuff away and again commented that it was scary how much like Henry VIII I was. I know I am the same height as Henry and my build always helps. You do see some people impersonating Henry and there is a passing resemblance (and some times absolutely none at all!), but I am proud to say that I feel confident that there are few others as accurate as me at present. This may sound big headed and blowing my own trumpet a bit, but I am proud of what I do and I enjoy it, and getting these comments back are always very gratifying. So thank you!
When I got home, there was already a phone call from a teacher who's sister had been at the show today and had rung her saying how good I was, and that she must get me into her school ASAP. Well, who am I to argue?

Saturday, October 21, 2006

Monkwick Junior, Ghosts and Conkers...

Thursday the 19th October saw me still at my parent's house in Essex and this time getting up to drive to Colchester and Monkwick Junior School. This was a wonderful school - and my first visit. The teachers were lovely - very friendly and funny, and the children were great. Some superb costumes to be seen, and about 90% of them appearing to be home made. I had a nice, if somewhat bizarre lunch of cheesey mashed potato, before the afternoon session, which was a real rip snorter. The kids all laughed at the appropriate moments and the gents won the jousting AGAIN. This might turn into some sort of habit... A fond farewell was said to all the teachers and TA's, and particularly to "Friar Tucker" from Teeside, before I was on my way back to my parent's house. I had been planning to drive back to Somerset that evening, but I was just so tired, I decided against it. Instead, my father and I sat and watched the football all evening on Channel 5.
I drove home on the Friday morning, but the weather and the traffic were abysmal. A journey that should have taken three hours took more like four and a half. But I was home. After a quick trip to the bank and a cuddle with my wife and son, I was off again, this time back to Barrington Court for their annual Ghost Story evening. All the people taking part first met up in Matthew Applegate's apartment in Strode House (next to Barrington Court) where Matthew's lovely wife Sue had made bucket-loads of tasty home made soup - delicious. I met up with all the other performers and volunteers for the evening. It was lovely, lots of jokes and laughs. Matthew's sister and her partner were there and were due to be dressed up as ghosts in white clothing and white faces. Sue was dressed up as "The Lady in White" with a long Jane Austen-type dress, white face and long blonde wig! They were sent off to patrol the upper long gallery in the Court and hopefully scare the pants off various punters. Other people there included some lovely ladies from Martock Panto society, one of whom was to do a reading of one ghost story, while another was joining me in making spectral noises and window scratching during another reading. We did this with great aplomb, however it did make us quite hysterical and with the added fun of everything taking place in the pitch dark, it did give the general idea that this evening was a mix of "Most Haunted" and a "Carry On" film.
With the first two stories read to the punters, Matthew and his assistant Helen (who was organising the whole shebang) suddenly realised things were running too quickly and the punters would have to be delayed before they could sit down to their dinners. Myself and Rae (if that is how you spell it), a charming lady from the Martock Panto, were asked to go outside and hide under a chestnut tree in our historical robes, the punters would then be led past on a night time walk whereupon we would be needed to moan, howl, shake the tree and generally give them the heebie-jeebies. Rae and I ventured outside and clambered under one of the conker trees, immediately feeling ourselves sinking into the soft earth. We laughed and chuckled and made various rude innuendo jokes involving conker trees, Sean Bean and "Lady Chatterly", but of the punters there was not a sign. Time passed. Still no sign of them. Eventually I see a torch beam in the distance - this must be them! I flash my torch beam briefly in the tree tops to let them know we are ready. Nothing happens. The torch beam eventually comes a lot closer and turns out to be a security guard. I think he thought Rae and I might be a courting couple as when he shone his torch on us, his first words were a mumbled and embarrassed "Ooh! Sorry!"
Eventually we are summoned back into the house after not a sign of anyone to scare. We all sit back in Matthew's apartment and drink some wine and chat and tell some terrible jokes, and then it is my turn for my story. I go down to the restaurant and read "The Black Cat" by Edgar Allen Poe, and get a great response from the listeners. And then that is that! Lots of goodbyes, and a "Hello" from Estelle, a lovely lady my wife used to work with as a community mid-wife and who helped look after my son when he was first born, and then it was time for me to head for home. I finally got home about 10.45pm. It had been a long day, but by God it had been fun! To Matthew and Helen, thank you for organising it. To Sue, thanks for the soup and wine. To all the other performers - lovely to meet you all. And finally, to Rae - smashing conkers, love!
And now, off to Wales for a couple of days at my sisters. Bye!

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Pyrcroft Grange and Blean School - again...

It was a very early start for me on the morning of Monday the 16th October. I was to drive from Somerset up to Pyrcroft Grange School in Chertsey in Surrey. I arrived about half an hour early, but passed the time reading the Times and drinking some Diet Coke! I hadn't been to Pyrcroft Grange for nearly two years, but it was nice to be back again. I was welcomed warmly as ever and set up my stuff in a side room - we wouldn't have full access to the hall until the afternoon session, but that was fine. Pyrcroft is a fine school, with a lot of integration between disabled, autistic and, for want of a better word, full able bodied children. This always makes it quite a special day - and it always makes for some left field questions and answers - as evidenced again today! After explaining all about Henry's eating and culinary habits, I was asked by one boy if it was true Henry ate Elephants. I explained that this was not the case. Another boy then asked whether Elephants were made of meat. I told him that all Elephants were actually made of re-formed saw dust. I then had to explain to him that I was joking. For those of you wondering, they are of course made from railway sleepers and bacofoil. The afternoon whizzed by and a fine jousting session was JUST won by the boys for a nice change. Lots of friendly goodbyes at the end and then I was on my way - but not back to Somerset...
From Chertsey I got back on the dear old M25 and headed for my sister's house in Kent. It was a relatively easy journey and I was soon with her supping a cup of tea. Her husband Julian came home from work with a very welcoming bottle of wine and a take-away curry - very nice! We sat and watched the film "The Village" which was nicely creepy, but predictable. Next morning I was up bright and early and off to one of my favourite schools that I visit every year - Blean Primary near Canterbury! This is just a fabulous school - always have wonderful kids, friendly teachers, the nicest caretaker you ever want to meet and easy to find - it doesn't get much better than that for a Henry VIII person! We had another lovely day, lots of laughs and fun, and getting everything back to how it normally is - the girls won the jousting! It was back to my sister's near Sittingbourne for a cup of tea and some guitar strumming before heading off to Essex to stay the night with my parents near Brentwood.
Today has been more or less a day off. Some bank work and paper work but nothing else. My father and mother treated me to lunch at The Mason's Arms restaurant in the Ingrave Road in Brentwood which was FANTASTIC, and then an evening at leisure! Tomorrow morning I am at Monkwick Junior School in Colchester and then heading back to sunny Somerset for a Ghost Story evening at Barrington Court! Lovely.
Ah! I hear the sound of a cork being pulled from a bottle! How that tune haunts me...

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Hazeldene Lower School and Everyone's a Star!

It was another trip over to the South East of England for me, this time, via Bedfordshire. I was due at Hazeldene Lower School in Bedford on the Monday morning, but I decided to drive to my parents the day before, just to make life a little easier. The drive up on Sunday and at about lunch time was very easy and quite pleasant. The following morning, I woke early (about 5.30-ish) and headed on to the M25 and struck out for Bedford. For some reason I had got it into my head that Hazeldene Lower School was going to be a posh private school, with undulating lawns and deer nibbling at the croquet hoops, very much like Monkton Combe in Bath. I was wrong! It was a perfectly normal, lovely state school run by some of the nicest teachers you could ever wish to meet. Karen Styles in particular was charming and friendly in the extreme. The group of children were an exciteable bunch of Year 3's and laughed longer and louder at some of my jokes than was seemingly possible! The jousting was, as ever, won by the ladies and after being paid I was on my way home. Hazeldene was a lovely school and I would be delighted to go back there.
Monday evening, I was invited to meet up with my old friend Sara Turner at the Star Pub in Ingatestone in Essex. This was a real homecoming for me. The Star was a pub that Sara and I used to visit every Monday night about 10-15 years ago. It is a really old fashioned place inside and I reckon hasn't been touched by a developer since the Crimean war. Every Monday a group of musicians get together and play bluegrass music in a jam session. Now I am not really into bluegrass, aside from the occasional burst of "Foggy Mountain Breakdown" or "Man of Constant Sorrow", but "live" in this wonderful old pub it works. How nice it was to return to the Star and find all the same musicians still there! Dave Wilcox on banjo, Alex on violin, Keith on guitar, Dave on Harmonica, spoons and jug, and many more. They made my evening by, first actually remembering who the hell I was and secondly, as I was leaving early due to being incredibly tired, they played their usual finale piece, "Dead Skunk" (a Loudon Wainwright III song - don't knock it till you've heard it!) early as I was leaving. Lovely! I shall return. Funnily enough I have just received an email from Alex as he has tracked me down via my website. I shall reply to him shortly. It was a lovely day all round really.
I have just had a phone call from an entertainments company asking me to appear at an evening show near Temple in London on the evening of the 8th November. I am sure I can get a lift up from my father, but they have kindly offered to pay for a cab back to Essex for me after the show which is lovely.
Next show? Pyrcroft Grange school in Chertsey, Surrey next Monday.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

High Wycombe, Norfolk and Taunton!

Back on the jolly treadmill again, with a series of appearances dotted all over the place. It began in the wee small hours of Thursday the 28th of September. I got up very early and began the long drive/slog up the A303 and all points east towards my destination - namely Godstowe Prep School in High Wycombe. I got there about 45 minutes early due to an almost total lack of any other traffic on the road. I wasn't complaining mind you, I just simply parked up and read my new Private Eye magazine and drank some Diet Coke - anything to keep my school girl figure nice and trim...
This was my second visit to Godstowe Prep and it is always great fun. It is a Girl's school and they always dress up in the finest costumes you have ever seen. There are some fine dress makers in High Wycombe it would seem. We had a lovely day with a great group of young ladies and some friendly charming teachers as well. Lunch was pretty good as well, so no complaints from the King! Next I had to face the M25 again and drive round to my parents in Essex for where I was staying for the next few nights. My wife and son had come up under their own steam and were waiting for me when I got there. Lovely!
Friday, 29th September - I over slept marginally, but had to whiz up the A12 a little faster than anticipated. I got as far as Capel St Mary and yet another car crash on this road held me up with both lanes closed. I had to cut across country and hope that my Sat Nav could sort out a route. I was on my way to West Flegg Middle School in Martham near Great Yarmouth in Norfolk. Luckily the Sat Nav was on top form and I arrived at West Flegg more or less smack on time. This again, was a return visit to a school and once again I was treated Royally by all that were there. Once again the children's costumes were superb and we had another fab and groovy day. As ever, back to a co-ed school and it's the ladies who are walking away with the jousting honours. West Flegg is always a firm favourite to return to, so thanks to them again for being such charming helpful hosts.
I had the weekend mostly at leisure and enjoyed myself at my parents. Sunday night I had to drive back to Somerset as I was due to be up and about bright and early on the Monday, and so I was!
Monday the 2nd October I was due at a school I hadn't visited before - Ruishton Primary near Taunton. It was a lovely school - almost all of it brand spanking new and with some lovely children in the group we had. Lots of good questions and fun and laughter, particularly in the afternoon. Once again, the fine range of costumes was a testament to some hard work on a lt of people's parts and was as ever much appreciated by me. For a nice change the gentlemen triumphed in the jousting, evening the score out just a little, and then I posed for photos with some group shots and then with individual shots with every child. Ruishton is a delightful school with some lovely children and teachers, again thank you for the warm welcome.
That evening I was out again. This time I had been asked by my friend Matthew Applegate of Barrington Court to be master of ceremonies at the annual South Somerset National Trust Pub Quiz! This is the big time folks! It was great fun, held in the function room of the Royal Oak Pub in Barrington Village. Lots of laughs and good company, and I was treated to my drinks and dinner, which is no bad thing. But, by heck, was I ready for my bed when I got home that night!
Next stop? Hazledean School in Bedfordshire next Monday. Check press for more info!

Monday, September 25, 2006

A Very Private Henry

Another weekend, so it must mean another visit to Leeds Castle in Kent! This Sunday just gone was a bit different, I had been asked to appear at an 80th Birthday party at the Castle for Nikki from hospitality's Granny. The event took place in the gatehouse, but as usual I got changed using Darlene's office in the estate office complex. This time, instead of being driven to my venue in a golf buggy, Nikki walked me over to the gatehouse. Nikki looked lovely all "dolled up" and when I commented on her looking so nice she said "I scrub up quite well". Understatement of the year, Nikki! A walk that would normally take about 5 minutes ended up taking almost three times as long due to lots of photo's being requested by tourists. At the gatehouse, there was a harpist from London, playing some beautiful music, and Davey the jester who I worked with back in June after the jousting tournament. He would be the main entertainment of the day, while my job was to mingle amongst the guests, chat to people, wander round the table and be charming. It was a tough job but someone had to do it. In between visits round the table I would occasionally pop outside for a little wander and was always immediately swamped with cameras and tourists, but it was great fun. Helen Budd and friends turned up briefly at one point as I was outside posing madly and they took the mickey out of my new white tights - how dare they!
Davey and I were then treated to a lovely roast beef lunch which was quite stunning, then we had another quick bash around the tables, it got to three o'clock and we were on our way.
I popped back to my sister's house near Sittingbourne to pick up Amanda and James who had accompanied me this weekend and then we struck out for Somerset. We arrived home after a good run at about 6.45pm, and by 7.30pm I was at the Dinnington Docks pub with Matthew Applegate from Barrington Court again! I arrived home about 10pm and was soon in bed, exhausted but happy. It was a lovely day all round.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Dean Close Prep II - The Return

Just about three months had passed since my last visit to Dean Close prep in Cheltenham, but here I was going back again. The journey there this time wasn't quite so easy. It had been plain sailing up to getting on the Gloucester Road into Cheltenham. There had been some sort of incident and a major road filtering off had been closed by the Police causing some lengthy tailbacks. Luckily, I managed to get to the school by about 8.30-ish. I was met by Laura Sorrell as my usual contact there Caroline Hatchell had decided that climbing Mount Snowdon was preferable to meeting the King again, and who can blame her! Laura was a wonderful substitute and looked after me wonderfully all day.
We were in the main theatre/hall space of the school as opposed to the Library for my last visit. It was a good group of kids, some of them were a little challenging to begin with, but I won them over. Despite having only studied the Tudors for the previous two weeks, they showed some remarkably good knowledge on the subject. I managed to cram in the vast majority of the day into the morning session, this being a private school, all their timings are different to state schools.
Lunch was marvellous yet again. This time I was treated to a lovely Chinese meal of sweet and sour chicken, mushroom chow mein and vegetable fried rice, with the addition of some prawn crackers. Lovely.
After lunch we were in the hall for a bit more fun and games with the stocks and then a final rip roaring jousting session. Despite the gentlemen having one of their teachers as a member of their team, the ladies STILL managed to triumph!
Laura then very helpfully helped me get all my stuff out to my car and even set about trying to sort out a quick payment for me for my days work. What a lovely lady!
The drive home was a lot quicker and easier than the drive up and it was nice to get home to a hug and a kiss from my wife and son.
If Dean Close keep up their usual booking procedures with me, I should be back with them just before Christmas.

Saturday, September 16, 2006

Manor Court School, Chard

Friday 15th September was a return visit to Manor Court School in Chard. This was my third annual visit to this school and I reckon the children there just keep getting better and better. There must have been about 60 of them for the visit and they were great! Sparky, bright and ready to laugh and learn - perfect for a Good King Hal day! It was lovely to see Lizzie Reynolds again, who always makes me so welcome there and is such a nice lady. This was my first full day at a school for a while and I reckon it went quite well. I am suffering a little at the moment with a chest infection I have picked up from my son, but apart from a few alarming hacks the voice and chest stood up to the day quite well.
One or two of the children were keen to show off their Henry VIII and Tudors knowledge and Lizzie should be proud of them as they have only been learning about this period in time for a short while.
We had to take a short break during the middle of the morning as the hall was needed for an assembly, but the rest of the day seemed to whiz past for me. My usual saunter down the road to Somerfield to buy some lunch was pleasant and the afternoon a real riot. As usual the ladies triumphed in the jousting, much to the annoyance of the boys team!
I was paid on the day, something I always appreciate, and then it was just the case of a small drive home and a nice evening sipping some wine and relaxing. A good day! Thanks again, Manor Court School. See you next year.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Charlton Horethorne

Final evidence that the summer is now over came with my first Henry back on the school circuit since Bridgwater. I had got so used to doing either walkabouts or truncated talks at castles of museums, thankfully Charlton Horethorne had booked me back for a half day. Belinda Stephens who had booked me way back in December 2004 was again the wonderful lady to book me this time. As ever it was a delightful school to visit. Only 18 pupils for the talk, but so sparky and lively - and still only year 3's! I did the main talk, a bit about sport and music, my usual nonsense with the stocks and finished with a rip roaring jousting contest that the boys won by a whisker. All in all a lovely day.
Next port of call is Manor Court School in Chard on Friday. My third visit in as many years! What a regular!

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Not A Bobby Dazzler After All...

Just a quick note to say that because of too little time and a lack of someone to adequately baby sit for us, my appearance on Bargain Hunt has been postponed until the next series. :(
Never mind. I shall update more info as and when I hear it.

Monday, September 11, 2006

The Daily Tudorgraph Fun Day

Another weekend and another visit to Leeds Castle in Kent. I drove down on Saturday the 9th September to stay at my long suffering sister and brother-in-law's. My presence was obviously too much for my sister who immediately took to her car and went out for the evening with her chums. I had been invited to my friends Anne and Ben's for dinner. They live in the delightful village of Shoreham near Sevenoaks. Anne cooked a fabulous meal of roast lamb which had been marinated/coated in a variety of herbs and was served with a reduced red wine gravy, potatoes and green beans. Delicious. And all this after I had virtually invited myself over for dinner. They deserve medals. When I got back to my sister's at about 11.30pm, her husband had gone out as well. I think they are trying to tell me something.
Sunday at the castle was great fun. It was basically the Daily Telegraph works outing, in all but name. There was a large marquee with seating for about 500 people, a cool jazz combo in the corner and several bars serving lots of nice and naughty drinks. Outside there was a massive roundabout, various ice cream stalls, a laser-gun battle zone, mini-quad bikes for the children, archery, clay pigeon shooting, Punch and Judy, and of course, me! I was in charge of announcements of all the fun and activities during the day and took great delight in meeting and greeting as many of the customers as I could. The heat was almost unbearable and I managed to borrow some sun block off one nice lady as I could feel my nose and bottom lip burning! There was also a 4x4 and proper quad bike area for the grown ups to enjoy. The guys from the hawking centre came and did their thing for the crowd again. Almost the finale for me was compering and adjuticating the tug-of-war between two scratch teams of hot and drink addled Telegraph employees. It was a hoot! I also got to meet Simon Heffer. I am sure he was thrilled. He and his wife were very kind and generous to me and I extend a big hello and thank you to them! HELLO AND THANK YOU! There, I did it.
Next stop? Charlton Horethorne school near Sherborne for a half day on Wednesday, then our Bargain Hunt interview on Thursday.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

A Real Bobby-Dazzler

If I suddenly appear to be talking very Tim Wonnacott from "Bargain Hunt" then do forgive me, things will become clear as this blog unfolds. We start back on Friday 1st September. I was to drive to Kent to stay with my sister and her husband again as I was back on parade at Leeds Castle again for the Ballooning and Classic Car Show that weekend. I drove to them via my parents in Essex as I hadn't seen them for a long time. I had a nice leisurely lunch with them and then headed down to Kent. Cathy and Julian were as welcoming as ever and only set the dogs on me once. Friday evening there was a barbeque at Leeds Castle as a thank you to all the people appearing at the weekend, so I took Cath and Julian as my guests. We had some lovely food and sat on a terrace over looking the castle, which looked fabulous lit with spot lights in the darkness.
Saturday was the first day of the balloon festival. I arrived at the Castle at about 9.30am to be told that there was little or no chance of any more balloon launches after 20+ had gone off at 6.30am - the weather was just too bad. This was also a classic car weekend and I was occasionally assailed by car anoraks trying to tell me about their latest front end differential changes or how much the parping couplet on their revolving squonk pan had made such a difference to their overall gearing ratios. Like I cared? It was a bit of a depressing day all round really. Pitifully few people in through the door and steady drizzly rain driven by a keen wind. I met some lovely people and had loads of piccies taken, but when it came to finish at 4pm I was quite grateful. What a difference a day makes! Sunday was another kettle of fish altogether. Although it started out badly, the weather was never quite as bad as Saturday, with strong sunshine and warmth for the afternoon. Sadly the wind was still too strong for any balloon launches. Masses of people piled into the castle and I met some fabulous people. I'd like to say a big hello to my friends on the Cappucino stall and the Pimms stall - thanks for everything! Also the lovely lady and her gentleman friend on the kite stall - hello to you. I got my photo taken with the Saga Balloon which will hopefully be used on the Saga Magazine at some point. My parents read that! And finally a big hello to the ladies of the Pimms Balloon! I finished about 4.30pm, had a nice leisurely Pimms to finish and said goodbye to dear Darlene and Helen, who have, as usual, been absolute stars. And so was Scott!
I drove back to Somerset and was pleased to see my bed. The following day I get a phone call from the BBC asking me if I'd like to be on "Bargain Hunt". Who am I to refuse such a kind offer! Amanda and I are travelling up to Wells next Thursday (14th) and then we will hopefully be on to Shepton Mallett for some filming on 23rd September and then onto auction on the 1st November. Keep everything crossed for us! Just think, the BBC are getting Henry VIIIth for free almost - now THAT'S a bargain!
Finally, another message from Sudeley Castle in Gloucestershire who have booked me for the three days of the 2nd bank holiday weekend in May 2007. It was nice to hear from Danielle there again.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Henry Matters

After what has seemed like a lifetime of not much activity, all Hell appears to have broken loose in the world of Henry. Things got off to a relatively mild start with a day at the Somerset County Museum at Taunton Castle on the 19th August. This was the first Henry activity for almost exactly a month and I was rusty to say the least. I did three talks on the day, one at 10.30am, one at 12 noon and another at 2pm. During the first talk, I forgot names of people from history, kept forgetting pieces of historical information and generally looking like a fat Tudor half-wit who hadn't done a presentation in over a month. The second and third shows were much, much better and I felt far more confident. They are all so welcoming and friendly at the museum. It is such a lovely place, so interesting and yet, tragically, so few people seem to know about it.
During the following week I had a meeting with Matthew Applegate from Barrington Court again, to see how we could publicise my visit to the house on Sunday the 27th August. Sadly, due to computer error, Matthew missed the deadline for putting an advert in the Western Gazette. After our meeting I vowed to get some publicity for Barrington Court and bombarded local radio stations with the news that Henry was a-coming in. Luckily BBC Radio Somerset Sound bit on the bait and I was summoned to appear on the Simon Parkin show on the Saturday morning. I was due back at the castle again that day, so I could kill two birds with one stone. I parked at the museum and walked round to the radio station. The interview was very good and lasted for about 15 minutes and I managed to get some good plugs in for the County Museum and for Barrington Court. It was then back to the museum for another three talks. All went really well and we had some excellent responses from the audiences.
Sunday was a long day! I got up very early and drove to Ilchester to do a car boot sale as we needed the money and we had far too much rubbish lying around the place. I sold piles and piles of books and CD's at only 50p a go and came home with nearly £40 profit. Not bad. I then had to unload the car of the unsold stuff and reload the car with my Henry stuff. I was then off over to Barrington Court and another Henry walkabout day. It was quite quiet, but the weather was lovely and really in conditions like that, there is no finer place in the whole of the West Country than Barrington Court. We had a lovely time and I was presented with a bucket of tea and the most delicious piece of lemon cake you have ever had as a thank you for my days efforts as the house was closing. I slept well that night.
Bank Holiday Monday, I was back at the county museum inTaunton again for three more talks. We had a much lower turn out for the first two shows than we had on the previous Saturdays, but the 2pm show was quite well attended and we had another fine day with some lovely people. I have to say, I was incredibly tired last night from my Henry work.
Coming up? Leeds Castle again, this coming weekend as I am attending their Balloon Festival on both Saturday and Sunday. And the weekend after that? Leeds Castle again. And two weeks after that? Leeds Castle AGAIN. Funny old world.

Monday, August 14, 2006

Just What is Going On With Henry?

Hello! In answer to the title of this blog, not a lot. It is the close season for Henry VIIIth as all the schools are having a little lie down and a rest. Lots of bookings are coming in for next term, and I have bookings right through until July next year. Everything kicks off again next Saturday, when I am on at Taunton Castle Museum again, something I am very much looking forward to as it is always such a good place to put in an appearance. The weekend after that I am at the Museum on the Saturday and the Bank Holiday Monday, and I shall be at Barrington Court on the Sunday. What a busy little Tudor bee.
September is shaping up nicely. I am at Leeds Castle again for the balloon festival during the first weekend, back at Leeds Castle for the Daily Telegraph Childrens party the following weekend and then back at Leeds for the weekend of the 23rd/24th for another party appearance. Add on top of that the vast number of school bookings for that month as well and we are doing OK, thank you very much!
I will be back at Leeds Castle for much of December as they have booked me as their Father Christmas this year. You have been warned...

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

End of the Season...

My final show of this academic year was postponed for a week. I had been due to appear at Sedgemoor Manor Junior School in Bridgwater, a booking that had been on the books for some time. A few days before I was due there, one of the teachers at the school phoned me to say there were some problems and it was likely the day would be, at best postponed, but more likely cancelled. Eventually it was the postponement that won and I found myself on the early Tuesday morning driving up the M5 to Bridgwater. The school was relatively easy to find. The surrounding streets in Bridgwater reminded me greatly of the roads I used to drive round in Dagenham for the Essex Water Company in my previous life! The school was great and I had a group of about 100 children, of whom about 25%-30% had dressed up in some fabulous costumes. One lad was a particularly fine Jester. The day went quite well, even though the stifling heat of the hall was a little over-powering at times. The afternoon's jousting went as usual with the ladies trouncing the men!
Tuesday evening I was back at the Dinnington Docks to meet up with Matthew Applegate from Barrington Court for another "brain storming" session about future ways we can use Henry at the lovely NT site. Of course, for "brain storming" you should read "beer drinking", but it was good fun anyway. I hope Matthew made it home on his bike in his delicate state...
Wednesday. The hottest day on record in the UK. Thank God I wasn't dressed up as Henry. Another booking came in today. A re-visit to Friends School in Saffron Walden in Essex for January next. I am looking forward to that.
My wife has posted my details on the "Mumsnet" website, so hello to all Mumsnet people out there!

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Even More Tudor Lunacy

Again, a few days have gone by since my last missive, so it only seems fair that I should update you as to Good King Hal's whereabouts.
Friday, 30th June, I was at North Crescent Primary in Wickford, Essex. A really nice school. These lovely people had booked me months and months ago, and I was a bit worried they might have forgotten about it, but they hadn't. We had a fine time. Lovely teachers and kids.
Monday, July 3rd. Finton House School in Wandsworth in London. This was my return visit to this lovely school, and as ever I was warmly welcomed by all. It was a scorching day and I didn't really fancy driving up there during the rush hour, so I left really early from my parent's house in Essex (where I was staying) and sailed through. I sat in the car outside the school gates until I saw some life inside. It was a sweltering day and I really roasted in my costume, but the kids had all dressed fabulously and made the day as memorable as last year. They have already booked me for next year! Thank you!
Tuesday, July 4th. Cavalry Primary School in March in Cambridgeshire. This was a much further trip than I could have imagined, but it was worth it! Really fabulous school, very welcoming teachers and some great kids. If anything, the day seemed even hotter than the day at Wandsworth - if the temperature kept increasing exponentially with the days, by Friday I would be likely to spontaneously combust. I headed back to my parent's house and unwisely accepted my Father's invitation to stay and watch the Germany v Italy World Cup Semi Final. I didn't leave their house until about 10.30pm and then had to drive to Somerset. I got home about 1.30am. YAWN!
Wednesday, July 5th. Uplands School, Poole, Dorset. Again, I had to get up early. This was going to be a hard day. But actually it was great. Uplands proved to be a lovely school, some wonderful teachers and great kids. And they had so much going on! Aside from my visit there were Art Animators doing a project with one group of kids and some dancers doing a Funk Music project with another group. What a cool school! I wore the new green/purple outfit from Duncan for the first time today - and I roasted! It is considerably heavier than the other new outfit and was not a wise choice on such a sultry day.
I had a couple of days off with James for company which was nice, but then it was back to the Henry routine on Tuesday when I visited Daubeney Middle School in Kempston just outside Bedford. I did this all in one day - I left home at 5am and arrived at the school at 8am. I buzzed the intercom to be let in.
"Who is it?" asked the lady in the office. I was now due to reveal who I was, always a nice thing as it usually gets such a laughter filled response. Usually.
"Henry the VIIIth - here for the Tudor day." There was a long quiet pause.
"What, today?" The colour must have drained from my face.
"Er....yes, today.... I think..." Her silence back to me seemed to last a lifetime but was probably only a few seconds.
"Oh yes! It is today, I was looking at the wrong page on my calendar..." Phew!
The day was great - a big group but a good group. Loads of laughs and everyone pitching in and enjoying themselves. The ladies nicked the jousting tournament and then it was time for me to head for home - 3 hours. I got in at 6.30pm. I was finished, almost literally.
I have been doing some paper work and getting plenty of bookings for September and beyond. Some nice photos have been sent to me from Leeds Castle's jousting weekend. I'll try and post some on here soon. Good to be back.
Next week - Sedgemoor Junior.

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

It's Been A While

Sorry this posting has not been updated for a while. I have been slightly busy! Since my last posting my first big Henry visit was down to Truro in Cornwall for a visit to Truro School Prep. I got there nice and early and was warmly welcomed by all the staff, and I mean ALL the staff dressed as Tudors! What a great start. It was a big big group, but we had a great day, all of the children dressed magnificently, we had a parade of costumes to the lower school and lunchtime was spent on the cricket pitch eating a spit roast of pork. Fantastic! I wonder if all schools in Cornwall are like this? I hope so! The afternoon joust was a belter, in the big school sports hall and after that I had the long trek back to Somerset, but I was going against the tide this particular Friday evening, the queues heading west were vast... Truro School Prep was a really good school. Highly recommended.
Monday the 19th I was down at West Hill near Ottery St Mary in Devon for a school visit there. Another wonderfully friendly school with some brilliant kids. I think a good time was had by all.
Tuesday the 20th, it was a visit I had been looking forward to for some time - West Pennard School near Glastonbury. The teacher who booked me there, Ian Gouge, had heard about me through his daughter seeing me at Trull Primary late last year. We had swapped emails and he had shown he had just as silly a sense of humour as me! The day was, as I expected it, tremendous fun. Great sparky kids and a load of laughs with everyone. Ian was an absolute star!
Wednesday I was at Birchfield School in Yeovil. This was another lovely day. The teachers and children were so friendly and welcoming. We had some great laughs, learnt a lot about the Tudors and everyone seemed to get something out of the day. Wonderful.
Thursday, Amanda, James and I drove to Essex as this weekend was the Musical Proms weekend at Leeds Castle in Kent, and I was on!
The Saturday night we all ventured down to Leeds Castle for the evening prom concert. There was my parents, my sister Cathy and her husband Julian, friends Ros and Mike, Amanda, myself and Julian's mother, Marie. We were Royally entertained by Carl Davis conducting the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra, with narration by Nicholas Parsons. The evening began with a fly past by a Spitfire, which really got the hairs on the back of the neck standing up. When we finally got to the firework finale and the singing of "Jerusalem" and "Land of Hope and Glory", I was a committed flag waving patriot through and through. Great stuff! Shame about Nicholas Parsons though, who didn't really seem to have a clue as to what was going on. Bless.
Sunday - my day. The dawning of the Children's Picnic Prom. I was driven to Leeds Castle by my sister and was ready for rehersal by 10.30am. They sound checked me with a throat mic and that was it really. I sat and listened to the rest of the rehersal with the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic, and they were just stunning. I have my own caravan out the back as my "trailer" for getting ready in! This is the big time folks! Later I was lucky enough to have lunch with Carl Davis and discuss the script for the show. We got on really well and worked everything out nicely. Carl had a lovely line in anecdotes and told a lovely one of the famous Australian ballet dancer Robert Helpmann getting ready for a performance and having to use the gents of a local rugby club to prepare. He needed a mirror to apply his make up and the only one he could find was a securty effort placed high in a corner of the room. He balanced precariously on his suitcases and tried to apply his make up. Just at that moment one of the lads from the rugby club came in to use the loo. Robert looked down at him from his perch by the mirror and commented:
"Honestly, I don't know how you boys cope before a match" I feel sure they apply their make up long before they get to the ground.
The show began. I am on first to introduce the orchestra and Carl. There must be about 6,000 people in the grounds. Good grief - my biggest ever audience and I don't have my glasses on so I can't see them. I notice my friend Anne Crocker in the front few rows with her daughter Nell - I wave and receive a blown kiss by return. The show rattles through so quickly. Before I know it, it's half time! Also on the bill is a lovely lady called Kathryn Rudge, a young Mezzo Soprano from Liverpool. Her voice is stunning, and she is a lovely person. The concert seems to be heading for an end, and suddenly it's all over. Hugs and congratulations from Carl Davis and Kathryn Rudge, and then it's back to the caravan to get changed. My mother and Father have been there, as has Amanda and James, my mother in law, Amanda's auntie and her niece. They are all complimentary. An added bonus is that Carl Davis' agent Paul Wing wants my details, he gives me a card and asks me to get in touch. Wonderful. I am driven back to my father's car in a golf buggy and suddenly the day is over. But it was wonderful, memorable and something I shall never forget. Thank you Leeds Castle, thank you Darlene, thank you Carl, Paul, Kathryn and the RLPO. What a lovely day!
And England beat Ecuador 1-0. What more could you ask for?