Friday, February 24, 2006

What a few weeks

The fact that I am still alive and able to write this blog is testimony to the strength of the human body. In the past 18 days, I have had two days off. We start back in Essex on the 7th February. My visit this day was to Downham School in Ramsden Heath near Billericay. Now I know the area around here pretty well as I used to live in Stock and played cricket for some years at Ramsden Heath. The school was lovely, the kids terrific and I got paid on the day. You really can't ask for much more from a school than that. But this was no time to rest on my laurels. The very next day I am up at dawn and hacking up to Caister-on-Sea in Norfolk to visit Caister School. The journey up was bad enough with people seemingly trying to kill me on the A12 AND the A14, but the school were wonderful and excelled themselves by offering me not only tea on my arrival - but biscuits as well! This really was the big time! I finished and headed home, tired but paid and happy knowing that tomorrow (Thursday) was to be my last day off for a while. I had a lie in and had a relatively easy day. Friday it was back to business and a visit to Millhouse School in Laindon in Basildon. This was another good school full of nice teachers and lovely sparky children. That evening I headed down to Kent to stay with my sister...
The next 9 days I am at Leeds Castle in Kent, four Tudor Shows a day. One at 11.30am, one at 12.30pm, one at 2.30pm and one at 3.30pm. If this wasn't going to be hard enough on my voice then I managed to compound matters by catching a cold as well. Somehow, against all the odds my voice just about managed to survive for the whole 9 days, even though I did sound more like Barry White than England's most famous Tudor Monarch. The shows are good though. The Leeds Castle people had projected for something like 700 visitors a day on average over the half term week, instead we are getting more like 1,400 which is wonderful. Apart from the start of the run and the end nearly all the shows are completely packed out. We are turning people away at the doors! All of the staff couldn't have been more helpful, especially Darlene, Helen, Helen, Ann, Ann, Carole, Coralie, Jean and all the others. I even have a load of publicity photos taken around the castle with me posing like mad with a hawk on my arm and in front of the great Tudor fireplace in the main hall. The 9 days seem to pass very quickly and before I know it, we have finished. I would also like to thank another helper at Leeds Castle, who shall remain anonymous, but she will know who she is. She happily pointed out all the mistakes I made in my presentation. Thank you. Just what I needed to hear - that was a real boost to my morale! If I ever get my hands on one of your books I shall go to town with a red pen and not spare the ink.
Before I could go home I had to go to Dartford and a return visit to the Oakfield School on Monday the 20th. Another great day. A lovely school and nice to be back with them. And on the Tuesday a visit to The Sweyne Junior School in sunny downtown Swanscombe. Again, so nice to be back with old friends and we had another good day. Sadly, my energy levels were so low by this point I was more or less on auto pilot, but they seemed to enjoy themselves. I now had to drive to Essex, have dinner with my parents, drive to Dunton, pick up my Mother-in-law and then drive home to Somerset. We got back about 10.30pm. So good to be back home. So nice to hug my wife and cuddle my son again. A fabulous few days - great fun, very lucrative, but exhausting! Next stop? My birthday on the 26th.

Sunday, February 05, 2006

The Paragon School, Bath

It was a relatively early start for me, but I knew it was going to be a long long day. I had to drive up to the Paragon School in Bath, this being a school I have long been promised a visit to and strongly recommended by my friends Sue and Ian. It didn't disappoint. Wonderful old buildings, hugely welcoming teachers, great kids who ALL dressed as Tudors in some fabulous costumes and a lovely dinner as well. All days should be as good as this! The rip roaring jousting finale was once again won by the ladies with admirable style. Some great photos were taken for the local Bath Thunderer newspaper (or whatever it's called) and I got paid. Next I had to head for home. By the time I got there, Amanda and James had already departed for Essex. I had dinner, packed a suitcase and made sure all was locked up and secure. I then left home at about 7.30pm to head to Essex myself. I made fairly good progress and arrived at my parents place at about 10.30pm.
We had a great 40th birthday bash for my wife on Saturday. My father has completely renovated my jousting equipment and we have been bouncing around ideas for more money making for Henry. Watch this space for more.
I have also started making enquiries about a costume for John Brown, Queen Victoria's Scottish "friend", another character I hope to bring to Schools around the country soon. I visited a great shop in Ingatestone called Nicholsons which is a Highland specialist for some reason! But they were really helpful and I should be getting some info and pricing from them for a costume shortly.