Wednesday, March 29, 2006

St Mary's Primary, Axminster

I was really looking forward to this visit. A half day is sometimes nice as I get to do all my favourite bits in a day, but finish at lunch time! Added to which, this was at Axminster which is only a stones throw from where I live. Thankfully that led to something of a minor lie-in, rudely interrupted by a three year old at about 6am. I set off with my sat nav squawking away at me. I know the way to Axminster, I just wanted to see where the machine took me. Blimey. It obviously likes it's back roads. I had never seen Thorncombe that early in the morning...
Finally arrived at the destination and was met by a delightful head teacher. She welcomed me in, helped me park the car by the front door and then made me the most disgusting cup of tea I have ever had at any school so far! I had asked for my usual milk and one sugar. Well if it was one sugar she put in she must have used a shovel. Funnily enough, one of the other teachers later commented on her appalling tea making skills, they were quite right! A lovely charming lady, but she should be banned from going near a kettle. The rest of the ladies were lovely. All the kids were great, really enjoyed themselves. The morning passed in a flash and after a rip roaring jousting (which the boys won) I was soon to be on my way. I paused to pose for photos with all the children doing their Tudor projects, the teacher of the main class I was with helped out as my roadie and loaded the van and that was that. A quick message for the lovely lady teacher with the leather trousers - yes, I would have been delighted to have had you as my next wife, just not sure if my present one would have been too happy! A lovely school. Thanks for a good morning. And now - A WEEK OFF!

Saturday, March 25, 2006

St Michael's, Wimborne

After a long-ish break after the NEC shows, I was back on parade as Henry at St Michael's School in Colehill, Wimborne. This is a lovely school and one which I visited last year, almost to the very day. I arrived pretty much on time and was greeted by various teachers who obviously remembered me from last year, though I have to admit I struggled with recollecting some of them - sorry! I got all my stuff set up in the main hall, got changed in a tiny toilet and was ready for the off. It was 130 children and every single one of them had dressed up in some magnificent costumes. One young girl had even dressed up as Elizabeth I complete with white powdered face and dyed red hair! They all looked magnificent. I had plenty of executioners, a great Jester and even a drummer girl - but I forgot to use her during the jousting, so abject apologies from the King for that aberration. The day went really well though. A lovely group, smashing teachers and it was a Friday - what more could you want. The final jousting tournament was a cracker, loads of noise and this time the boys just squeaked home to win. My journey home was fairly tortuous - dreadful weather and a satellite navigation system that kept wanting me to drive home through a locked and gated cemetery. I think it was trying to tell me something...
Next week? I am at St Mary's in Axminster on Tuesday for a half day and was due to do the skillets and cauldrons exhibition at the County Museum in Taunton with Tris Pinkney from Bilby's on the 31st. However, this has been postponed to about the 26th April, so watch this space for more news on that. And now for a beer with Pete Flanagan!

Thursday, March 16, 2006

Website problems

Hello folks - just a quick explanation to all the people who might have tried to access the website since my appearance at the Education Exhibition at the NEC last week. SORRY! The website had been down for a few days due to a confusion about payment to the hosting service. All has now been resolved, so apologies to anyone who has been slightly more confused than I have been! Normal service has now been restored. Watch out for some new photos on the website coming soon...

Sunday, March 12, 2006

Education Exhibition at the NEC

I had been contacted by English Heritage some weeks ago, as they wanted someone to be Henry on their stand at the Education Exhibition at the NEC in Birmingham for three days. The pay wasn't bad so it seemed like a good idea to get some more exposure. I drove up early on the morning of the 9th March. I had last visited the NEC in 1985 when I saw Howard Jones in concert there when I was 18 - how's about that for a claim to fame? Finding the NEC is no problem, you really can't miss the place, however one was forgetting that Crufts was on at the same time at the venue, albeit in a different show hall. Therefore, as soon as I got within about 10 miles of the NEC everything ground to a halt and I was immediately surrounded by cars with "doggy people" in them. All kennel club stickers and huge hairy, slavvering beasts in the back window - and that was just the wives. I eventually arrived at the NEC and parked about a mile from where I wanted to be - I could get no closer. I trundled over with my hefty suitcase full of the Henry costume. Luckily finding the English Heritage stall was remarkably easy and jolly nice chaps they all were. Next I had to find somewhere to get changed. The organisers office pointed me in the direction of some classy looking toilets. The cubicle I had to use to get changed in was the exact width of my suitcase, so it was going to be a tight fit for me. I emerged from my toilet chrysalis like some Tudor butterfly (hey, I know this is flowery but stick with me) and wandered off round the exhibition. I was asked to wander round distributing English Heritage flyers, encouraging people to come and visit our stall. This went fine for about an hour until I was grabbed by Security and told to stop handing out leaflets - I could quite legally dispense them from our stall but not elsewhere. So for the following two and a half days I was mostly stall bound, which is a little like being egg bound, but slightly less embarrassing when things do get moving (eh?). The three days at the NEC passed nice and quickly, the English Heritage group were lovely, particularly Pippa and Mike and it was nice to meet some other people in the education game. I met an Elizabeth the 1st from another historical stall - possessed as she was of the most cavernous cleavage since Howard Hughes got to grips with Jayne Russell's superstructure. There was a very nice man, half dressed as Socrates (don't ask) and I was delighted to discover another stall which would occasionally give away free samples of red wine - great idea. I spent my evenings at the Tamworth services on the M43 staying in a Travel Lodge which was - exactly like a Travel Lodge really. My evening meal choices ran the entire gamut of Burger King through to Burger King. Another annoyance - loads of people from Crufts were staying at the hotel as well - so every few seconds a dog would go mental in a distant room somewhere and kick every other dog in the building off. My how we laughed. Dear little doggies. The journey into the NEC each morning was not fun. The friday morning, my ten mile journey to the NEC from the Hotel took over an hour. More doggy people.
The whole NEC, English Heritage and exhibition experience was well worth it and I really hope that English Heritage might consider me for next year. However, I am SO glad to be back home! But please, try and organise the education exhibition away from Crufts next time. I didn't even get "Best of Breed" in the "Mock Tudor Monarchs" section. My nose wasn't wet enough.

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Sat Nav and New Horizons

Buoyed by my rich pickings from the long week at Leeds Castle, I went out and purchased a satellite navigation system for my car, something to make my life a lot easier with the sort of work I do. I tested it by driving to Frome on Saturday to an address I had never visited before - it took me to the door and I was delighted. My first visit of this week was to Blandford Camp in Dorset and so I struck out using the sat nav feeling full of optimism. The thing worked fine until about 5 miles from my destination when it first took me off down a side road and finally into a builder's yard. I was confronted by a large brick wall blocking all forward movement and a sat nav system screaming at me to continue driving straight ahead for the next three miles. I turned round and re-traced my steps and eventually stumbled across Blandford Camp almost by mistake. Of course this place is an army base and so I was first confronted by machine gun wielding troops and then the bureaucratic niceties of the British Army. I was eventually signed in and I had a feeling I was going to be late. I was now even later - the road I needed was now only one way, but it had only changed the week before and no one had bothered to tell me. I eventually found the school. We had a great day. Lovely kids - all dressed up to the nines in their finest Tudor clothing and some lovely teachers, nearly all of whom had wicked senses of humour. I am pleased to say that the journey home was a lot easier.
The next day my sat nav was put to the test again with a jaunt down to central Exeter and the Maynard School for Girls. This, believe it or not, was my first school in Devon - so a whole new horizon! Kia, the teacher who greeted me, was lovely. A charming lady and full of smiles. It was a tiny group - only 17, but they were all dressed beautifully in some stunning clothes. It was hard to believe some of the outfits were home made - but they were. People had worked incredibly hard. I managed to fall asleep in the staff room during my lunch break - it was so warm and cosy there! The afternoon shot by and then I was on my way.
Today has been a nice slice of normality. Looking after James while Amanda was at work. I took him to Rug Rats this morning in Yeovil for a belt around, then we went to Ilminster and lunch at Bilby's as usual. He has been a little charmer as usual.
Tomorrow I am off to the NEC in Birmingham for the Education Show for three days. Should be fun! See you all soon I hope.

Sunday, March 05, 2006

Maiden Newton

Friday March the 3rd found me in the relative locality of visiting Greenford Primary school in Maiden Newton, just north of Dorchester. It was a bitterly cold morning, but bright as I drove over the ridgeway south of Crewkerne. As I pulled up in the car park of the school I was greeted by Mr Atkinson, the head teacher - an absolutely charming man. He immediately offered me a hot cup of tea which, as the wind was howling straight from the arctic, seemed like a very sensible idea. I could park right next to the main doors to the hall we would be using, so that was good news for me and my back. The kids had all dressed up marvellously - some really stunning costumes, some of which had been made, some hired and some, believe it or not, even bought! They were a great group - just an ideal school. Bright and sparky and getting all of the gags. Lunch time I was recommended to visit the bakery near the school and again, I was not disappointed. A really tasty bacon and cheese wrap and a lasagne like pastry - delicious! The afternoon was great and seemed to zip past. The jousting was of a particularly high standard - any of the teams might have won at any other school, but as it was, it was the ladies who triumphed and walked off with the certificates from the King. Mr Atkinson has invited me back for the School's summer fete and evening meal which looks likely to turn into a Tudor feast - suits me!
This coming week I am at Blandford in Dorset on Monday, Exeter in Devon on Tuesday, I have Wednesday off, then Thursday, Friday and Saturday I am at the NEC in Birmingham for the Education Exhibition on the English Heritage stand - see you there!