Sunday, May 28, 2006

Martock and Sudeley Castle

I picked up my new car. Well, I should really qualify that statement. It was NEW to me. A lovely Honda Accord, on an M plate, but with a full Honda service history and in great nick. That would do Henry a treat. It's baptism was not one of fire. The first appearance for this lovely vehicle was to be at Martock Primary School, quite naturally in the village/town of Martock. This was only about 10 miles from where we lived, so the car did have a really cushy start to it's existance with me. We had a great time at Martock School. Some lovely teachers, who threw in amples of lovely cups of tea and some free sarnies (no complaints from this King, I can tell you!), was matched with some terrific children. Great questions, lots of laughs and plenty of good knowledge displayed by the children. The afternoon ended with the almost inevitable ladies triumph in the jousting competition.
Saturday was spent at home, once again fruitlessly waiting for a buyer from Ebay to turn up for my old Toyota Lucida. What happens to them? Do they just suddenly slip into a parallel universe where saying you will quite happily buy something, and then just don't bother turning up and paying for it are just normal everyday goings on? Please don't tell me I am going to have to sell it AGAIN???
Sunday, today. Sudeley Castle in Gloucestershire. This was another of the "Barrington Court" days - just simply wandering around the grounds and buildings of this wonderful Tudor pile, and chatting to the public as they come in. It was a lovely day, not too hot, and there were lots of really lovely people to meet, including Bruce and his wife and friends from Sydney in Australia, who were a real laugh - great fun to talk to. Lots of lovely kids to chat with, a lovely lady from Reading who seemed hugely embarrassed that I spoke to her and a bizarre couple from a mixture of Kiev in the Ukraine and Didcot... Sudeley is of course also the resting place of Henry's last wife, Catherine Parr, so it was quite humbling to be in the presence of her tomb. A fine day seemed to be had by all and everyone at the Castle seemed happy with my appearance. All I had to worry about then was the 100+ mile drive home. I will sleep well tonight. Thank goodness it is half term!

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Woodham Ferrers

Evening all! I feel quite good this evening, if a little tired. I drove up to Essex yesterday as I was due to visit a school at Woodham Ferrers near Chelmsford today. I stayed overnight at my parents' house, even though they are currently away down in Wales at my sister's place. I took the opportunity, while back in Essex, to go and see Duncan again, the genius who is making my new costumes. He assured me he would have at least one of them ready in time for the jousting weekend at Leeds Castle in early June. I can't wait! On the way back from Duncan's I treated myself to a Chinese takeaway - it would involve less washing up afterwards, let's be honest.
I woke up this morning (sounds like the intro to a blues song) and got ready, pausing only to slip over in my parent's bathroom and nearly break my arm/leg/head, in that order. All I did manage to break, however, was the toilet seat as I ricocheted off it at high speed. OUCH! Sorry folks. I owe you for that. I drove to Woodham Ferrers and quickly found the school. And what a fantastic school! St Mary's C of E. Really friendly kind teachers and assistants, who couldn't do enough for me. So nice! The kids were just superb. Fabulous costumes, they really got into the whole day, loved all the jokes and had a really good general knowledge of the Tudor period. The head teacher even donated me her beef and mustard sandwich at lunch time - you really honestly cannot expect more than that from a school! The jousting was of an incredibly high standard, and for a nice change the gentlemen won. One of the lads on the gents team showed great sportsmanship by shaking hands with his opponents and thanking them for a great race at the end. Marvellous!
I drove home, round the hated M25, but soon found my way back to dear old Somerset. The extra good news is that I have sold my Toyota Lucida on Ebay (and I mean REALLY sold it this time!) and it appears that Taunton Museum are keen to have me back in the summer holidays! Great. Tomorrow? A day off, so more time to play with my little boy. Lovely.

Sunday, May 21, 2006

Hire Cars, Lowestoft, Myland & Harlow...

The big question this week, was of course how would I be able to get all the way to East Anglia and my shows there without a car. Not easy to walk that distance trying to carry all of my props. I ended up hiring a car from the very affable Popular Motors in Merriott. They loaned me a nice green Vauxhall Vectra which was a bit like driving a Formula One car after chugging along in my old Toyota Lucida. I drove to Essex on Monday the 15th May and stayed overnight at my parents. I was a little late getting up the next morning, but was confidant I could get to Lowestoft in plenty of time, and I would have, if it hadn't been for a smash up on the A12 and the simply appalling roadworks in Lowestoft itself. I ended up having to phone ahead to the school and apologise for my tardiness. The school I was at was Roman Hill, a lovely school and this was my second visit to them. As ever I was warmly welcomed by the lovely staff and some great children. Nearly all of the children had dressed up in great Tudor costumes and I was once more invited to judge the best boy and girl costumes in each class. Not an easy task, I can assure you. All went well at the school and they want me back next year again, which is fine by me. The journey back to my parent's in Essex was easier than the journey there, and I passed another school close to Roman Hill and noticed my friends "Portals to the Past" chucking all their Roman clobber in their van. What a small world.
Wednesday, May 17th. Today I was at Myland School in Colchester. This is my first visit back for over 2 years. Myland were only my second ever school when I started out as Henry (the honour of my first visit going to Rickling Green School near Saffron Walden in Essex), so it was nice to be invited back. We had a superb day - I love this school. The teachers and assistants "become" the 6 wives by donning t-shirts with the names and faces on them! Fabulous stuff! Another fine day and another really great group of children.
Thursday, May 18th. My final Henry of the week saw me appearing back at another school I have done before. This was Little Parndon in Harlow. Again, lovely to see all the old familiar faces and enjoy their company. The group today was a little subdued in comparison with some schools I visit, but they seemed to enjoy themselves nevertheless. After finishing at the school I headed up to Chelmsford to visit Duncan James again, to see how the two new costumes are coming along. Marvellous! Duncan showed me all the wonderful material he has gathered. I shall be seeing him again this week for a fitting of what he has managed so far. Can't wait to show these new costumes off!
I drove back to Somerset on Thursday evening, and I am delighted to say nothing fell to pieces this time. Saturday we drove down to near Upottery in Devon to view a car I was thinking of buying as a replacement for the Lucida. It was a really nice Honda Accord - so I bought it! Should be ready for next weekend.
This week I am in Taunton on Monday for a photo-shoot at the Castle Museum as part of a Heritage Lottery Fund bid. Then Wednesday I am back at my old stamping ground of South Woodham Ferrers in Essex for a school visit there and then on to Martock in Somerset on Friday. Then the following Sunday I will be at Sudeley Castle in Gloucestershire for another Henry day. Hope to see some of you there.

Thursday, May 11, 2006

Banquets With Vinnie

I have been away again, this time in the "Garden of England" - Kent as it is also known. I drove to my sister's house near Sittingbourne on Monday evening and arrived at about 10pm. She greeted me with a cup of tea, which was very welcome! Tuesday morning I was on parade at St Joseph's Convent Prep School in Gravesend. My morning cuppa was delivered to me by a charming Nun, who added a plate of biscuits with it. Now that is what I call service! This was a lovely school, we had a really superb day. The children were marvellous, the majority of them dressed as young Tudors. Their knowledge of Tudor life was remarkably good and they were keen to know more and I was happy to oblige. A rip-roaring jousting tournament was won by the ladies and I left after getting some great help from some of the lads. I was quite tired and would have loved to have just had a quiet evening not doing very much, but I was due at Leeds Castle for a banquet. I had been booked by the Leeds Castle people to entertain and walk around a corporate group from Unilever. I was due to be on site and ready to go at 7.45pm. I drove down from my sister's house so that I would definitely be ready and on parade by 7.15. I drove round to the Broomfield Road entrance that I had used back in February. It was closed with an automatic barrier, but with a buzz intercom that should, in theory, put me through to security. I buzzed it. Nothing. I buzzed it again. Nothing. I kept on buzzing it. Funnily enough nothing continued to happen. In frustration I turned the car around and drove round to the main entrance about a mile away. It was shut and appeared as though it would be all night. I had no other option but to return to the Broomfield Road entrance. Again I sat and buzzed and buzzed. Nothing. I phoned my sister and asked her if she could try some of the Leeds Castle people's numbers as my mobile was running short of credit. She phoned round but everything was on voice mail. By now it was getting close to 7.45pm. I was panicking. In desperation I knocked on the door of the gatehouse. A very nice man told me to buzz security. I pointed out to him that is exactly what I had been doing for over half an hour. He phoned security and discovered the entryphone system wasn't working! He let me in and I arrived at the main part of the castle. The Head Waiter/Man in Charge was waiting for me and looked a little harrassed. He said he had been expecting me by 7.30. I told him I had been here by 7.15 but just couldn't get in. Never mind. I changed in his office and was in the dining room as the guests got stuck into their soup. I had a ball, and I like to think the Unilever people did as well! I wandered around, chatting to people, shaking hands and being very Henry-esque. Greetings go particularly to Vinnie, originally from New Jersey, but now residing in Connetticut - he allowed me to speak to a friend of his in the USA on his mobile. Great fun! After meeting and greeting people from as far afield as Brazil, Singapore, Germany and Chester (eh?), I finished at around 10pm and headed back to my sisters. The first mile of the journey I had to reverse round the outside of the castle in pitch darkness. Not much fun.
Wednesday morning dawned bright. I was today at Wateringbury School in, believe it or not, Wateringbury near Maidstone. A really lovely school, the kids were lovely and the teachers, just delightful. We had a full and fun day, which finished with a wild and exciting jousting contest that the Gentlemen won - just! I packed up and drove up to my parents in Essex to collect a bed they had for my son James. After a quick bite to eat I was on my way at about 7pm. I got to the M25 and headed north. Bad move. Road works and car accidents. It took me nearly 2 hours to get to the M3. Finally the M3 was all mine and I shot down it to the A303. All was going well until I reached Stonehenge. I had to stop at a roundabout to let a car round and when I went to pull away the car was very sluggish, as though it was trying to drive in fourth gear (my car is an automatic). Eventually it seemed to sort itself out and I carried on. I stopped for a little fuel and a sandwich at the Esso station on top of the hill before you sweep down towards Meare. As I went to pull out, again it was sluggish. Then, on driving down the hill it kept jumping gears, from 1st to 4th and back again. Never once seeming to know which gear to stay in. On reaching the bottom and beginning another climb, it stuck in 1st gear and would not change up. The engine began over heating and I soon had to pull over in a lay by. It was pitch dark and thunder and fork lightning were searing across the night sky above me. The time was approximately 10pm. I tried to phone home. ARGH! I had forgotten to top up my credit! My mobile wouldn't let me dial anyone! I tried to call the RAC on their freephone number. Again, my mobile insisted I had to top up it's credit first. I couldn't. No credit card and no debit card. What could I do? The lights of Meare I could see in the distance, but they had to be about 2 miles away. There was no other light aside from the occasional sizzling lightning bolt. I phoned 999 and asked for the Police. As soon as they answered I apologised for wasting their time, and explained my situation. They were brilliant. They phoned the RAC for me and organised a rescue van. To cut a long story short I managed to get back home just short of midnight. I was exhausted. My car no longer works, and will be going on sale on Ebay this weekend. So if you fancy a bargain - stay tuned.
New booking today from a school in Cheltenham in Gloucestershire. Lovely. I am very glad to be back home.

Friday, May 05, 2006

The Office

A day in the office for the King today. I sat at my desk, looking sadly out the window at the bright sunshine and blue skies. I hasten to add that I did eventually give in to temptation and go out later, but this morning was work work work. I had phone calls, enquiries and confirmations galore, from schools including Myland School in Colchester, a school I visited over two years ago; West Hill near Ottery St Mary in Devon; Daubney Middle School in Bedford; and a confirmation of an appearance at a Tudor Banquet at Leeds Castle next Tuesday evening. Not a bad morning's work. And now, back out into the sunshine!

Thursday, May 04, 2006

Christchurch Junior School

Now, I know some people might be reading this blog tonight as it was mentioned at the school today! It was lovely to be back for my second day at Christchurch Junior School again today. Such a nice group - lovely kids and friendly teachers who seem to always be having birthdays in the staff room with piles of cakes all round. I really must go there more often. Another good group today, not as noisy as yesterday's lot, but good all the same. We had some laughs and fun with the stocks again and the jousting was once again of a very high standard. The girls triumphed again, much to the annoyance of the boys, but I have to point out to them that this is not as uncommon as it might seem. "My Lord Benjamin" was put in the stocks and endured his punishment with great dignity - what a trouper!
The drive home was lovely, through bright warm sunshine. Perhaps summer really is a-coming in. Just checked all my messages and worked out I have to make about 15 phone calls to various schools tomorrow. Tomorrow is, after all, my first free day in about 3 weeks! Another confirmed booking today at Daubney Middle School in Bedford on the 11th July.
And now for a well earned bath and a glass of wine. Smashing!

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

The End of the Storm!

Phew... What a few days. My car, my costume and I are on the backs of our knees. The weekend at Barrington Court near Ilminster was great fun. It is such a lovely house, run very well by the National Trust and the amazingly wonderful human being that is Matthew Applegate. I enjoyed myself enormously wandering around the beautiful grounds, talking to children, flirting with ladies and playing my recorder! What finer way could there be for enjoying a Bank Holiday weekend? Of course, having my parents staying was a lovely added bonus, and also having my wife and son see me "in action", so to speak, was even better. The weather was even quite kind to us. So to everyone who said hello to me at Barrington Court - hello back to you.
Tuesday I headed on down the M5 to the depths of Devon and a visit to St Aubyn's Prep School in Tiverton. Another fine day, some great kids - fantastic costumes and some of the finest jousting I have seen so far! The girls pipping the boys to be the winners. Very friendly staff, a good lunch and a pretty perfect day, spoilt only by some lousy weather, but then I suppose you can't have everything.
Wednesday - today. My first of two days back at Christchurch School in Christchurch (rather predictably), in Dorset. So lovely to see all the old familiar faces again. I have to say Christchurch is one of my favourite schools, not just because it is such a nice establishment, but the kids are great, sparky but not too cocky, and the teachers are just a delight. Friendly, funny and, dare I say it, silly! So, I am back there again tomorrow for more of the same. The only thing against the school at Christchurch? The traffic. Unbelievably bad, on every visit I have made. How do people stand commuting through that every day? I'm glad I don't.
A couple of potential bookings this evening - one at Chilcompton School near Wells, Martock School and even a possibility of going back to Noak Bridge School in Basildon. Watch this space. Again.