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?

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

I Guess You're Joust What I Needed

Friday, June 9th 2006 is not a day I am likely to forget in a hurry. First things first, I had to get to Millfield Prep School in Glastonbury for a half day. We were housed in the music area of the school and it was HOT. Absolutely stifling heat. This was to be the final appearance of my original costume before being either pensioned off or shot, whichever was more humane. As it was the day went marvellously and I got paid in cash for once! The kids were great and the teachers wonderful. A really lovely school all round.
I left Glastonbury and began my long hike up to Essex and my appointment with my new costume in Chelmsford. Oh dear. Not the day for travelling in the South East. First of all the M25 was closed in both directions along it's south route causing about a 10 miles tail back onto the M3. When I finally did get on to the M25, I never really got out of 2nd gear all the way round the north section, until I got past Harlow. I finally arrived at Duncan's house to get the costume at about 7.15pm - 6 hours after leaving Glastonbury, and all of this through a scorching heat in a non-air conditioned car. The costume looked fabulous however and I was delighted. I would be the belle of the ball at Leeds Castle this weekend. I now had to head down towards Sittingbourne and my sister's house. This necessitated rejoining the M25 and guess what? Another traffic jam as people tried to get through at the Dartford Crossing. I eventually arrived at my sister's at about 9.15pm, nearly eight hours after leaving Millfield. Shattered is one description, as is completely knackered. I was both of those and a little bit more.
I was due on parade at Leeds Castle by 11am, but I was there nice and early. I got changed in Darlene's office and was driven in a glorified golf buggy down to the area where the jousting tournament was to take place. It was lovely to see Darlene again, and Helen Budd her lovely young assistant. It was also nice to see other familiar faces like Jean and Barry. It was a really fun two days wandering around and chatting to the great British public, and of course all the assorted visitors from around the world. Americans, Australians, Chinese, Japanese, Koreans, Taiwanese, Indians, Ukrainians, Uzbeks, Poles, Italians etc., we seemed to have the complete set of tourists. The weather was ferocious but more bearable on the Saturday due to a slight cooling breeze. This had vanished by Sunday and I have never in my entire life drunk so much water and not wanted to use the loo! Saturday night was spent attending a banquet in the main castle, complete with minstrels, a jester, fire breathers, men at arms and even a wise woman or two! Much merriment had by all, but still ferociously hot. By 10.30pm I had really had enough. I had been on my feet in the new costume in boiling temperatures for over 12 hours. My knees were starting to throb! Time to go home. The walk back to my car that evening was delightful. A huge full moon hanging over the Castle battlements and glistening on the mercury-like surface of the moat and lake. Beautiful. Sunday finished on a nice note as Darlene bought us all a pitcher of Pimms and lemonade to slake our thirsts and never were more thirsts slaked by so much Pimms so quickly! Lovely. It was nice to meet Tony as Sir Lupin the tall knight on stilts, who was a big hit with the kids.
Monday found me back on more normal territory as my new costume made it's debut school appearance in Gravesend at the Holy Trinity School. Another lovely day, again in almost overpoweringly hot conditions. The kids were lovely and the teachers as warm and welcoming as the weather. I was even brough tea and toast on my arrival! The day ended with another fine jousting session with the ladies, almost inevitably triumphing over the boys. My journey home was a lot easier than my original outward journey and I was very very pleased to get home to Amanda and James.
I had a meeting with Matthew Applegate from Barrington Court again last night and there are plans afoot from them to use me over Christmas as a nice alternative to Santa Claus. Watch this space. Later this week I am off to Truro in Cornwall for my first visit to that lovely county in my Henry persona. But before that... England v Trinindad & Tobago. Fingers crossed everyone.

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Dean Close Prep and Chilcompton

With half term out of the way it was back on the road again for Henry this week. Monday dawned bright and early and I was up and off to Cheltenham in Gloucestershire for a visit to Dean Close Prep School. It was nice and easy to find, and the welcome I got from the teachers and kids were wonderful! A lovely school with stunning grounds all around it, a fabulous setting. The whole day took place in the school library as the main hall was booked. We had a great day - very warm! But the children showed stupendous knowledge of the Tudor period and a good time did seem to had by all. Lunch was fabulous - ham, turkey and leek pie with potatoes and carrots - delicious. The afternoon was just the jousting, but what a great tournament. The girls won by a whisker and it would appear everyone enjoyed themselves so much that I have been invited back as soon as September for another visit. I can't wait!
Tuesday morning had me heading off bright and early to St Vigor and St John's school in Chilcompton, near Radstock in north Somerset. This was another great great day. Really entertaining. The children were wonderful, particularly considering at least half of them weren't even studying the Tudors! The afternoon was very entertaining and the main jousting competition was won by the boys for a nice change. The fun teacher's race at the end of the day went down to a final quoit race off! Thrilling stuff. A thoroughly enjoyable day and school. Thank you!
Friday I am on a half day at Millfield Prep School in Glastonbury, followed by a frantic drive up to Essex to collect my new costume from Duncan in Chelmsford. Then a quick drive down to Kent to stay at my sister's house ready for an early parade on Saturday at Leeds Castle for the Jousting weekend and the saturday night banquet - even if it does involve me missing the first England match at the World Cup and the second part of a fabulous Doctor Who story. The things I do for my profession!