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 with...er...chips, 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!