This has been an incredible week. I started on Tuesday, driving up to Essex to stay with my parents as I was doing a load of visits and schools in Essex/East Anglia. Things kicked off on Wednesay morning at St Teresa's Roman Catholic School in Basildon. I am always a little wary of going into a Roman Catholic School dressed as Henry VIII as it is tantamount to going to a Vegan Society Meeting dressed as a Cumberland Whirl. I had no need to worry and was welcomed very warmly by a lovely group of teachers who were all dressed up to the nines. The children in the group were fantastic as well, full of laughter and ready to roar on the participants in the jousting. The day finished with the inevitable triumph of the ladies team. Now where I would normally have just gone home and put my feet up, tonight was a bit different. I was due up at 2, Temple Place in London for a corporate event for Bales Worldwide, a very posh travel group. The journey up was awful. My dear father drove me up, but where the 20+ mile journey should have taken about 40 minutes, it was nearer an hour and a half. Just as we were approaching the place I got a panicked phone call from Emma from the agency who had booked me, desperate to know where I was. Luckily for me, all the guests were similarly held up in the gridlocked London streets. Temple Place is gorgeous, a large Victorian Gothic pile, once owned by the Astors and full of high ceilings, pannelled walls and massive fire places. Bales were entertaining their agents from their far flung resorts, and I was soon to be rubbing shoulders with people from the likes of Bhutan, Nepal, Mongolia and Kyrgyszstan (or however the hell you spell it!). My initial job was to stand at the front door with two comely wenches (one of who was from Hungary!), two heralding trumpeters and two jesters juggling with fire (one of who was Stuart Fell, well known to all us Doctor Who fans as "that bloke in the plastic bubble wrap in The Ark in Space"). As each guest arrived they would get a fanfare of trumpets and a welcoming shout from Henry, they would then have to pose for some shell-shocked looking photos before being whisked inside for a drink and a calm down. I was then brought inside for some more posing photos before my job as announcer for the evening cut in. I had to announce dinner, the speeches, that the men could remove their jackets (but not their trousers), and also to tell everyone to clear off at the end. It was a fun evening and we were treated royally by the agents and Bales Worldwide. One of the guests, who just for a second I thought was my old mate Mike Clarke from Skandia Life, came up to me at the opening reception and said in a very smooth, Etonian accent: "So you're supposed to be Henry VIII are you?" I announced that I was. "And I suppose during the day you're just some boring little office oik from somewhere ghastly like East Cheam, aren't you?" I bristled a little.
"No, I am Henry VIII full time..." He blanched.
"Really? What you travel all round the world doing this full time?"
"Yes" I lied a little. "And what do you do?" I enquired.
"I work in an office..." he said tamely, and wandered off. One nil to Henry. I finally left at about 11.30pm. A lovely friend of my father's Ralph Hayden picked me up in his car (his wife Jean was with him) and they drove me home to my parents. Ralph works as a professional driver, so please don't think I was exploiting him too much!
After getting to bed at after midnight, it was a bit of a shock when my alarm went off at 5.45 am. I was on my way to Wymondham in Norfolk and my third visit in three years to Robert Kett Junior School. I love going to Robert Kett as they are all so nice and welcoming there. The journey up was awful with a bad accident in Long Stratton holding me up for half an hour and nearly making me very late. But the kids were wonderful as ever, the teachers as welcoming as ever (Natasha my usual host there was off on maternity leave, so hello Natasha and new little girl!) and the food delicious! The King was very pleased. The costumes were absolutely stunning this year, but then Robert Kett school always seems to have some of the best costumes. A very quick afternoon session ended with another victory for the girls in the jousting.
Friday I was at another school I hadn't visited before - Wickford Junior in...er...Wickford. This was another superb day. About 90 children, all really excited and up for it. Three lovely teachers, all in splendid costumes and a nice lunch of spaggy bol! I shall return, if they want me of course. The finale at the jousting was amazing, as the boys won! Now that really was a red letter day. I stopped on the way back from the school in Billericay to pay some cheques into my account, and I am due to drive back to Somerset tomorrow morning (Saturday). My next Henry is due at Chandlers Ford in Hampshire near Southampton on Tuesday. Another return visit which I am looking forward to. Have a nice weekend everyone!