Friday morning dawned in Essex and I was due for a relatively early start with a belt down to Leeds Castle in Kent to try on my Father Christmas outfit for my imminent appearances! I drove down the A12 to the M25 to be greeted to the sight of virtually static traffic heading south and dot matrix boards indicating that there was "Congestion Junctions 28-3" - i.e. right across the Dartford Crossing and into Kent. If I was to get to Leeds Castle and then back up to East Ham by 1pm, I should have left about 2 hours before. I abandoned the idea very early, headed back to my parents' and phoned Darlene at the castle to explain the situation. She was fine about it. She said she would leave the costume in her office and I could pop in and try it on the following day (Saturday) on my way back to Somerset.
So, at about midday I began my drive up to East Ham. Now this was a real throw back for me as getting on for 20 years ago, I worked for the London Borough of Newham in their education department (Hello Caroline Lewendon! Hello Steve Newman! Hello Anne Edwards! Hello Maureen Pammen! etc etc) and had some dealings with Nelson Primary School, the school I was due to visit. I found the place very easily and soon found myself welcomed into a warm and cosy staff room and plied with cups of tea. The children had put together a Tudor banquet day and I was their guest of honour. I was very glad to be there! After getting changed into my Henry gear I was brought up to the top hall where a trumpeter heralded my arrival on the red carpet. The children broke out into spontaneous cheering which was WONDERFUL! All the teachers had dressed up as Tudors, as had the children. They all looked fabulous, some of the lady teachers looking particularly nice, I must say...! I sat on my specially built throne and fielded questions from the 150+ pupils, which was good fun. We then progressed down to one of their lower halls for the banquet itself. I wandered round the tables answering questions and playing music for the guests with my instruments. Then there was more entertainment - a series of musical pieces written and arranged by the children themselves, which were really great, then some fine Tudor dancing and a bit more home made music. It was all truly wonderful and I thanked the children for all the effort they had put in with the music, costumes, dance - everything! A really wonderful and magical afternoon. Thank you, Nelson Primary!
In the evening I drove up to Danbury near Chelmsford to meet my old friends Mick Stephenson and Deborah Dixon at the Bell Pub which is now run by Deb's sister, and another old mate of mine, Lesley. It was really nice to see them all again. Mick was, as ever, great company - this man I can safely say was the finest wicket keeper I have ever seen play. A natural. Deb and Lesley still looked as lovely as ever and it was nice to catch up with them all again after so many years. Lesley and her husband Peter were fine hosts. The Bell Inn in Danbury - by Royal Appointment. You heard it here first folks.
Saturday morning I drove back to Somerset via Leeds Castle. The Father Christmas costume was magnificent and I can't wait to start next Saturday! Before that I have visits to Dunster on Monday, Parkfield School in Taunton on Tuesday and St Cecillia's in Sutton on Thursday. Watch this space for more fun and frolics. Or something like that anyway.