Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Trull-y, madly, deeply...

It was another return visit today, almost a year on from the day I last visited Trull Primary School. From reading my old blog entry from a year ago, it seems we had the same weather today as we did then - bright and sunny, but piercingly cold.
I was warmly greeted as ever and the morning cup of tea was extremely welcome on this cold start. I was back in the main hall at Trull, which is a little like North Petherton in that it retains some elements of it's Victorian original school, but all is gleaming, brand new and bang up to date inside. I set up my stuff in the main hall and then was shown to my luxury dressing room - namely the school library. I don't think I have ever had such a large room all to myself for getting changed in. A complete opposite to the tiny toilet cubicle I had to try and use when I did the Education Exhibition up at the NEC. Also in the library was a Yamaha Clavinova electric piano and something I would very much like someone to buy for me for my birthday! Added to which it was switched on! I had a little tinkle on the ivories and it was lovely... As my son James would say, "I NEEED IT!"
The day itself was a belter, probably the best I have done this January so far. Lots of laughs and some good questions from the children. All of the costumes were fabulous, with even the teachers and TA's looking most impressive. The jousting was a really good session and the young ladies once more triumphed over their male counterparts. Normality, it seems, has been achieved.
I have had a letter from Leeds Castle today asking me back in October for a series of new Henry talks, and I am hopefully being filmed by the BBC in the beginning of February for a BBC3 documentary in the Spring. Watch this space for more...

Monday, January 22, 2007

Brookside School, Street

Here we have a lovely picture of "Mini Henry" who was bought for me at Christmas by my sister-in-law Maria. I think you will find that the resemblance is quite uncanny. Who of though, I am not quite sure...
This bright crisp morning found me heading back to Street, near Glastonbury for a return visit, for a third year running, to Brookside School. The major change from my previous visits was that they had booked me for a full day instead of my usual half day there.
I arrived smack on time and was shown through to the hall again. As usual at this lovely school, my welcome from the staff and teachers was warm and genuine. We had a great group today, about 60 in total. I have to admit that Iwas using this school as something of a guinea pig test. For a while I have been considering dropping the Breughal painting study from my Henry days, and today seemed like an opportune time to try something different. So today, during the carousel of activities at the end of the morning, instead of having one group studying a big print of the Breughal painting, we had one group designing their own coat of arms. And it went down a storm! The children loved it! So that will go in again tomorrow for my next visit.
I had to chop and change a few other aspects of the day today. We only had the main hall for the afternoon until 2.20pm, so the afternoon session for the kids consisted of the opening talk about people being hung, drawn and quartered, and then it was straight into the Jousting tournament. It was a good tourney, with the gentlemen storming to a famous victory. However, after that it was off to another classroom for the stocks session. This still went down a storm as usual, but it meant for a slightly fragmented afternoon.
I stopped in briefly at Somerton on the way home to use the bank and then this evening my lovely wife cooked a beautiful casserole and we sat and let our brains vegetate watching Celebrity Big Brother. I think I only watched it because Cleo Rocos was on it. And in the words of Barry Norman, 'and why not?'. Tomorrow, back to Trull.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

A Wassail Evening at Barrington Court

Last night (Wednesday 17th), Amanda and I were invited over to Barrington Court by Matthew Applegate, to take part in a wassail evening. This is a very old ceremony that involves blessing the apple trees and imploring them to produce another good harvest of cider apples this year. It seems steeped in Pagan traditions and is a wonderful sight to behold. Matthew wanted me to read a poem at this event, and not quite sure what to choose, I spoke to my sister Susan in Wales who is something of a clever clogs when it comes to tradition, folklore and all things vaguely Pagan related. She came up trumps and emailed me the words to a lovely old carol entitled "The Gloucestershire Wassail Carol". The words are:
Wassail! Wassail! All over the town,
Our bread it is white, our ale it is brown:
Our bowl it is made of the Maplin tree,
We all be good fellows who drink to thee.

Here’s to our horse and to his right ear,
God send our master a happy New Year.
A happy New Year as e’er he did see –
With my wassailing bowl I drink to thee.

Here’s to our mare, and to her right eye,
God send our mistress a good Christmas pie;
A good Christmas pie as e’er I did see –
With my wassailing bowl I drink to thee.

Here’s to Fillpail* and to her long tail,
God send our master us never may fail
Of a cup of good beer; I pray you draw near,
And our jolly wassail it’s then you shall hear.

Be there any maids? I suppose there be some;
Sure they will not let young men stand on the cold stone;
Sing hey O maids, come trole back the pin,
And the fairest in the house let us all in.

* Quaint name for a cow!
I "performed" this poem just after an all ladies morris dancing team from Devon had been through their paces, and I am pleased to say I got a great reception from the audience and a warm round of applause. After this we had a sing song from some chap who reckoned himself a font of all knowledge when it came to wassail traditions. I hope never to be stuck in a lift with him. This was followed by another dance from the Morris troupe and then we processed through the grounds to the oldest apple tree in the orchards. This is the first time in something like 130 years that they have produced their own cider at Barrington Court, so it was quite an auspicious occasion. They have been very lucky with help from some local farmers at Barrington, one of whom has loaned them a cider press for the next five years, his repayment simply being a gallon of cider per year and, as it was the first year, a commemorative flagon produced by the Eeles Pottery. Lovely! Sadly, Amanda and I had to slip away a little early as we had left my parents looking after our little one and he was busy screaming the house down when we left. When we got home he was still up and my parents were almost word perfect on the script of "Monsters Inc." having watched it several times over!

Monday, January 15, 2007

North Petherton Junior

It was a nice relatively local jaunt for me today, up the old M5 towards Bridgwater and then scooting off to North Petherton instead. I was due at this school about a year or so ago, but at the last minute they had to cancel me and it has taken this long for the right date to come round again. My first impressions were very good. The school has a Victorian front to it, but this is merely a facade. Almost immediately behind this all is modern and brand spanking new, and very impressive it is too! The teachers are similarly welcoming and friendly, I couldn't have asked for more hospitality.
I was introduced to Jo whose class of year 3/4's I was to be dealing with today. It was only a group of about 25 children, but they were really wonderful, even the little year 3's who had at first seemed a little overawed by Henry's presence, but soon came into their own. We had a really good morning and plenty of laughs. At lunch time I had a walk into North Petherton itself to get some lunch and was delighted to find that my old friend Belinda Stephens from Charlton Hawthorne school was working as a supply teacher at North Petherton today. Added to which another old friend from Hugh Sexey School in Wedmore has moved jobs in the summer and he was now working here as well! This was a reunion almost getting onto "This is Your Life" proportions...
The afternoon was terrific fun. The gentlemen just managed to pip the ladies to the championship on the jousting. After this, when I would normally be contemplating going home, I was asked to take the afternoon assembly for the whole school. I did this as a question and answer session and plenty of laughs were had by all. After leaving I stopped off at Ilminster to get some money and I am now looking forward to a day off tomorrow and my parents visiting on Wednesday for a few days!

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Friends School, Saffron Walden

I like this picture on the left! Admittedly, it has nothing whatsoever to do with todays blog entry, but there you go. It is me, my lovely wife Amanda and young James during one of my days over at Barrington Court last summer! Thought you might enjoy it!
Anyway, on to today. I am in Essex again for my first day back as Henry after the Santa Claus escapades at Leeds Castle over the festive season. I was to drive up to Friends Junior School in Saffron Walden for a return visit, my previous appearance there being back in September 2005. I woke up early and struck out into the blowy, wet miserable morning. My sat nav took me a most amusing route via Widford, Writtle, the Easters and Great Dunmow. I only wanted a quick stop at Inverness and Cardiff and I would have had the full set. As it was, I arrived at the school promptly. Once again we were back in the Scouts Hut, which is perfectly adequate if a little creaky and old. However, with the wind howling and the trees outside shaking around I kept waiting for the whole building to take off. It was a small group today, only about 23 children, but they were very sparky. As we only had the one room to play with, the morning activities we all did together for a change, rather than with the group split up into smaller divisions. I struggled a bit today, feeling very sluggish and tired after the Christmas lay off, but the children and teachers seemed to enjoy it. The afternoon was a real struggle. However, the jousting was a success and yet again the ladies were there to triumph when it mattered. I drove back to my parents the far more sensible M11 route, but the wind is still howling like a banshee, so instead of ploughing back to Somerset tonight, I am going to lay low in Essex and hopefully scoot back tomorrow morning.

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Happy New Year

Hello folks! This is a belated, but heartfelt wish of a Happy New Year to you all. I am enjoying my last few days of freedom before I have to don the tights and become Henry again.
I was on Radio 5 Live today. They were having a discussion tied in with the broadcast tonight of "This Life - 10 Years On". The question was, what were you doing 10 years ago and has your life changed much. I couldn't resist it! I phoned in and was on air before you could say "off with their heads!" I had a nice chat with Phil Williams the presenter about how I came to be Henry VIII and after about three minutes I was done. But I did give the website a plug and we have been inundated with hits on the site ever since.
I have been for a little pub visit with Matthew Applegate of Barrington Court this evening. I am appearing at his Wassail Evening on the 17th January. I ought to put it in the diary before I forget. Night night!