Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Coalway Junior, Coleford

Today was my third visit in three years to one of the loveliest schools you could ever wish to find! I was back up at Coalway Junior in Coleford in Gloucestershire. It is a pleasant, if somewhat long drive up to the place, being only just short of 100 miles and taking in crossing the Severn Bridge and going up through Chepstow, but some of the views when driving up into rural Gloucestershire are just delightful - or I should say they usually are, this morning was somewhat fog enshrouded. It was nice to get to the school again. Yet again I had the two classes of year fives who were really sparky and great fun. They really got into the making of their own coats of arms and also showed a fine and deep knowledge of the whole Tudor family.
After lunch the gruesome Tudor punishments were greeted with the usual mixtures of "Ewwwwwww!" and laughter! The jousting was just magnificent with the grand final between the ladies and the gents going right down to the wire, with the ladies coming from behind to pip the lads as they struggled with their last quoit. Marvellous stuff.
The drive home was relatively easy and I have this evening been sifting through loads of great photos sent to me of the party last weekend. These are great mementoes of a wonderful night. Everyone who came seemed to enjoy themselves and I have been requested to organise another party next year! I shall see...
Next Henry... St Michael's Junior, Wimborne on Friday.

Monday, February 26, 2007

A Grand Tudor 40th Birthday Bash

The Date? Saturday 24th February 2007. The place? Clapton Village Hall, near Crewkerne, Somerset. The event? My 40th birthday party! I have to just quickly say I had a wonderful evening, and I like to think that my friends did as well. We had about 70+ people turn up for the event, many of them dear old friends who I hadn't seen in years and who had travelled many miles to be there. I was very moved.
We had fine Tudor food (as you can see in the picture) supplied by my friends Tris and Jane Pinkney from the very wonderful Bilby's Cafe which you can find in Ilminster, and also in Chard and Crewkerne. The music was superb coming from the lively folk duo of Morgan Rattler, again highly recommended and really got the evening going beautfiully. And finally there was the World premiere of a new radio play entitled "Henry VIII - A Life" written by yours truly and acted out by a superb cast, some of whom had only known they were going to be in it by a matter of hours. Top honours must go to Matthew Applegate of Barrington Court who ended up copping the part of Sir Thomas Cranmer after my old friend Simon Whittaker from Alsager was unable to attend at the last minute. The rest of the cast were: Me as Henry, Ted Heath as Will Somers, Simon Runagall as Sir Thomas Cromwell, Cathy Martin as Lady Cilla of Ye Black, Ann Turner-Maynard as both Lady Legovia-Crumpet and Princess Voluptua, Alison Barling as Catherine Howard and my lovely wife Amanda as Catherine Parr. Viv Rich jumped in at the last minute as our narrator. Viv's husband John videoed the entire play and has threatened me with a DVD of it.
It was nice to see some representatives of some of the local schools, including Tracy and Sally from Arbishop Cranmer School in Taunton and Alexine and friends from Brookside School in Street.
All in all a very memorable weekend (which had kicked off with a splendid evening meal and drinks over at the Dinnington Docks) which I am still trying to recover from!
Today is my actual birthday, so I am taking it easy with James at home and will be taking him out for a little trip shortly. Tomorrow it is back to being Henry again with a visit to Coalway Junior School in Coleford, Gloucestershire.

Monday, February 19, 2007

North Somerset Museum, Weston-super-Mare

As it is half term, Henry's like me get the chance to do visits that aren't the usual school days. Today was one of those days and also included me going to Weston-super-Mare for the first time in my life. All I really knew of Weston was that (a) it was by the sea, and (b) it is the birthplace of John Cleese.
Luckily the museum was very easy to find (if you have a sat nav) and I could unload parked just outside it. I was welcomed by all the staff, who were without fail, warm, cheerful and very friendly. After dumping all the stuff from the "Henry-mobile" (for this, read "Elderly Green Honda Accord"), I had to then go and park it in a nearby car park.. Obviously the word "nearby" has a completely different meaning in Weston-super-Mare. This place was about a mile away, three times the size of a football pitch and with only one working ticket machine for the pay and display, which just happened to be about 500 yards from where I parked. My, how we laughed.
I trekked back to the Museum and got changed into my glad rags. It was a lovely day! Lots of people coming and going, lots of lovely friendly children, some really cute little ones and some happy jolly parents and grandparents. I wandered about a little, tootled on my instruments and chatted to anyone who came within earshot of me. The "So Solid Crew" from Bristol were a bit much to take, but I had a good laugh with and at them from time to time.
Had some lovely photos taken by lots of different people, and posed right at the end with an almost too cute little lady called Isis and her stunning Mother! All that was needed then was to put everything away, have a quick "Great March" over to get the car back from the back of beyond, drive back to the Museum, throw everything in the car and then head for home. And here I am! It was a lovely day today, thoroughly enjoyable at a wonderful Museum. Go and visit it if you are in Weston - you won't be disappointed!

Friday, February 09, 2007

Westonzoyland Junior

What a lovely day! No, not the weather, which is unlike the rest of Britain at the moment. The rest of Britain is currently doing a very passable impression of Antarctica, here in deepest rural Somerset it is wet with a capital splosh. It has poured down all day from a leaden sky that seemed to get lower by the minute.
I drove out to the school at Westonzoyland through enormous puddles and with the cricket on the radio. We skittled the Aussies for 252, but as I tuned in we were reduced to 14-3. I gave up at this point as I had arrived at the school. I received a lovely warm welcome from all the teachers and my fears were calmed somewhat as I was under the impression I was with just years 2 and 3 for the day, who might be a little young to get all the jokes and references. I had no such worries. I was in with everyone from year 2 to year 6, and the little ones got it just as much as the older ones! We had a wonderful day. So many laughs from such a wonderful group of children. They really knew their Tudor stuff as well. We over ran slightly on each session, just purely as the children were enjoying themselves so much and laughing.
At lunch time I was presented with some fan mail from some of the children, which was very sweet, and I was inundated with more later! I shall see if I can put some of them on the wesbite in the next few days.
The afternoon was quite riotous with so much fun and laughter that I had to quieten it down a bit at times! The jousting was of a prodigiously high standard, with the boys winning AGAIN! I left with the endorsement of some of the children still ringing in my ears - they said: "you are the best visitor we have ever had at this school!" I was deeply touched. It is nice to know that your work is appreciated.
When I left this morning, I left a note on the front door in case someone might actually come and deliver my piano at last. When I got back the note had been updated to say that a delivery had been made and was with my next door neighbour, Geoff. I went over to Geoff and he proudly told me he had a parcel for me. I was very excited. Until he produced a big box of Lush bath products for my wife which had been sent to her as a birthday present from my sister. DOH! So, still no piano.
Finally, England have thrashed the Aussies with Paul Collingwood playing a heroes innings. I should have listened longer, shouldn't I?

Thursday, February 08, 2007

St Margaret's Junior School, Tintinhull

I am still getting over a very traumatic day yesterday. First of all I was to sit at home and wait for the delivery of my 40th birthday present from everyone, namely a brand new digital piano! So, I began waiting at about 8.30am. And I carried on waiting. I waited sitting down, and I waited standing up, which is pretty much the same only taller. I carried on waiting. I was soon up to Olympic Standard waiting and still I waited some more. After numerous more waits, it became apparent that the piano wasn't turning up. I had wasted a complete day when I had so much I needed to do. I had to get to the bank, post office and over to Ilminster to see Tris, and I got to do none of it. Nothing. In the evening I sat and watched England against Spain from Old Trafford. We were pants. And we lost. Then just when I thought a Wednesday evening could get no worse, my wife came downstairs to let me know she had broken this computer when she plugged her I-Pod into it. Great. After several muttered oaths and use of colourful language, I went to bed.
Today I was over at St Margaret's Junior School at Tintinhull near Yeovil, the very village that Paddy Ashdown lives in. Or did, anyway. I had to give these poor people a hand written invoice for the day, which was mightily embarrassing. However, the day (only a half day I hasten to add) was a stonker. Great kids, very lively, only about 20 of them and some really enthusiastic and friendly teachers. We had a great morning. The boys again won the jousting so this is turning into something of a habit for them. After stopping off at Crewkerne on the way home, my wife informed me that the PC was being repaired at a cost of about £90 which wasn't too bad, my piano STILL hadn't turned up, my wife's Tudor costume for my 40th HAD turned up and everything seemed to be returning to normal. As you can see, the PC is fine and dandy (I am typing this blog on the very machine I believed to be dead) and fingers crossed, it has many years of appalling blogs to be typed on it from now on!
Tomorrow, I am up bright and early and off to Westonzoyland near Bridgwater for more Tudor frolics!

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Riverview Junior School, Gravesend

This was the day that might have been! I was due to appear at Riverview Junior School in Gravesend, Kent alongside a BBC film crew for an upcoming BBC3 documentary about people with red hair and how it has affected their working lives. I, of course, could not be the Henry VIII I am without having my red hair (unlike some Henry's I have seen around the country!), and the Beeb were very keen to get me on board and have me filmed "in action" at a school. I had mentioned that I was appearing at Riverview School, which being in Kent was a lot closer than Somerset and some of my other haunts. Obviously the BBC are a little like Giles Coren and are not that keen to venture too far away from their west London stamping grounds. Anyway, it was arranged with the BBC and the school for the filming to go ahead. However, on Sunday I got a call from the producer saying that Riverview School had pulled out of the day. When I asked why she said it was because they had discovered the title of the programme - and when I found out I could hardly blame them! The BBC, in their infinite wisdom, had decided to call this programme: "F-Off, I'm Ginger". Now you can see why the school said no!
Anyway, I drove up to Kent on Monday to stay at my sister's house. We had a nice evening as her husband and I both fell asleep in front of the TV after dinner and snored all through "Trial and Retribution", much to my sister's annoyance. Up early this morning and off to Gravesend. Even if the BBC weren't going to be there, I was determined to make it a good day. The teachers were lovely and friendly as ever, the children were great for such a big group (120+) and the school dinner quite spectacularly good! What more could a King ask for? The gentlemen won the jousting session at the end of the day and all the children posed for some great photos in their fabulous Tudor costumes. A visit to Riverview Junior is always a pleasure and I was not disappointed this time. Here's to next year.
I am next on parade on Thursday when I am on a half day at St Margaret's School in Tintinhull, near Yeovil.

Friday, February 02, 2007

Shepton Beauchamp School

I was a very lucky King today as I was to visit one of my favourite villages and schools in the whole UK. Admittedly, I am a little biased as I used to live there, but I am always afforded such a warm friendly welcome that I will continue to sing their praises for evermore! I am talking about Shepton Beauchamp of course, a charming little village sort of midway between South Petherton and Ilminster. My wife and I lived in Shepton between 1998 and 2004 and only the desire for a bigger house for our new enlarged family forced us to look elsewhere. I had first appeared at the school as Henry back in 2005 and had also popped back when I was asked to appear at a school for an ITV News item for the local network and Shepton kindly offered to be the school for that item.
I arrived today quite late, about 9.15am which is normally the time I begin with a group, but I knew the chidlren wouldn't be there as they were over at the village church first thing. I set up my stuff in the front class room and got changed. The children were waiting when I came out. None of them knew I was going to be there! Wonderful. We had a great morning with the opening talk going very well and a lot of the children displaying wonderful knowledge of the Tudor era. We then went straight into the coat of arms design bit which again showed some real talent from some of the children. After lunch we moved to a larger classroom where the stocks proved as popular as ever and the rip roaring jousting tournament was won by the gentlemen - by a whisker! Normally if we have some spare time I'll let the teachers have a race, but there was only Mrs Fraser in with me today, so for the teachers race and for the first time ever, I took part with a team I selected. Not wishing to show off, but I won! I suppose they felt they had to let me win as I was the King. It would have been rude not to.
I now have a nice weekend at ease followed by a trip to Kent on Monday for my appearance at Riverview School in Gravesend. The BBC will be there to film this for a BBC3 documentary about red-headed people. I wonder who they mean?

Thursday, February 01, 2007

White Woman Lane and Caister School

This was another week away for me with a visit up to Norfolk and two days, one at White Woman Lane School near Norwich and another which was a return visit to Caister Middle School. However, our story begins in dark Somerset...
My car had gone in for it's MOT on Friday 26th January at Popular Motors in Merriott. I seem to spend a lot of time there, and I told Ian Summers who works there that there should be a blue plaque on the wall announcing that it was in this very car repair shop that Mike Farley's bank account died. Anyway, they got my Honda on the Friday but they needed a few spare parts which would not be available until the Monday, which was the day I was hoping to drive to Essex to see my folks before striking out for Norfolk. Sadly the delivery time of the parts was not to be until 2pm on the Monday, so that was lunch in Essex out the window! When the parts were delivered, they were the wrong parts. The proper ones didn't turn up until nearer 5pm and my car wasn't ready until just after 7pm! And then I had to drive to Essex. So though I was due to have lunch with my parents I even managed to miss dinner! Thankfully Amanda and James were there as well, so it was nice to meet and have some cuddles.
I was up at the crack of dawn to head up to Norfolk and my appointment at White Woman Lane school. This was a lovely school. White Woman Lane apparently is so named because of a ghost frequently seen in the area. Get "Most Haunted" up there, that's what I say! The children and teachers at the school were wonderful and we had a really nice day. Lots of laughs and the children had a great time doing the quiz and the design your own coat of arms. The afternoon session was super fun and the jousting a real rip snorter with the ladies triumphing as well. I then had to make a presentation to one of the little girls who was leaving the school on Friday as her family were moving out of the area.
The next day, I found myself back on the road up to Norfolk to visit Caister on Sea Middle School. This was a return visit and I picked the perfect day for it as it was the Head Teacher's 60th birthday and they had laid on drinks and a nice buffet lunch for us all. It was a big group, about 120 children, but it all seemed to go really well. They did a fine example of some Tudor dancing for me, which was much appreciated. During one of my talks in the morning I managed to get a tickle in my throat which I could not get rid of, and spent some time just coughing pathetically in front of the children, which was a bit embarrassing. Also during this point I was giving the children a little talk about writing implements used and I showed them my feather pen and asked them what it was called - the answer I got? A quiff! Perfect... The final jousting session was longer than normal because of the large number of children, but we managed to whittle all the teams down to a ladies champions and a gents, and in the final the men triumphed for once. With some help from some little roadies I was soon on my way.
I had a lovely evening with my parents and my wife, and today I have driven back to Somerset. My mother and father, gawd bless 'em, have bought me the piano I want for my 40th! It should be arriving on Wednesday next week. I can't wait!
Before then, my next Henry jobs are tomorrow at Shepton Beauchamp school and then next Tuesday with the BBC film crew at Riverview School in Gravesend.