Thursday, March 29, 2007

Cotford St Luke School

What a good day this has been! If I can find a better school, more friendly group of teachers, or sparkier kids than this lot in the next 12 months, I reckon I will be doing pretty well!
I set out this morning for my trek to Cotford St Luke with some slight reservations, mostly about the journey. I would have to travel right through the middle of Taunton, a well known bottle-neck. I have been caught out by Taunton before, most notably on my most recent visit to Dunster School. Luckily today it was mostly benign and I made steady if unspectacular progress.
Cotford St Luke appears to be being completely rebuilt. There are new areas of it apparently springing up everywhere. The school appears to be brand new, as though the wrappers have only just been torn off it. It nestles next to the semi-renovated remains of an old Victorian asylum that broods over the whole area. I was warmly welcomed by an old friend, Adrian Jones, who I had previously met when I visited him at his old school of St Mary's in Bridgwater nearly two years ago. I piled all my stuff into the main hall and got into costume. The morning was fine, with some good knowledge from the children and laughs aplenty. At lunch time I was treated to an Ocean Pizza, which lived up to it's name by being not so much fishy as FISHY!!!! in the extreme.
The afternoon seemed to go even better. Laughs galore during the stocks, which poor old Mr Jones got stuck in (which I believe he suffered the indignity of at St Mary's!) before the jousting started. At lunch time, I had said to Mrs Cooper (another one of the teachers at the school and a very glamorous lady! I hope she is blushing when she hears about this!) that I was absolutely certain that the ladies would win the jousting. It is a good job I am not a betting man. The boys won, only just, but they did. The first time in a long time.
My drive home was interrupted by a crashed tractor near Kingstone just outside Ilminster, but I got home in one piece. I am due back at Cotford St Luke in July - I can't wait! Thank you for a wonderful day, I really enjoyed it! Superb school!

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Chard School

Spring has arrived it seems! Brilliant sunshine today and a nice short round trip for me, to Fore Street in Chard and a visit to the historic Chard School. The main part of this lovely school dates from the 1580's, but I am performing in the old Chapel which is even older. No one is quite sure of the exact date but it could be contemporary with Henry VIIIth himself!
The caretaker is the first person to greet me and gives me a full run down on the previous evening's "X-Factor" talent show the children had put on. Then the headmaster comes to join me. He is very warm and welcoming and bears a more than uncanny resemblance to the character Scottie as he appeared in the later Star Trek films.
The children, as with most private schools, are very confident and knowledgable. Thankfully they laugh at all the gags as well. The day is given a slightly disjointed edge by not having one teacher with the group all day. Instead, each teacher who's lesson I am interrupting, sits in for that hour or so. However, the day goes swimmingly. I am treated to a lovely lunch by the headmaster's charming wife in their flat overlooking Fore Street, before I am back on parade in the chapel for the stocks session and a final jousting tournament. Very predictably the ladies win the jousting! Big rousing cheers at the end and then I am on my way. A lovely day and a lovely school.
Thursday I am off for the first of two days at Cotford St Luke (the 2nd day isn't until July!).

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Drayton Middle School, Norfolk

Now before I start today's blog, a little comment on yesterday's entry. Moonroot, in the comments section asked whether the child lying at my feet had been rendered unconscious by my musical ability. I don't think he had. As it is my son, James, who is lying there, and as his grandparents were with him, I am thinking it was probably a case of him being told he would have to go home and leave Daddy dressed as "The King" and he was protesting. Naturally, whenever I wish to render my son unconscious I always use a coal shovel like every sensible parent should. But seriously...
I had a far better nights sleep last night and woke up at the usual ungodly hour to drive to Norfolk feeling a bit more with it than yesterday. It was still bitterly cold as I stepped outside and it took a while to defrost the screen of the car entirely. However, I made very good progress again and was soon driving through beautiful frosty countryside up the A12. The sky was delightful, ice cream pinks mixing with swooping blues, and all flecked here and there with wispy cirrus clouds.
Drayton is a small village/town on the northern outskirts of Norwich and a place I had never visited before, but it seems quite charming! The school was nice and easy to find and I was soon being welcomed in with a hot cup of tea and a whistle-stop tour of the school facilities. Mr Wilkinson, my main contact for the year 5's I was with today, looked fabulous dressed in his green Tudor gear and went up in my estimation immensely when he revealed that he was a Manchester City fan like me! It was another biggish group today and my voice was suffering a little from three shows in four days, but it held out remarkably well. I got two breaks in the morning as there was morning assmbly to get through and then a usual morning break. Lunch was very nice, roast beef, Yorkshire puds, roast spuds and peas with a thick gravy and a nice crisp juicy apple for afters. All of the teachers had dressed in splendid Tudor clothing and the ladies in particular looked absolutely lovely! All but one of the children had come in fabulous costumes as well and it all just added to the good feeling about the day. The final joust was again a good one, but this time the gents bucked the trend and triumphed by a couple of quoits.
Fond farewells are said and I drive back to my parents in Essex. I shall be having dinner soon and will stay the night here tonight and have a nice leisurely drive back to Somerset and my loving wife and son tomorrow. All in all, a superb school and a good day.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Falcon Middle School, Sprowston

After a particularly appalling nights sleep, I got up at a very early hour and prepared for the long hike from Essex up to Norfolk for today's Henry visit. I had driven up from Somerset to my parent's house in Mountnessing the day before. On stepping out of the front door at about 5.30 am I was presented by piercingly cold clear morning. My car had a light dusting of snow across it and the morning sky was flecked with scudding clouds.
Soon I was on my way, up the jolly A12 (a road I am now far more familiar with now that I no longer live in Essex) and made very good headway. The faintly ridiculous Sarah Kennedy was waffling on the radio about how grateful she was that the wind had dropped. She clearly wasn't standing on the forecourt of the petrol station on the A12 where I was. I have no idea where the wind was coming from (Antarctica at a guess) but I knew where it was going. It was howling round me!
I soon found myself in Norwich, a delightful city, a winding my way past Carrow Road (home of Norwich City FC) and on the road up to Sprowston itself. This was a completely new school for me, but it was truly wonderful. A fabulously warm welcome from everyone and I was even allowed to park in the disabled parking bay when there was no space left in the car park - though I did make it clear that I would be happy to move if necessary. There was about 70 children today and despite being very quiet at the start they soon warmed up as the day got going. Lunch was very nice, a warming sausage pie with thick gravy, followed by Bakewell tart with custard!
The afternoon sped by and the jousting was just wonderful. In the grand final the gents got way out in front, but the ladies pegged them back and finally snatched victory with a quite magnificent anchor leg from their last lady. Lots of laughs and thank yous and a promise of a return visit next year. Sounds good to me.
The drive back to my parents was relatively easy and I am now about to have a small drink with my father and then allow my mother to molly coddle me with a proper home dinner. Very nice! Tomorrow its back to Norfolk and Drayton Middle School.

Monday, March 19, 2007

St Martin's Junior School, Weston-super-Mare

Today was a good example of one thing leading to another. I got today's appearance at St Martin's Junior in Weston-super-Mare after my show at the North Somerset Museum back in February. One of the children at the school had seen me, handed one of my leaflets in at the school and here I was almost exactly a month later making this appearance!
It was a really good day today. Nearly 200 children is always going to be challenging, but these kids were brilliant! Full of beans, ready to laugh, ready to enjoy and they also knew when to sit and listen. The morning was partially interrupted by an assembly where the Welsh head teacher wanted to make a few choice comments about the Rugby match between Wales and England this weekend! He seemed very happy indeed...
The morning was good, considering how big some of the groups were with the activity rotation, but this afternoon almost topped the lot! The noise during the final of the jousting was almost unbelievable! They fair blew the roof off the place! In a pulsating finale it was the ladies who just sneaked home (as usual) and took the plaudits. As for me, I packed up and headed home to my lovely wife, my darling little boy and a plate of spaghetti bolognese. You can't ask for much more than that from life.
St Martin's Junior was a delightful school and I would love to visit them again some time. Next Henry? Wednesday at Falcon Middle School in Sprouston near Norwich. See you then.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

King Henry VIIIth Launched into My Space!

Just a quick note to let you all know that in a desperate attempt to remain trendy, groovy and, above all else, not 40 years old, I have been persuaded to launch my own My Space site. At the moment this is still very much in it's infancy, but it will be a nice compliment to the official website ( and to this Blog.
You can visit my "My Space" site, which will give you all the latest news about what Henry is up to and where you can come and see me in action as everyone's favourite despotic Tudor monarch at There will also be lots of Henry photos put on here and you never know, maybe even some sound bites and even video clips to entertain. Fingers crossed! Keep watching for more...

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Oakfield, Dartford & Sweyne, Swanscombe

Another two days in Kent. Just think, if I stay for a few more days I could probably apply for citizenship! Monday and Tuesday this week were third year in a row visits to two of my favourite schools in Kent. On Monday I was due at Oakfield Junior School in Dartford. I had driven to Kent on the Sunday afternoon and stayed at my sister's house again near Sittingbourne. We enjoyed Sunday night with an Indian takeaway and some silly TV.
I got up relatively early on the Monday and made my way to Dartford. Oakfield is lovely and easy to find and as ever, the friendly welcome from all the old familiar faces was very nice. The hall where I perform had been recently decorated and looked particularly spik and span! It was a great group of children as usual, if a little quieter than in recent years. One of the lads was blind and it was fun to hand him the props and let him feel them out for himself rather than have me describe them to him. The jousting was a belter as ever and went to a close finish with the ladies triumphing - as per usual. I packed up my stuff and headed back to my sister's house for a bottle of Valpolicella and a nice pasta bolognese!
Tuesday saw me hurtling back up the M2/A2 and this time to Swanscombe, sometime described as the latin quarter of Gravesend. This was my third year in a row visit to the Sweyne Junior School and yet another encounter with Mr Dan Burghin. He was as welcoming and courteous as ever and it was lovely to be back in a school that I know and enjoy so well. The children were lively and full of laughter. They had only just started studying the Tudors but still seemed to have a good grounding of general Tudor knowledge. One lad during the talk about the stocks suggested that hammers should be thrown at people in them. When I asked the group why throwing hammers at people would be a stupid thing to do, I expected the answer "it would kill you", but instead from another lad I got the suggestion that the Tudor's hadn't discovered hammers! So THAT's why all those old Tudor buildings kept falling down! All the builders were left standing around wondering what the hell they were going to use to hit the nails in with... The finale of the jousting was very very close, but this time, just for a change, the lads won. Congratulations to them.
I packed everything away and was on my weary way back to Somerset at about 3.15pm. After a nice easy journey back I found myself back home with my beloveds by about 6pm. Lovely. And now for a quiet pint with Mr Matthew Applegate at the Dinnington Docks.

Friday, March 09, 2007

The Western Gazette - FAME!

I got a phone call yesterday from a nice young reporter on the Western Gazette, asking me if I would be interested in being interviewed for inclusion in next weeks issue, particularly the Crewkerne and Villages area. Who was I to say no?
Each week they do a feature on someone from the Crewkerne area and interview them and shed a bit more light on what it is they do. So this morning (Friday) I found myself driving up to Yeovil to meet Chris Sweet of the Western Gazette at their office for an interview. Chris' shorthand skills are very good which is lucky because I waffled on so much, but he seemed very pleased with the interview and it will be featured in the next issue - out next Thursday. To finish off I was introduced to Gemma Hampson, a lovely lady who works at the Gazette and who I have dealt with in the past over Henry VIII articles and who has always been a good help. I have only ever spoken to her on the phone before, so it was nice to put a face to the voice.
This weekend will see me driving to Kent on Sunday ready for appearances at Dartford on Monday and Swanscombe on the Tuesday. Such are the demands on a Tudor Monarch...

Monday, March 05, 2007

Thomas Johnson Lower School, Lidlington

And here I was thinking D-Day was the longest day? It all began at about 3.55am when my alarm went off. There is definitely going to be a law about times like that... I got up and got ready for the rigours of the day ahead. It was going to be a long drive, all the way up to Lidlington near Bedford and Milton Keynes, and then just for the fun of it, driving back again.
My early morning driving fun was not helped by the fact that the best DJ on in the wee small hours, namely Alex Lester on Radio 2, was off and there was some bloke on instead, whose name escapes me, but he brought a whole new meaning to the word "dreadful". His phone in quiz was embarrassing, he kept fluffing words, not understanding what some people who were phoning in were saying and just generally being a bit too "Smashy and Nicey" for his own good.
One part of my journey that was nice was to see the full moon, or at least it looked full, bobbing along just above the horizon for most of the way, before broiling down in the clouds as the sun came out. Very nice!
I found the school nice and easily, but was a little bit early (it was still only about 7.45am when I got there). So I nipped off for a sandwich and a newspaper, sat and read for a bit and then made my way back to the school. I was very warmly welcomed and offered a smashing cup of tea as I set everything up. It was a small group today, about 23 children and a mixture of years 3 and 4. But we had a wonderful day. Their knowledge of the Tudors was impeccable, up until the end of Jane Seymour - but apparently that is as far as they have got in classes, so that was understandable! After a lovely lunch of Shepherds Pie it was back in the hall with all the usual afternoon shenanigans. The jousting was a blast, with the ladies quietly strolling to a comfortable triumph.
After lots of lovely help stowing stuff in the car, I was on my way and managed to get home by about 6pm, which was pretty good going, considering the weather was closing in and a large part of my journey was during rush hour. I was greeted at home by a lovely hug from James and my wife, plus she had made me for dinner... you guessed it, Shepherds Pie!

Sunday, March 04, 2007

Barrington Court Re-visited

Saturday morning I paid a visit to Barrington Court near Ilminster to see Matthew Applegate, sometime visitor's services manager for the Court and occasional "God" of the acting profession. We were to discuss possible future Henry appearances at this lovely National Trust property. (For a good look at this wonderful old building and all it's opening times and info please click on this: .
We decided that Henry should be making appearances over the Easter weekend of the 7th, 8th and 9th April, afternoon strolls around the gardens. Then again Henry will return over the weekend of the 18th and 19th August for slightly longer Tudor musings and wanders. I love Barrington Court, it is a real gem of a place to visit and well worth making the effort.

Saturday, March 03, 2007

St Michael's Junior, Colehill, Wimborne

It was another return visit for me today, for a third year running, down to Wimborne and the village of Colehill. I was back at one of my all time favourite schools – St Michael’s. This school is just so good! I always get a big group of children (usually about 130), nearly every single one of them dresses up in wonderful Tudor costumes, they always behave impeccably, they are very articulate, have good knowledge and enjoy a good laugh at most of my nonsense! The food at lunchtime is always absolutely spot on and delicious. Added to which the teachers and class room assistants are all wonderful and friendly, and the icing on the cake is that one of them is the dead ringer for Sophie Raworth! All good news from my point of view!
We had another excellent day, only broken up slightly by an enforced break as they held a morning assembly, but this just meant I got to have a much longer morning break time than usual and a couple of cups of tea! The coat of arms task instead of the Breughel painting is proving to be very popular with the children and some of their designs again today were marvellous. The afternoon session got off to a bad start as one poor little soul got upset during the crime and punishment section and was reduced to tears. I have been advised to tone it down for my return visit next year. The jousting though was of a very high standard and an incredibly noisy and tumultuous final saw the ladies just snatch victory away from the gents. Wonderful stuff.
My drive home was nice and uneventful and my lovely wife then bought home a take away curry. Now that is what I call a good Friday.
Next week I am off to Thomas Johnson School in Lidlington in Bedfordshire.