Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Ellison Boulters School, Scothern, Lincoln

The previous two days have seen Good King Hal move into a whole new area of the country for the first time. I was due to do my first ever school in Lincolnshire - in fact, unless anyone can inform me to the contrary, this was to be my first visit to Lincolnshire EVER. I had been contacted by Ellison Boulters Junior School in Scothern just outside Lincoln and they had asked me to come along for a Tudor day having seen reports of me on the internet.
The weekend just gone had been fun as my old friend John Rich from Crawley came to stay for the evening, and we had a splendid time indeed. On the Sunday I was due to drive to Lincoln to appear on BBC Radio Lincolnshire being interviewed by my old mate Howard Leader, formerly of "That's Life" and "Allo Allo". I set off from home in Somerset at about 11am, and my sat nav was telling me I should be in Lincoln by 3pm - plenty of time. HA! As soon as I got on the M5 I was in trouble. The traffic was appalling. There had been a crash near Bridgwater and I just sat in non-moving traffic for nearly two hours. I phoned the radio station and warned them that I might be late. They were cool and just said "as long as you are here before 5pm..." I finally managed to get through the stationary traffic, but by now my sat nav reckoned my ETA in Lincoln was up to nearly 5pm. I pushed on and was making great headway - until somewhere in Worcestershire - another crash has occurred and there is more huge queues of stationary traffic. I finally manage to get past that and pushed on, only to hit ANOTHER traffic jam on the M42. When I finally got to the M6, I was so tired and fed up, I phoned BBC Lincolnshire and offered them my apologies and a resignation! They were very good about it and I have promed to get to them another time.
I pushed on to South Witham near Grantham where my old friend Val Smart lives. I had dinner with her, her daughter Bonnie, Bonnie's husband Alex and their cute little 8 month old daughter called Robyn. The dinner was delicious and it was so nice to see old friends and faces. After dinner I went over to my B&B which was the Old Rectory opposite Val's house. It was very comfortable, but bore a slightly uncanny resemblance to the Addams Family House. But I slept well and was presented with a big and hearty breakfast that was very welcoming! All this for just £25 B&B. Bargain!
I headed back out onto the roads in appalling weather, slithering and sliding through vast puddles of water on my way to Lincoln and Scothern. I finally got to the school and it was worth the wait. Fabulous children, charming teachers and a really good set of buildings. It was a bit different from normal days as they wanted me to do my opening hour long talk, three times over to three big groups of children. This was then followed by a grand jousting tournament in the main hall which was done infront of the entire school and the noise was deafening! When the gents won the main final against the ladies I thought the roof was going to blow off! But that deafening noise was nothing compared to what we got when we had a teacher's race at the end. My ears were ringing for ages afterwards.
I packed and left, and immediately had more awful weather and traffic to traverse. I won't bore you with the full details, but it was truly appalling, I had one section where I covered three miles in about two hours, and the rain never stopped. The rain finally ceased when I got down to Bristol on the M5. I had left the school in Lincoln at 3.15pm and I arrived on my drive at 9.45pm. All that for about 225 miles of driving. Boy, was I glad to be home.

Saturday, June 23, 2007

Westival, Taunton

Another date for your diaries. 23rd July 2007, you can come and visit Taunton Castle and have an evening with Henry VIIIth. This show is part of Taunton's 2nd annual "Westival" arts festival. You can read more about it by clicking here: http://www.westival.co.uk/day.php?whatson_id=3 and when you've read that click on their home page and find out what else is going on at this great festival.
The evening of the 23rd will be an open air presentation, featuring a bit about the life and times of England's most infamous monarchs, and then a little bit about just what it is like to spend your life looking like a ginger monster in tights. Entertainment and a few laughs guaranteed.
Also added to the evening's excitement is the chance to sample proper Tudor food, prepared lovingly by Tris and Jane Pinkney of the Bilby's restaurants. A splendid time is guaranteed for all.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Birchfield Junior, Yeovil

With a freshly repaired car starter motor (thank you Popular Motors of Merriot for the speedy work!) it was back to being Henry today. This was a return visit again for me, back to Birchfield Junior in Yeovil for a full Tudor day of fun and frolics.
It was good to be back and it is so nice to do the occasional local show like this one, knowing that when you have finished the day you will be back home while it is still daylight! I got a wonderfully warm and genuine welcome from this delightful school again. So nice to see some regular faces again.
A lot of the children had dressed up in magnificent costumes. I am always particularly proud when you can see they are home made costumes - that someone in their family has gone to such great lengths to make them look that good for their "Audience With the King".
It was a great day, lots of fun, lots of laughs and a lot of building work going on which sometimes did become a little intrusive, though mostly only the noise! All the different parts of the day went well and we even got to have a fun Q&A session in one of the classrooms before lunch. I got changed in the morning in one office, got changed in another after lunch and finally ended up having to get changed in the gents at the end of the day, such was the merry-go-round of rooms during my visit.
The jousting was particularly exciting, with the ladies team in the final lagging way behind the gents, but the anchor leg rider for the ladies was quite superb and she stormed back to just snick a win on the final target, with a huge roar from the audience! Great stuff! Everyone seemed to have a good time and Birchfield have asked me back for next year - lovely! I would be pleased to.
Next I am off to Lincoln on Sunday for an appearance at BBC Radio Lincolnshire with my old mate Howard Leader. Then I am doing my first school in Lincolnshire on the Monday - a whole new frontier.

Sunday, June 17, 2007

The Royal Progress Tour Poster!

And here for the first time is a rough copy of the tour poster for Good King Hal's epic 9-date mini-tour round rural Somerset in August 2007!
You can come and see England's infamous monarch at:

13th August Seavington Millennium Hall, 3pm
14th August Compton Dundon Village Hall, 3pm

16th August Stoke-sub-Hamdon Memorial Hall, 3pm

17th August Clapton & Wayford Village Hall, 3pm

18th August Barrington Court, National Trust Property, 12 noon

19th August Barrington Court, National Trust Property, 12 noon

20th August East Coker Village Hall, 3pm
21st August Norton-sub-Hamdon Village Hall, 3pm
23rd August Long Load Village Hall, 3pm

More news as and when!

Friday, June 15, 2007

Christchurch & Gravesend & Thundersley & Canvey Island.

This was a week to test even the most intrepid of Tudor re-enactors. No, I wasn't stuck in a lift with Terry Deary, but there was lots of travelling and a dodgy car to add to the mix.

Monday finds me heading to Somerford School in Christchurch in Dorset. This was a lovely school with some fine children and just a bit further into Christchurch than the other school I have been to in this nice town. We had a great day and the children were really wonderful. The jousting was won by the gentlemen for a nice change. I got some great help re-loading the car after the show and I was soon on my way, but not home - I was now heading to Kent to my sister's place near Sittingbourne. Radio reports were suggesting that the M25 was a bit snarled up, but they were wrong. It was INCREDIBLY snarled up. Where they had been suggesting 2 miles of tail backs there was more like 6 or 7 miles of tail backs. Halfway through this mass of cars, I managed to stall the car in the slow moving traffic. It wouldn't re-start, just sitting there making stubborn clicking noises. I had to get out and push it over two lanes to the hard shoulder. I couldn't find my mobile phone so I had a good old root around in the car trying to locate it. It had to be in my Henry bag in the boot, so I got that out on the hard shoulder and had a sift through that. Nope, not there either... I had lost it! I have only now today just found out that I left it at Somerford School, who are very kindly going to post it to me soon. Watch this space for more... The car finally agreed to re-start and I did eventually get through the traffic, but it took me over four hours from Christchurch to Stockbury near Sittingbourne, a journey that should have only taken two hours.

After a lovely evening at my sister's, including a very nice steak and kidney pudding dinner and sitting watching "Scary Movie 4" and laughing a bit too much at a film that is that immature, it was soon the morning and I was off again - this time to Holy Trinity School in Gravesend for a return visit from last year. It was really nice to be back at this warm friendly school. And by heck, was it warm! I nearly melted in the studio where we were for the day! It was another blinding day and once more the gents triumphed on the jousting front. Perhaps this was a change in the fortunes of my young jousters? Earlier, it had appeared that my car didn't want to work again after I got to the school, once again merely producing a series of embarrassed "clicks". I phoned my father in Essex and alerted my wife back in Somerset, just in case the AA needed to be called. Of course at the end of the day I go out to the car in the car park and it starts first time with a healthy roar! I drove up to Essex for a second night away from home, this time at my parents' house.
Wednesday dawned with me visiting a new school for me - Thundersley Junior School in...er...Thundersley in Southend-on-Sea. Thundersely for me always makes me think of the Billy Bragg song "The A13 Road to the Sea" where he name checks the different places you might visit should you "ever need to go to Shoeburyness", including "Pitsea, Thundersley, Hadleigh, Leigh-On-Sea,Chalkwell, Prittlewell, Southend's the end!" and so on... Anyway, this school was lovely, again wonderfully welcome and with some fantastic kids who had a great day! Getting right back into the swing of things, the ladies won this jousting tournament to restore some of their pride. With somewhat bated breath, I headed for the car after the show and the wonderful thing started first time!
For the final day, I was making my third return visit to Northwick Park Primary School in Canvey Island. When I first arrived I hardly recognised the place, it had been almost completely rebuilt and was now a proper Primary school rather than two separate Junior and Infant locations. They were making frantic efforts to get the place ready for it's official opening which is today, Friday the 15th June. We had another super day with some really groovy kids, some fabulous costumes and a rip roaring jousting session with the ladies coming home first and thus ending the week with both sides tied at 2-2. We had one magic moment in the afternoon - I was explaining to the children how you never threw food at people in the stocks, you had to find something else, which in the Tudor's case tended to be poo! I was asking the group for suggestions when one lad said we should throw potatoes. I had to point out that potatoes were (a) food and (b) hadn't been discovered in Henry's time. So I asked for more suggestions. Another lad said what about rocks. I had already let the children know that throwing anything lethal at someone in the stocks was not an option as you might kill them, so after this suggestion I asked the group why would rocks not be thrown at someone in the stocks. A little lady put her hand up and told me it was because rocks hadn't been discovered in Tudor times either! LOVE IT!
I stopped off at Billericay on the way back from Canvey Island to get some money for petrol for the journey home, then went to my parents for a last evening meal before heading back to Somerset. I bade my folks goodbye at about 8pm and headed up to the nearby petrol station at Mountnessing. I filled up, got back in the car after paying, put the key in the ignition and "CLICK". We were immediately back to the situation of this car deciding not to work. I sat in the front seat trying it and trying it, to no avail. Finally one of the guys from behind the counter helped me push it out of the way. I sat and continued trying to get it going. Nothing. By about 8.45pm I was getting a bit narked. I phoned my father from the call box at the petrol station but it was out of order. There was nothing for it but to walk back to my parents. I got there and explained the situation. We got a tow rope and headed back up to the petrol station in my father's Mercedes. We finally got it all roped up, started pulling me up the slope to get out of the petrol station when the rope came untied, my father shot forward and I rolled backwards down the slope. Thinking quickly, I stuck it in reverse and let the clutch out sharply - it fired up first time. My father came back into the petrol station, we said another goodbye and I was on my way! I had absolutely no intention of stopping for anyone. It was late by the time I got going and I didn't get home to Clapton until nearly 1am. I was finished. Boy did I sleep well! All the car needs now is either a new starter motor, or being set fire to. I haven't decided which one yet...

Saturday, June 09, 2007

A Royal Progress


Get your diaries, calendars and appointment secretaries to hand. This is the tour news you have been waiting for. Forget what the Rolling Stones are up to, ignore Green Day and REM. If The Beatles were to somehow miraculously reform for a "live" gig, or even for that matter if XTC were to, this is even more momentous news than EVEN that...

Good King Hal is proud to announce his summer "Royal Progress 2007 Tour"! Admittedly, this is not on a par with a 12 month World tour, but it pretty exciting by his normal standards. You can now come and meet Britain's infamous monarch and see him "close up and personal" at a venue near you! (Venue near you only applies if you happen to live in Somerset... sorry).

You can catch Britain's number one Henry VIIIth re-enactor live at the following venues in August.

  • 13th August - Seavington Millennium Hall, 3pm
  • 14th August - Compton Dundon Village Hall, 3pm
  • 16th August - Stoke-sub-Hamdon Memorial Hall, 3pm
  • 17th August - Clapton & Wayford Village Hall, 3pm
  • 18th August - Barrington Court, National Trust Property, 12 noon
  • 19th August - Barrington Court, National Trust Property, 12 noon
  • 20th August - East Coker Village Hall, 3pm
  • 21st August - Norton-sub-Hamdon Village Hall, 3pm
  • 23rd August - Long Load Village Hall, 3pm

All of these dates are subject to confirmation. There are no ticket prices available at present, but this will be a show for all the family, children and adults alike! There will be refreshments available at each venue. So if your children are getting bored during their summer holidays, this could be just the thing to get them up and buzzing again. For more details, please call 01460 271641.

Friday, June 08, 2007

Southill Junior School, Weymouth

It was a warm muggy morning as I drove down to Weymouth today. This was to be a new school, one I had not visited before. This is always exciting, but I had nothing to worry about as the natives were decidedly friendly!
One of the teachers had dressed up as Elizabeth I, complete with white face, head-dress and, initially, blackened teeth! She looked wonderful and very authentic. The other teacher was also attired in a beautiful Tudor dress. A lot of the children in the group of about 60 had come in some remarkably wonderful costumes.
We had a great day with the years 3 and 4. A couple of the girls showed a real depth of Tudor knowledge, but all of them were also very ready to laugh and join in with the fun of the day. It was a very warm day today, but luckily I seem to be getting used to this heat very quickly, and didn't suffer quite as much as I might have done! The only time I thought I was going to spontaneously combust with the heat was walking back up the hill to the school after going down to the local shop for a sandwich at lunchtime!
The afternoon was another good one, with once again the boys snatching the honours in the jousting from the ladies after they got a bit confused on their final run! The teachers had a final fun jousting session and then I was on my way home.
Tonight, I have just returned from a meeting of a proposed new Drama club in the area. It would appear we are to be called "The Pilsden Players", and an initial "Talent Night" is planned for early September. Watch this space for more soon.
Next week is going to be mad for me! On Monday I am at Christchurch in Dorset, on Tuesday I am in Gravesend in Kent. Wedneday I am at Thundersley in Essex, followed by Thursday at Canvey Island. After that I need a sit down and a cold drink. So I shall have one. Good night!

Thursday, June 07, 2007

The Kittens!

Druscilla (left) and Spike (below) - as promised!

Hugh Sexey Middle School, Wedmore

Today could have been called "The School That Never Was". According to my sat nav in the car, Hugh Sexey Middle School in Wedmore doesn't exist. It could get me as close as the middle of Wedmore village itself, but apart from that I was on my own. Apart from a slightly unscheduled stop at Wedmore First School to ask for directions, I arrived at Hugh Sexey pretty much on time, much to my amazement.
I was warmly welcomed, as I had been on my previous visit last April. It was a group of 160 children today and I should say about 90% of them had dressed up in some amazingly wonderful costumes. We had a really fun day! The kids were great, ready to laugh at all my awful jokes and also very keen to learn about Tudor life in general.
Some of the children had brought in Tudor packed lunches, and I was treated to a wonderful meat pie lunch, with some nice boiled potatoes, cabbage and peas, with a thick gravy. I was then given a glass of dandelion and burdock - something I haven't tried in years! Lovely. Glad to announce that the teachers at this wonderful school share my opinions of Terry Deary. And serves him right.
The afternoon was great fun, with lots of silliness with the stocks, and a stonking jousting session with the gents winning for a nice change in a nail biting final. The teachers then took part in a fun race at the end which the kids loved!
This evening I have arrived home to discover two new additions to home - kittens! It has been some time since our beloved old cat Gracie passed on, but we now have two cute as buttons little kittens - one, a little boy called Spike, and a little girl called Druscilla. Both are mostly white, Spike has black splotches over him and Druscilla has black and tortoise-shell splotches. Spike is quite shy, but Dru is much more bold. I shall post some pics on here shortly!
Tomorrow I am off to Southill School in Weymouth in Dorset. See you there!

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

A Welsh Weekend

What was originally planned as a holiday weekend away turned into a working holiday - but a really nice one! My wife, son and I, had been asked to visit my sister and her husband where they live near Carmarthen in Wales. It is a wonderfully idyllic setting, a small holding perched on a picture perfect Welsh hillside, with swooping countryside surrounding you wherever you look. My sister Sue and her husband Trevor were, as ever, perfect hosts - as were their three cute cats, Tigger, Marley and Bear.

Saturday was nice and relaxing, and we really didn't do a heck of a lot. On the Sunday, the weather was atrocious, but Trevor was keen to get stuck into some surfing so we drove down to Newgale - me, Amanda, Sue and James in the Ford Mondeo (yawn) but Trevor in his Mystery Machine camper van! How cool was that? Down at Newgale the weather seemed worse, so with Trevor rushing down onto the beach, the rest of us decamped to the nice cafe there. After a pleasant lunch we wandered to the beach to watch Trevor in action, but it was a bit too windy and grotty to watch for long. So we headed for the car and went to St David's instead, where James (and the ladies!) were entranced by the Chocolate Shop!

On Monday I was to make my first Henry appearance, this time at the Cynwyl Elfed Dining Club for OAP's. I had given a talk to them before, many years back, but this was a nice return! My sister lives in the hamlet of Esgair near the village of Cynwyl Elfed and she helps out as a volunteer at the Dining Club. I came on after the guests had enjoyed their lunch. We had a lot of good laughs, particularly when I pretended to wrestle with Eric, who I have to say looked a lot more worried than most 9-year-old's I pretend to take on during my school talks! After the end of the talk I got changed and sat and had a cup of tea and a chat with them all. It was lovely, great fun, particularly with my new girlfriend Betty - she and I are running off to the London Eye together!

Tuesday was spent during the day down at Saundersfoot near Tenby with my son blasting up and down the beach, digging sand castles, fishing with a shrimping net and plunging into the welcoming waves. It was so hot! A complete change from Sunday. We had a nice fish and chips lunch in a cafe near the main seafront car park, where wonderful staff were assailed by miserable, never-to-be-satisfied pensioners, and met all this with a smile and politeness. A big thumbs up for that establishment! I wanted to go into Tenby and check out the old post card shop to see if I could find some more Gertie Millar's to add to my collection, but we couldn't find anywhere suitable to park, so it seemed like a suitable time to head back to Esgair. Tuesday evening I appeared for Susan's Cynwyl Elfed Women's Institute as a guest speaker. We had a great time. I am due to appear at the Taunton Westival in July and used this talk as a testing ground for some slightly new material that I am likely to use then. It seemed to go down a storm. I did about half an hour and got a great ovation at the end of it. More tea and biscuits afterwards and then home to watch an appalling horror film with Sue, and so to bed!

Today we had a leisurely packing session in Wales and then headed down the M4 and back to England. Tomorrow I am off to Hugh Sexey's School in Wedmore for a return visit. Should be a blast!The picture on this blog was taken by my sister at the WI bash on Tuesday evening...