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 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...

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