Sunday, July 29, 2007

Cricket lovely Cricket...

The picture you see here on the left is exactly how I feel today. Yesterday was the annual "Long Grass Cricket Match" in our village between Clapton (my village) and Wayford (next village up the valley). This is my third year of playing in it and today, I feel like I have been shot in both knees, my back and I have a headache. And to think when I used to live in Essex I played week in and week out with the Hoop Cricket Club in Stock.
For the first time in three years the match started in dry conditions, which was rather ironic considering the summer we have had so far. As Clapton could only muster nine players we were allowed to bat first! I contributed a quite stunning 1 before being caught by Steve Ireland with a quite breathtaking stop and the first catch I have seen him take in three years. He then went better and produced another tumbling stunning catch that Derek Randall would have proud of in his prime. Due to our lack of batsmen, I went back in at the end of the innings and this time contributed an even more stunning 0, being clean bowled first ball with a delivery that pitched half way down the pitch and then shot along the floor.
Clapton managed to amass 149 off our 30 overs. After a nice lunch and some beer (always helpful at this level of cricket) we were back out for Wayford's innings. I managed in four overs to take three wickets for about 20 runs, including for the first time ever in my career (career!?) a double wicket maiden! With the pitch being so rough it was great to bowl slow spinners that bit hard on the pitch and spun considerably. Made me feel like Shane Warne! We eventully kept Wayford down to 121 off their 30 overs and won by 28 runs.
Today, I am a poor shattered remnant of a human being and stiff as a board. Being Henry is much easier than this...

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

An Audience With The King - Westival

It was back to Taunton Castle and the Somerset County Museum last night. I was appearing as part of the Taunton Westival, a sort of "Happy Shopper" version of the Edinburgh Festival. Earlier in the week the delightful Carrie Blogg from Somerset County Museum had phoned full of woes as not many tickets had been sold and there was a chance that the evening might have to be cancelled. Add to this the fact that it was supposed to be held outdoors and that my friend Tris Pinkney from Bilby's restaurant was supplying a load of Tudor food, then there were a lot of variables to throw into the mix! Later Carrie phoned with good news - nearly 50 tickets had been snapped up by a group of students. Great! An audience full of students would be fabulous fun... wouldn't it? With the weather still misbehaving it was finally decided to hold the event in the Great Hall of Taunton Castle. Then the next big surprise - the students were all from Italy. I prayed that there was a small community in north Somerset called something like Italy-sub-Mendip, but I was to be disappointed. The show went OK, but in mostly awestruck silence from the Italian's with the laughter and guffaws coming from the English minority at the back of the seating. I don't think I have tried so hard to make a group of people laugh and fail miserably since I died on stage at the Edinburgh Fringe Club in 1987 in front of about 400 highly inebriated Scotsmen. The only time the students really perked up was when I played the musical instruments. They whooped and applauded manically at the end of each tune and I did comment about the international language of music!
After the talk I posed for several thousand photos with the massed ranks of Italian students before we strolled down to the education area where Tris and his wife Jane were serving their Tudor grub. This was also a massive hit with everyone with some delicious food, including flat breads, pickled French beans, mince meat pie, venison with quince jelly, roast beef on trencher, a boar's head and crumbled fish. Wonderful. There was also a fine local beer called Taunton Castle, which went down a treat. After the Italians had gone there were laughs aplenty from everyone at their stunned reception to my talk. Carrie and the lovely Steve Minnit from the Museum want me back in November, but I begged and grovelled at them not to allow in any foreign language students. Apparently they want me to dress up as Judge Jeffries... watch this space...

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Crewkerne Lions Club Medieval Banquet!

This was an evening I had been looking forward to for a long time, and I was not disappointed. In the village I live in, namely Clapton near Crewkerne, the local Lions Club were holding a medieval banquet in a nearby barn, complete with banners, burning torches and wall to wall buxom wenches!
I had been asked to be Lord of the Manor, accompanying the Lions President, a charming lady who I sat next to during the banquet and who was proof that you are as young as you feel!
After getting changed in the main farmhouse, m'lady president and myself were heralded into the main barn with a trumpet fanfare. A group of musicians armed with Tudor instruments were playing some authentic medieval music and really adding to the whole tone of the event. The choice of food was wonderful, starters were either nettle soup, smoked local trout or chicken and bacon salad. Main course was either spit roasted pork or lamb, or a rabbit casserolle. The roasts were served on traditional Tudor trenchers - thin bread plates that can be eaten after the meal, thus saving on washing up! For pudding there was either strawberries and shortcake, or mixed berry crumble. Wonderful!
After the Tudor music we were Royally entertained by the Babylon Morris Group, who did some really energetic Morris dancing! This was followed by a very talented young lady called Jess who played the harp beautifully. We had a bit more dancing from the Morris group, some singing from a fine voiced young lady and then some barn dancing. Great fun was had by all. I then had to pick the raffle tickets for about 20 prizes, and finally to complete our evening, Mrs President and I had to choose best dressed lady and gent respectively. I chose a lovely lady called Mandy who was in a quite magnificent home made Tudor dress that looked fabulous on her.
After bumping into Davd and Gilly, friends of ours, it was virtually time to go home. I got changed, said my farewells and slipped away into the night. A fabulous evening and hopefully one that has raised plenty of ackers for good causes!

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Daubeney Middle School and Leeds Castle

After a week off with car problems I was finally back on the road for a visit back to Daubeney Middle School. This was my third visit in three years to this wonderful school and they enjoyed it again this time so much they have asked me back again already for next year. Sounds good to me!
I got up very early and was on the road to Bedford by just after 4am. I managed to navigate the mass of roundabouts past Milton Keynes and, after getting somewhat confused by a temporary one way road section I arrived at the school at about 7am. I decided a snooze in the car for an hour would be a good idea, which is exactly what I did. Just what I needed. As ever the school was great - lively kids ready to laugh at all the jokes in the right place and some of them had a great depth of Tudor knowledge.
The afternoon session seemed to fly past so quickly and after the gents had snatched victory in the jousting finale I was soon on my way. But not home! I drove down to my parents house in Essex to see them both. Mum and Dad have both been a bit under the weather lately, my father suffering from a long lingering summer cold and my poor mother suffering with a nasty bout of food poisoning. It was still nice to see them. After lunch the following day I headed down to my sister and brother-in-law's house at Stockbury near Sittingbourne. On the Wednesday evening I was appearing at a Banquet at Leeds Castle near Maidstone. Sadly, before I got a chance to go to the castle, my sister and brother-in-law's dog Toby, who had not been well for a while, was taken quite ill during the afternoon, was taken to the vets and sadly had to be put down. It was a very sad house for the afternoon. The evening banquet was good fun and the guests nice and lively, but the whole evening was nearly ruined with a long delay because of speeches that was driving the head chef and butler demented. They were so sure the food would be ruined, but some brilliant work by the waiting staff managed to save the day. I left at about 9.30pm and headed back to my sister's for a bottle of wine and sitting up and watching "The Fifth Element" on TV.
This morning I left from Kent at about 10am and arrived home just after 1pm. I took Amanda and James out to lunch in Ilminster and then it was back home for paperwork!
Friday I am appearing at a medieval banquet in Clapton village for the local Round Table group. Then on Monday I am appearing at Taunton Castle as part of the Taunton Westival. Busy busy.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Bedfordshire - an apology

Due to circumstances beyond my control - namely car problems, my day up in Bedfordshire at Daubeney Middle School has been postponed for a week. I am now back at this wonderful school next Tuesday (17th).
Other news - Good King Hal will be appearing at Taunton Castle as part of the Taunton Westival on the night of Monday the 23rd July. Come and enjoy an audience with the King and then try some Tudor nibbles afterwards. Fun for all...

Friday, July 06, 2007

Cotford St Luke Part 2!

After lots of long long journeys, it was nice to get back to a relatively local show today. It was a return visit to Cotford St Luke School after my previous day at this school back on March 29th.
I was lucky to find Taunton's traffic in a very benign mood today and I sailed through to Cotford and arrived just before 8am. I was warmly welcomed by the teachers as ever and it was nice to see so many familiar faces. One poor lady - one of the class teachers for the day - had laryngitis and could only whisper all day. Really she should have been tucked up in bed but stated that she had come in especially to see Henry VIIIth! How sweet!
The day was great. The children's knowledge of Tudor times was quite staggering and everyone seemed to enjoy the jokes and fun. Lunch was very tasty and after that it was back in the hall for the Tudor crime and punishment session followed by the stocks. These were great today and the children took pity on the teacher with the lost voice and put her male colleague in instead!
Jousting was a loud affair with the ladies pipping the gentlemen to the crown. Cotford St Luke is a wonderful school with brilliant teachers and some lovely children. Unfortunately now I have done their years 3, 4, 5 and 6 I don't think I will be back there for a while, which is a real pity as I love the place!
Next week - Bedfordshire again...

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Finton House School, Wandsworth

It had been a nice weekend for myself and my wife. My parents had come down to Somerset to stay and had manfully put up with being jumped on by my four-year-old son at frequent intervals. They resisted the temptation to feed him to the Cheetahs on a visit to Cricket St Thomas Wildlife Park, and were finally on their way back to Essex - with me following on! I was held up for a while when my wife phoned in a panic from Taunton saying she had lost her car keys, but thankfully they were soon located for her.
The drive up to Essex was remarkably good - until I got to first the Dartford Tunnel - a five mile queue. And then to junction 28 for the A12 where there was a two mile queue. I think I spent more time in both those queues than I did for the rest of the journey.
After an early night at my parents I was on the road at 5.30am to head to Wandsworth in south west London for a visit to Finton House School - my third visit in three years. It is such a nice school, warmly welcoming, bright and clear rooms to work in, charming chatty teachers, sparky funny children and some of the best school food you will ever sample! The opening talk went really well and then the group split into their three groups. As this is a private school their timings are a bit different from state schools and we didn't break for lunch until one o'clock. I finished the morning session up in their science room with a bit of the old hanging drawing and quartering and a fun question and answer session.
As the afternoon didn't start until 2.10pm it was an extremely trunkated session. We had some fun and laughs with the stocks, before moving on to a wild and fun jousting session in which the gentlemen (their low numbers helped by the addition of a lady dressed as a man in their team!) snatched a victory in the final against the ladies that seemed hardly likely on the final change over as they were so far behind! But that is the beauty of this type of jousting! After a final farewell and great help loading the car, I was on my way. Despite some occasional very heavy downpours and some hold ups in South London I was home by just after 6.30pm. It had been a lovely visit to one of my favourite schools and they have booked me back again for the same date next year. Lovely. I was also delighted to educate some of the teachers as to the truth about Terry Deary. That capped the day off a treat!
Tomorrow (Thursday) I am back to Cotford St Luke near Taunton for a return visit after my previous trip back in March (see this blog passim). Should be fun!