Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Henry's Horrid History, Leeds Castle + Blean and Monkwick

I had been invited back to Leeds Castle for another series of Henry VIIIth talks as I had last done back in February 2006. The whole half term would see me in The Maiden's Tower at the Castle doing four shows a day. Adverts had been put out on Invicta Radio in Kent and in all the local papers, so hopefully we would have a good turn out. Boy, did we have a good turn out. The wonderful Darlene Cavill and the lovely Helen Budd were again my main hosts from Special Events at the Castle. They were budgeting for approximately 1,000 visitors per day to the Castle during my residency - what we were getting was more like 3,500 per day! The room I was stationed in for my talks would hold approximately 200 people for each show and was absolutely packed to the rafters everytime. We had some great groups in, lots of laughs. Occasionally people would come in and bring in children that were too young to appreciate the show, but the majority of the time the audiences were very good indeed. During one of the early talks, I was explaining about my Kornholt musical instrument, about how it sounded and it's history, when a little boy aged about 6 in the front row shouted out "JUST PLAY IT!"
Also working at the Castle for the week was all the other lovely helpers from the past, including the wonderful Jean and Carole, and some new faces like Shenina. I was treated Royally by everyone and had my lunch bought for me every day - how cool is that? 28 talks in 7 days would test even the most robust of larynxes, but I had been laid low with a cold and chest infection before I even started, so by the end of the week Henry VIIIth was sounding more like Barry of the White.
I was staying with my sister and her husband near Sittingbourne again, and once more they were just wonderful. Kind, patient and very hospitable. Bless 'em.
After finishing at the Castle I was still not finished in Kent. Monday saw me down at Blean near Canterbury for my 4th visit to this school in 4 years. As ever I was not disappointed with a great turn out, some wonderful costumes and some lovely sparky kids. The afternoon jousting was good and the gentlemen romped to a comfortable win. The evening I drove up to Essex to stay with my parents as on the Tuesday I was in Colchester for a return visit to Monkwick Junior School.
I slightly overslept on the Tuesday morning, but still managed to arrive on time. This was another good day at one of my favourite schools. By now, having done 9 fulls days solid without a break being Henry I was getting tired, but the school kept me alert and alive and we had a great day that concluded with another brilliant joust where the ladies snatched victory in a final quoit race off after the original final ended in a dead heat.
After dinner with my parents it was back down to Somerset for the first time in over 10 days for a late night reunion with my lovely wife, Amanda. This morning my lovely James woke me at 6.30am with a big kiss and cuddle and telling me "Daddy, I've really missed you." It doesn't get much better than that.
Tomorrow I am back at Parkfield Junior in Taunton for another return visit to a favourite school of mine! I am looking forward to seeing Mr Sides again!

Wednesday, October 10, 2007


One of my dear little puss cats - Spike (pictured here in a very typical pose) was very sadly run over and killed this evening right outside our house. The "person" or "people" who did this, didn't even bother to stop. Luckily for us a very nice couple who were following on DID stop and picked him up. It would appear he died instantly.
He was a sweet lovely affectionate little chap, not even a year old yet, and I shall miss him tremendously.
Spike. Rest In Peace.

BBC Somerset Sound - news panel

I was invited back on to the BBC Somerset Sound morning show news panel this morning. I was sharing the panel with Jamie, a nice young chap and fund raiser for the Secret World animal sanctuary, and a lady called Val from the Exmoor Pony Rescue centre - both very nice people.
It was all a bit different at the BBC today - they were having a Job Swap Day - so whereas Emma Britton is normally working behind the scenes doing the travel, looking after the guests etc., today she was presenting the show. The normal presenter, Jo Phillips was doing Emma's normal job - and she did pretty well.
I chose a couple of stories from the paper to discuss, one about the Premiership Footballers who had pledged some of their huge salaries to underpaid nursing staff in a high profile charity movement - but who haven't paid up yet; the other about a road rage Moscow style, where a driver got so fed up with people crossing the road slowly that he shot two of them!
I also plugged Barrington Court and all their good work, and soon I was on my way. It was a fun morning and hopefully I can do it again soon.

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Abbotswood Primary, Yate & Ruishton Junior, Ruishton

This week was a bit more local than the previous few weeks, but only just. Monday morning saw me up at the crack of dawn and heading up the dear old A37 to the town of Yate in South Gloucestershire, just to the north of Bristol.

I hadn't been to Yate before and was not sure what to expect, but I needn't have worried. The school was lovely and the teachers and staff charming in the extreme, especially Jo Burton, my main contact. The group of Year 3 children were lively and very knowledgable about all things of a Tudor aspect. We had a fun morning with lots of laughs, and then after a really nice lunch from the kitchens, we raced through the afternoon. The final jousting session was a really good one with the girls winning, again after a "penalty shoot out", and claiming the coveted certificates. A lot of the staff were in beautiful Tudor costumes, many of which had been made by Jo Burton's other half - an upholsterer by trade! Should he decide to go into Tudor dress making, he could make a killing!
That evening I ventured over to the Dinnington Docks to see Matthew Applegate from Barrington Court. We discussed future events for us both. In fact, I should give him a ring now! I am sure I will...
Today found me at Ruishton School near Taunton for a return visit, almost to the day from my previous trip there. I was greeted by the Year 4-5 teacher Tim, a lovely bloke who I remembered from last time. This time was a group of about 33 children who were just so well behaved. They sat and listened brilliantly, laughed at all the right bits and then took part in a magnificent jousting tournament which the boys just managed to sneak a win on! Ruishton is a lovely school with such friendly children, teachers and TA's, and the head teacher is a really good sport, and didn't cry too much when I put him in the stocks.

Saturday, October 06, 2007

St Anne Line RC Junior School, Basildon

This school day, in Basildon, had been promised for some time. My lovely sister-in-law Maria works at this school as a TA and her youngest daughter, Lucy is a pupil in year 5 - the group I was visiting today! Maria has been pushing for me to visit this school for sometime, and on Friday 5th October it happened!
I arrived bright and early and got set up. It was a far bigger group than at Saffron Walden the day before - more like about 70-80 pupils. They were very loud and very excitable, and sometimes keeping them onside was quite an effort. But they were worth it and made the day very exciting and fun.
All the teachers, and especially the TA's (hello Maria!) were very friendly and welcoming. The afternoon session was climaxed with a rousing jousting tournament that went to the wire. The gents appeared to have won, but they had broken the rules on one of the change overs, so we had to go for the jousting equivalent of the penalty shoot out - one quoit on one target and just one chance to lance it. It was very close but the ladies JUST managed to sneak in and win. A good race.
After dinner at my parents, I hit the road at just after 8pm and was home in Somerset by 11pm. Next week sees me visiting Yate in Gloucestershire on Monday and Ruishton near Taunton and Tuesday. I am then back at the BBC on Wednesday for another news panel appearance on Somerset Sound.

Thursday, October 04, 2007

Friends Junior School, Saffron Walden

A return visit today. I was back at the lovely Friends Junior School in Saffron Walden for my third visit in only two years! It was so nice to see everyone again. I stayed at my parent's house in Mountnessing again the night before and drove up to the school via the A414, Harlow and the M11.
As usual I was doing the day in the old "Scout Hut" out the back of the school, but the wind wasn't howling like a banshee this time around (see previous blog entries about my visits to Friends School), and we were instead treated to a delightfully warm day with dappled sunshine giving every impression that we were in the middle of June/July, rather than early October.
The morning session was fun, with a slightly quieter group than normal, but they more than made up for the lack of noise after lunch, none more so than during the jousting session, which was a belter! For the first time in a while, the ladies stormed to an historic victory, but everyone seemed to have a good time.
I am now back at my parents, preparing for tomorrow's trip to the St Anne Line RC School in Basildon. My sister-in-law Maria is a TA there, so that should be fun! Read all about it tomorrow.