Tuesday, December 30, 2008

All Connected...

I never thought I would hear myself say the following words, but "God Bless AOL!" I am back on line! At home, and for the first time since early November I feel I can now properly get in touch with the outside world. Gosh, what must life have been like before the internet and emails? Well, I only have to look back about 10-15 years to see it, but it is almost impossible to imagine now. Can you imagine if the Tudors had had access to emails, the internet and mobile phones? Henry VIIIth constantly checking Catherine Howard's inbox in case one of her many admirers was sending her something she shouldn't see - and I am not talking about on-line adverts for viagra and hair loss therapies. Francis Drake not bothering to circumnavigate the globe as he could see it all on Google Earth and wikipedia, and it looked "gay". Elizabeth I and Mary, Queen of Scots exchanging pleasantries via Facebook and text message. "u r not as gr8 as u fink u r" says Elizabeth. "at lst i not a hlf bald virgin - LOL ROFL" from Mary. No wonder she was beheaded. "Elizabeth is now friends with the Earl of Essex". It wouldn't last...
Life has been mad for the previous few weeks - tearing up and down the A303 and M3 between Somerset and Kent, betwixt shows at Dillington House and Leeds Castle. Then a few days yo-yo-ing between Kent and Essex visiting friends and relatives. I was nearly killed on the M20 in Kent one evening going to visit my friends Anne and Ben Lyle at Shoreham - I was happily pootling up the fast lane of the M20 at about 80mph in the dark, to be confronted by some dimwit driving the wrong way down the M20 in the fast lane. How I missed him, I do not know, but suffice to say I was shocked and was nearly biting the buttons off my car seat with my bottom.
I have been blessed with some lovely pressies at Christmas - DVD's of two of my all time favourite films "Rear Window" and "The History of Mr Polly". Sheer delight with both of those. Also some books about the history of London's East End, Alfred the Great and the final book (so far) in Malcolm Pryce's hilarious Aberystwyth series.
Anyway, if I don't get to say it again, Happy New Year to anyone who regularly reads this blog. But dammit, I am in such a good mood I'll even wish to people who don't read this blog. But how will they know...? Answers on a post card.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

A Merry Christmas!

Well hello, loyal blog readers.  You might just have noticed my distinct lack of updates on this blog of late.  This is something to do with me not adding anything to the blog.  A feeble but, lets face it, water tight excuse.  The reasons for this are many fold but the most obvious one being that I have not had internet access at the new flat since I moved in, then since early December I have been mostly away in Kent doing my Father Christmas thing down at Leeds Castle again.  It's been great fun to be with everyone at the Castle again, especially the lovely Darlene and Helen, but it is also good to see the wonderful Jean, Judy, Carole and others who help out as my "Elves".
I've also been doing a few Henry VIIIth appearances at some schools, and also at Leeds Castle (again!) plus an appearance at Dillington House (as seen in the picture here) for their annual Christmas House Party which was tremendous fun.  
Working as Father Christmas is mentally, if not physically exhausting.  Being nice for all that time!!  It's just not me! The children are just delightful, so many sweet kids, one or two who scream at the first site of Father Christmas and just look terrified of the whole experience, and of course the occasional embarrassed, mortified looking teenager dragged into the grotto by an over enthusiastic parent!  The biggest down side of this work is to sit and constantly listen to the same CD of jolly Christmas music over and over again, seven days a week.  The added point that drives you insane is that the CD player is attached to about 15 different speakers throughout the grotto which splits the stereo sound up into different "areas". Therefore in the central grotto where I sit, the music has been split right down to just a backing track of keyboards, drums, backing vocals and the effects that had been layered on the lead vocals.  This would normally be OK with most music CD's, but we are playing Disney songs in the grotto this year, and few sounds can be more disturbing than to hear a music track of keyboards, drums, backing vocals and the lead effects vocals of Donald Duck, which makes him sound like a normal singer who's had to endure a trachaeotomy.  Scary.  No wonder the kids cry!  All joking aside, it has been a delight as ever to work at Leeds Castle and I shall be there until Christmas Eve.  Maybe see you there!
Merry Christmas, folks... 

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Nelson Primary, East Ham

Last year, at about this time, I attempted to visit Nelson Primary School in East Ham. I encountered appalling traffic and eventually my car decided to die on me and I never got there. It was a mortifying experience. After letting them down so badly you could imagine Nelson Primary never contacting me ever again, but give them their due they are nothing if not persistent. They booked me again. Determined not to get way laid by appalling traffic and even more appalling cars I vowed to leave as early as possible to give me the best chance of getting there in one piece.

I was driving to East Ham from Basildon (well, someone has to) and even though my sat nav said "only 25 minutes" I gave myself nearly two hours to get there. I am mighty glad I did. The A13 was DREADFUL. Two car crashes along the way, closed lanes and snaking traffic all led up to the actual journey taking me an hour and a quarter rather than the 25 minutes expected. As I was so early I popped into a local cafe near Nelson Primary for a bacon and sausage roll and a cup of tea. Very nice it was too.

Nelson Primary? What a school! Fantastic old Victorian building, massive and intimidating looking but packed to the rafters with wonderful sparky children in some fabulous home made Tudor outfits. The teachers were as ever hugely welcoming and fun to be with, especially the hugely wonderful, but petitely packaged Jo Dalton who was as charming, fun and professional as ever. The day seemed to shoot past in a flash, with lots of laughs and fun and ended early with another rip roaring joust which the ladies justifiably won with a quite brilliant display of controlled skill and speed. We then went for a Tudor banquet after that, complete with tankards of apple juice, apple pies, baked apples and probably even more apples. Wonderful stuff!

This weekend, I am at Barrington Court again for the Mistletoe Festival and then next week I am back off down to Dunster on Monday to see Nicola and co, and then off to the Maynard in Exeter to see Keagh and co. After that Leeds Castle and the spectre of Father Christmas rears his head again...

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Website Updated!

WOW! Take a look at the website folks! www.goodkinghal.co.uk has been thoroughly "made over" by the very brilliant and talented Liz Bennett from St Albans. I hope you enjoy the new look and the fun games you can now play on line. Your views on the new look would be very gratefully accepted.
Yesterday I was at Broadhembury School in the quaint Devon village of Broadhembury. We had a great day, and the ladies triumphed in the jousting. I have not a clue what the current score is. I will work on that once I get back on line with the internet at my new flat. Thursday I am up at Nelson Primary in East Ham, a place I singularly failed to get to last year due to a broken down car. Fingers crossed for this year!

Friday, November 21, 2008

No New Posts - Sorry!

Hello folks. Many apologies for the long delay in any new posts on this blog. I have a very good excuse though! I have moved house, which was a bigger job than anyone could ever even begin to imagine. I have somehow managed to combine moving house with doing Henry shows as well, which is frankly some sort of insanity on my behalf and not something I would recommend for a long and restfull life.
Another good reason for not posting too many new blogs on here is because my new flat (which is LOVELY by the way) does not have any internet connection at the moment which makes getting on the internet a bit difficult. My TV also does not work at the new place, so entertainment is a bit thin on the ground at present. I am wading my way through my whole DVD collection at an alarming rate. I have opened the fridge door and watched the light come on and off. You name it, I have tried to entertain myself!
School visits have been as Henry to old friends like Ashcott near Glastonbury, St James' in Bridgwater, St Paul's in Shepton Mallet and this week up in White Woman Lane Junior in Norwich. I will do full and proper write ups on all of these when I can. I also did a World War II day as Sergeant Stanley James at Ditcheat School near Shepton Mallet. It went pretty well, but will again give full details when I can.
Anyway, my new phone number is 01460 271623 so should any schools feel the urge to contact me, carry on!

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Bedford School & Holy Trinity, Yeovil plus No Move...

OK, I'll admit it. I haven't moved. All that bravado in the previous Blog entry about going to Stoke-sub-Hamdon - forget it! Everything went a bit "Pete Tong" on the Friday night when the incredibly stupid woman I was trying to rent the flat through did her best to drive me to a screaming apoplectic rage. She got very close. However, the upshot was, because of her ham fisted incompetence I was left without a house to move into and the real threat of being homeless looming over me. To add to all this fun, I was now back working as Henry VIIIth again, my week off having run out and the moving house problems unresolved.
My first Henry day back was up at Bedford School in, yes you guessed it, Bedford. This day was a bit different as it had been booked for me by Portals to the Past rather than through my usual channels. So I had no clear contact details and not a clue on who I was supposed to meet there. Added to which the journey up was horrendous with a huge hold up on the M3 and terrible traffic on the M25 and the A421. Just as I was getting close to Bedford my mobile rang and I assumed it would be the school saying where the hell are you, as I was pretty late. It was in fact BBC Two Counties Radio wanting to do a live interview with me about being Henry VIIIth and the fact I was appearing at a school in Bedford. I got that out the way and FINALLY arrived at the school, approximately 45 minutes late. But the day went well, it was a fantastic school, brilliant facilities and very friendly teachers, even though they kept chopping and changing as the day went on so I was never quite sure who was with what group! As it was an all boy's school, the joust cannot be taken into consideration for the whole year score. I finished that and began the long slog home, which thankfully wasn't half as terrible as the journey up.
Today I have been at the Holy Trinity School in Yeovil, and a fabulous place it was too! Lovely modern building, very friendly teachers and some hilariously excitable children all up for a fine day's Tudor fun with Henry VIIIth. And we had a great day. For lunch I had to nip into Morrison's for a sandwich, and I discovered it was one heaving mass of humanity, Lord knows why. But I was soon back in the staff room being gawped at by children through the window into the play ground, none of them sure if I really was Henry VIIIth in civvies. The joust in the afternoon was of a particularly high standard, but the ladies came storming through to collect yet another win this season. So that now makes the score:
GENTLEMEN 7 - 9 LADIES
Wicked stuff! I am off for a World War II day at Ditcheat School near Taunton on Friday.
As for my new home? I am hopefully moving into 8 Dairy Court in Crewkerne on Saturday. I won't guarantee it as we know what happened last time! Thankfully a different and far more competent letting agency are involved this time.

Monday, October 27, 2008

All Change

In the next few days watch out for some changes. I for one am moving house! It will be goodbye Clapton after nearly five years and off to Stoke-sub-Hamdon, but perhaps more importantly it will be a whole new look to the Good King Hal website. Since it's inception in 2004 it has been run by my old co-worker from Debenhams, Steve French, and a fine job he has been doing. But it will now be run by the very lovely Liz Bennett in St Albans, and to give you a taster of this woman's skills, I hope you enjoy the mocked up Tudor Royal Painting of yours truly that she has put together for the website front page.
So keep checking back on www.goodkinghal.co.uk and pretty soon you'll see some major changes!
So, thank you Steve French, you are a wonderful chap. Hello Liz! Take it away!

Friday, October 24, 2008

South Somerset National Trust Pub Quiz 2008

For the third year running I hosted the annual South Somerset National Trust Pub Quiz at the Royal Oak Pub in Barrington. With teams from Barrington Court, Montacute House, Lytes Carey and all points in this vicinity it was obviously going to be a hard fought contest.
My arrival at about 7.30pm was greeted with ironic cheers by a packed function room. It turned out that though Matthew Applegate had told me to arrive for an 8pm start, he had told everyone else 7pm! No wonder they were somewhat miffed with their long wait. There were six teams who ranged in knowledge and ability from pretty good to plain embarrassing. One team of drunken youngsters didn't exactly cover themselve with glory and if they ever did get a question right, they tended to shout the answer out before they wrote it down, rather giving the game away to the opposition. Mind you, I managed to shout out an answer when I was supposed to be giving a question at one point, much to my huge shame.
The winning team only just scraped home by half a point at the end in a tense finish. But it genuinely seemed like everyone had a nice time and I was warmly thanked for my hard work in putting the whole quiz together and doing the question master routine. Well, it was a pleasure and I would be delighted to do it again. A horrible note to finish with - we had a huge pile of sausages on platters and piles of chips to dig into during the half time interval. It was all very nice until I bit into one of my sausages - and it promptly burst in my face, covering me with warm fat. I must have looked a bit like John Hurt in the Alien movie with the face hugger on him. So THAT'S what happens when you don't prick a sausage before you cook it. Perhaps it was where Ridley Scott got his inspiration from for the original film. One unpricked hot sausage and Sigourney Weaver has a career sorted out. Life hangs by such slender threads.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Blean - Balliol Lower - Tolleshunt D'Arcy

Another week of rushing around on a Royal Progress of mammoth proportions - and that's just me! I set off on Sunday the 19th October and drove to my sister's house in Kent. The eternal updating of her house continues apace, but with the added fun of dodgy electrics now. You can be quite happily sitting watching TV and sipping a glass of wine and then suddenly - FOOM! Out go the lights. Re-set everything, sit for another hour or so, and then FOOM! Darkness again. Not much fun for her and Julian her husband. I was in the Garden of England again for a visit to Blean School again down near Canterbury. This was my fifth visit to this school and as ever it was great fun. They are a wonderful bunch of people down there, very welcoming and the children are fabulous. We began with the morning in classrooms, but moved on to the main hall for the afternoon session. Another good day was had by all and the Jousting finished the day off a treat with a very good Gents side triumphing and therefore bringing the ever changing score for the year to:
GENTLEMEN 6 - 7 LADIES
Everything back in the melting pot!
I had driven up to my parents' house in Essex on the Monday evening, and was then up at the crack of dawn for a slog round the M25 and up the M1 to Bedford and a visit to Balliol Lower School in Kempston. I was only previously here back in May, but it was a delight to be back. Such a wonderful school. Great big hall to work in, excitable fun children and two of the most delightful teachers you could ever want to meet. I took great delight in pretending to flirt outrageously with Miss Harrison, one of the teachers, much to the laughter and fun of the children. "You fancy her!" They'd screech and I'd pretend to be annoyed and embarrassed. Wonderful stuff! And Miss Harrison was a good sport for playing along! The jousting was close and exciting, going right down to the wire before the Gents pipped the ladies at the post. This makes the score very interesting and now has us at:
GENTLEMEN 7 - 7 LADIES
Who could have imagined that a few days ago?
Wednesday I was over at Tolleshunt D'Arcy near Maldon for a first vist to St Nicholas' School there. I had been recommended by their acting Head who had seen me work before during previous visits to Little Parndon School in Harlow. Another good school, much fun with a little class of year 2/3's and a challenging day for me. They were running interviews for the new head position this day, so the place was swamped with Governors as well as young Tudors. However it was good luck to be here on this day as the lunch was a sumptuous buffet in the staff room. I should come back on days like this more often! The final jousting session took place in the hall and normal service, if it can be called that, was resumed with the ladies running out clear winners against a gents team who went completely off message during their second leg. Their rider went hell for leather after any quoit near him, and stands and quoits and any chance they had of winning went flying in all directions round the hall. So we now have our scores back to:
GENTLEMEN 7 - 8 LADIES
Where will it all end?
What next for me? The National Trust pub quiz to host on Friday night at Barrington, and then moving house next week. So not much of a rest!

Friday, October 17, 2008

Parkfield Junior, Taunton

There is just something about Parkfield School in Taunton that I absolutely love! I am not sure if it is the kids, who are absolutely wonderful every year, or whether it is the brilliantly friendly and helpful staff for whom nothing is too much trouble, or could it possibly be the indomitable head teacher, the truly awesome Mr Wynford Sides. It all adds up to a brilliant school and a pleasure to visit every time.
I arrived smack on 8am this morning after scraping off the first of the frosts of this winter from my car. The drive in to Taunton wasn't as bad as it sometimes is and I was soon sitting in the staff room of the school with the aforesaid Mr Sides sipping a very welcome cup of tea.
Well, can I just say we had a brilliant day, so full of laughs and fun and with such a wonderful bunch of children. It is days like this that make it all worthwhile. It reminded me of some of the best days I have had, like a good day at Leeds Castle or some of the fun times I have had down at West Pennard School with Ian Gouge.
I had lunch bought for me from Tesco's by some lovely teaching assistants and we were soon back in the hall for the afternoon session. It just flew past with so many big belly laughs that I was sure we would over run. The jousting was equally exciting and the ladies seemed a good bet to walk away with yet another win, but somehow the gents managed to snatch a vital victory which leaves the score now standing thus:
GENTLEMEN 5 - 7 LADIES
That makes it look a little less embarrassing for the chaps. I have a weekend at virtual leisure coming up followed by a trip to Kent this Monday for my 5th annual visit to Blean Junior near Canterbury.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Friends School, Saffron Walden

I have been visiting Friends School in Saffron Walden in Essex since 2005, so it was really nice to be back there again today. For once the actual entry to the site was fraught with much new security in evidence. But I was soon back to the old "Scout Hut" hall as we call it.
It was a tiny group today, under 20 children, but what they lacked for a group size they more than made up for in enthusiasm and noise! Some of their coat of arms designs were the best I had seen in ages and they even managed some maximum scores on the Tudor Quiz!
Lunch at Friends School was, as ever, delicious, and we were soon back in the Scout Hut for the final stages of the day. The jousting seemed destined to be a good one, and I was not disappointed. Despite there being only six of them in the entire class, it was the ladies who came through and triumphed at the end. This makes the score in the ongoing tournament very interesting indeed. It now stands at:
GENTLEMEN 4 - 7 LADIES
What can I say? Come on lads! Try harder! I drove back to Somerset this evening. I have Thursday off, enjoying myself and then it is off to one of my favourite schools in Somerset on Friday - Parkfield in Taunton.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

St Cecillia's RC School, North Cheam (again)

Yet another bright and early start, this time up to St Cecillia's RC Junior School in East Cheam near Sutton in Surrey, which I think every year when I do this blog I make a joke about it being a hard job to pronounce such a place when you have a lisp. But I am not going to do that joke this year.
I was a silly King yesterday. I left my silver topped cane at King's Somborne School in Hampshire, and it really felt like I had lost a limb today, so used am I to using it as a prop during the days. So it looks like a return visit to King's Somborne is on the cards to get it back!
The journey this morning was nice and easy, despite a few snarl ups on the dear old beloved M25. I arrived at the school about half an hour early, so parked outside and promptly had a snooze for the next 30 minutes! It was lovely to be back at St Cecillia's which is a delightful school. All the usual friendly faces were there, especially Anne who always books me, and the children were, as ever in some fantastic costumes and were full of enthusiasm and laughter for all the silliness that took place. The afternoon session was particularly loud and culminated in yet another stunning jousting tournament which the ladies romped home with today to make our ongoing score now:
GENTLEMEN 4 - 6 LADIES
Makes for very interesting reading. So come on chaps, time to strike back for the good of mankind!
I think John Summers reads this blog almost religiously. After publishing the blog yesterday and mentioning him, he texted me about 45 seconds later. Worrying. However, he is still a lovely chap and a good egg, but I would still rather be locked in a lift with Darlene and Helen, nothing personal, John!
Tomorrow, I am at Friends School in Saffron Walden in Essex. Another day in the scout hut, no doubt!

Monday, October 13, 2008

King's Somborne School & a voice over at Leeds Castle

I drove back to Somerset last night, just to check my post as I had been away for a few days. The idea was for a quick flit back, but the M25 on a Sunday evening had other ideas and the traffic down to the Clacket Lane services was appalling. I did finally get home and so it was to bed.
I got up early and headed for a new school to visit today, namely King's Somborne near Stockbridge in Hampshire. They had been recommended about my Henry days from Knightwood School in Chandler's Ford, so bless 'em for that! It was a smallish group today, about 30-40 children, but incredibly loud and enthusiastic. Some of them were a little challenging, but fun none the less. The afternoon was extremely entertaining and culminated in a very high quality jousting tournament which the gents won to help them back into contention for the whole year thing. If that makes sense.
GENTLEMEN 4 - 5 LADIES
After leaving the school I headed over to Leeds Castle to record a voice over for their forthcoming fireworks display. I met up with John Summers who was organising the whole thing. We recorded all my bits and pieces in one of the hotel suites near the estate office. Now I am sure John will be reading this and he has taken great delight in pointing out that I keep referring to Darlene Cavill and Helen Budd as "delightful" and "lovely". I think the poor lad is just jealous, so please allow me to put on record, here and now, that John Summers is a "jolly nice chap" and a "100% good egg". I hope this makes him feel a little better!
Tomorrow, I am back to St Cecillia's School in North Cheam, near Sutton, Surrey.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Taverham Junior, Norfolk

Once more off into the wee small hours of an East Anglian day! This was my first ever visit to Taverham Junior. I had been receommended to them by one of the fine teachers at Drayton Junior (see previous blog entries!) who just so happens to be married to the teacher who was my main contact at Taverham. What I hadn't expected to find was just how close to each other Taverham and Drayton schools were! Spooky!
It was a fabulous school to visit. All year five pupils and about 120+ of them. They were bright, sparky and full of beans, and dressed in some of the most delightful little costumes you have ever seen. We had an uproarious morning and the afternoon whizzed past, even though I did overrun by about 10 minutes (naughty Henry). The jousting was unbelievably exciting and very close, but just to keep the scores ticking along, the ladies won AGAIN! That makes our running score now:
GENTLEMEN 3 - 5 LADIES
This is quite a roll the ladies are on at the moment. So now, come along chaps! Pull those socks up!
Today I have been in Essex again, went shopping with my lovely mother and got a NEW MOBILE PHONE! HOORAH! Same number as before, so don't worry. You can still hear my dulcet tones whenever you want.
I should also be moving to a new house in Stoke-sub-Hamdon at the beginning of November, so watch this space for more. BTW, got a call from Leeds Castle today, they might need some voice over work! OOH! Just for that, I reprint this nice pic of a sunset over Leeds Castle from a year or two back. Nice.

Monday, October 06, 2008

The BBC Somerset Panel Strikes Again

I almost forgot about this one! Luckily I had a phone call on Friday from Liam O'Leary at the Taunton BBC Office to remind me I was due to appear on Jo Phillips' "Morning Jo" show on BBC Somerset today. Without that I have a nasty feeling this appearance on the show might have slipped my mind altogether.
I drove into Taunton early, but as ever, when you expect bad traffic in Taunton none appears. So I was first of the panel to arrive at the studio today. I was as ever warmly greeted by Emma who had just got back from her holiday in Cornwall.
The other two panel members arrived and, after choosing our stories from the morning papers we were soon ushered into the presence of the delightful Jo Phillips. She looks really good at the moment, her new hairstyle really suits her! My other two panel members were Sue from Southwood and Tracy from Chard. Sue works for the St Margaret's Hospice and Tracy is an author who writes books about recycling and green issues. It was an interesting lively debate and with lots of laughs, particularly at the end. I also got asked to choose the music as the "Panelists Choice" - so, in a show of loyalty that would no doubt have brought a tear to the eye of both Andy Partridge AND Colin Moulding, I chose an XTC track. Namely the wonderful "Stupidly Happy" from the "Wasp Star" album - my son James' favourite song! It was nice to drive away from Taunton with the song being played on the radio - first time I have ever heard it played that way!
I stopped at Ilminster and bought some broom handles to be used as props for my WWII shows, plus I also picked up a flat cap for the character as well from the wonderful Dyers store. I had a quick drink in at Bilby's and said hello to Tris.
I am heading back to Essex on Wednesday and will be appearing at Taversham in Norfolk on Thursday.

Saturday, October 04, 2008

Billericay, High Wycombe and a 50th Birthday!

It was back up to jolly old Essex for me on the 1st October. The following day was to be my return visit to South Green Junior in Billericay - my first return there for three years! The reason for this long hiatus is that when I last visited them in 2005, their year 4 group was studying the Tudors. However straight after that they switched it so that their year 6 group was studying the Tudors! Therefore they had to wait until the original year fours I had taught had grown up and got past year six before having me back again. Well, that was their excuse and I fell for it...
It is a charming school South Green, in a nice almost semi rural backwater to Billericay - lots of trees and greenery, but also lots of houses. But it feels almost villagey. The teachers were, as ever, a delight being helpful, funny, friendly and ready to join in the madness and fun at the drop of a hat. The children, a group of about 60, were very excitable and noisy, but fun with it. It was occasionally difficult keeping a lid on the whole thing, but come the jousting they let themselves go with aplomb and virtually blew the roof off the school hall! As for the result? The ladies triumphed AGAIN! This takes the overall score to:
GENTLEMEN 3 - 4 LADIES
A fine stirring come back by the ladies here.
The following morning I was up early and driving over to High Wycombe for my annual appearance at Godstowe Prep School. This is a fine old building in a leafy lane near to High Wycombe railway station. It is a girls school and you are always guaranteed two things at Godstowe - fantastic costumes for the pupils and a great day of fun, and I got both as expected! It was a new set of teachers for me this year and things got off to a slightly surreal start, because as I began my opening talk to the children two of the male teachers had a very loud conversation between each other at the back of the hall. Mind you, a couple of threatening barks and "looks" from the King and I had them right back in order! All joking aside the teachers were lovely as ever at Godstowe - very friendly and couldn't do enough for me. The children were fun too and the final joust was loud and raucous and of course a ladies team won, so we can't add this score to our overall table.
I left High Wycombe and drove over to Barrington Court in Somerset for Matthew Applegate's 50th birthday party. For the past few weeks he has been saying, in his usual "glass half empty" way, "of course hardly anyone will be there, when it gets to 8 o'clock we might as well go up to my flat and watch the telly..." How wrong. Little does this charming man know how popular and loved he is. As I arrived, the car park by Beagles cafe was quite busy but I decided to park round by the Court House. That car park was even more full! Packed! Walking in I was greeted by a jam packed restaurant full of familiar faces and good cheer. There was Matthew and his lovely wife Sue, dear old Blue and his wife Jo from the post office and shop in Shepton Beauchamp, all the lovely volunteer ladies that I bump into every time I work at Barrington, plus Alf and Lynn Trott, Rachel (Matthew's assistant), Becky from Stuart's Interiors and even a mass of people from Chard Historical Society who have just booked me for their annual talk next May, but were keen to come and say hello! There was a lovely true or false quiz to do, all about Matthew's life, drinks and nibbles aplenty, and even a magnificent birthday cake topped with 50 candles which Matthew managed to blow out in one, slightly extended go! I spent most of the evening talking to Blue, who was a great help to me and spoke a lot of sense about my current personal situation. By 8.30pm I was finished. It had been a long long day. I bid farewell to that lovely collection of friends and drove off into the night. What a lovely day.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Archbishop Cranmer School, Taunton

Do you like my portrait here? It is being done by a very nice chap called Roger Harris who I met during my Dillington House open day visit. He is a hugely talented young artist who does these remarkable likenesses from photos, drawing them using coloured pencils. It is apparently still a work in progress, but more power to this man's elbow for his skill. Check out his website at http://www.colourpencils.co.uk/ and prepare to be amazed.
Archbishop Cranmer School in Taunton is one of those lovely schools that I only ever get to visit once every two years as they always lump two classes in together. So my chance to swap doubles entendres jokes and various other innuendo ladended gags with the lovely Tracy Crossman and Sally Whittaker only crops up once every 24 months, so I have to make the most of it! Archbishop Cranmer School, or ABC as it is known, is a truly lovely school. One of my favourites in Taunton. The children are all great, full of laughs and with good knowledge, and the teachers are just a delight to be around. We had a fabulous morning, delayed in it's start somewhat by an assembly that seemed to go on forever, but when we did get going it was great. At one point, when explaining how Henry's older brother Arthur had come to a sticky end, I mention that it might have been because he went for a swim in a polluted river. However, I tell them there is something sinister lurking in the waters of Tudor England, usually ending up with me explaining it's raw sewage I'm talking about, but at ABC a little girl called Kirsten told me she knew what was sinisterly lurking in the waters. It was called a Ducklipod and it had huge teeth, massive arms and was incredibly quick in the water. So that told me! My cold, including sore throat and pounding head, was put to the test at times, but somehow managed to get through.
After a lovely lunch it was then time for the afternoon session, which seemed to shoot by. The final joust was incredibly loud and fun, but a truly awesome ladies team stormed to a famous victory. So our year long score card now looks thus:
GENTLEMEN 3 - 3 LADIES
I have a feeling this one will go right to the wire!
Thursday I am at South Green Junior in Billericay in Essex, and then on Friday it's back to Godstowe Prep in High Wycombe. Lovely! And not a Ducklipod in sight.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

The Broken Mobile

Just a quick word of warning to anyone attempting to contact me over the next week or so - don't call my mobile number! My elderly mobile phone was already on it's beam ends when last week, during my visit to Wales I managed to drop it as I was getting out of my car and it now resembles the phone in this picture. Only slightly less advanced. If you have an urgent need to speak to The King about any Tudor matters your best way of contacting him at present is either on his land line, which is 01460 271641. Or via email which is good_king_hal@yahoo.co.uk or failing both of those, try semaphore if you are close enough.
THANK YOU!

Saturday, September 27, 2008

A week off and a visit to Leeds Castle

Just had a nice relaxing week off - if you can count driving all over the country as being relaxing! I started off by visiting my sister Susan in Wales again. She has been having a bit of a tough time personally recently, and I like to visit her as often as I can to make sure she is OK, as she is quite isolated down in Carmarthen where she is. But with her for the few days I was there was also my parents, and my other sister Cathy and her husband Julian. So it was a full, and happy house, particularly as it was Cathy's birthday as well. We all had a good time and even the weather was very kind to us. For use in some shows in the near future, I managed to pick up a genuine 1941 gas mask in Newcastle Emlyn which will be of great help, particularly if the children eat a lot of cauliflower during lunch breaks.
After three lovely days in the bosom of my family it was time to drive right across country to Essex, and visit my wife and son. Again we had a lovely time, none more so than last night when cuddled up on the sofa with my little son watching "Ice Age 2" on DVD. Lovely! Yesterday I also popped down to Leeds Castle for a meeting with the sainted Darlene Cavill - Special Events Organiser par excellence! She was, as ever, with her gorgeous and equally brilliant assistant Helen Budd, and here is a picture of them both from Christmas a couple of years back, looking frozen as frost glistens on the croquet lawn outside Leeds Castle's main entrance. We chatted about me coming back as Father Christmas this December, a visit I am making in February during their archaeological "Big Dig" week and for my return in May for a mega Jousting Tournament. They then took me to lunch in the Fairfax Hall, along with John the Estate Manager and top bloke and we had a really nice time.
So there you have it! Back to normal next week with appearances at Archbishop Cranmer School in Taunton, South Green Junior in Billericay and Godstowe Prep in High Wycombe. All that AND Matthew Applegate's 50th birthday party. But I didn't tell you about that, alright?

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Milton Park, Weston-Super-Mare

Gosh, I am tired tonight. Why is it I always forget how long it takes to get to Weston-Super-Mare from here? It takes about an hour and I was also breaking in a new sat nav today. Yes, poor old Doris is no more. I have been running the poor old thing on batteries since her power supply broke a while ago - you may recall me talking about it when I was visiting Blundells in Tiverton. Well, yesterday I purchased a new Doris. Doris II you might say, and today was her baptism of fire and it was a less than auspicious start. I know how to get to the M5 from here, but Doris II seemed hell bent on getting me to the A303 for some reason, completely the wrong direction. Anyway, she pulled through in the end and we made it to Milton Park Primary.
It was a great warm welcome I received from the staff and teachers, and it was a lovely warm day as well, so what more could we ask for. The school was great fun, about 60 children, all very excited and enthusiastic, and the morning seemed shoot past at great speed. I was invited to appear at this school by one of the teachers who had appeared with me on one of the panels I been on when appearing at BBC Somerset's "Morning Jo Show" a while back. It really was a fun day - lots of laughs and some great joining in with the children. After a fine lunch it was all back in the hall again for the afternoon stocks and the jousting tournament. After the preliminaries, the final was a raucous affair with the ladies finally winning through in great style. So this brings our current year totals to stand at:
GENTLEMEN 3 - 2 LADIES
So it is all back in the melting pot again! Doris II got me home safe and sound via Ilminster where I popped into Bilby's for a cuppa, and I have spent a fruitless evening trying to find some glimpses of Manchester City playing in the UEFA Cup on TV. They had virtually every other game on this evening, even Motherwell in France, but not City. And what is more galling? We actually won! What a nice day.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Highbury Junior School, Cosham, Hants

Between 1998 and 2003 I worked for a company called Skandia Life in Southampton. At first I was a computer operator on an AS400 machine, and later I was shoved into working on the telephone system for the company. For the majority of the time I thoroughly enjoyed the job and the friends I made there. I was known to all and sundry in the company as "Charlie" Farley. It was only the final six months at the company that were totally intolerable for me and that was mainly due to one half witted manager there who had it in for me. (Don't worry folks, clever clever Farley gave him both barrells in my exit interview, and to be honest it was a wonderfully cathartic episode!). But the reason why I mention Skandia Life now is that for the whole nearly five years I worked for them, I commuted in from Somerset - every day. A round trip in my car of around 150 miles a day, and I never thought anything of it! Mind you, neither did the managers at Skandia. So today I was driving from Somerset to Cosham near Portsmouth, a more or less copy of my old days driving to Southampton and back every day. How on Earth did I manage it every day? The drive alone was enough to half kill me, but then I did a days work on top of it...
Today was my first ever visit to Highbury Junior School in Cosham. The lovely lady who booked me - Katie Jennings - had heard about me on the TES (Times Educational Supplement) Forum on line. Some people had been saying some very nice things about my Henry VIIIth days, and she booked me on that strength. Well, it was a fabulous school full of some of the sparkiest, funniest pupils you could ever wish to meet. It was a mixture of years 5 and 6, plus a small smattering of year 4's, in total nearly 100 pupils. The day was just a joy from start to finish, lots of laughs, lots of good knowledge and loads of interest in the whole Tudor thing. What a wonderful school! We even had one great bit of knowledge - I was asking the children if they knew the name of Henry's older brother who died young (his name was Arthur in case you were guessing), and one little lad put his hand up and told me it was "Larry". Larry Tudor? Has a sort of ring to it, don't you think?
After a lovely lunch of roast beef it was all in the hall for the afternoon session. Plenty of laughs with a young lad I was pretending to punish for begging, and then the jousting... wow, what a jousting session. It was a close run thing, but in the end the gents ran out winners. So that makes the running score in the head to head jousting tournament:
GENTLEMEN 3 - 1 LADIES
So, come on ladies! Pull your socks up! I am up in Weston-super-Mare on Thursday for another day, so the ladies will have a chance to pull one back.

Monday, September 15, 2008

St Andrew's Junior School, Yetminster

A brand new school today for me. I cannot even begin to remember the last time I had ever been to Yetminster - some good years ago that's for sure. But here I was! Now St Andrew's Junior is a delightful school and I was doing a full Tudor day with years 3, 4, 5 & 6 all in one! A grand total of about 90 children. And they were all such nice kids, in some quite spectacular costumes and full of enthusiasm and laughter. We had a great day!
The teachers were all delightful as well, including a very nice chap who had the good taste and sense to be a mad keen Manchester City fan like myself. I was very upset when the children voted that he should go in the stocks later on.
Yetminster is a beautiful big village/small town, and it also has a very nice village shop where I got my lunch from today. Then back to the afternoon we pushed on with the stocks session and were joined eventually by the rest of the infants who came in to watch the jousting tournament. Some of the little ones found the noise a bit much, but the rest of them joined in with gusto! It was a hard fought contest and it was the gents who finally snatched victory. So the ongoing score is now:
GENTLEMEN 2 - 1 LADIES
Tomorrow I am visiting Highbury Junior School in Cosham in Hampshire. Another new school!

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Barrington Court Walkabout

A lovely summers day at last! And in the middle of September! When it was roasting back in 2006, we were frequently warned by various people that this was "global warming". Now we have frozen and been soaked for the last two summers they are now telling us it is "climate change". Personally I preferred global warming, so I am off out to buy some CFC packed aerosols and about three elderly fridges.
But back to today at Barrington Court - it was just a joy to be there. Lots of people, everyone in happy moods, Matthew Applegate in fine form and the sunshine... wow, the sunshine. How we have missed you.
I am now sitting here in a warm glow of a lovely day, just gearing up to watch the Last Night of the Proms, and getting my usual ridiculous lump in the throat when they sing Jerusalem. I mean, I ask you. I'm not even a member of the WI.
Monday I am at St Andrew's Junior in Yetminster, Dorset. See you there.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Manor Court School, Chard

Back in 2004, just when Henry was getting going for me, one of the very first schools in Somerset to book me was Manor Court Junior in Duck Lane in Chard. Today I returned for my fifth annual visit. For the very first time the very wonderful Lizzie Reynolds was not about - she was off on a course I believe, but I was Royally well looked after as usual with vast amounts of cups of tea and lots of good company and laughter with the staff.
It was a Year 6 group today - about 65 of them. They were terrific fun, very switched on and, even though they were at the beginnings of their studies when it came to the Tudor era, there was still a great deal of good knowledge among the group.
The morning was truncated somewhat by losing about 45 minutes to a school assembly which then spilled over into the morning tea break. At lunch time I wandered down into Chard, but whereas last year I had gone into Bilby's and seen Wendy for a homemade sandwich, today (as Bilby's in Chard is no longer Bilby's - if you follow) I took to the august portals of Somerfields and bought a couple of sarnies in there. I have to say I was feeling tired what with all the travel and shows I have done this week, so I think I was excused the fact that, whilst basking in the post sandwich haze of the warm and cosy staff room, I nodded off! I hadn't fallen asleep in a staff room since one of my first visits to the Maynard School in Exeter!
The afternoon was great fun and built up steadily to a good climax. Now I know you are eager to know who won the jousting. Well I can tell you. It was the LADIES! Therefore, the score on the 2008/09 Jousting Schools Challenge now stands at:
GENTLEMEN 1 - 1 LADIES
The next installment of this ongoing saga is on Monday when I travel to Yetminster in Dorset and my first ever visit to St Andrew's School there. If you would like to come and meet Henry in the flesh so to speak, I am appearing at Barrington Court tomorrow afternoon between about 12 noon and 4pm. See you there!

Thursday, September 11, 2008

West Leigh Junior

Be in no doubt - West Leigh Junior is a wonderful school. I do sometimes find performing a Henry day for year 3 pupils can be hard work. Sometimes they can be a little too young and don't really "get" the day. So when I discovered that my day at West Leigh was going to be with a group of 128 year three children my heart sank a little. But I need not have worried. They were fantastic! Really switched on and savvy. Bright, bouncy and with lots of good knowledge of the Tudor era already. There were occasions when they almost got a bit too excited, but I prefer a group of children that way, rather than when they just sit in shell shocked silence with the look of beached cods and obviously thinking "Who is this fat dude in the tights?"
The teachers and their classroom assistants were just lovely. So friendly and welcoming and nothing was too much bother for them. I even got my lunch bought for me which was very kind indeed. The morning was chock full of laughs and the afternoon was even better. The jousting tournament was a rowdy affair as I am sure you can imagine, what with 128 very excited children in a confined space. Their cheering and roaring on of the teams nearly took the roof off the hall we were in! The ladies seemed to have it sewn up in the final, but a simply brilliant final leg by the final young man allowed to gents to snatch victory on the last quoit. Brilliant stuff. I am going to keep score for this academic year and see who has the most wins, so with only one school done, the Henry VIIIth Joust-O-Meter shows the score to be:
GENTLEMEN 1- 0 LADIES
Watch this space for more scores. And not long to wait. I am back at dear old Manor Court in Chard tomorrow for more of the same!

Sunday, September 07, 2008

Dillington House Open Day

Dillington House is a wonderful country Tudor house near Ilminster in Somerset. It is used as an adult education centre, conference centre and also a venue for weddings and "events". I was invited along to their annual Open Day, when all sorts of different exhibits are put on for the potential future pupil!
Today I arrived and began wheeling my case up to reception. On the forecourt to the building there were various tents and canopies being erected, and three marvellous old cars were on display. One big Rolls Royce, a massive yellow Lanchester and....another one. Sorry, I never got to actually see what the model was! There was also a collection of vintage motor bikes, including a very handsome old Triumph model.
I was given a key to one of the hotel rooms upstairs to use as a changing room and I was soon in my purple Henry costume wandering around and doing a sort of Barrington Court day, i.e. leaping out of bushes and startling people! Lots of people knew me, there were various people who had seen me at Barrington Court, some teachers and secretaries from schools like Martock, Avishayes in Chard and even from Brookside in Street.
After a delicious lunch up in my room I was off patrolling the grounds again. A brass band pumped out the oompah music on the lawn while numerous photos of me were taken posing with different people. Next a demonstration of Tai Chi began on the lawns, but I soon scarpered as they started getting people from the audience to take part. Not a chance of Henry doing that! After the Tai Chi was an energetic demonstration of Appellachan Clog Dancing (if I have spelt that right!) which was tremendously entertaining. After a cup of tea and a slice of fruit cake I was ready to take on the World again.
I was approached by a couple of artists to see if I was interested in posing for a portrait - one gentleman who uses coloured pencils to great effect, and a lovely lady who paints beautiful still lifes and portraits. Why not!
This was a lovely day meeting some wonderful people in beautiful surrounds. What more could a Tudor despot ask for?
Next Henry show on Wednesday at West Leigh Junior in Southend.

Saturday, September 06, 2008

St Bartholomew's Church Fete

I was asked by my old friend Ann Ball (formerly of Axe Valley Players) if I would come along and be Henry at the St Bartholomew's Church Fete in Crewkerne today. I was delighted to accept.
If we are having an Indian Summer then we are in the depths of a monsoon season. Yesterday it poured and poured without a break, and really did not bode well for the Church Fete today. However, the sun was shining brightly, if a little bit watery, as Saturday dawned.
I parked in the car park nearest to the church and trundled my case over. I was to be working with the Crewkerne Town Crier again, the same chap I had worked with at the School Fete back in June. We had a truly lovely day, loads of people milling about, lots of fun and laughter with lots of different people, and plenty of money raised for the Church funds.
There was a fantastic alternative Morris Dancing group called the Tiddly Tigers or some such, who, though dressed in traditional Morris men gear then proceeded to dance to a very loud version of "Tiger Feet" by Mud, complete with thumbs stuck in waist bands and shoulders waving about (see Top of the Pops circa 1973 and you'll know what I mean!). It was truly hilarious. There was also a chap with them dressed up as Captain Jack Sparrow from the "Pirates of the Caribbean" movies. He looked a lot like Johnny Depp, in a way that anyone would who stuck on a Johnny Depp/Captain Jack Sparrow costume and wore a false goatee beard with lots of eye liner on. Still, you pays your money, etc etc.
I popped back home for a quick moment to draw breath and then I am going over to Anne Ball's house to see her and her husband and she is going to cook supper. Smashing!
Tomorrow, I am over at Dillington House near Ilminster for their open day.



Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Henry's Horrid History, Barrington Court

So, how did we do? Did we pack the place out with over 100 people? Er....no, we didn't. However, from a standing start to the actual show (in total probably only about 6 weeks) we must have got in somewhere like 35 people, which was most gratifying.
I got to the Court House at about 6pm and Matthew and his assistant, Rachel, were already dashing round the place getting seating ready etc. I was brought a very welcoming cup of tea from Matthew's wife, Sue, and then set about writing a short biography about me to be left on every seat in the hall. I then went to the small dining room which was my luxury dressing room for the evening and started to get ready. I had a clear view up the drive and was delighted to see a few cars and people on foot approaching, very obviously coming to see the show.
Matthew did his opening "trolley dolly" talk about escape routes in case of fire etc., welcomed everyone to Barrington Court and then introduced me. Well the show went marvellously. The whole audience seemed tuned in and laughed in the right places, and I was delighed to see my landlord, David Lockyer in the audience! We had a break after about 35 minutes and the guests were encouraged to buy a few drinks in the grand hall. Soon they were back with me in the great kitchen and the second half continued. Matthew and Rachel had a different problem to sort out as a Thrush had flown in attracted by the lights on a dark night. So they missed the whole of the second half chasing the bird around.
I finished to a great ovation after some music and waited by the front door to bid farewell to the audience. I helped Matthew and his helpers to clean up and then made my way home. Since then I have had a few days in Wales with my lovely sister Susan, then a few days in Essex and finally stopped off to see the company Past Pleasures at their head office in Wormley in Surrey. But more of that later....

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Back in the BBC

I was back on BBC Somerset again yesterday morning, for another appearance on the panel with the lovely Jo Phillips and the sainted Emma Britton. It was a great panel this time around. A lovely guy called Jim and a really attractive lady called Michelle - both very sparky personalities as well. We had great fun discussing various items of news. Jo Phillips was particularly keen that we should talk about the Channel 4 show "Embarrassing Illnesses", which as you can imagine threw up some hilarious moments. I was on to plug my "Henry's Horrid History" show at Barrington Court on August 29th and I think I did quite well with my sales pitch. I also got a phone message from a guy in Yeovil called John who thought I was very funny and should have my own show on BBC Somerset! Thank you John, whoever you are! After finishing the show I did some poster putting up in Shepton Beauchamp and the surrounds for the forthcoming show. I then headed over to Tatworth to see my friends Jo and Pete. In the evening I went over to Shepton Beauchamp and the lovely Duke of York pub for a beer with Matthew Applegate from Barrington Court.
This morning I have been into Ilminster to do some leafleting, in my full Henry gear! It was great walking about the town, accosting people and having a laugh and a joke with them. I got rid of nearly 100 leaflets, so fingers crossed we might get a big crowd in on Friday night. I will be going out again this afternoon to put even more posters up and continue to try and drum up support for this great show. Come and join me on Friday night at Barrington Court!

Monday, August 25, 2008

Somerset Rural Life Museum, Glastonbury

Back at the Somerset Rural Life Museum for the first time since October 2006, I was really looking forward to this day. As you can see from the picture taken today and forwarded to me by the lovely Nicky at the Rural Life Museum, here I am getting to grips with one of my fans! It looks like she is poised to kick me savagely in the shins doesn't it?
The day was great! The venue for the talks is the imperssive Abbey Barn - an early 14th century tithe barn of formidable proportions. It's vaulted, hammer beam roof gives it a wonderful echo and reverb if you want to air your tonsils with a few stentorian blasts - which I did! The groups of people who came in were really good - enthusiastic and laughing in the right spots. Always a good thing. I did four talks in the day, and the third and fourth were interrupted at different intervals by invading chickens from the yard, who took it upon themselves to wander into the barn and then cluck loudly in the darkened corners, much to the merriment of some of the children there! I also got an elderly heckler for the final show, but slowed her up sharply with a couple of witty replies. She left early, telling the people on the front desk that I was "too enthusiastic". I have had various complaints aimed at me over the years, but never "too enthusiastic". How bizarre. It was truly a lovely day and a pleasure to appear at such a fine and wonderful museum. I just hope they want me back at some point.
On Wednesday I am back with the lovely Jo Phillips on BBC Somerset and then I am at Barrington Court on Friday evening for my "Henry's Horrid History" show. Tickets still available on 01460 241938. Come and join me!

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Henry's Horrid History - Coming Soon!

WOULD YOU LIKE TO MEET KING HENRY VIIITH
IN PERSON?
Past Presence Ltd presents...
Henry's Horrid History
or
The Life and Times of Henry VIIIth
at Barrington Court National Trust Property, Somerset
Friday, August 29th, 7.30pm
Tickets £7.50 adults
£5.00 children
Not really suitable for under 10's
Call 01460 241938 for tickets and more details

Friday, August 15, 2008

Royal Parks Half Marathon - the photoshoot!















So here they are! The final five photos chosen by those who know to be used to publicise the Royal Parks Half Marathon. For more details on the run, how to get sponsorship and to get an entry form, please go to http://www.royalparkshalf.com/ it should make everything clearer!




Monday, August 11, 2008

Britain's Next Top Model

In my extended family we have a supermodel. It’s true! Her name is Lily Cole and she looks like a little china doll (as you can see right) – a typical supermodel. From a distance she looks like a spoon with a ginger wig on. Closer examination makes her look like one of the aliens from Close Encounters – also in a ginger wig. But now my family might suddenly have a new supermodel in it’s midst as I did my first ever photo shoot as a professional model! It’s true – stop laughing. I had been contacted by the Royal Parks Society for a promotional shoot advertising their forthcoming Half Marathon in Hyde Park.
I rose at the crack of dawn and headed up to Crewkerne Station to catch the 6.42 to London Waterloo. I pilfered a seat and settled down with my John O’Farrell book and promptly fell asleep. The sleeping was a good idea as it made the journey a lot shorter (or just seemed shorter) – perhaps I should try that next time I am driving a long distance? During my lucid moments it was nice to see the English summer countryside rushing by, with one small complaint – too much foliage. You’d get a glimpse in the distance of some interesting looking building and it would then just be swallowed up by greenery. Chop it all down! On entering central London it was nice to see the Houses of Parliament, the London Eye and even the MI5 building as we swept into Waterloo. I trundled the ridiculously heavy Henry costume in it’s suitcase on wheels out of the front of the building and over to the Taxi rank. A very nice driver took me up to Hyde Park and to the Royal Parks office at the Old Police House which is a bit of a misnomer as the place is still used by loads of Police! I was greeted by some lovely ladies from the Royal Parks people and, after quickly getting into the Henry gear we were soon driving over to Kensington Gardens for the photo shoot near the Round Pond. The photographer was a nice guy called Andy Lane, and there was, among others, Sophie Rivett-Carnac from Forster plus Hannah Cottrill and Sally Barney from the Royal Parks, plus Sarah Igglesden who was to be our “jogger” for the photo shoot. The set up was me as Henry, armed with shears, with a topiary figure of a runner which I am supposed to be trimming, while Sarah runs past behind me, causing me to cast a glance over my shoulder. We did this over and over, all slightly different positions, poses etc, with lots of bizarre glances being chucked our way by bemused passers by. We tried almost every permutation you could imagine, and then moved on to having Henry sitting at a park bench reading a newspaper as Sarah jogs by – these produced some of the funniest shots of the day, and masses of interest from various tourists walking past.
With the photo shoot complete myself and one of the lovely ladies from Royal Parks (sorry I forgot your name!) walked the topiary figure back towards the Serpentine Art Gallery balanced on a glorified wheelbarrow. The sight of England’s greatest post medieval monarch walking a wheelbarrow across Kensington Gardens with a topiary figure balanced on the top was almost too much for some tourists and we became a target for many a camera lens. We paused briefly to rest as the whole thing was very heavy, and a very nice lady taking her dog for a walk came over to see this bizarre site and ask what the heck was going on. It was Jenny Seagrove! The gorgeous actress from Judge John Reed and Local Hero and A Woman of Substance. I explained my job as Henry VIIIth and what we had been up to today; she thought it sounded a hoot. I kissed her hand and thanked her for Local Hero as it is still one of my all time favourite movies. She was just lovely.
After a quick cup of tea at the Old Police House I was driven down to Hyde Park Corner where I hailed a cab and was soon on my way to Waterloo. Another lovely driver, we had a good chat and I was soon on the concourse. Sadly my train wasn’t due for 40 minutes, so I grabbed a sandwich from M&S and sat on my case waiting for the time to arrive. I was one of the first on and got myself a seat. By the time we got to Salisbury the train split in two with only the first three carriages going on towards Crewkerne where I wanted to go. Of course everyone from the back three carriages came forward and packed though we already were, we were soon even MORE packed. A little old lady staggered on, so I offered her my seat. She accepted less than graciously, but I refrained from my desire to punch her teeth down her throat and throw her off the train as we thundered through Tisbury. I stood all the way from Salisbury in the corridor by the loo. Very nice. So glad I paid £78 for this privilege. I was forced to look on as a very smug young couple sat being smug, young and in love in one of the comfy looking seats, the particularly smug looking young lady with her ickle wickle doggy woggy in her arms, feeding it ickle wickle treatsy weatsies. Another two doomed for a quick exit near Tisbury methinks.
Home for cuddles with the cat and a bottle of Aussie Shiraz to celebrate. Watch yer back Lily Cole – I could be the next “willowy one” in the family…

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Henry's Horrid History

Past Presence Ltd Presents...
Henry's Horrid History
or
The Life and Times of Henry VIIIth
at
Barrington Court National Trust Property
Friday August 29th 2008 7.30pm
Tickets £7.50 adults
£5.00 children
Call 01460 241938 to book tickets
Featuring the UK's number one professional Henry VIIIth re-enactor, Good King Hal! History, laughter and music combine for an unforgettable experience in beautiful Tudor surroundings. Not suitable for children under 10.

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Dementia Care Trust, Weston-super-Mare

Sometime ago, whilst making one of my many appearances at Barrington Court, a very nice lady asked for my details as she thought I might be suitable for a luncheon club she knew of, which was part of the Dementia Care Trust. All this while later I was contacted about a month or so ago and asked to attend on this day.
It takes about an hour to get up to Weston from Clapton, and the weather today was lousy in the extreme. The added fun was that a brand new superstore had been built where my Sat Nav said I had to go, so ignoring Doris' complaints I drove past it and on, and she eventually calmed down and found where I wanted to go. After dashing in and getting changed, I was on almost straight away. There must have been about 50 people there, some carers, some of them sufferers of dementia, but the talk went down really well - lots of laughs, and the original lovely lady from Barrington there again with her daughter! I did about an hour and finished to loud applause. I quickly changed back into my civvies and was invited to join the group for lunch. We had a lovely meal of roast pork followed by cinammon rice pudding - delicious. I sat and chatted to a charming couple, the gentleman being a former clown, called Jackie the Clown, who though in the early stages of dementia is trying to write his memoirs about his wartime service with the RAF and his work in entertaining the troops. His book he hopes to have published will be called "The Clown Who Went To War" - remember you heard it here first folks.
I will be taking part in a photo shoot next Monday up at Hyde Park for the Royal Parks Society. More info as and when I know it myself.

Monday, August 04, 2008

Tudor Day at Southchurch Hall

Sunday saw me back in Sunny Essex for a visit to Southchurch Hall Museum in Southend for their annual Tudor Day. I had no idea this was such a big event - as I arrived re-enactors were setting up already with various stalls showing how a fletcher works, plus a potter, a scrivener, various herbalists and even a guy with a genuine ancient lathe.
My opening part of the day was just a walkabout meet and greet, which was great as the place was packed. As I wandered round the side of the house a figure suddenly ran full tilt from one of the doors, straight at me. He was dressed as a peasant, and with a great leap prostrated himself at my feet.
"MAJESTY!" He yelled at top volume. Everyone turned and looked towards us. "GRAVE NEWS FROM PORTSMOUTH!" He screamed at the top of his lungs. I was a little taken aback and wasn't sure quite how to react. He then launched into a full 15 minute account of the sinking of the Mary Rose in old English, complete with screaming, eye rolling, hand ringing, lots of sweating and more over acting than a container truck full of Robert Newtons. On finishing he walked away from me to the sound of polite applause and the occasional child saying "Mummy, I'm scared." About two hours later, whilst sitting on my throne in the main hall having a rest, there is a blur or movement and suddenly this lunatic is launching into his Mary Rose routine all over again. More screaming, sweating, shaking and hollering, and as we are indoors this time, as he finishes there is a group of about 100 people looking on. He walks out of the room to polite applause and all 100 pairs of eyes turn towards me expecting something similar. I smile lamely at them and then say "And now, the weather..." which got a great laugh.
My two talks went really well, especially the second one outside which attracted something like 150 people all round me as I went through the usual Henry stuff. I met some lovely people at the do, especially the wonderful man who works at Hampton Court Palace and has promised possible great things in the future. Also a big "Hello" to the lovely people from the St John's Ambulance people and the delightful Lisa from Southend Pier!
It was a great day and a joy to perform at. I am really looking forward to going back there again next August. Tomorrow, Tuesday, I am doing an after lunch talk for the Dementia Care Trust Charity in Weston-super-Mare, and no, before you ask, not on the pier.

Friday, August 01, 2008

Cobbaton Combat Museum, Devon

Here we see Matthew Applegate, Visitors Services Manager at Barrington Court, showing utter disdain for Hitler and his entire war machine, by posing in front of a Sherman Tank a good 60 years after the war finished.
It was our "lads day out"! Matthew and I had been planning for a few weeks for a trip to Cobbaton Combat Museum, a privately owned collection of militaria in the Devon countryside, so we could enjoy looking at the tanks, but also so we could have a look at their prices when it came to de-activated weapons and uniforms (all for research into my forthcoming WWII Home Guard shows). I picked up Matthew from Barrington Court at about 11am and we drove down the M5 and turned off at the Tiverton exit. We fairly quickly found the museum, but it was more than definitely lunch by this time and as I had done the driving and paid for the fuel, Matthew offered to buy lunch. I refused his offer of a Pot Noodle and a glass of water and instead we began a hunt for a pub, and what a pub did we find! We drove to the village of Chittlehampton and went into the Bell Inn. If you are down in this area of Devon I can highly recommend it - great food and fabulous beer. I would have been quite happy to stay there all day, but it was time to head back to Cobbaton and the museum.
It was an interesting stroll round the exhibits and they have some marvellous stuff there, but by God do they need a Museum Manager. Most of the exhibits are caked in dust, and we are talking YEARS-WORTH rather than just weeks. Quite a few of the photo exhibits are water or condensation damaged and a major portion of the entire exhibition seems to be cobwebs. Most of the tanks and people carriers seem to be used as storage cupboards as well as exhibits. You also find large swathes of exhibits with absolutely no information on them at all - you just have to guess. Despite me sounding very negative, please understand this museum is well worth a visit - but it could be so much better.
Back to Somerset we tried to stop for a pint somewhere but were just a bit too early for anywhere to be open yet, so it was back to Matthew's flat in Strode House and a cup of tea. Very nice, but a pint would have been better!
This weekend it is up to Essex for an appearance as Henry at Southminster Museum in Southend. See you there.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Cricket!

This Saturday just gone was the annual Clapton v Wayford long grass cricket match. As you can see from the picture on the right, the pitch was a little...ahem...rough, and helpful to all the bowlers. Now you have to remember that Clapton is a small village just outside Crewkerne in Somerset, and Wayford is a tiny hamlet attached to Clapton. So who had the most players who turned up? Yup! Wayford. I played for my village, Clapton, for the fourth year running. I hadn't intended to play, being somewhat hampered by being the size of the R101 and also having had a dodgy ankle for the past year, but David Lockyer came round and after showing me a photo of W.G. Grace and sobbing into a copy of Wisden's Almanack he convinced me to turn out.
For the first time in many years it was a beautiful day - if anything, it was too hot. But a splended match was played and everyone seemed to enjoy themselves. Wayford won the toss and inexplicably decided to bat. Clapton took regular wickets, but a couple of their players made big scores. Playing in the match reminded me just what it is I love about cricket - it is such a contest on so many levels, cerebral as well as physical. Now I haven't played regularly since I left Essex over 10 years ago, and when I was first brought on to bowl by my captain, David, the incumbent Wayford batsman was a young strapping lad of about 18, covered in muscles and obviously someone who had played a lot of village cricket and he seemed determined to smote me to all corners of the ground. So I took him on, firing in deliveries to his toes, or if he charged down the pitch to me, I would drop the ball in short and make him worry about where the hell it was going to go. And if you had seen the pitch, trust me you'd know it was a mind bender. Just a strip of grass mown short and then with a Land Rover driven over it a few times. My first over to him, despite some huge heaves he took at my slow trundling deliveries, was a maiden - perfect. He finally got me away for a four in my second over, but that was the only scoring shot he got off me. I was very happy! I snaffled a couple of late wickets to give me figures of 4-1-15-2. I was pleased with my work. We contained Wayford to 134 from their 30 overs.
After a lovely tea interval it was our turn to bat, and after a sparkling start from David and sundry others, we got a bit bogged down in the middle order, with poor old Charlie Swaffield unable to connect his swishing bat to any ball, time after time! By the time I came in, quick runs were the order of the day and I scampered through (OK, waddled) to get to three before being caught in the deep off a desperate heave. Clapton succumbed to 116 all out. So Wayford won for the first time in three years, but it was just a complete joy to play in such a lovely atmosphere.
In the evening I wandered over to Barrington Court and watched an hilarious comedy history show about all of England's monarchs down the years. Obviously their impersonation of Henry VIIIth was not a patch on mine (I wish!) but the rest of the show was brilliant.
A visit to Cobbatton Combat Museum with Matthew Applegate of Barrington is the order of the day this Wednesday. I shall report back then!

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

St Michael's School, Twerton

It was time for my final school appearance of the academic year and it was to be a brand new school for me - St Michael's in Twerton on the outskirts of Bath. I always forget just how long it takes to get to Bath from here - just over an hour or so, but luckily the traffic wasn't too bad and I made pretty good time. Earlier this month I had visited Paulton Junor near Bath (see this blog passim) and we had enjoyed a really fabulous day at that lovely school. Well the teacher I dealt with there, her other half is head teacher at Twerton, hence how they came to know about me so soon!
Now it may have been a small group today, only about 45 at most, but by God what they lacked in numbers they more than made up for in noise! Back in the 70's Monty Python released various books and in one of them there was a pretend advert for a series of albums called "Records for the Deaf" and it contained such delights as "Lulu Shrieks George Gershwin" and "This is Concorde!" each with however many decibels each album was. Well, if that advert had been for real, they could record the group I had today and THEY could be released as an album for the deaf. The day shot past in a very jolly manner with some fabulously over excited children and some charming teachers and classroom assistants.
After a lovely lunch of chicken pie with oodles of gravy the afternoon was almost a blur. The jousting competition was of some of the highest quality you could want to see with the gents just pipping the ladies in the final. What lovely day!
This has been a fabulous year with visits here there and everywhere. From doing the King's Royal Progress back in August 2007, via Henry's Horrid History at Leeds Castle in October, from frequent chats with Jo Phillips on BBC Somerset and also through Barrington Court and the Ilminster Festival, thanks to everyone who has been involved so far. There is so much more to come.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Birchfield School & then a kick in the teeth!

And it all started so well... I set my alarm bright and early for the short drive over to Birchfield Primary School in Yeovil, but then promptly fell asleep. I was re-awoken by my cat patting my face and demanding breakfast. A morning that had promised to be a nice relaxed slow get ready and go turned into a panic fuelled stagger around amid much swearing and nearly falling downstairs. Somehow I managed to arrive at the school on time and was greeted by the same wonderful teacher as before - such a sweet lady! And all the other staff were wonderful. It was a good sized group of children, two classes, and they were very excitable and were challenging at times. But the day went really well and there were laughs aplenty. The jousting was of high quality and I really thought the ladies were going to walk away with it, but in the final the gents managed to get ahead and held on for a fine win, amid much screaming and cheering!
I had just loaded everything into the car for the journey home when I got a voicemail message on my mobile. It was from Emma Vulliamy from Channel 4 who I was due to be filming with tomorrow near Wellington. The owners of the Tudor stately pile where I was due to meet them and film, decided that my travel expenses were too much for them to afford and I was no longer needed for the show. A bit of a kick in the teeth to say the least as I was really looking forward to this opportunity. Emma was full of apologies and said unfortunately it was out of her hands, and that she was disappointed as she and the crew had been looking forward to working with me. An unfortunate end to a funny old day...
Next week I am at St Michael's School near Bath for the last Henry day in a school for the academic year. And what a year it's been.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Paulton Junior - Carmarthen - BBC Somerset

Last Friday, after a dreadfully bad sleep, I was up bright and early for what was to prove to be a long day. The school visit to Paulton, just to the south of Bath and Bristol, was wonderful. Such a superb school! The kids were brilliant, laughing uproariously at most of the gags - one little girl in particular with a booming chuckle was in hysterics for most of the day! The teachers were charming and great fun to be with, and I can honestly say that I haven't enjoyed a school as much as that for a long time. Probably not since the heady days of Ian Gouge at West Pennard - hello Ian! After a belting Joust I was then on my way - but not home. I was heading up to Wales to visit my sister, her husband and my parents who were visiting her for her birthday. We had a really joyous weekend, lots of fun and laughs and probably too much to eat. On the Sunday we had a lovely visit to Laugharne, the home of Dylan Thomas and then had a fine light lunch at the Owl and the Pussycat Restaurant. I drove home at about 6.30pm on the Sunday evening and got back home at about 10pm.
I was up bright and early on the Monday morning as I was off to BBC Somerset for ANOTHER appearance on Jo Phillips' "Morning Jo Show" morning panel. It was great to see Jo again, she was looking as delightful as ever. Emma Britton was missing today, recovering from a Hen Weekend in Bournemouth! It was a great show and one well worth listening to again, which you can do at www.bbc.co.uk/somerset and choose the "Listen Again" feature.
On Thursday this week I am doing some filming for Channel 4 - more info about that on this blog later in the week. Before that I am back for a return visit to Birchfield School in Yeovil on the Wednesday. This is going to be a nice week.