Thursday, March 27, 2008

Coalway Junior, Coleford

Four years since I was first there, I was back at Coalway Junior in Coleford, Gloucestershire. Four years in a row I have visited this lovely school, and it just seems to get better and better!
The main teacher I was dealing with today was James Barrow, a fiercely proud Cardiff City supporter and so has a lot to shout about this year with their great FA Cup run. I wish I could say the same about Manchester City or Yeovil...
It was a group of about 55 children today and they were wonderful - as they always are at Coalway Junior! Some of them had obviously been very well taught and knew their Tudor history marvellously. It was very nice to be at Coleford for the first time not in rain! My previous three visits before this I am sure absolutely belted down each time!
The drive up was really lovely today in such bright sharp weather. I always love driving through Chepstow - admittedly it can be a bit of a bottleneck, but on a day like today it is hard to beat!
After a lovely roast dinner lunch we were back on for the Tudor crime and punishment trail, but not before I had been treated to a fine display of Tudor dance by one of the classes. The jousting was really closely contested and YET AGAIN the ladies walked off with the title with a quite brilliant display of teamwork. However the finest jouster was the second leg man of the Gents champs who could go professional should he wish - he was THAT good!
And now it is the Easter holidays - and I could do with the rest. See you at Barrington Court on the 19 April.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Hatless in Tatworth

I did something today I have never done before during all of my Henry appearances. I drove over to Tatworth just outside Chard for my third appearance at this lovely school. I was greeted by the head teacher, Mr Knight, who is almost as nuts about cricket as me and so as England supporters we were both over the moon about our series win in New Zealand.
I got everything set up in the main hall and went off to get changed. It was only then that I discovered that I had forgotten my hat! Never before had I gone without a hat at a Henry show. I wracked my brains trying to think where the hell I had left it and could only assume it was at the school where I had last appeared, so that made it Countess Gytha at Queen Camel.
The morning went really well, despite the lack of hat! It was a mixed group of year 3 and 5's and they were wonderful, also showing some magnificent knowledge of the Tudor world. After break I went straight into the hanging drawing and quartering section which they seemed to love, and the final jousting tournament was a belter. The gents original final was so close, and then the main final was a real classic with the ladies just pipping the gents again for the certificates from the King.
After I had packed and left, I headed home for lunch. Just after that I phoned the Countess Gytha School in Queen Camel. They hadn't had the hat handed in but promised to have a look. Sure enough the phoned back to say that the hat was still where I had hung it last week! So, I drove back over to Queen Camel to get my titfer! I was recognised by a few of the children with cries of "Henry's back!" They had even put some photos of me from last week on their notice board.
I had a couple of nibbles from schools this afternoon, one from Taunton and the other from Dorset, plus I had a confirmation of a visit to Southchurch Museum in Southend for the first weekend in August. I will be seeing so much of Essex. Lucky me!

Saturday, March 22, 2008

BBC Somerset Panel

Good Friday! And it was! Up bright and early (well, as bright as I can be when it's early) and off to Taunton for another appearance on the lovely Jo Phillips' "Morning Jo Show" on BBC Somerset. Of course, it being Good Friday there wasn't the usual scrum of rush hour traffic to contest with on my way to the studio and I sailed through for once and got a nice parking space close to the studio in Park Street.
I was greeted by the lovely Emma Britton as usual and shown up to the small kitchen area they use as a "Green Room" and I was left to devour the papers to find a suitable story to talk about. My other co-guests were a lovely lady who does complimentary healing including chakra work (who I had appeared on a panel with once before) and another charming lady called Linda Bond who is a children's author and school teacher in north Somerset. I chose for my story the behaviour of Premiership Footballers and the sort of example they give to young children. I particularly focussed on Ashley Cole of Chelsea and the appalling tackle he dished out to a Spurs player the other night and then swore and mouthed off at the referee as though he was the wronged party. We were also asked for any good news stories that we might have as it was "Good" Friday. It was a fun panel to be on as usual and Jo Phillips and Emma Britton were wonderful hosts as ever. It is always such a pleasure to appear on their show.
I had the rest of the day at leisure, and made full use of it by doing virtually nothing all day beside breathing! Ah, now that's what I call a rest day! I spoke to Matthew Applegate later in the day and chatted more about our plans for some guided tours at Barrington Court that he wants me to host later in the summer, the first coming up on the 6th June (D-Day!).
This coming week I am at Tatworth near Chard on Wednesday and then a return visit to the lovely Coalway Junior in Coleford, Gloucestershire on the Thursday.
I have just re-discovered the picture you see above. It shows me outside Leeds Castle last October during my "Henry's Horrid History" week posing with the lovely Helen Budd, Jean Beaton and "little" Helen. Just thought you might like to see a different pic on the blog for once!

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Countess Gytha School, Queen Camel

A new school - and boy what a day. I set my alarm for about 6.30am, it went off and then I slept on, but luckily my dear cat Dru decided to leap on me about 10 minutes later and made sure I didn't sleep on until it was too late. It was a cold and frosty start and I was on my way to a brand new school today. Countess Gytha School in Queen Camel, near Sparkford just off the A303. Who was Coutess Gytha I hear you cry? She was Harold II's (he who caught it in the eye at the Battle of Hastings) mother and apparently had a hunting lodge and lands all around Queen Camel. In the playground of the school they had a large map of Britain and the rest of the World painted on the hard surface. I couldn't help noticing that Essex and the rest of the south east was painted over a manhole cover for the sewers. I shall say nothing as an Essex ex-pat.
This was a hard day for me today, not because the school wasn't brilliant, because it was; not because the teachers weren't friendly, because they were very friendly; and not because the pupils were awful, because they weren't, they were a fabulous group of children. No my main reason for this being a hard day was because I was in PAIN! My sinuses were absolutely throbbing all day, and all I could really think about most of the time was SINUTAB - that wonderful stuff that relieves pain and unblocks your conk and cures all ills and probably composes symphonies in it's spare time. I just couldn't wait to get in my car, drive to Crewkerne and get some! But I had the day to do first - and I have to admit it was a really good one. Lovely school, great kids, nice teachers, friendly atmosphere - and a nice lady from the Western Gazette who had last photographed me at Martock School (see this blog passim) many moons ago when I first had the Honda Accord! The jousting in the afternoon in particular was spectacularly good - such a close finish. The boys led from the off and after two runs had quite a lead, but the ladies kept plugging away and on the final quoit just managed to snatch victory. Cue much cheering and jumping about from 50+ very excited children.
After that I did stop at Crewkerne and I did get myself some Sinutab and I am sitting here now, typing this waiting for it to work. You never know, it might compose a symphony first.
Next Henry work? Friday, back on the Morning Jo Show for their News Panel at 9am. Tune in to BBC Somerset 1566am or 95.5FM, or if you live miles away - try out listening on line at ! Have fun.

Monday, March 17, 2008

St Michael's School, Wimborne

For the fourth year running I had the pleasure of driving down to Wimborne in Dorset for another visit to St Michael's Middle School. This is a wonderful school. I cannot praise it enough! The teachers are always wonderfully welcoming and the kids just magnificent. Some of the costumes the children had got together were out of this World today.
The drive down to Wimborne is a nice one, taking you down through Dorchester and along the Troy Town by-pass, past Athelhampton and then along the A31 till you turn off into the quaint little town of Wimborne. The river looked quite swollen today, spilling out over the fields around and making the area look like it was surrounded by a small sea!
St Michael's has undergone a bit of a face lift since my last visit, but I soon got my bearings back again. The morning was fun and seemed to go past in a flash. I had an extended break as there was an assembly, but it was soon back into the hall and the morning activities were over. I was treated to a lovely lunch of macaroni cheese and a big shortcake cookie for afters!
The afternoon was wonderful. One of the teachers, a pretty young lady, had dressed as a boy street urchin, so we soon dubbed her "Bob" in deference to the character played by Gabrielle Glaister in BlackAdder II! The poor dear, she then ended up getting nominated for a visit to the stocks. The jousting was another good one, with the boys for once sneaking a victory over the ladies.
I had a nice leisurely drive home and I am really looking forward to my visit to Countess Gytha School in Queen Camel tomorrow.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Three Days in Norfolk...

After a couple of days recovering from the Abbotsbury Experience, I was back to being a proper Henry again with three days in two schools in one county! It was a return visit to Drayton Middle School in the village of Drayton near Norwich on Wednesday. This was a lovely return visit and a pleasure to see so many familiar faces again. The children were, as ever, brilliant with some fabulous costumes, great knowledge of Tudor times and a willingness to join in and have some fun, as well as learning, in to the bargain. We seemed to race through the morning (despite me still having a heavy cold) and the afternoon went even better. The gents won a thrilling jousting tournament by a short head.
Wednesday and Thursday night I stayed with my friends Ian Weston and Sue English. It was so nice to see Ian again - he is such a wonderful person, one of my oldest and dearest friends. It had been far too long since I had last seen the dear chap. Sue was her usual self, so no change there really.
On Thursday and Friday I was at Falcon School in Sprouston on the outskirts of Norwich, with two big year groups. I had about 96 year 6 pupils on the Thursday, and what must have been a similar number of year 5's today (Friday). They were magnificent groups - not a single child had missed out on a costume, the teachers were universally friendly and accomodating, and the caretaker had a really groovy Sony Walkman with massive headphones that seemed permanantly attached to his head! Of the jousting, well what can I say? It was business as usual as the ladies romped to victory on both occasions.
A quick drive home to my parents house (they are away at present), then on to my in-laws in Dunton for dinner, and then home to lovely Somerset down the lonely A303.
Next week I am back at St Michael's at Wimborne in Dorset on Monday and a new school, Countess Gytha at Queen Camel on Tuesday. Friday I am back on BBC Somerset for another appearance on the Morning Jo Show.

Sunday, March 09, 2008

The Abbotsbury Play

This weekend has been a bit of fun. I had been invited by my lovely cousin Ann in Portesham, Dorset, to appear in a small community play taking place at St Nicholas' Church in Abbotsbury. The play had been written by a lovey lady called Tito and consisted of the potted history of Abbotsbury as a musical! I had two major scenes - one opposite my cousin Ann's husband, Jack in which I played Henry (there's type casting for you!) and Jack played the Abbot of Abbotsbury Abbey. I spend the whole scene trying to wangle the keys to the Abbey from him. I do finally manage it, with the words "That'll do nicely, sir!" Then I do some of my usual Henry talk, only this time with some of the children of Abbotsbury portraying my wives and children. It was great fun and seemed to get a fabulous reaction from the audience.
The rest of the show was wonderful village entertainment, very parochial and sweet. Reminded me of the way Laurie Lee described the village entertainments in "Cider With Rosie".
We all came on for a curtain call at the end, and I was lucky enough to get a big cheer and even a standing ovation. I am glad they enjoyed it so much! It has been a really fun weekend working with these lovely people. I really hope they do another show soon!

Saturday, March 08, 2008

Little Parndon, Harlow

It may have been my fourth year of appearing at Little Parndon School in Harlow in Essex, but this Friday was something a bit different! In all my years of being Britain's premiere rotund Tudor monarch, my lovely wife had never actually seen me perform a full school day. She had witnessed talks, walkabouts and other Henry related silliness, but never a full day. So as she was available I asked if she'd like to come along and watch. She seemed very keen.
As ever I was very warmly welcomed to Little Parndon. It really is one of the friendliest schools you could want to meet anywhere. There were about 50 children on the day, some of them in excellent Tudor costumes. The opening talk went really well and the day seemed to fly along at a good pace. The children also seemed to really enjoy the quiz and the coat of arms designing. My wife had laughed like a drain at the correct comedy moments in the morning, so she is still in the will.
I treated my wife to a marvellous lunch (we went to the local chippy for savaloy and chips!) before the afternoon session began. The stocks were as popular as they always are and we were soon into the jousting tournament. I think it would be safe to say that the children this day were not over blessed with jousting skills! The ladies tournament soon descended into farce as neither team seemed to clearly know what they were doing! Quoits, targets and horses seemed to fly around all over the place! The boys were a little better. The final was a lot closer, but again the boys just managed to pip the ladies to clinch the title and walk off with the parchment certificates!
My wife and I were soon back with my little boy, and much later still I was back in Somerset. Our cat was very pleased to see me and had soon demolished most of a tin of Whiskas!
The forthcoming week is panning out as follows: This weekend I am appearing in the Abbotsbury Play down at St Nicholas' Church in Abbotsbury. Monday I have a meeting with Matthew Applegate over at Barrington Court about some future plans. Wednesday I am at Drayton School in Norfolk, and Thursday & Friday I am at Falcon School also in Norfolk. Busy busy!

Sunday, March 02, 2008

Barrington Court Re-opens!

Just a little reminder to one and all: The very wonderful and underrated Barrington Court has re-opened this weekend after it's long winter close down. Owned by the National Trust, Barrington Court has two beautiful buildings to see - Barrington Court House itself, all fine Tudor architecture as the picture here shows you, and right next door to it, Strode House, a fine Stuart building with plenty to interest people. The Court House is used by a company called Stuart's Interiors as a show room for their renovated antique furniture and offers a different sort of visit to some NT properties. The long gallery on the top floor is also well worth a visit. Matthew Applegate, the Visitor's Services Manager, is a charming chap, and he and all his team of vounteers and helpers do a marvellous job on a tiny budget.
And as the weather is so good today, I am going to go over and see them all today! I hope to see you there as well.