Saturday, June 28, 2008

Early morning photo shoot for Western Gazette

Chris Sweet, Crewkerne based writer for the Western Gazette Newspaper, is doing an article about me next week. It is all about the launch in September of the new improved re-enactment company entitled Past Presence Ltd. He was hoping to arrange a photographer from the Wester Gazette to be around last night at the St Bartholomew's School Fete, but most of them had scarpered to the Glastonbury Festival apparently. Anyway, he phoned again yesterday and said he had found someone who could do the photo shoot today (Saturday), but that the photographer would be with me at 9am.
The picture you see with this entry is how I looked at about 8.45am when the front door bell went and the photographer I had completely forgotten about turned up. At the very moment he pressed my front door bell I was about to step into the shower - that's how unready I was. I spoke rather grumpily to the chap on the front step (apologies for that!) and told him to wait in the back garden and I would be with him ASAP. I somehow managed to get showered, shaved and something else beginning with "S" (scrubbed?) in about 10 seconds flat. I then hurriedly threw on the Henry gear and was almost ready for the shoot. Of course the one thing Chris Sweet and I had planned for the shoot was for me to be posing, in Henry gear with two books - one about the Second World War and the other about Ancient Egypt (the two new eras we will be covering when Past Presence Ltd goes "live"). Could I find two books at a seconds notice for this shoot? Luckily I had Roy Jenkins' biography of Churchill to hand, that would do for the Second World War, but Egypt? I tore round the house and the only thing to hand was a Terry Deary book. Now as you know, I love Mr Deary about as much as your average Hassidic Jew likes a nice pork chop, but it was the only book to hand. So next week you will see me gurning in my back garden clutching a book by Terry Deary. Don't hold your breaths if you expect to see it happen again.
Coming up this week - a return visit to Finton House School in Wandsworth and a new visit to Hillmead Primary in Bishops Stortford.

Friday, June 27, 2008

St Bartholomew's First School - Summer Fete

My son James attended St Bartholomew's First School in Crewkerne for a while and enjoyed every moment. It is a charming lovely little school. The headteacher there is a lovely man by the name of Michael Collins and he had asked me sometime ago if I would be available to appear at their summer fete. It was a pleasure to appear.
I arrived at about 5.30pm and got changed into my Henry gear. There was so much to do there. There were several stalls with the usual Treasure Hunt games and hook-a-duck, plus a grand prize draw with over 30 separate prizes to be won. There were burger stalls, a coconut shy, two bouncy castles (one enormous the other more child friendly), ice cream vans and there was also the Town Crier for Crewkerne as well as me there. Seeing us both together a couple of small children pointed and shouted "Ooh! Pirates!"
The place was packed out and everyone seemed to have a really good time. The local Atom Car company were there with one of their super sports cars offering a lucky dip for a free ride in the car. Loads of money seemed to be raised and luckily the weather managed to behave itself until almost the very end when a few spots of rain appeared.
A lovely evening.

Monday, June 23, 2008

St Peters-in-Thanet, Broadstairs

Three years ago I went to St Peters-in-Thanet School in Broadstairs, Kent. It was the beginning of March and it snowed in the sort of way that even Scott of the Antarctic would have gone "Blimey - looks a bit chilly". It took me a grand total of nearly nine hours to get home along ice encrusted roads.
Today was completely different. Warm, sunny but with a stiff breeze. It was lovely to be back again. The school is a really groovy shape - like a large doughnut, completely round and with a large hall to the rear. It was about 90 children today and great fun. I made the fatal mistake of predicting that the ladies would walk off with the jousting tournament. That proved to be about as accurate and on the money as my prediction that Croatia woud waltz off with the Euro 2008 crown. DOH!
We had a really good day today, lots of laughs and some wonderful knowledge from the children, even though they finished their topic of the Tudors some months ago. The jousting was of a particularly high quality, but despite what I said it was a very competent Gents team that triumphed.
My journey home was only four hours this time, far quicker than before and with not a hint of ice on any road. When I got home I decided to do some washing only to find that my washing machine has decided to stop working, bless it's little heart. Just what I didn't need at the moment. Launderette here I come it seems.
I must be desperate for entertainment tonight. I've been watching Big Brother. Someone, stop me!

Friday, June 20, 2008

Kingsclere in Berkshire...or is it Hampshire?

Who's a silly King, then? Me! There I was, all primed for a whole weekend in the south east, from Thundersley on Wednesday, Kingsclere in Berks today and then Broadstairs in Kent on Monday. WRONG! Kingsclere is one of those places to throw a spanner in the works for you! I just assumed, as it had a Reading post code, that it would be near Reading! Nonsense! It's almost in Basingstoke and next to the A303 and virtually halfway home to Somerset from Essex where I have been staying. So instead of being in Essex for another night I have come home to sunny Somerset (it's raining actually, but you can't see that where you're sitting, can you?), will have an early night and then ski-daddle off back to Essex tomorrow morning. What a jet set lifestyle!
The school today at Kingsclere was lovely. Really lovely, easy to find, wonderful kids and fun teachers! I even had a lunch brought in for me it seemed! A ham and cheese roll, some savoury bites and even some strawberries were laid on for me. I really can't complain. The morning was great fun and the afternoon, though a tad warm in the costume was still terrific and we had a really good jousting competition which the gents won for the first time in a while.
When I was driving out of the school some of the boys from the day ran alongside my car for the first few yards waving and shouting "Thank you!" - lovely stuff. The drive home of course brought me to Stonehenge and it's the midsummer solstice! So loads of traffic, loads of Police vehicles and lots of hippies in clapped out buses. My, how we laughed.
But I am home now and will be getting my din-dins soon. See you in Broadstairs on Monday morning - bright and early!

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Thundersley Junior

Almost exactly one year ago I made my first appearance at Thundersley Junior in Southend-on-Sea in Essex. I remember us having a really good time, so I was looking forward to my return visit today. I was not to be disappointed. My journey down was incredibly easy and I arrived very early, so I parked up with a newspaper and drink to kill some time before everyone else arrived.
I got my usual warm welcome from the staff and was soon set up in the hall for the days fun and games to begin. They were a really nice bunch of children, about 60+ of them, but very sparky and attentive and brilliantly well behaved. The morning just seemed to fly past.
I had a lovely lunch of roast beef sitting next to one of the male teachers who suddenly turned out to be Andy Whittams, a guy I used to go to school with back in the late 70's and early 80's at the Ingatestone Anglo-European School. What a small world! It was nice to see him. He had just returned from visiting another old friend of mine, Adrian Robinson who now lives in Switzerland. The funny thing is we used to call Adrian "Swiss Family" because of his surname!
The afternoon was a great session, very lively and full of laughs, and wouldn't you just know it? The ladies came through and triumphed in the Jousting final! Don't they nearly always?
I have tomorrow off, before heading off to Berkshire in Friday and a Henry visit to the town of Kingsclere.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Ilminster Festival and Much Much More!

I know I haven't blogged in a while but I have mitigating circumstances which involve idiocy and Tesco's Broadband, but any more than that my lips are sealed just in case they sue me.

Let me take you back to last Thursday and a getting up at the crack of dawn day. I was off down to Truro Prep School in Cornwall again for a second visit in two years. It is a longish drive but very much worth it. A total delight this school. Fabulous teachers and brilliant kids, and would you believe absolutely everyone dressed to the nines in their Tudor costumes! We even had a fine Hog Roast on the cricket pitch, just as we had two years ago. The weather was gorgeous all day as well which made the trip that much more pleasant.
Friday found me back on BBC Somerset with the gorgeous Jo Phillips on the "Morning Jo Show" broadcasting "live" from Ilminster in preparation for the Ilminster Festival. It was a really fun show to do and seemed to go very well. Please listen again at and click on "listen again" and choose the "Morning Jo Show" and "Friday" button! In the evening I was leading the parade for the medieval pageant for the Ilminster Festival itself. We had, apart from me, a fabulous jester called "Jester Trick", loads of kids dressed as fabulous Tudors, a group of men at arms and ladies in waiting from a re-enactment group based in Ilminster, some Morris Men (and women!), a mummers play group and even some Medieval Musicians from the "Daughters of Elvin" group. The parade was great fun, running from the end of Silver Street down to the Market Square where a large stage had been set up, pausing only at The Dolphin Pub so I could have a pint and watch the Morris Men dance, and then briefly outside Bilby's where I "Knighted" Tris Pinkney! Great fun. On the stage I was MC and had great fun bantering with the audience before introducing in turn the Jester, the Mummers, the Musicians and the Jester again, before we were finished just about 9pm. After getting changed I headed to Barrington Court for Matthew Applegate's surprise farewell party for his assistant Simon who was finishing his years placement at the court. Good fun.
Saturday and Sunday I was at Barrington Court doing walkabouts. Saturday was relatively quiet, about 500 people in, but Sunday was packed as there was a Jazz Band on for a Father's Day special. I guess we had about 1,500 through the door. Wonderful! Lots of lovely people to meet and good fun had by all. The weekend finished with me and Matthew Applegate sinking a pint or two at the Duke of York pub in my beloved Shepton Beauchamp.
Today I have driven up to Essex and over the next few days I will be appearing at Thundersley in Southend, Kingsclere in Berkshire and Broadstairs in Kent. Should be fun. And you never know, Tesco Broadband might lose some idiocy and get me re-connected! Hoorah!

Monday, June 09, 2008

St John's Junior School, Highbridge

Do you like this picture? It was the flyers they were using to advertise my weekend at Sudeley Castle. And what clever chaps they were, taking a picture of me at Leeds Castle and then removing the said Castle and slapping a pic of Sudeley behind me instead.
Back to business - I was on my way to Highbridge near Burnham-on-Sea this morning. St John's Junior School had got wind of my work after my fairly recent visit to West Huntspill Junior. After such a fine day at West Huntspill, what would St John's offer me? Well, it was quite a similar day - tremendous fun! A really excellent school, a charming group of teachers and some fabulous children. We had such a fun day, lots of laughs, lots of learning and a really thrilling jousting tournament in the afternoon. One of the biggest laughs of the day came via a correct, but shocking answer from one little chap. As I usually do, when talking about Ann Boleyn, I ask what possible evidence could any of her detractors have offered when they said she was a witch. I always tell the children it is something physical, referring usually to her extra polydactyl finger on her left hand, or the supposed birth mark she had on her neck. Today when asked what made people think she was a witch, one of the year 4's stuck his hand up and said "she had three nipples!" which, strictly speaking is true, but was not what I was expecting from a 9 year-old. I choked and spluttered a bit and at least two of the teachers nearly fell off their chairs laughing. Now that's not something I hear everyday!
Later this week I am off to Truro in Cornwall and then on Friday I am on BBC Somerset again with Jo Phillips in Ilminster during the day and then I am appearing at the Ilminster Festival in the evening. On Saturday and Sunday I am at Barrington Court for a couple of days of walkabouts.
I have also had some nibbles from a TV company called "Whizz Kid", another enquiry from Channel 5 for a possible appearance on another show and even some talk about yet another TV company doing a children's history series. How nice!