Monday, July 28, 2008


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 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.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

An Important Request

At approximately 12.30pm today, while I was out and about, a school phoned and left a message for me. Unfortunately, the quality of the line was so bad that I just cannot make out who the school is or even what their phone number is. If by some miracle you are reading this blog and you know a school has tried to contact me, can you ask them to try again! And if I'm not here can they speak up when leaving a message. It is a woman's voice, the school seems to have a double-barrelled name and the final three digits of the telephone number seem to be 229, but don't quote me on that. I have listened to the message over and over, and still cannot understand a clear word at all, apart from the fact that they loved my outgoing message. So please if you are that school. I am not ignoring you - I just don't know who you are!
Actually, come to think of it - a lot of people read this blog (I know that as the hit counter keeps going up and up very quickly), so show me you read it by leaving me messages! I would very much appreciate that.
Sometime later that same day...
It was Ditcheat Primary School! HOORAY!! Another case solved by Henry VIIIth and his intuitive powers (and the internet).

Monday, July 07, 2008

What a Silly King...

Now, one of the first things you must do when putting all your forthcoming Henry appearances on a calendar, is that if any get postponed or cancelled, scribble them out straightaway. Back in September 2007 I was contacted by Daubeney School in Bedford to say that my impending visit on the 8th July 2008 would have to be shifted to another date. Nothing was ever finalised and so consequently the 8th July 2008 is now a non-day for me. But of course I, being a very silly King, didn't cross it off my calendar all those months ago. So today I have been preparing paperwork, cleaning costumes and preparing to buy vast quantities of petrol, when luckily I checked some old emails. I was only really checking to see what price I had quoted Daubeney as the prices have changed this year. And there it was on my screen, in black and white - day cancelled! Good job I looked. So, in the words of Spike Milligan from the wonderful Q-series (all together now):
What are we going to do now? (move closer to camera) What are we going to do now? (move closer to camera) What are we going to do now? (move closer to camera) What are we going to do now? (move closer to camera) What are we going to do now? (move closer to camera) What are we going to do now? (move closer to camera) What are we going to do now? (move closer to camera) What are we going to do now? (move closer to camera) What are we going to do now? (move closer to camera) What are we going to do now? (move closer to camera) What are we going to do now? (move closer to camera) What are we going to do now? (move closer to camera) What are we going to do now? (move closer to camera) What are we going to do now? (move closer to camera) What are we going to do now? (move closer to camera) What are we going to do now? (move closer to camera) What are we going to do now? (move closer to camera) What are we going to do now? (move closer to camera) What are we going to do now? (move closer to camera) What are we going to do now? (move closer to camera) Etc. etc. ad infinitum.

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Wandsworth and Bishop's Stortford

I always know when it is time for me to visit Finton House School in Wandsworth. There are always certain hints and clues that it is that time of year again. Firstly, it is Wimbledon Fortnight, and secondly, on the drive to the school you will always hear the words on the radio weather forecast "today is likely to be the hottest day of the year so far!" And it happened again this year! With temperatures on Tuesday rocketing to the upper 20's I knew I was going to be in for a hard time of it in the robes, so I reduced my overheating chances by not wearing my Henry "bodice" today and went for the plain shirt and pantaloons look. Much more agreeable. It was a small group as ever at Finton House, but a nice one. About 25 children, all girls bar one lad! Very strange. They were a remarkably quiet group during the morning, but perked up a bit by lunchtime, and the afternoon was a real hoot with some great moments, particularly in the jousting when, unsurprisingly with their huge advantage in numbers, a team of just ladies won. The drive out of Wandsworth and over to my parents in Essex was enough to make you want to chew your own foot off. It was slow, hot, bad tempered and chock full of cars wherever I went. But at last I made it. For a large part of the journey the temperature sensor on the outside of my trust Peugeot reckoned it was 35 degrees outside and I could almost believe it.
Today found me making a first appearance at a new school. I was off to Hillmead Junior in Bishop's Stortford, a really nice school with some genuinely lovely teachers there who were very friendly, especially the charming South African lady who looked after the reception class children. Again it was a small group of about 25, but a much more diverse mix and we had a really lovely day. Lots of laughs and fun and some of the children showing some quite brilliant knowledge of the Tudors. One young lady got a perfect score on my Tudor quiz, not something that happens very often. Well done to her!
After a rip roaring jousting session I was on my way and the journey home was slightly less fraught than the long march back from Wandsworth the day before, despite the A414 being gridlocked in one place.
Had dinner with my parents and my wife and son - lovely fish and chips from the good Fish'n Chick'n Bar in Rayleigh Road, Hutton. And then after watching Andy Murray being steam rollered into submission by Rafal Nadal I was on my way and back home. Ah! Bed!