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:
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.

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:
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:
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:
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:
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:
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....