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 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:
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:
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:
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:
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:
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:
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.
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:
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:
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.