Friday, January 30, 2009


Well, would you believe it? I drive in my little red Peugeot all over Britain for a year or so, never once treating the poor little thing to a service or a proper rest. Last week I take it into Popular Motors in Merriot for it's annual MOT and it passes with flying colours. Buoyed by this wonderful piece of money saving news, I then drive up to Essex, then Whitby and then back to Somerset with not so much as a murmur of disapproval from the car's engine. So I drive down to Wales to visit my sister and some other friends near Carmarthen. On the first evening there we drive up to Lampeter to pick a friends daughter up from University as it is her 21st birthday, and guess what? The car breaks down outside the halls of residence. The timing belt and some other parts of the alternator are in pieces. We get towed home by the AA. The local car garage near my sister's house cannot get the correct spare parts until late on the Friday and, as the garage is shut all weekend, cannot even begin to start work on repairing it until Monday. I was due in Essex on Monday, taking my wife out for a birthday treat. She has taken the news I won't be there very well and is only stabbing my voodoo doll with 2 inch pins, rather than the original 7 inch hat pins. The garage cannot guarantee that the car will be ready on Monday anyway, which could have a nasty knock on effect as I am due in Drayton near Norwich in Norfolk on Wednesday. ARGH!
So there you have it. Mike Farley, Good King Hal, News at Ten, Esgair near Cynwyl Elfed, Wales.
(P.S. And I was supposed to be going to the pub with Matthew Applegate on Sunday).

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Lythe Junior, North Yorkshire

And so, it came to pass, that Good King Hal, he that is known as "Ginger Idiot in Tights", didst set forth in his mighty Peugeot 406 upon the road that is known as the A1(M) and didst travel many an hour in the direction of northwards. And the hours didst passeth and the mileometre in his car didst go round, verily unto liketh the gerbil upon the wheel in the cage (particularly one that hath been denied female companionship for about six months and then fed some sherbet - boyeth - do they go!). And it came to pass that eventually the Ginger Idiot didst reacheth the chosen land, that which is known as North Yorkshire, and didst maketh to the migthy citadel which is knoweth to all and sundry (and the British Tourist Board) as Whitby. And he didst sayeth "blimey", as he was cream crackered and there was much wailing and gnashing of teeth, and use of the "F" word as his back was soreth, even unto something very sore indeed. And eventually he foundeth his way unto the village called Ellerby where there was an inn, of the name The Ellerby Inn, because that's the sort of names they use "oop there". And he asketh, if there be room for him at the inn. And they said, "don't be a plum, of course there is, you booketh it via the electric telephone the other night." And there was much rejoicing. AMEN.
And so on and so forth. I had fallen on my feet here, and make no mistake. I had driven to Ellerby from Essex where I had been staying - about a 300 mile trip, but with it being a Sunday, I sailed through and arrived at the Hotel at about 2pm. I was booked in and shown to my room. There must be some mistake. This is luxurious! A super king size bed, flat screen plasma TV on the wall, designer fitted en-suite bathroom with walk in cubicle shower, plus my own little balcony to sit out on, should the howling wind and rain abate. I stood in the middle of this luxurious suite in my grotty travelling rags and felt like Worzel Gummidge at the Savoy Grill. After the long drive and a fairly poor nights sleep the night before, I decided to lay down on the incredibly comfortable bed and read my book, but I wouldn't sleep because....zzzzzzzzzzzzz. Oh dear. I woke with a start and found that it was now 6.30pm and I hadn't eaten since a rather limp sandwich bought at a petrol station near Huntingdon many hours previously.
I wandered down into the bar of the hotel and was delighted to find it busy, but not crowded, and nice and snug looking with a crackling log fire at one end. The only hand pumped beers they had were either Courage Directors or John Smiths Magnet Ale. Well, when in Yorkshire... I ordered a pint of John Smiths and of course forgot about the sparkler they insist on putting on all beer pumps at points north of Watford. This aerates the beer, fills it full of froth and puts a creamy head on it. It also makes the beer taste like dishwater. We only ever used to put sparklers on the pumps at the pub I worked at in Essex when the beer was on the turn, to mask the flavour. Anyway, I drank my dishwater and then ordered dinner. I abandoned the idea of beer after the first pint and moved onto red wine. The first one was lovely, would Sir like another? Yes, sir would. After three more anothers, Sir was ready for the first assault on the north face of the stairs back to his bedroom.
Morning broke - and no one was able to fix it. So I had my brekkie at the hotel and then made my way, the long three miles to the village of Lythe and the school therein. I had been booked by a lovely sounding lady called Helen Isaacs and she was just as charming in real life as she had been on the phone and via email. There was a problem in that the lights had all fused in the main hall, so I could either do my show in braille in there, or they could bring in some arc lights to illuminate the King. So arc lights it was. It was like being back on stage proper. They were a lovely group at the school - about 70 really fun very excitable children. We had a great day with lots of silly laughs and the usual marvellous demonstration of all that the children had already learnt. After a fine lunch and many laughs with all the charming teachers it was back in the arc lit hall for more Tudor nonsense. This went down a treat and we finished with a really rip roaring jousting tournament that the ladies managed to triumph in, storming to victory over the last leg. I packed and bade a tired farewell to a lovely school. It had been quite a trip to come and see them, but definitely worth it!
Back at the hotel that night I was sitting in the restaurant tackling a small plate of Whitby Scampi and ear wigging on the table next to me, full of four very pleasant older retired people enjoying a break at the hotel. They were all from Yorkshire, but obviously not this part as they were on holiday. (That makes sense...) One of the chaps was commenting on his job before retirement which had involved a lot of travel and trips to exotic places. He took great delight in all seriousness of telling his fellow guests about how he had made frequent trips to this glorious centre of hedonistic delights. It's name? Harpenden. I needed a drink after that. I sat at the bar and chatted to the hotel owners son, Mark, and one of their regular drinkers. They thought it was hilarious that I dressed up as Henry VIIIth for a living. How dare they. I hoisted my tights up and headed for bed...
I drove home today. Over five hours from door to door. YAWN. Tomorrow I drive to Wales. I must need locking up. That or a chauffeur. Any offers?

Thursday, January 22, 2009

New Horizons

After a very pleasant long weekend spent with my parents in another futile effort to drink Somerset dry, it is now a case of "And Now For Something Completely Different". Well, mostly different anyway.
I have this weekend in Essex visiting all and sundry, when I will then head north, like a brave little King, proper north. Not just north of Watford, we are talking seriously north. North with a capital N. A right Royal NORTH if you will. For I am heading to Whitby. Whitby! Home of Dracula and an Abbey. Whitby! Full of steep streets and aggressive seagulls. Whitby! Where I had the finest fish and chips I have ever tasted. It was nearly 15 years ago and I haven't been back since, but I am quite looking forward to the visit, if not the journey there and back. I will be appearing on the Monday at Lythe Primary School, which makes them sound very supple. On the Sunday night and the Monday night I am staying at the Ellerby Inn Hotel, which has been recommended to me by Helen Isaacs, the teacher who booked me for the event. It should be very exciting and a whole new chapter to the Good King Hal story.
So, off to Yorkshire I go. I better have my innoculations first and, pausing only to thrust a whippet and a ferret down my slacks, I shall adjust my flat cap and head north. Waggons roll!

Saturday, January 17, 2009


For the third year running I attended the Barrington Court Wassail evening. Wassailing is an ancient tradition which involves blessing your apple trees for their forthcoming cider crop, and banishing any evil spirits by making a lot of noise. This was the biggest Wassail at Barrington since it was re-introduced. We had a mummers group from Langport who did their wonderful play, with everyone joining in cheering on brave St George and hissing and booing the Devil! There was also a magnificent Samba drumming band who whipped up a hell of a noise and an irresistable rhythm that had people swaying and feet tapping. We also had a Wassail specialist who sang some old carols - and then there was me! I read the Gloucestershire Carol which is another traditional Wassail poem/tune. Then we progress to the main apple tree and the blessing begins, with much offering of cider and toast, shouting and even the letting off of guns!
All the cudos for organising this event must go to my old mate Matthew Applegate who did a magnificent job and was a superb MC for the whole thing. In the deep winter darkness and with a huge bonfire to warm our hearts (and generous quantities of Barrington Court's own cider!) it was a perfect evening - until the heavens opened. It rained in quite Biblical proportions and I have to say I was soon drenched, frozen and in need of food. So I quietly sloped away from Barrington and headed back to Crewkerne and a Chinese takeaway! Lovely.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Blundell's Prep, Tiverton

Another day and another early start. Will they ever end? I had a dreadful nights sleep, but then I only have myself to blame after eating cheese just before bed. How else can I explain the dreadful nightmare I had involving being locked in a hotel surrounded by zombies? It was either that or too much watching "Dead Set" the other week.
The drive to Tiverton is a pleasant enough thing on most days, but it was a wild, squally morning with scudding black clouds and intermittent rain, so not much fun really. Added to which my new-ish sat nav decided to take me the most interminable route down some of the smallest back lanes near Tiverton to get me to Blundell's Prep School.
As ever I was warmly greeted at the school by Stef Jeffs, the teacher I deal with. She was gorgeously attired in her Tudor garb. All the children wore some fantastic costumes as well. We had a fun extended morning in the Drama Studio, with loads of jokes galore and some excellent learning. After a wonderful fish and chips lunch we were in the main hall for the afternoon session for stocks and jousting. The jousting was hilarious. Both girls and boys teams that won through to the final had been paired against such incompetent opponents in the semi finals that you had no idea how good they were till they got to the final. As it was, both teams were pretty spectacularly good and the final was won and lost on one missed the ladies team. So the gents triumphed again. Well done lads. One of the best bits of the day was a young lady in the front row who for the vast majority of the day sat stoney faced while surrounded by hysterically laughing classmates and complaining "Is this really funny? I mean is it? What are we laughing at?" Poor child.
I got home this evening to a phone call from a TV company wanting me to appear in a documentary for the History Channel to be filmed at the end of this month. Watch this space for more.
Tomorrow is Wassail Day at Barrington Court. You have been warned again!

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Two Re-visits.

It was back to school for me. After the Christmas hiatus and a few other bits and pieces it was finally back to the usual routine of school visits for me this week. On Monday I was off to Dean Close Prep School in Cheltenham for my fourth annual visit there. It was lovely to be back - a really nice pleasant school, just a shame about the weather driving up there. The sky was Bible black for the most, and you add in loads of rain and road spray and you'll find it was not a fun jaunt up the old M5. However, I was warmly welcomed as ever and the children were hilarious. We had a fun day, a fantastic lunch (during which I was besieged by young fans as I tried to eat my dinner!) which was capped off with Eton Mess! WOW! I haven't had Eton Mess in years and it was lovely! It still looks like an accident on a plate, but who cares. The jousting was a fun encounter which the gents just managed to win from a good ladies team. I drove him in slightly better conditions and in the evening went for a beer with Matthew Applegate over at the Duke of York pub in Shepton Beauchamp, primarily to discuss this weekend's forthcoming Wassail, but mostly just for a beer!
I drove up to Essex on the Tuesday and collected James from school. The evening was spent at leisure with both James and Amanda. On the Wednesday I was back at Wickford Junior which is one of my favourites in Essex! You are guaranteed great children, lovely teachers, good lunch and a laugh all round, and they didn't disappoint again! We had a fabulous day - so many laughs I can't even begin to list them all for you. The jousting was again of a really high standard with this time the ladies coming through for a very impressive win. The evening followed spent with Amanda and James, accompanied by a nice big take away pizza! Amanda and I watched "Gavin and Stacey" on DVD and so to bed.
I am back in Somerset now preparing for tomorrow when I am back for a third visit to Blundell's Preparatory School in Tiverton in Devon. And don't forget the Wassail at Barrington Court on Saturday! Don't miss it!

Sunday, January 11, 2009

BBC Somerset - A New Dawn!

It had been some time since my last appearance on BBC Somerset's "Morning Jo Show" and their News Panel. Things have changed since then. The most obvious one being that Jo Phillips has left the station and taken her career off to pastures new. Her replacement could not have been better chosen! It is Emma Britton who was already at the station working as Jo's helper and doing the traffic reports and many other things. Emma is lovely and has proven herself to be a very talented broadcaster. The show set up has been altered as well - it is much more driven by audience participation. So a main topic is chosen to be discussed amongst the three members of the panel, you do still get to choose a story from one of the morning's papers to discuss as a side topic, and people are encouraged to phone, text or email in and join the show.
It gave a whole new feel to the show and was most enjoyable. My fellow panellists were Billy from Clevedon who was a kitchen fitter - great fun and a real laugh; Jayne Summers, a lovely lady from Bridgwater - a rock singer who has just got her own recording contract, and again good company and fun. We got some good feedback from the audience and people joining in, so a good morning was had by all.
And Emma - you were great!
Tomorrow I am off to Dean Close School in Cheltenham.

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

U3A & Southampton...

Following my appearance at St Bartholomew's Church Fete back at the end of the summer, I had been approached by several members of the local U3A group to do a talk for them at one of their monthly meetings. This occurred last Monday at the Methodist Church in South Street, Crewkerne. They advertised the show as "The Mystery from History", which was a pretty snappy title. The hall was cold, but pretty full, and I was asked to wear a throat mic for some of the more "mutton" members of the group. I started a little shakily, after all this was my first Henry talk for nearly a month, but I was soon in my stride and I have to say I got a really good response from the group. Lots of laughter, particularly at some of the stories I told about children saying things to me.

Today, Wednesday, I have been back to sunny Southampton to visit some old friends I used to work with at Skandia Life. Before Iwent to the restaurant to meet the main group, I went to Skandia House itself and saw, among others the lovely Sue Plumb, Trevor the bizarre security man, Janet Mabey, Miles Butler (he still hasn't gone metric), Vanessa Adamson, Tracie Callaway (as was) from CCS and the sainted Paul Stewart. Paul looks after a lot of the software and servers at Skandia and apparently gets an alert every time Skandia Life is mentioned somewhere. So... SKANDIA LIFE SKANDIA LIFE SKANDIA LIFE! That should blow a few fuses.

I then wandered round to Piccolo Mondo, a brilliant but tiny restaurant near Skandia House that we always used to use and met up with Ruth Le Mesurier and Sue Marsh. We three nearly always used to meet up on a Wednesday and put the world to right, but now in 2009 we find that only Sue is still working for Skandia. Ruth has more or less retired and I am making a crust leaping around like a gert big Tudor Jessie. We had a lovely meal and a good laugh and joke about life in general, but all too soon it was time for me to be on my way. Sue and Ruth both say when they Google their names, they only ever come up on this blog. Well, glad to have given them a couple more hits!

Monday, January 05, 2009

A Happy New Henry Year

2009 dawns, so a Happy New Year to all regular readers of this nonsense. 2008 was a year of quite tumultuous change in my private life, however, Henry continues as per normal. Today sees 2009 kicking off with a talk to a local branch of U3A. "Who hell they?" I hear you cry. Well a few years ago I would have said the same thing, then my dear late lamented grandfather came home one day and proudly announced he had joined U3A, or University of the Third Age to give them their full title. With a name like that I imagined he'd end up brainwashed in a ranch near Waco with National Guardsmen trying to blow his eyebrows off with automatic rifles. But it is a rather groovy group of OAP's who like to learn new things and consequently they have meetings, talks, outings etc. It's like Saga crossed with the Rough Ramblers. Well I have been approached by the Crewkerne brance of U3A and I am doing a talk for them this afternoon. Wednesday I am in Southampton making my annual, but this time belated visit, to all my old chums at dear old Skandia Life, where I used to work. Then on Friday I am back on BBC Somerset for the Morning Panel - only without the Sainted Jo Phillips! SHE HAS LEFT!! ARGH! I am still in touch with the lovely lady, and her replacement is the almost equally gifted and lovely Emma Britton, so it's not all bad - but it just won't be the same! So if you get a chance to listen in to BBC Somerset this Friday between 9 and 10am, you will hear my dulcet tones - you lucky people!
Why the picture above? It makes me laugh. It was taken during my last run in Henry's Horrid History at Leeds Castle a year or so back and I am looking at the cup and ball game in my hand with a sort of quizzical look. Anyone care to put a caption to it? Email me at a special mention in this blog for the winning entry!