Tuesday, May 26, 2009

I Guess You're Joust What I Needed

My son James, looking almost insufferably cute in chain mail in the "Hands on History" tent at the Leeds Castle jousting tournament.

In 2006 I appeared at Leeds Castle for their jousting tournament - it was the hottest weather I had ever experienced whilst portraying Henry and I wasn't really involved with the jousting team.  I just wandered around on the periphery of things and chatted to the punters.  This year however, the sainted Darlene Cavill and her erstwhile assistant, the charming Helen Budd had booked me back for the joust but this time with complete involvement in the show.  It has been great so far.  I do the usual before and after the show stuff of wandering round and chatting to the punters and being photographed, but during the show I get to sit in the "Royal Box" and holler and shout along with the rest of the crowd at the mayhem going on in the arena.  I also have a speech I have to deliver to the Knights before they begin, and I am still reading it off a piece of paper at the moment, but I might have learnt it by the end of the week.  There are other items of interest for the public - the chance to loose some arrows at fake animal targets, firing a trebuchet, hearing talks and trying on armour with the "Hands on History" people (see my son James in full battle gear above), plus there are stalls selling everything from hot chocolate and eccles cakes, through to mini Knight's outfits and cloaks.
We began on Tuesday with a fairly good turnout and some excellent jousting.  Wednesday the weather was awful but luckily many hearty souls braved the elements (My parents, my son James and my sister Cathy included!) but the turnout was a lot lower than had been hoped for, but it was just so cold and wet.  Today, the sun has shone, the clouds have gone and Leeds Castle had nearly 7,000 visitors in!  And it's only going to get better as the week goes on! Watch this space for more soon! 

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Exit Smiling and Big Nose Bill!

Just a quickie this posting!  Last night (Friday) I had a splendid evening in Bridport.  I went down to visit my dear old friends Jill and Mark Beed, and after a splendid Cod and Celery free dinner we wandered down to Bridport Town Hall to see a really wonderful new band in concert.  From Burton Bradstock on the coast in deepest darkest Dorset they are called Exit Smiling and are really worth tracking down.  Mostly a quartet, though other peripheral players come and go during a show, they comprise of two older gents (I am sure they won't mind me referring to them in such a way) and two young ladies.  Each and every one of them is blessed with natural musical skill but the young cello player (who also showed amazing skills on keyboards, vocals and even bass) was a real wow.  A wonderful evening of stunning English folk music.  My joy was completed when one of their biggest fans turned up - namely Mr Billy Bragg - aka Big Nosed Bill from Barking.  He joined Exit Smiling on stage for a couple of their numbers and then after the show had finished, I managed to grab a quick conversation with the man himself and he was delightful.  A great evening all round.  To check out Exit Smiling please go to their website at http://www.exitsmiling.org.uk/ and tell them I sent you.
I also add a picture of Billy Bragg.  (This for my sister Sue in Wales and for Jill in Bridport who both go weak at the knees at the mere mention of him). 

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

TAGGED! An Award for Good King Hal!

I have been, or I should say, my Blog here has been nominated, or awarded, or just plain given the above award - Kreativ Blogger, by the deeply lovely, wonderful and closely related to me, Moonroot! You can check out her extremely funky groovy blog at http://moonroot.blogspot.com/ as it is always fulfilling and entertaining. Apparently what I need to do now is name seven things that I really like, and then list seven other Blogs that I frequently read and nominate them or tag them for the awards. (See? I really don't know what I'm doing. Have pity on a poor old Tudor monarch who has lost his marbles). The problem is I don't read many other blogs so I think I might struggle to find seven I can nominate/tag/hit with a big stick. But what the heck, here goes...
First of all, seven favourite things I like!
  1. My son James - who is just so beautiful, gorgeous, fun, cuddly, brilliant and wonderful.
  2. The fact that summer is coming. We haven't had a summer for over two years now and despite being someone who usually loves winter, I have had enough. Lets have a proper summer please.
  3. Cricket! OH JOY! It is an Ashes summer! Is it too much to hope that we can trounce the antipodean swines again? Probably not, but then it has never stopped us hoping in the past. I personally think the ECB should ponder the idea of stationing a few snipers on the higher parts of the Test ground pavilions. Then should an Aussie batsman start looking a bit tasty someone can give the signal and the marksman can blow his helmet off at 500 yards. (Nasty). But it will take his mind off batting I can assure you. The marksman can also pick off any Australian fielders who look like they might be a bit good as well. Anything to even up the playing field...
  4. My family. I don't think my wife, parents, and sisters have any idea how much I love them all, and how important their friendship is to me. They are all wonderful and for once I would like to make public my love of them. (And despite this grovelling I really don't owe them vast sums of money).
  5. The group XTC. Just joy, sheer unbridled joy that they existed at all and that they recorded such life affirming clever, beautiful music.
  6. Writing and playing music. I have suffered for my music, so I make sure everyone else does as well...
  7. Doing the job I do. I am very very lucky - I know that. And I love every single second I am doing it.

Now the tricky bit. Seven blogs to nominate....

  1. Order and Chaos. Try it at http://pagangracecat.blogspot.com/
  2. Random Thinks is by Liz Bennett the wonderful lady who looks after my main website. You can catch her at http://somerandomthinks.blogspot.com/
  3. Giles London is Giles Coren, only funny. Try his outlandish restaurant reviews at http://gileslondon.blogspot.com/ And he and I are not related at all...
  4. Have a bash at http://teamspiritnovel.blogspot.com/ which is an on line comedy novel some big ginger bloke is writing. I don't know him at all....
  5. Er...
  6. That's it.
  7. Cont. p.94

Pathetic I know. Sorry. I just don't really have much time for reading blogs. FORGIVE ME!

Saturday, May 09, 2009

Chard History Group Annual Dinner

Some time ago, a very pleasant sounding gentleman called Don Stepney contacted me from the Chard History Group, to see if I was available or interested at appearing at their annual dinner in May to be their after dinner speaker. I was more than happy to agree and the date has been on my calendar ever since. All of a sudden it crept up on me and it was THE day itself. The event was to take place at the Lordleaze Hotel in Chard, somewhere I am ashamed to admit I have never visited before. It is tucked away, just off the Forton Road, behind a fairly anonymous looking modern housing development. Without signposts to it, or my sat nav, I don't think I would have ever found it.
The evening got off to a less than auspicious start - I was due at the Hotel at 6.45pm, but I didn't actually get there until about 6.50pm. Not much difference you would think. However, Don Stepney had booked a photographer from the Chard and Ilminster Gazette newspaper, and would you believe it the guy had arrived smack on 6.45pm and was now going into apoplectic rage as I wasn't there and he had booked himself another photo call at 7.00pm at Tatworth. So I arrived at the hotel to be immediately confronted by an irate, and extremely elderly photographer. "Oh, you're finally here" he began through ill fitting gummy false teeth. Great, just what I needed. "How longs it gonna take you to get changed, pal?" Pal. I love it. When I told him it would probably take me at least 10 minutes his crumpled old face nearly folded in half with disgust. "10 minutes?" He squealed. "I've got to be in Tatworth at 7pm!" I kindly offered to tie him to the roof rack of my car and take him there, but he didn't accept. "Can't you just stick a hat on or something?" he gummed at me. And so next week, the good readers of the Chard and Ilminster Gazette (both of them) will be treated to a photo of the officers of Chard History Group standing next to a huge ginger man wearing a t-shirt, jeans and for some unexplained reason, a great big Tudor hat. And with that the ancient miserable snapper departed - and everything got better.
The Chard History Group are lovely! They welcomed me very warmly - I was applauded to my seat on the top table and was then treated to a delightful meal. They had tried to go for a Tudor-ish theme, and so we started with brawn, pickle and toast, which was lovely. This was followed by the main course which was a simply irresistible venison casserole, with a puff pastry lid, roast potatoes and broccoli. The venison had been cooked to perfection by the chef and was succulent, tasty and literally melted in the mouth. For dessert they supplied an apple and cinnamon pie with creme anglais. I was stuffed! And I still had to do my talk. I was fortunate enough to go down a storm - the audience really seemed to enjoy themselves and I got lots of congratulations and handshakes at the end. It was a very pleasant evening all round and I cannot begin to recommend the Lordleaze Hotel highly enough for their food and friendliness. And as for the Chard History Group? What can I say? Marvellous lovely people who know how to have a good time. Thank you for a lovely evening folks!

Thursday, May 07, 2009

Little Parndon, Harlow

I have had the pleasure of visiting Little Parndon School in Harlow every years since 2005, so this year was my 5th annual visit. It is always a pleasure to visit this school as everyone there is very welcoming and kind, the children are all fun, chatty and intelligent, and the day always seems to be fun and well received.
It was only a small year group this time around, about 40+ children, but all in superb costumes, particularly one little lad who looked like a leprechaun! One of the teachers was a little embarrassed as she had just noticed that her own Tudor costume was somewhat... ahem...immodest, as it was almost completely see-through and gave a very good idea of her underwear selection for the day. She borrowed a pair of football shorts from one of the male teachers to spare her blushes. Mind you, it was a pair of Spurs shorts which I would have thought was embarrassment enough. Another of the ladies in attendance was an absolute spitting image of Billie Piper from her Rose Tyler exploits in Doctor Who. She was chosen by the kids to go in the stocks later - I urged her to run off to the TARDIS as it would be safer.
The jousting was a deafening experience and was won by a very fine Gents team. On finishing I drove over to my parent's house in Mountnessing for what could be one of the last times (they are hopefully on the verge of a long desired move down to Wales) and Amanda and James were there, as was my sister Cathy, her husband Julian, and their dogs Sam and Muffy. I drove home to Somerset after dinner. Today I have been in to see the Doctor again as my Cellulitus is still playing me up. Perhaps it will make me hobble about like a real Henry VIIIth! I am all for authenticity, but this is ridiculous.

Saturday, May 02, 2009

Wootton Basset AND Hever Castle - on a Bank Holiday Weekend?

No need to go overseas today!  After the Isle of Wight jaunt the other day I was up for another early start - today was a trip to Noremarsh Junior School in Wootton Basset in Wiltshire, followed by a breathless dash through bank holiday clogged motorways to the beautiful Hever Castle in Kent.
The early drive to Wootton Basset was relatively easy and the school was a delight - bright and cheerful, full of very nice teachers and with some hilarious and very excitable children.   It was a group of about 90+ children, a mixture of years 3 and 4, and all of them hyper about the prospect of a day with Henry VIIIth!  They showed some great Tudor knowledge in the morning and there were laughs aplenty. They were so loud and excited in the morning I knew that the afternoon was going to be good, and I was right.  The stocks part of the show was riotous, and ended up with Mr Simpson, the head teacher, stuck in the pillory and being booed by the children.  The jousting - wow.  The noise! After several closely fought bouts it was the gentlemen who ran off with the title of champions for the year.  And so I was soon on my way.
This was to be my first appearance at Hever Castle as Henry and I very nearly didn't make it.  On a good day it should take about two and a bit hours from Wootton Basset to Hever in Kent - but this was not a good day - it was a Friday afternoon, of a bank holiday weekend and the sun was shining.  Everything was fine and dandy while I was on the M4 heading east.  I made very good time, but then I got to the M25.  Oh dear.  If you ever needed a more compelling argument for NOT living in the South East of England, then this road takes some beating.  Dragging along, not getting much above 20 mph, everyone fractious and fighting for any limited piece of road space.  It was awful.  My estimated time of arrival at Hever kept getting later and later on my Sat Nav.  But then, lo and behold, the traffic cleared a little and I was suddenly on a back road in Kent and getting very close.  This booking was directly from the show I did at the Excel Arena in London about a month ago - a German company was entertaining all their tour operators who worked in the UK and were visiting various tourist sites in South East England, hence their presence at Hever.  I was greeted at Hever by some lovely people - the staff were incredibly friendly and welcoming.  I was soon changed and meeting and greeting the German group as they finished a tour of this beautiful Castle.  I was photographed by many of the guests and chatted with a lot of them, all of their English being impeccable.  Soon I was leading them down to the banquet suite and then I was finished.  I set off for Essex to stay with Amanda and James in Basildon, and enjoyed another tortuous journey there, but most of that was because my Sat Nav kept taking me down the most ridiculous small tiny back roads and what seemed like circles before I finally found a main road and then the dear old M25 again.
I was possibly working up at the British Library on Bank Holiday Monday, but I am suffering with Cellulitus in my left leg at the moment and it really needs a rest at the moment, so a rest is what it is going to get!  Have a nice weekend everyone.