Saturday, July 18, 2009

Broadford Primary School, Harold Hill

It's not often that I get bookings in schools this late in the academic year.  I had been contacted by a lovely lady called Alex Rutherford who had invited me to Broadford Primary School in Harold Hill near Romford.  This was a completely new school for me, and they had heard of me through one of their teachers who had previously seen me at Nelson Primary in East Ham. Apparently Broadford was previously an aircraft hanger, probably from the Second World War, which then became a school in the post war years.  The outside of the school doesn't really inspire confidence as there is a mass of corrugated iron on display, but once inside you are presented with a wonderfully friendly school, welcoming and bright, with some terrific children and some of the nicest teachers I've met inside the M25!
The school were having a mega History week with various visits from Spartans, and other historical figures.  On the day I was there some of the smaller children were having a Victorian day and several of their teachers were swanning around in long skirts and flowery high collared blouses.  I kept half expecting to see Sue English leaping out of a cupboard dressed as a Viking at any moment, but thankfully that horrific moment never happened.
We had a fine day with some fun and laughter mixed in with all the learning.  After my opening talk the children wanted to quiz me with various questions they had written and it turned into something of a press conference with the King!  I was bombarded with questions but it was fun. After a lovely lunch of lasagne we were in the main hall again where first the children gave a demonstration of their singing prowess, followed by a Tudor dance they had been learning.  We then went for a full on jousting session which was hilarious, particularly one of the ladies teams which was so laid back that a team of three-toed sloths with no enthusiasm would have lapped.  The final was won by a very talented ladies team who came storming back on the last leg to pip the gents in an exciting finale.  After a quick teacher's race it was time to close the 2008/09 academic year - it has been a good and very busy one including my 500th visit to a school, so good things all round.  At the end of the day I was informed by some of the children and teachers that despite everything else that had been going on, and all the other visits they had experienced during their History week, my show and presentation had been the best, most informative and entertaining.  I was most flattered, it was very nice of them to say so!
I have a quick holiday in Wales next week but I will soon be back in Henry work donning my tights for the Southchurch Hall Tudor Weekend at the beginning of August.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Leaning towards Shaftesbury

Now all you lovely people out there in cyberland will no doubt recall my appearance at the Abbotsbury Midsummer Medieval Merriement event that I wrote about last month. Well, whilst at this event I was approached by a lovely American lady and her English husband who were sumptuously attired as King Henry VIIth and his wife Elizabeth of York. They informed me that they were opening an antiques shop in Shaftesbury, Dorset and wondered if I would be available to do a grand opening of the shop as and when it happened. Well blow me down, at the beginning of the week there is a message on my answer phone from the lovely American lady (Becky) asking me if I could come along this Saturday and do the red carpet, ribbon cutting and hand shaking duties as and when needed. I said I would be delighted.
Saturday evening was a filthy night, gloomy and lots of rain across the west country. I arrived at the shop at about quarter past seven having promised Becky I would be there between 6.30 and 7.00. It was packed out with guests, all drinking wine and beer, and nibbling on canapes. The shop is called Leaning's, or just Leaning Antiques, I was never quite sure of this! Anyway it is at number 5 the High Street in Shaftesbury (which is a delightful little town) and the shop is wonderful. I quickly got changed into my gear and then came into the main part of the shop. They had laid out some red carpet and stretched a ribbon across the top of a small set of stairs that led up to the back showrooms. I boomed out how pleased I was to be back in Shaftesbury and apologised for smashing up their Abbey during the Reformation. I also told people I hoped that my appearance might in some small way make up for the awful way I behaved last time - this raised a titter or two! I cut the ribbon - just! The scissors weren't very keen on going through them, and we got a big round of applause.
I wandered round and chatted to lots of lovely people, including a lovely older lady who was originally from Bearsted in Kent and from her bedroom window as a child, she could see Leeds Castle - funny old world, innit? I even chatted to the Mayor of Shaftesbury whom I am led to believe was a bit miffed that I got asked to open the shop and not him. This was proved when he got me in a back room and tried to give me a Chinese burn. I replied by giving him a wedgie and finally finished him off by pointing out that my chain of office was far bigger than his. He left a crushed and defeated man. I left with a small table/jardinaire which looks good in my hallway and with some travel expenses from the lovely people at the shop. Go and visit them if you're in Shaftesbury - it is worth a visit!

Friday, July 03, 2009

Martham Primary, Norfolk

It was another up at the crack of dawn start for Henry show number 501.  This was a return visit to Martham Primary School in Norfolk - I have been visiting this school for a while, in fact so long that when I first used to visit it had a different name!  It used to be West Flegg Junior, but due to an amalgamation or two and some re-organisation it has morphed into Martham.  It is a lovely school, large, airy and with some really lovely friendly welcoming teachers.  The children are pretty wonderful and special as well.  The journey up was relatively painless, apart from having to listen to Sarah Kennedy again.  To hear her twittering on about going to the Henley Regatta this weekend was enough to make you want to chew your own foot off.  Well it certainly makes Alex Lester's Best Time of the Day Show before it sound absolutely wonderful, which it usually is anyway.  Even Johnny Walker, sitting in for Terry Wogan, was an improvement.
We had a great morning - so many laughs.  One of the teachers during the morning break thanked me for making the Friday so wonderful and said she couldn't remember laughing until she cried at school before.  Bless her!  It was almost unbearably hot again, but thankfully a slight improvement on the heat at Wandsworth the other day.
The afternoon was loud, wild and fun.  The joust in particular was so loud I was waiting for the roof of the hall to blow off.  It was a very closely fought joust with four fantastic teams battling away.  Eventually, it was a gents team that surged to a close, but deserved victory!  Some of the lovely kids helped me load my stuff into the car and I was on my way.  The journey back was mostly good until I hit the A130 where I was stuck for about 45 minutes in slow moving traffic because of a crash.  But I was soon at Amanda's place in Basildon and cuddling James, until he decided that playing Lego Indiana Jones on the Wii was more fun than me.  Fair enough!
Back to Somerset this weekend.

Thursday, July 02, 2009

The Finton House 500!

I have a little document that I keep on my computer which I update occasionally.  It contains the date and number of every single Henry VIIIth appearance I have made since I went professional in 2004.  I realised the other day that I hadn't updated it for a while, so I clicked it open.  Every 50 shows I get to I highlight the number - the previous highlight in my list was 450.  I counted up to find that the previous show I had done was my 499th, so my next show, a return visit to Finton House School in Wandsworth, was to be my 500th.  You then add that to the fact that it has just been Henry's 500th wedding anniversary (to Catherine of Aragon) and the 500th anniversary of his ascension to the throne, then it seemed quite appropriate for me to reach my 500th show milestone at about the same time.
This was my 5th visit to Finton House School, and each time I visit this place it is not just hot weather but HOT WEATHER I endure.   This year was no different.  I drove up from Amanda's place in Basildon and my sat nav had assured me that going up the A127 and joining the M25 that way would be the quickest.  WRONG.  The A127 was closed after an accident, so I had to drive down to Orsett on the A128 and join the A13 there, and from there on to the M25.  The traffic into London, even at this early hour was horrendous and my mood was not best helped by having a thumping headache, just below the threshold of a migraine.  I eventually stopped for some pain killers after I began to feel a little nauseous.  
It was only a small group at the school today, about 23 children, mostly girls, but boy were they hard work.  Virtually silent in the morning session, despite my best efforts and then wildly challenging in the afternoon.  I had earned my corn at the end of that session, I can tell you.  The drive home didn't improve my mood with more smacks on the M25 and the A13 to keep me laughing all the way.  
I can't believe I used to live, and enjoy living in, London.  The place is definitely a young person's haunt and not the ideal place for a King - especially a 518 year old one doing his 500th show.
Off to Martham in Norfolk tomorrow.