Just a quick one this time folks. I have just been chatting to the sainted Darlene at Leeds Castle about my upcoming stint as Father Christmas in December. On my first day (5th December) apparently there will be a little girl with me who has won a prize to open Father Christmas' grotto this year. Not only that, she and I will be arriving at Leeds Castle by helicopter! How exciting. Apart from the fact that I have never been in a helicopter before and I am therefore really hoping that I won't get air sick and end up blowing chunks all over this poor child. There is nothing more likely to give a child a complex about Christmas than by having Santa yelling Ralph and Huey at her from close range in a helicopter cock-pit. I have never got air-sick in a plane, so fingers crossed I can hang on to breakfast.
Friday, October 23, 2009
Thursday, October 22, 2009
For the third year running I was hosting the annual South Somerset National Trust Pub Quiz at the Royal Oak Pub in Barrington. The first year I ran the quiz I was very proud of my questions thinking they were good and hard. At the end an elderly lady came up to me from the audience, shook my hand and thanked me for making the questions so easy. I was miffed. I was annoyed. My male ego had been pricked. The following year I really went for it - some of the questions were practically impossible. By halfway through the quiz some members of the audience had actually attempted suicide rather than go on with the brain cell hammering they were receiving. At the end some of the audience complained about how tough the quiz was. So for the third year I had to pitch it at just the right level, and after the show ended I think I got it about right. The winning team and second place were only one point apart at the end. The winning team's score was 85 points - however there was another team of youngsters from the kitchens at Barrington Court and their final score was 14. Bless. Matthew Applegate and co seemed very pleased. Even the Visitors Services Manager from Montacute seemed impressed, but I still have about as much chance of beating Usain Bolt over 100 metres as I have of this bloke giving me a chance to do a show at the House.
Wednesday morning had me up and early off into Taunton for a return visit to Parkfield Junior and it's wonderfully original Head Teacher - Mr Sides. It was great to see everyone again and we had a really wonderful time with some great children. Their costumes were all brilliant and they had some fabulous knowledge of Tudor times. Everyone seemed to have a good time, and after a very pleasant lunch we launched into the afternoon session. Much noise, lots of shouting and laughter, and the jousting session was another great one. Once more the ladies sealed a memorable triumph which makes the scores now:
GENTLEMEN 3 - 8 LADIES
Parkfield is one of my favourite schools - great kids, lovely teachers and one of the most idiosyncratic Heads you can meet anywhere. Wonderful. Half term now - taking James to stay up at my parent's in Wales for a few days then back with a trip to the Isle of Wight in early November!
Monday, October 19, 2009
Good King Hal, explaining nicely to a youngster that pointing and laughing at Anne of Cleves is HIS job, and no one elses...
Mike Farley (Good King Hal) and Carol, both former Skandia employees, hiding in Wales during the official opening of Mr Farley's second chin.
After all the rushing about at the end of last week, on Saturday, just for a change I did lots of rushing about. I was up early and out of the door to drive up to Wales and visit my parents at Newcastle Emlyn as they had some old friends from Essex staying, Ros and Mike Bloomfield from Great Dunmow. I arrived in time for brekkie, which was pretty good going. After this, and with the weather being bright and not too chilly, in the afternoon we drove up to the pretty waterfalls at Cenarth for a wander about. We had a wander about, marvelled at the beauty of the waterfalls and snapped a few photos. Like this one:
The falls at Cenarth, and not a coracle in sight.
We went back to my parents place and were then joined by my sister Sue and her other half Ian before heading out for dinner. We went to a lovely little pub/restaurant called The Daffodil in the village of Penrhiwllan (try saying that to a taxi driver when you've had a few). Going up to order some drinks I suddenly realised that I recognised the girl working behind the bar - her name was Carol and I used to work with her at Skandia Life in Southampton, what seems like a lifetime ago. How weird is life? You go all the way to the back of beyond in a small Welsh village, pick a restaurant almost at random and find someone you used to work with in a city hundreds of miles away working at the restaurant! Just to prove that this event really happened, here is a truly horrific photo of me with the lovely Carol.
Mike Farley (Good King Hal) and Carol, both former Skandia employees, hiding in Wales during the official opening of Mr Farley's second chin.
We had a fantastic meal and Carol and her staff treated us like Royalty, which happens to me all the time of course. All too soon it was Sunday and I was heading back to Somerset. Monday morning saw me up at the crack of dawn and hacking down the now familiarly dark A303 towards a visit to a new school - Elmhurst Junior in the town of Aylesbury, famous for it's ducks and Marillion - and in that order. I was greeted by the charming deputy head, a very nice Welshman from Pembrokeshire. It was a big group today- about 100 children, covering the year groups 3, 4 and 5. We had a really fun exciting day - lots of laughs for the children in the morning, some great Tudor knowledge on display and some really cool teachers - especially the lovely blond lady I pretended to behead and then added insult to injury by suggesting her Tudor outfit made her look like a crew member of the USS Enterprise in Star Trek. After a delicious lunch we were back in the hall. I had the delight of putting Mrs De Wolfe, the head teacher in the stocks, before we had a riotous jousting session. Now I thought they had been noisy at Chandlers Ford on Friday but today - wow. Just deafening. They roared, they cheered, they screamed - it was ear mufflingly noisy! And what a tournament! Another win for the gents!
GENTLEMEN 3 - 7 LADIES
Well done guys, that looks a bit better. The rest of the school joined us just after the joust for a quick get together and few more laughs, but then I was on my way. I finally got home to Crewkerne just after 6pm and I am very grateful that I have tomorrow off. However, tomorrow evening is the annual National Trust Pub Quiz over at Barrington with me hosting it again at the Royal Oak Pub. Should be fun. My next Henry show is on Wednesday at the lovely Parkfield Junior in Taunton.
Friday, October 16, 2009
Back to one of my favourite schools today! Knightwood Junior at Chandlers Ford near Southampton is a lovely school and, architecturally, quite stunning. The main hall has high swooping roofs that soar up to a dizzying height. They remind me of the sort of hurricane-proof buildings you see in places in parts of the Caribbean, but I think hurricane activities are quite rare in Hampshire. Anyway, on previous visits to this school I have been caught up in terrible traffic in the last few miles, so I left about 10 minutes earlier than normal. It was amazing - I sailed through, to the extent that I arrived at the school at just before 8am. I was greeted by Lee the caretaker, one of the nicest men you could ever want to meet. I was soon set up in the hall and ready to go. They were a lovely group of children this year if a little bit quieter than previous visits. One moment of delight was when I was asking the group what the name of Henry VIII's first born son was (Henry is the answer if you didn't know - the child died very early on) and a little girl in the front row raised her hand and told me very confidently that the child was called Theo. Theo? What the...? Anyway...
A nice salad lunch was followed by an early start to the afternoon session as I had to be out of the hall by 2.30pm for an assembly. The jousting was one of the loudest and most exciting I have seen in many a year. The crowd watching were all on their feet screaming, clapping, shouting and jumping up and down. It was astoundingly loud and very exciting and the ladies romped away with another victory, to make the score now:
GENTLEMEN 2 - 7 LADIES
Quite unbelievable. I am off to Wales briefly this weekend to see my parents, but on Monday I am back on the road again with another show at a new school in Aylesbury.
Thursday, October 15, 2009
Shepton Mallet? Sounds like Timmy Mallet's camp older brother. This was a nice return visit to a really lovely school. St Paul's in Shepton Mallet is virtually right in the centre of the town, but still has the feel of a leafy suburban school with plenty of greenery and a lovely old building it is housed in. I arrived virtually spot on 8am and, despite efforts to get in through the front door, I was eventually granted access via the side door by one of the teachers who was arriving. It was to be two schools combined today - year four from St Paul's, plus a group of year three's from St Aldhelm's School from Doulting near Shepton. The morning session was lively and fun, the kids were very sparky and excitable and seemed to really get into the whole Tudor fun day scenario.
I spent the lunch break chatting to a group of young ladies who had seen my show at St Paul's two years previously and were now in their last year at the school. The afternoon was wild and lively and ended with a really good jousting contest. We had a small tournament first for the children from St Aldhelm's, which the ladies won, but the main tournament was a much louder affair and ended with... a win for... The Gentlemen again! Two in two days! This makes the score a now slightly more respectable:
GENTLEMEN 2 - 6 LADIES
Let's see how it pans out tomorrow at Knightwood School in Chandler's Ford. It was a really lovely day at St Paul's today and a big thank you to Mrs Kennedy who organised the whole thing. What a nice lady she is!
Wednesday, October 14, 2009
Good King Hal playing "Spot the Next Queen" Competition. He won a years supply of prunes, two episodes of the Jeremy Kyle Show and a 1991 Vauxhall Senator with 156,782 miles on the clock. He complained to the judges and was sent to bed with slapped legs and no supper.
A lovely weekend with Amanda and James in Essex. My son is rapidly getting up to Olympic Standard on Mario Cart on the Wii console. We had some great fun with that. Monday morning dawned cold and bright and I was on my way with the short journey to Billericay and a return visit to South Green School. I started the day off with a fabulous faux pas. Signing in at the office there were two ladies in there, I chatted to them while signing in. They were making lots of suggestions about how the day should go, which I thought was a bit odd and really it should be up to the teachers to make the decisions, not a couple of ladies in the office. I told them this. They looked at me strangely and then told me slowly, as if explaining to an idiot, that they were the teachers. Ah. Sorry. Good start.
We had a fantastic day at this lovely lovely school. The children were fantastic - really enthusiastic and excitable, and the teachers were equally welcoming and charming. The quiz and the coat of arms were particularly good. After a delicious pasta lunch we had a brilliantly fun afternoon. Once again I gave the boys team a pep talk before their jousting final. And predictably it ended with the ladies once more walking off with the win. Current score after Billericay was:
GENTLEMEN 0 - 6 LADIES
Amazing. After leaving the school I headed on down over the Dartford crossing to my sister's house in Stockbury near Sittingbourne. We had a nice relaxing evening and it was good to see my brother-in-law Julian starting his new job after being made redundant a while back. In the morning I drove down the M2 and A2 to Blean, near Canterbury for my 6th visit to this wonderful school. As ever the entire group were done up in some brilliant Tudor costumes, there was laughs a plenty through the morning session. Another lovely lunch followed and we were then moved down to the main hall for the afternoon. There was a group of the young ladies who reckoned that the talk about Tudor crime and punishment was too much for them and held hands at the back of the hall with eyes sticking out like organ stops. They had managed to cope with bucket fulls of poo being chucked around in the morning, but not Tudor torture! They soon forgot their squeamishness when the jousting started and once more we seemed to have a brilliant ladies team, but somehow the gents finally managed to string some moves together and at last....the Gents won a tournament! This now makes the score:
GENTLEMEN 1 - 6 LADIES
Not quite so embarrassing as before. I was due to meet Sue Marsh et al from Skandia down in Southampton today, but it has had to be postponed due to heavy colds amongst some of the Skandia crew! So I drove back to Somerset today and tomorrow I am up at St Paul's School in Shepton Mallet again.
Thursday, October 08, 2009
I thought I had got up early on Monday to go to North Cheam. 4am? 4?? AM?? There should be a law against such hours existing. I headed out into the damp dark morning and made excellent time. I was doing so well that my sat nav reckoned I would be at the school by about 7am! Wow! I could park up, grab a sandwich and a paper, maybe even have a snooze to off set the tiredness of starting so early. That was the idea anyway. I had forgotten about the Department of Transports quite brilliant idea to dig up ALL of Bedford and it's surrounds, close off loads of roads and install average speed check cameras everywhere. Added to this it was raining like mad and of course it was slowly getting closer and closer to rush hour. Therefore all dreams I had of getting to Kempston early and having a bit of shut eye in the car were crushed by the final 10 miles into the town as the traffic ground to a halt, all the roads I needed to turn off were closed and suddenly an hour had gone by. I arrived at the school at just after 8am. Still not bad for such a long journey, but not early enough to warrant a snooze.
I was warmly welcomed as ever at this lovely school. I had a cup of tea brought to me and I set up in the hall. I had been pre-warned that the group I would be seeing were a bit...er...immature. But they were mostly very good. As a year three group they struggled a little bit with the talky opening bit, but more than came into their own with the more physical side of the afternoon activities. Before the jousting I gave the boys a bit of a pep talk letting them know that not a single boys team had yet won any of the tournaments this term. I urged them to be aware that they had to win for the sake of all the boys of this World. So you can guess what happened next, can't you. The score now reads:
GENTLEMEN 0 - 5 LADIES
This is getting embarrassing. Their next chance to redress the balance is next Monday at South Green in Billericay in Essex. I will keep you posted on that one!
Tuesday, October 06, 2009
On re-reading my blog from years gone by I realise how boring I am. I use the same jokes over and over and over. Check out my previous write ups about visits to St Cecillia's School in Sutton in Surrey. Every single time I say "you wouldn't want to try and say that with a lisp!" And here I am typing it again. I promise I will NEVER, EVER repeat that joke. Not until I do the same school again next year, obviously.
After the rigours of the Chut Fest over the weekend it was a bit of a shock when my alarm went off at 4.30am. I was up showered, shaved and shomething elshe and out of the front door by 5am. The early part of the drive was fine as it was on the A303 which was mostly deserted, but as soon as I got to the M3 it all changed. Even at 6.30am it was packed. How can people do this every single day of their lives? Things were made worse by lots of roadworks, so I had the distinctly odd feeling of actually being glad to see the M25 when I got there.
It was nice to be back at St Cecillia's. It is amazing, but this lovely little school in North Cheam is the school I have visited the most since becoming Henry VIII full time. This was my 6th visit in total. As ever it was a very friendly welcome from everyone, from the lovely caretaker onwards. The children had all dressed in fantastic costumes and were a delight to talk to - even if they were a little quiet in comparison with some of the groups I have worked with at St Cecillia's in the past. The afternoon was a real riot of fun and games, and the jousting was of a very high standard. And the result - I know you are all waiting for that. Well.... the ladies romped to ANOTHER victory. This now makes the score a quite remarkable:
GENTLEMEN 0 - 4 LADIES
Come on, Gents! This is just not good enough. Let's see how things pan out tomorrow. I have another very early morning start as I am off up to Balliol Lower School in Kempston again for a third visit. Should be fun, if tiring!
Sunday, October 04, 2009
Dateline: Sunday 4th October 2009. Place: Barrington Court National Trust Property, South Somerset. Event: Chut Fest 2009, Day Two. Status: Packed to the point of exploding and even more people trying to get in.
As I drove into Barrington Court this morning, the main car park was full - the overflow car park in the orchard was also packed and as I drove round the back of the property people were beginning to park up on the avenue. The rear car park for performers and exhibitors was equally full, so I chose to park in front of one of the volunteers cars. Her name is Maggie and she drives a very recognisable mark 1 Cortina and is always there working long hours, so I knew I wouldn't have to move the car at any time. Wrong. She was leaving at 2pm. Thankfully Matthew Applegate kindly moved the car for me as I couldn't possibly drive my car whilst in full Henry robes.
As far as the exhibition goes there was an early morning surge where every room was packed out. I was interviewed at some point by a journalist from The Lady Magazine. Hopefully I might get a mention at some point. As far as the food goes I tried a wonderful fruit cheese on one of the stalls - made from compressed damsons. Absolutely gorgeous. I also purchased some delicious Swiss Chard Chutney from Barrington Court's own gardens. Outrageously wonderful.
Tomorrow it is time for another up at the crack of dawn moments and an early morning drive up to St Cecillia's School in Sutton in Surrey for my SIXTH annual visit to this lovely school. Early night tonight.
Saturday, October 03, 2009
Chut Fest 2009 has seemed to be a forthcoming attraction for such a long time that it sort of almost crept up on me unnoticed. But here it was, the day itself. I headed over just after 11am this morning - I was initially held up as for some completely unknown reason Crewkerne High Street (which I had to drive through) was utterly gridlocked, however on getting past that I then had to run the gauntlet of National Trust Volunteers helping with the parking at Barrington Court. All I wanted to do was park round the back so I was close to my dressing room, but they were most insistent that I park at the front. But I finally got where I wanted to go. I changed and headed out into the festival itself. My God! What a turnout! It was packed. There were stalls aplenty, some selling things like home made sausages and bacon, some selling handmade cards and pretty bags, plus cheese from various farms, cider from Barrington itself, plus lots and lots of chutney, pickles and jams. Matthew Applegate was in fine form and I soon found out from his lovely wife Sue that it was his birthday this very day! I chatted to a lot of the volunteers there and spent some time having a laugh and joke with Barrington's very own "Pommelier" - Rachel Brewer. A few teachers from different schools I had visited turned up, which was very nice. And then there was also a visit from the lovely Julie Carney from Castle Junior in Stoke-sub-Hamdon. All in all, it was a fantastic day for the first time and hopefully there will be more fun and frolics on day two tomorrow! See you then.
Friday, October 02, 2009
Good King Hal, roasting his chestnuts by the fire in Rochester Cathedral Library (next to the Jackie Collins section).
After the bewildering week of tearing up and down the country and heading to Paris to meet Mickey Mouse you'd think I would choose a nice relaxing week wouldn't you? Wrong! The Friday saw me driving back down to see my sister Cathy and her husband Julian in Kent. On the Saturday I was due at Rochester Cathedral again, this time to do a very passable impersonation of Jools Holland. This is not as insane as it may sound. Rochester were launching their new audio tour guide section, and this had been narrated by Jools as he is a "Friend" of Rochester Cathedral (i.e. a patron and supporter). He had also been asked to come along and open the new tourist aid. He couldn't make it and so I had been asked to come along and open the audio tour in his place. It was a pleasure. I parked right outside the North Door as I had before and was soon in the impressive old Cathedral Library changing into my Henry gear. It was a bit off-putting, baring your legs and other bits in front of stern looking oil paintings of Cathedral Deans from the past, but then I am sure they saw far worse things in Victorian times. But then again...
Soon I was out in the Cathedral chatting to people and meeting the current Dean, a lovely chap called Adrian who apparently as a young priest used to work in Forest Gate in the East End of London, not too far from my old stamping grounds of Stratford and Plaistow. A ribbon was place round the desk where tourists could pick up their audio guide, I was handed some scissors by the lovely Annie from the Dean and Chapter Office, I made a nice little speech to the congregated people and then happily sliced through the ribbon. About two seconds later the photographer from the Kent Messenger appeared and moaned that he was a little late and could I cut the ribbon again. So we had to tie up the bit I had cut, I had to hold it in my left hand to stop it being seen in the picture and then cut the ribbon again. I was then also asked to pop a bottle of champagne. We were standing right under a big impressive chandelier and I had visions of the cork pin-balling it's way through the crystal and us being showered with broken glass. Therefore I lowered the trajectory of the bottle and fired it off. The cork rocketed across the vast expanse of the Cathedral and was caught spectacularly by a well placed curate. Well held, your reverence. I wandered round the cathedral for another few hours, chatting with people, but then at about 2.30pm I was on my way.
I drove up to Essex to stay with Amanda and James again. We had a nice Sunday at leisure. Monday was a very early start and off up to Taverham School in Norfolk. I was at Taverham last year and it was just as good this time around. A really lovely school, great teachers and fabulous children. We had a really fun exhausting day and lots of good Tudor knowledge was had, and plenty of laughs. The ladies inevitably won the jousting again, so the score now stands at:
GENTLEMEN 0 - 3 LADIES
I had the Tuesday and Wednesday at leisure which was nice as I could pick up James from school both days. It was slightly less fun on the Wednesday as I had to wait for him and his school mates to get back from an outing to the Science Museum in London. This wouldn't normally be too bad but his coach was about half an hour late, and so I had to sit in the playground with the other parents who, as they didn't really know who I was, treated me like a leper in their midst. I was blanked to an Olympic standard. Soon James was back and very excited. I asked him if he had seen anything exciting on his day out. He thought for a bit and then told me that his mate Victor had fallen asleep on the coach. Not quite what I was expecting.
Thursday was another early day and a return visit to Godstowe Prep School in High Wycombe. We had another really lovely day at this wonderful school. True there was the usual early morning running of the gauntlet of avoiding being killed by fleets of brand new 4x4 vehicles the size of the USS Nimitz, each disgorging one small child in uniform right by the front door, but that is just a minor quibble. The main hall we were in had lights that were on a time switch which is movement activated. So if we were still for too long the room would be plunged into gloom. I soon had all the children jumping up and down waving their arms about each time this happened, which was quite often! I would give you a result on the jousting, but as it is an all girls school you can guess that the ladies won again, but I can't really add it to the year long score.
I headed for home and was finally back in Somerset by about 5.30pm. Next up in the Henry's never ending progress is the long awaited Chut Fest at Barrington Court this weekend. Come and join us on both the Saturday and the Sunday. Arrive early to avoid the jam. (Ba-doom-tish). (Good King Hal is available for cabaret, masonics, bah mitzvah and target practice).