Sunday, November 29, 2009

Barrington Court Mistletoe Fayre 2009

Good King Hal today broke the World Record for clutching a piece of Mistletoe and NOT getting a kiss. His time of 4 years, 5 months, 16 days, 5 hours, 23 minutes and 6 seconds broke the previous record, also held by GKH by approximately 6 seconds.

Is it really a whole year since the last Mistletoe Fayre? Apparently it was. My parents had come down from their lovely new house in Wales to come and visit and over the previous days we had been up to Wells and then onto the Clarke's Shopping Village in Street, but now the weekend was here it was time for me to do my Tudor thing again. Mum and Dad came along on the first day, had a look round the stalls and then promptly disappeared off for a pub lunch. It was a slightly smaller selection of stalls than last year, but it was good to see the Blackdown Babes back in force and also the lovely Rachel Brewer, Barrington's very own "Pommellier". The first day was definitely the busiest, lots of hustle and bustle, plenty of people to meet and greet, and quite a few to pose for photos for. On both days the weather was pretty grim, but it really was unpleasant on the Sunday and I think this definitely affected the turn out, which was way down on the Saturday. Both days a Mummer's Play was performed by the Winsham Players, we were treated to more musicians on the Sunday which was very nice, and late on the Sunday afternoon I had the pleasure of meeting and talking to Trevor Peacock, famous for playing Jim in "The Vicar of Dibley" on BBC TV. He was a charming gentleman and we had a very pleasant chat for a few minutes before he was on his way.
My parents have now gone over to Kent to stay with my sister Cathy for a few days, I am back from the Fayre, tired but happy, and tomorrow morning, will I be off at the crack of dawn to Cheltenham for a return visit to Dean Close Prep? As Jim from "The Vicar of Dibley" would put it - no, no, no, no, no, no, no, YES.
The Fayre was another resounding success and once more proved what a great organiser and all round top gent Matthew Applegate is. As stated previously, the finest, most underrated, over worked, brilliant employee in SW England that the National Trust possess.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Dunster First School

Anne of Cleeves makeover was not a roaring success.

Dunster is a lovely, lovely school in a beautiful idyllic Somerset village. It really is one of my favourite places to visit. The school is wonderful, the children almost universally delightful, the teachers friendly and the head teacher is a wonderful man, even if he does support Arsenal Football Club. Still, no one's perfect.
The morning drive was largely uneventful but through some lovely countryside. I arrived in Dunster to hear the sound of the church bell tolling gently. I parked up behind the school and was welcomed by the caretaker, who was busy caring his take. We had a fine morning but without Nicola Gray my usual teaching companion here. She was off having a 20 week scan on her pregnancy, so I guess she had a good excuse! Instead there was a lovely supply teacher called Jo and we got on famously. There were laughs and jokes aplenty, lots of great Tudor knowledge and even a little boy who appeared to have been named after a dog in a cartoon (I won't say which one, in case I get in trouble with his parents). I had a lovely roast turkey lunch with the head teacher and was soon back in the hall for a rousing afternoon of more Tudor mayhem. The jousting was a close even contest but finally, a good very competent gents team ran out the winners. This now makes the score:
I have my parents staying with me for a few days and then this weekend it is the wonderful Misteltoe Fayre at Barrington Court run with brilliance as ever by the hugely underrated, underpaid and undervalued Matthew Applegate, the finest visitors services manager in the South West.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Nelson Junior, East Ham

Good King Hal, halfway through his ventriloquism act, ably supported by Saddam Hussein's balding brother.

Gor blimey! Strike a light, guvnor! Apples and pears, apples and pears! I have not never seen nuffink like it in all my puff! etc etc. But enough of this Dick van Dyke-isms. Yes folks, I was back in the East End - my old stamping ground. I lived in Stratford, London E15 from 1986 to the beginning of 1990 and have rarely been back since. My most regular visit if I do go back as Henry is to the lovely Nelson Junior School in Napier Road, East Ham. I had stayed in Basildon with Amanda and James the night before, and got up early to hit the jolly old A13 to my destination. A 25 minute journey actually took just over an hour - don't you just love the south east of England??? Even though the journey had taken a long time it was still too early for the school and so to get in the mood for things I stopped at a small cafe to buy some breakfast. To blend in I put on my Pearly King outfit and did the Lambeth Walk up to the counter. "Morning Princess" I chortled. "I reckon I'll be having me jellied eels and a mug of Rosie Lee, I perishing will. All together now WE'LL MEET AGAIN, DUM-DEE-DUM, DUM-DEE-DUMMMMM! Cor, luv a duck, them luftwaffe couldn't stop us, eh? Eh?" The Greek owner of the cafe looked at me in stoney silence. "Cup tea and a bacon roll please." I mumbled.
Nelson Junior is HUGE. It is a massive old Victorian building rising to four floors and has a main assembly hall on the first three floors. For once, the lovely Jo Dalton was not with us - she was now a Year 6 teacher and so I was left in the kind hands of Humaira Begum, an absolutely delightful lady. It was a big group, about 120 children and some of them were very challenging, but the day was fun, loud and full of laughs. After a fabulous lunch we had a brief jousting tournament, then a sing song and then a banquet for the children and me. Great fun! The jousting was very loud and exciting and ended with yet another win for the ladies. This brings the score to:
I went back to Basildon to see Amanda and James again - we had some lovely fish and chips to finish off the cockney motif to a tee. I then hit the road and headed back to Somerset. I got in about 10pm and slept like a log, but with less bark and wood worm. Tomorrow I am back off to Dunster School.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Corringham Primary & Oakfield Junior, Dartford

Good King Hal, trying to get Anne of Cleves round the back of the bike sheds. Hampton Court? No, he's just pleased to see her.

Two more shows in the south east. My first visit was to Corringham Primary School, near Basildon in Essex. I stayed with Amanda and James the night before and it was nice to see them. The following morning I was up relatively early and drove the short distance down to Corringham. I had no idea how this school had heard about me - and didn't discover until I met the head teacher. He had formerly been the head at Holly Trees Primary in Brentwood which I had visited on two previous occasions. It was lovely to see him again and slightly perturbing to find that he is slowly turning into Sven Goran Eriksson. I won't even begin to tell you who I thought his deputy looked like... The school itself was a delight. We had a great day with some very sparky fun children. They had some great knowledge and loved to join in the fun of the day. After a fine lunch it was on for the afternoon, and inevitably the ladies won the jousting tournament at a canter. This made the score:
After the show I drove down over the Dartford crossing to my sister's house near Sittingbourne. She, her husband and I shared a nice take away curry that evening and I was soon dozing off in their comfortable sofa. Time for bed...
The following morning I was up and out early and heading back for a forth visit to Oakfield Junior School in Dartford. The added excitement today was that I had Annalise and her chum from Rochester Cathedral coming along to watch the show and see how my sort of Henry day might fit in at their place. I got to the school to find an enormous building site and nowhere to park. I unloaded the car and then had to park it about half a mile up the road. Oakfield Junior is undergoing a regeneration of Doctor Who proportions. It already looks very impressive, but when finished it is going to be stunning. Sadly, my two friends from Rochester never turned up (there was an email waiting for me when I got home to say that at the last minute something had come up - poor things). We had a great morning with some of the kids in some brilliant Tudor costumes. Some of the children were a little challenging, but the morning went very well indeed. At lunch I changed and walked down to a local sandwich bar. Every year at Oakfield I go to this sandwich bar and every year I forget how unfriendly, rude and terrible they are. I was not disappointed this year. I should have made the most of it as apparently their outlet is closing. What a loss to the world of fine food. Perhaps Giles London should review them? (See Giles London Gets Stuffed at Blogspot!) The afternoon shot past and soon it was time for the joust and, yet again, the ladies triumphed. This now makes the score:
I intended to drive to Cath and Julian's again and wait for the rush hour to subside before hitting the road back to Somerset. I had a terrible journey to their place from Dartford as the M2 was closed after their junction, so everything was coming off at the A249. It took me nearly an hour longer than it should have to get to them. We had a nice dinner and then I hit the road just after 8pm. Everything was going swimmingly until I got near Mere as the A303 was closed in both directions and the Ministry of Transport had decided not to put any diversion signs in place. It was just like "this road is shut - find yer own way home!" I eventually drove down the A350 to Shaftesbury and picked up the A30 - a much slower route. I didn't get home till nearly 11.30pm. I have two days to get my flat tidy for visitors coming next week before I am back in the South East again for a visit to Nelson Primary in East Ham on Monday.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Amberley Parochial School

Good King Hal, desperate for funds, is reduced to busking for a group of disinterested Belgian midgets and their chums. He is seen here during his 15 hour rendition of the "Best of Emerson Lake and Palmer". He soon had the bus fare and a broken nose.

People who don't know the south west very well often comment to me that if I am working in Gloucestershire that I must be pleased as it is "nice and local". Wrong! Getting to Amberley, near Stroud took me over and hour and a half. The weather wasn't brilliant but it was at least an improvement on the Biblical floods of the weekend. Amberley is a very pretty little village and the school, sorry Parochial School, is, as the name suggests an old Victorian building at the heart of the community. However, once through the Victorian front there has been some amazing building work at the back and the hall I was working in was only about five years old, light and airy and perfect for the day.
It was due to be a group of just over 30 children today, but their numbers had been decimated by the severe colds currently rocketing round the country. 9 children were off at the start of the day, and we lost another one during the day. Therefore I didn't split this group up for the activities and we all stayed together for everything. It was a mixed group of year 3 and 4's and some of them had tremendous knowledge of the Tudors. The teachers were lovely and very welcoming, as they always seem to be at all the schools I visit.
After a fine morning, I had to nip out for a sandwich. Now I hasten to add here that I do get changed out of the Henry clobber before I unleash myself on the unsuspecting citizens of the fine country. The local petrol station had a great selection of sandwiches, but only if you liked egg and bacon. That was all that they had. So I ummed and ahhhed and eventually plumped for....egg and bacon! Good job I didn't have an egg intolerance or was Jewish.
The afternoon was great fun and for the jousting finale we were joined by the children from year 2 who cheered along through a great tournament. The gents snatched another victory to claw the score back to:
It's getting close! Today I am driving up to Essex for a visit to Corringham tomorrow, and then I am off to Oakfield School in Dartford, Kent on Thursday.

Friday, November 13, 2009

BBC Somerset - Have Your Say

Good King Hal studies the situations vacant in the Tudor Times as a brazen young alcoholic indulges in some serious turps-nudging.

Ah, a delightful rain filled gale blowing morning of greyness almost unparalleled. And here I was up bright and early and off to Taunton for yet another appearance on Emma Britton's wonderful Have Your Say show on BBC Somerset. I sailed through the rain flecked streets and parked behind my old workplace of Debenhams' head office. I was to be on with a very nice young lady from a PR company based in West Lambrook near Shepton Beauchamp. While we were sitting in the green room waiting to be called down to the studio I heard the on air show mention that Steve Minnit from Somerset County Museum was on right now, talking about the gold finds from the Priddy Treasure as it is known - a stunning collection of bronze age gold jewellery discovered by a metal detectorist in the Somerset village of Priddy. I wandered down to the studio, and as he came out I said a big hello to Steve. He showed me some of the collection that he had brought with him - it was stunning and very humbling to be that close to something so old and precious - and I don't mean Steve.
The show itself was fun and we discussed how people should deal with anti-social behaviour. Some of the suggestions from frothing at the mouth Daily Mail readers who phoned in, included sending them all over to Afghanistan to help clear mine fields, birching them, and one very hard line lady even suggested they should all be "shot in the face" - I kid you not. Anyway, the rest of the show was fun and can still be listened to for the next week on the BBC Somerset listen again button on their website. (
I stopped off in Ilminster on the way back for a late breakfast at Bilby's, which was very nice and I am now having a lazy day with the old 1960 version of "The Time Machine" on TCM Channel, Rod Taylor being frequently grabbed by the Morlocks, which would bring tears to any one's eyes. He also seems to spend an inordinate amount of time running around with Yvette Mimieux and shouting the word "Wiener!" at the top of his voice. Dirty boy.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Gorleston & South Witham

Good King Hal and Anne of Cleeves being attacked by a large red Triffid, yesterday, about tea time.

The idyll couldn't last. A nice couple of days in Essex soon turned into something a lot worse as I came down with a horrendous cold. I kept most of it at bay with frequent doses of Lemsip - tastes disgusting but it does the trick. On the Tuesday morning I had to get up at the crack of dawn and head up the A12 and into the familiar lands of Norfolk. I was going back to Gorleston on the southern outskirts of Great Yarmouth - but to a different school to the one I normally go to. So it was that I arrived on a foggy damp morning at the deliciously named Herman Junior in Gorleston. Herman Junior sounds like a character from The Munsters. I had been booked by the lovely Rebecca who had been a teacher and seen me a few times on my visits to Martham Junior. It was a big group today, nearly 90 children, and they were very excitable and many of them had dressed up in fabulous Tudor costumes. We had a good morning, a lovely lunch and then the afternoon went virtually ballistic as the children really found their voices for the jousting tournament. It was another very closely run thing, but this time, as seems to be more generally the case, it was the ladies who romped to a fine victory. The score after Herman was then:
I left Gorleston but instead of heading back to Essex or Somerset, I struck out east along the A47 and my second destination of the week - South Witham in Lincolnshire. I had visited South Witham a couple of years back as my old friend Val Smart lives there so it would be good to catch up with her and her family. I was booked into the Blue Cow Pub which I found nice and easily after a two hour drive from Norfolk. The Blue Cow is a little...ahem...frugal? It is not a luxurious country pub, but a bit of an old boozer with a few slightly grotty rooms to rent above. My room was a single, which meant it had two single beds in it, plus a crunchy carpet which hadn't seen a vacuum cleaner in quite a while, various old used tissues dotted around the room, and a pile of magazines for the guest to read, including a couple of copies of the Daily Express from August 2008. However, the host was genial, friendly and honest, the beer was sensational (they brew it on site) and the cooked breakfast both mornings was damn fine as well. It looks like the Blue Cow is mooooo-ving in the right direction. God that was an awful joke. The first night at South Witham I met up with Val and we first went to see her daughter Bonnie and her husband Alex and their family, before going on to the White Lion in Colsterworth where we had a sensational meal.
The following day I had the very short trip from the crunchy floors of the Blue Cow to the nice bright front door of South Witham Junior School. This was a fabulous day - great fun, a lively bunch of children crossing the classes of year 3, 4 and 5. It was a fun full day, lots of laughs and jokes with some brilliant children, lovely teachers and a charming head teacher as well. The afternoon session was robust, lively and loud and after a thrilling tournament the gents finally managed to pull one back!
After the show I met up with Val and her family again and we had a nice Chinese Takeaway and more laughs and fun.
This morning I had another brilliant breakfast at the Blue Cow, said goodbye to Val and headed off down to Somerset. It took me just under four hours to get back, some of it through outrageously bad weather. But it was nice to be back after over a week away. Tomorrow I am down to BBC Somerset and another appearance on Emma Britton's show. Have a listen if you can!

Saturday, November 07, 2009

Canterbury Cathedral

Good King Hal, mere nanoseconds before being savagely hoofed in the shins by another delighted fan.

Visit Kent came calling again! They have been very good to me of late with them using me at shows at such diverse places as Dover Cruise Terminal, the ExCel Arena in London and the Kent County Showground at Detling. Today was another new place for me to visit for them, and that was Canterbury Cathedral. It was a promotional reception for English Teachers based in the Calais area of France and encouraging them to bring school visits to the county of Kent for their pupils. I had been requested to be at the Cathedral by 11.30am for a photo shoot at 12 noon. I duly arrived just after 11am to be told that things were "over running a smidgen" and that the photographer for the shoot had already come and gone. I got changed into my Henry gear and was then taken to a "Green Room" to sit and wait to be called. I had a small speech they wanted me to give, welcoming these people to Canterbury, and then the idea was that each of the 150 or so teachers would be given a number, there was a number of stalls advertising different attractions in the Kent area ranging from Chatham Dockyards, Charles Dickens World, Hever Castle, Penshurst Place etc. to apple orchards and Kentish websites, they would have five minutes with each stall, I would then blow a whistle and ask them to move to the next stall - a sort of business expo version of speed dating really. Finally I was informed that I wouldn't be needed until 1.30pm. So I sat down for a rest only to be called outside for a photo shoot with a different photographer. With that I went back to the Green Room to find some food had been brought for me. It was smoked salmon and cream cheese on half a bagel. I HATE smoked salmon, but it seemed the only thing coming so, through gritted teeth I ate it. I had just finished the last agonising mouth full when another bloke came in with another plate of food for me. Doh! This was all very nice and I scoffed that quite happily.
Finally I was brought into the main hall area, but there was no need for me to do announcements and blow a whistle or two as, after their lunch, most of the French teachers had decided to go into Canterbury for some retail therapy. Eventually a load of them came back and wandered round the stalls and I did my usual circulation of the room, chatting, flirting, having a laugh or two with them. It was nice to see some old friends from Hever Castle and Penshurst Place, plus also Anna and chum from Rochester Cathedral. However by shortly after 3pm most of the French folk had wandered off. By 3.30pm stall holders were putting things away and it seemed time to head for the car. I drove to Cathy and Julian's for a couple of hours, so the rush hour could die down, and then after that it was up to Basildon to see Amanda and James again.
Next week I am off to Norfolk on Tuesday for a school at Gorleston, then on Wednesday I am up to South Witham in Lincolnshire for a visit to the village school there. It will also be a nice chance to see Agent 99 again!

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

Brighstone, Isle of Wight

Good King Hal attempting to swap Barrington Court for a jar of chutney, while Matthew Applegate's wife Sue does a very good Tommy Cooper impression. Taken during Chutfest.
Vectis! Proud proud Vectis! Such memories! Childhood holidays in Lake, endless drizzle, kite flying on Culver Cliff and, more recently, staggering back to the mainland after slightly over-doing it in the Yacht Haven during Skandia sponsored Cowes week. Back in April I did my first school visit to the Isle of Wight when I visited Haylands Junior in Ryde. The deputy head that day, a very nice young blond lady, has since moved and is now one of the youngest head teachers in England and is at Brighstone School near Freshwater on the west side of the island. She had recommended me to the teachers of this new school, hence my booking.
I had booked my ferry on-line before half term (which was very pleasant by the way, including various long drives up and down the M4 to Wales and Essex and back again) and was due to catch the 6.45am sailing from Lymington to Yarmouth. I left Crewkerne at about 5.20am but my sat nav said I only had a slim chance of making it to the ferry on time. I did well though and soon after passing Dorchester I was ahead of time, only to be stuck behind a succession of incredibly slow drivers, but I still felt confident I would make it. Wrong! I arrived at the ferry terminal just in time to see my ship slowly easing out into the Solent. I enquired in the office as to the time of the next sailing - 7.45am was the answer. It would have been a lot sooner but they had just that week changed their timetable to the winter sailings, so they don't go as regularly (they should eat more All Bran). I think the expression rhymes with brass poles. I was eventually on the ferry and enjoying the bright morning sunshine as we slid out of the harbour and across the bottle green waters of the Solent.
I soon found the school after a short drive down the island. It was a delightful village school and I was warmly welcomed by the lovely and friendly teachers. I would be talking to a group consisting of years 2, 3 and 4, but in total, less than 50 children. They started off quietly, but by heck, when they got going there was no stopping them. They loved it, laughing, joking and really getting involved. It was a pleasure to talk to them. After a splendid lunch of roast pork followed by apple strudel, I was soon back in the hall for the afternoon session. More laughs, more riotous fun, especially when talking about the stocks. I asked the children what did they think the Tudors would throw at someone in the stocks - one of the answers was "a donkey" which for some reason left me helpless with laughter at the thought of it. The year one's came in to watch the final jousting tournament and it was one of the best for years. The final went to two tie-breakers before the gentlemen finally snatched victory. This now leaves the year long score as:
The results are looking more interesting now.
The journey back was dreadful. When I arrived at Yarmouth there was a ferry waiting at the dockside. About half an hour later the ferry was still waiting at the dockside, and so were all of us travellers. Finally we got on board. It was a fairly choppy crossing but we didn't dock in Lymington until nearly smack on 5pm. The traffic home was terrible and I didn't get into the flat at Crewkerne until near 7pm. Very tired. Watched CSKA Moscow very nearly beat the crap out of Manchester United, which was fun - if only they could have hung on. And then to bed, where I slept like a large piece of timber cut from a tree trunk.
Next appearance is on Friday at Canterbury Cathedral in Kent.