Sunday, December 05, 2010

Frigthfully inclement weather

Good King Hal, second from right at the back clutching a Union Jack, shortly after arriving in Basildon after a nearly six hour drive from Somerset. He was horrified to discover Amundsen had got there first, but was delighted to see that some of the locals had already had the runners off his sleigh.

My last two Henry shows of the year were due at Nelson Primary School in East Ham, and the following day at Knightwood School in Chandlers Ford in Hampshire. This was all as long as the weather behaved itself. Well, unless you have been living in a cave, or a snow drift (more likely) then you will be aware of what the weather has been like.
I travelled up from Somerset on the Tuesday and all was going swimmingly until I reached the south east. As I got east of the M23 turn off on the M25 the snow began to appear, and it got steadily heavier and heavier as I approached the Dartford crossing. The final stretch was done at a mere walking pace as the authorities had closed off the M20 exit and there was a massive snarl up around that junction. I finally got to the tunnel and sailed through! Great, I thought, I will be at Amanda and James' place within about 15 minutes. WRONG! WRONG! WRONG!
The exit to the A13 was gridlocked. People fighting to get onto the M25 was snaking back across the exit and locking solid the roundabout. Idiots chopped and changed lanes as though this would do them any good. One particular twit in a crap coloured Ford Ka changed lanes about eight times, and each time I let him in with a little cheery wave which he virtually ignored. When he asked to change lanes AGAIN, I am afraid this time I refused to let him and was rewarded with a cheerful hand gesture which I was more than happy to return. We ended up sitting motionless on the roundabout down onto the A13 for about 45 minutes as the snow piled up around us. My, this was fun. As things slowly started to move I noticed that two huge lorries either side of me were jockeying to push in front of me, even though there was no space. It is times like this that I am glad I have a very loud voice. I wound down both windows, sucked in a huge lungful of air, and allowed the previous four hours worth of frustration pour out as I yelled:
"IF EITHER OF YOU TWO CHAPS IN THE LORRIES ARE CONSIDERING PUSHING IN FRONT OF ME, I SHALL FIND OUT WHERE YOU FELLOWS LIVE AND WILL KILL YOU!" I hasten to add I did not use the words "chaps" and "fellows". The words I did use did begin with the letters C and F, but I shall leave that to your imagination. But it worked, both the lorries allowed me through and one even flashed his lights cheerily at me and shouted something about me being a "fellow chap". I reciprocated his affections once more. But I got to Amanda's place.
Well, to cut a long Captain Scott type diary short (though there is less self sacrifice, fetid penguin blubber and frostbite involved) both of my days at the schools were called off. There was just no way I could get to either of them with the roads the state they were in. I instead kept myself amused by frequently getting thrashed by my son at Mario Kart on the Wii console.
So no more Henry's now until next January, however I start down at Leeds Castle on the 10th December as dear old Father Christmas. All this and I have very nearly finished my Christmas shopping which is surely a record.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

More Mistletoe Fayre Funne...

Meanwhile, in an all night gas-lit pecan-nut crushing emporium on Streatham High Road, octogenarian Algerian wash board wrangler, Attila Corn-Plaster, heir to the fortune of Barbara Cartland's cartographer and first solo pianist to plummet off Niagara Falls and not live, has discovered the Nazi blue prints to Ethel Merman's diving bell fixated Persian cat-tweaking mobile laundry service on an S2 bus calling at Rokeby Street, West Ham Lane, Whalebone Lane and the Portway. A cold front has swept in from the arctic bringing war, death, pestilence and famine to western Yeovil. Police describe the situation as normal for a Sunday. And now here's Carole Kirkwood with the weather. Carole?

The second day of the annual Barrington Court Mistletoe Fayre dawned colder than yesterday, but there was certainly less snow around. As I arrived this morning it was very pleasing today to see that the car park was full to bursting, this meant we were due more people than the slightly disappointing turn out we had on Saturday. I was right, but it also meant that I had trouble finding somewhere to park. Luckily I ran into Matthew Applegate (not literally of course) and he allowed me to park in the private spaces tucked away around the back of Barrington Court and for use by the people who live in the apartments in Strode House.
It was a great turn out today, and some very nice stalls. I myself purchased some wonderful home cured smoked bacon and some pork and leek sausages. Lovely! I also got to meet some wonderful people all of whom seemed to be in very high spirits - apart from one. There was a heavily bearded man walking around pushing a lady in a wheel chair, who I assumed to be his mother. I chatted to the lady in the wheel chair, who had a face like a smacked arse, and then after speaking to the man with the beard I realised why she was so miserable. The first thing this Rasputin look-a-like said to me was "I heard a programme about you on Radio 4 the other night..." This made me nervous straight away as I find Radio 4 something of an enigma. I call it Radio Smug as it seems to have this air of being a closed club that only some people are allowed into. And I intend to stay that way until Kirsty Young allows me to be on "Desert Island Discs". Anyway, I am getting off the point. The Rasputin look-a-like continued and said "It was all about the disgraceful way you treated Catherine of Aragon." Before I could get a chance to say anything, he went up a gear. "You were a MONSTER to that poor girl. A MONSTER!" Foam was beginning to form around the sides of his mouth. At this point I tried to point out to him that I was in fact an actor (obviously a bloody good one to get this sort of reaction), but he carried on chuntering away before wheeling his long suffering facially downcast mother into another room. Thank God that was over. About an hour later I bumped into him again, this time on his own. On each day of the Fayre we had a Mummer's play which was performed in one of the upstairs rooms. Rasputin wanted to know if there was access to the upstairs of Barrington Court for disabled people. I told him there was only a lift in Strode House and therefore not any real possibility of getting his joy-free Mother and her wheel chair up to see the show. He simply hissed the word "pathetic..." and stomped off towards the toilets, preferably to fall into a blocked urinal and choke to death on a bleach cake. And would serve him right. But this miserable git aside, everything was good today. And so was the cricket.
Next week I am back to Nelson Junior School in East Ham for my 4th visit! Should be a good one. South East, here I come.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Three Days...

"Look at the size of that dibber!" exclaimed Good King Hal. He was immediately arrested.

This was a busy few days for me. It began on Thursday morning when I was due back on Emma Britton's Show on BBC Somerset. I had been due on a couple of weeks back, but there was a change of plan at the last minute and I was postponed for two weeks. I found myself for the first time in a long time being stuck in seriously bad Taunton traffic and actually arrived at the studio about ten minutes late. I was on the panel with Kate from the company Travels on Horseback (, a lovely lady who I had appeared on Emma's programme with before. We had a great discussion and it was also fantastic to know that my Aussie friend from Facebook, Jennie Towan, was listening on the other side of the world - and gloating about the Test Match. (It's only the first test, Jen!)
On the Friday I was off down to Exeter for a return visit to the Maynard School. As like last year they wanted the day to run from 10.30am to 4pm, which was fine by me. I left home giving myself plenty of time to get there - only to first come across a big smash on the A30 on Windwhistle Hill. This held me up for about 20 minutes, then when I finally got to Exeter I found the place virtually gridlocked with Christmas shoppers. I finally arrived at The Maynard approximately 10 minutes before I am due to appear at the start of my show. But as ever at this lovely school, I was warmly welcomed, especially by the lovely Keagh Fry, and was soon changed and ready. As ever it was a small group, 14 ladies this year, but they were very responsive, full of laughs and again in superb costumes. After the morning session, Keagh and I have a very nice lunch (Fish and chips!) and then it's back to the hall for more nonsense. Of course with it being an all girl's school I can't allow the jousting result to go into our year long score, but as you can guess, the ladies won!
Now instead of heading for home, I was now heading off to Dartmoor and an evening with my cousins, Mike and Janet Baker at their lovely home in Manaton. I had last visited them about 15 years ago with my late Grandfather, and had driven down there in bright summer sunshine and daylight. I was now fighting my way out of a yet again gridlocked Exeter, it is pitch dark and it is starting to snow. My sat nav seems to not have even the slightest idea where we are going. So instead of the sensible way of getting to Manaton (down the A38 and then turn off at Bovey Tracy) I now find myself on some tiny unlit track, with snow thick in the fields around me, somewhere near Mortonhampstead. And this seems to go on interminably. Added to which there seems to be absolutely no road signs whatsoever. After what seems like a lifetime of pitch dark single track lanes, with more and more snow falling, suddenly I see a tiny road sign that says "Manaton". Thank God for that! I slithered down this road and find myself by the church in Manaton which I remember parking up by the last time I had visited Mike and Janet all those years ago. But all is still pitch dark and snowy and there is no sign of their house. I finally slide down another hill and see some lights in the darkness, and there is Mike leaning against his front gate smoking one of his roll up cigarettes. As I climb from the car, I am sorely tempted to fall to my knees and kiss the ground, a la Pope John Paul II. I was warmly welcomed into their nice snug home, in which they have just had installed a brand new wood burning stove, which was so nice to sit around. Janet cooked a lovely meal, we drank too much wine and Mike let me have four trenchers (Tudor wooden plates) that he had specially made for me. I stayed overnight and after a nice breakfast I was soon on my way back to Somerset.
There was a fair bit of snow about on the hills of the Dartmoor, but not as much as I expected, but I thought it would thin out as I got closer to home. WRONG! By the time I got to Chard there was thick snow all around. Well, what other type of snow would you expect in Chard? I stopped off at home for a quick sit down and a cough (as Tony Hancock nearly said), I was off and out the door again for another run around at Barrington Court for their annual Mistletoe Fayre. As usual there were the fabulous selection of stalls and vendors of fine foods, drinks and wonderful crafts. It was good to see the Blackdown Babes selling group again, but there was slightly less people around this year than in previous times. This was mostly due to the weather most people assumed, so we are hoping for a better turn out tomorrow. Matthew seemed in good form, but I didn't see much of him.
All this and we are still being hammered by the Aussies in the first test. SIGH. Some things never change...

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Parkfield School, Taunton

Good King Hal during his career as a doorman at the "Codpieces" Nightclub. His frequent cries of "Oi! No denim pantaloons!" made him few friends.

A return trip to Parkfield School in Taunton and the unique Mr Sides, the head teacher. I love this school and it's great kids, and all the teachers are friendly, chatty and a laugh a minute. On top of all this of course, is the aforementioned Mr Wynford Sides. He is outspoken, individual, quite old school, but a great head teacher none the less. He greeted me again on Tuesday morning when I arrived for my latest appearance at his school. It was another fine day at this brilliant place - the drive in was nice and easy, which isn't always the case in Taunton, and the work that was being done on the car park last year that resulted in me having to park about half a mile away, is thankfully over.
As ever all the children had dressed up in some fantastic costumes, including one lad dressed as a Knight in Shining Armour which seemed to consist of most Somerset based stocks of bacofoil. There was even one lad who seemed to be a cross between Kurt Cobain and a Musketeer. The morning was great with lots of laughs and some great displays of Tudor knowledge by the children. There were more nice comments about how good my new costume looked, which was very gratifying.
During lunch I sat and chatted to one of the teachers I had met at Parkfield before. She is a French lady who now lives over here with her husband and children. She was telling me a bit more about Francis the 1st, King of France and Henry VIII's contemporary - they met at the Field of the Cloth of Gold where they famously supposedly wrestled. I asked her how Francis is perceived in France in modern times, i.e. was he seen as some kind of monster as Henry is now seen by most modern people in this country. Apparently Francis is seen as a great moderniser, the person who dragged France into the modern world, a great patron of the arts (the man who brought Leonardo da Vinci to France!) and the builder of some famous and beautiful castles across the whole country. So just like Henry really... (ahem)...
The afternoon was a belter, so many laughs and a really brilliant jousting tournament. I knew there was little chance of the ladies winning here as during their race off, both teams proved as inept as each other! The actual final against the gents was a lot closer than I anticipated, but the Gentlemen ran out winners comfortably in the end. This now makes our score:
All square again, and as I have stated before, a lot closer than last year.
I am finally back on Emma Britton's Show on BBC Somerset tomorrow morning between 9am and 10am, then on Friday I am back at the Maynard School in Exeter which will be nice to see Keagh Fry and all her chums down there again. And by the look of the weather outlook I had better keep myself wrapped up in my furs! Brrrrrrrrr!

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Children in Need & Kathryn Tickell

Good King Hal, in brand spanking new costume and with a bear behind. That's Pudsey, shortly before he needed another lie down.

Now I had a nasty feeling that this long trumpeted appearance by yours truly for the BBC at their annual Children in Need appeal was going to turn into another Rolf on Art. Well, I was nearly right. I had driven down to Kent on the Thursday to see my parents who were spending this week with my sister Cathy and her husband Julian at their house in Stockbury near Sittingbourne. On the Friday, after briefly getting two new tyres on my car, I drove down to Leeds Castle. My first stop was to try on a brand new Father Christmas outfit that I will be wearing for the festivities this year. It looks great and I am sure will be a big hit. Next it was time for a Production Meeting with the BBC people and the Leeds Castle people to let all of us know what the heck to expect for the broadcast in the evening. When this little thing was out of the way I went up to Darlene's office with her and her assistant Becky for a swift cup of tea before the rigours of the evening began.
Things had not got off to the best start when it turned out that I was sharing my dressing room with four other people as one whole dressing room had been bagged by the person playing Pudsey Bear. He had insisted on this as he was sometimes "utterly drained" from his performances and needed somewhere dark and quiet to lie down. I suggested Romney Marsh when the sun goes down. I was in with the Go Ape! and Princess Sparkle people, which if you saw the evening on BBC1 you'll probably have some idea what I am on about. The whole broadcast was going to be staged in the Fairfax Hall, across the moat from the main castle. The castle itself was to be illuminated and would have a giant picture of Pudsey projected onto the main walls. Inside the Fairfax there would be a band playing and a large area for kids and parents to sit and enjoy face painting and nibbles supplied by the castle. I spent the opening hour wandering round talking to the parents and children, but soon it was getting close to the first broadcast. I was frog marched out to the terrace overlooking the castle and was bandied in with groups of fund raisers from local schools, each with large cheques to show off to the camera. It was perishingly cold out on this terrace. They did a technical run through of where the cameras would go, then a rehearsal, and then a full rehearsal. The little lad standing in front of me, though clearly nervous, was word perfect. We then had to hang on and hang on until it was time for us to go "live". The lights came on, the female presenter started shouting at the camera, and they came to the little lad in front of me - and he completely cocked up his lines. Bless. There were a couple of close ups of me in the new costume from Judy, but for the rest of the evening that was about it for me. I was in another couple of shots, but was frequently shoved to the back so various children, teenagers and Pudsey-sodding-Bear could stand in front. After a brilliant fire work display it just seemed right to call it a night. I went back to my dressing room and changed, before briefly tottering round and saying goodnight to all my friends at the Castle. When I got back to my sisters, there were a lot of unhappy faces.
"We watched that stupid bloody programme all night, saw your face twice and your hat once. I'm going to bed." This was my jolly father before he stomped off upstairs to bed. Ah good, he was in a good mood. I treated myself to a couple of glasses of much needed wine to help relax, and then repaired to my own bed and slept very well.
Saturday morning I was off fairly sharpish from Cathy's in Kent as I had tickets for the Saturday evening for a concert by the delightful Kathryn Tickell at South Petherton in Somerset. I had originally purchased four tickets for this show, two for me and a "guest" and two for my friend Matthew Applegate and his wife Sue. However, after having looked her up on You Tube, Matthew decided he and his wife didn't like Kathryn Tickell's music and would not be coming. That's alright, another one of my masses of great mates would want these tickets, I was sure. WRONG! People were either busy, not interested, or in the case of my friend Jill Beed in Bridport, openly hostile to the idea of seeing Kathryn Tickell in concert! Her exact words were "wild horses could not drag me into that hall to listen to THAT woman!" I really wish she wouldn't beat around the bush and would let me know exactly how she feels about this music. Eventually, my dear old friend Ali Bessell came up from Portsmouth where she lives, we had a quick dinner at Ip's Palace Chinese in beautiful downtown Crewkerne, and then headed over to the David Hall Centre in South Petherton for the show. 150 people were crammed into the hall, and it was a superb show. The musicianship, the technical skills, the on-stage banter, it was all magical, and Kathryn and her band were on top form and went down a storm. One of the best musical evenings of my life. If you ever get a chance to see the Kathryn Tickell Band in concert, allow wild horses to drag you in - you will love it!
My next show is on Tuesday this week with a Henry visit to Parkfield Junior in Taunton, then I am off to the Maynard in Exeter later in the week.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

This.... is Norfolk.

Norwich's most famous export apart from Delia Smith, Mustard and Jeremy Goss with that volley against Bayern Munich! Did you see that? He must have a foot like a traction engine!

I was up for two days in sunny Norfolk at two brand new schools for me. So to begin with I drove to Essex to spend some time with my son James and his Mummy, but it involved the next morning getting up at 4.30am to drive up to Gresham village, north of Norwich on the way to Cromer. It was a cold icy morning and the thermometer on my car never rose above minus two for the whole journey. As the sun began to bleed it's light from the horizon the verges by the road appeared bright white, as though dusted with snow, but it was just a very thick frost. Despite these low temperatures I was making excellent progress and my destination grew closer and closer. Suddenly the sat nav chimed and announced I had arrived. I stopped the car and looked round. I was by an empty open field. A bemused looking pheasant cast a beady eye at me and then sauntered off. Great. Where the hell was I? I re-programmed the sat nav using the name of the village rather than the post code as I had been using. The machine almost seemed to say "what the hell are you doing in this field? Your destination if over there!" and so off I went. I eventually managed to locate Gresham Village School in a very nice area of rural land and red brick Victorian country houses. Extremely attractive. As I was unloading my car another vehicle pulled up next to mine with two long haired Tudor be-decked figures. "Ah!" I boomed, "Two lovely wenches!" One of them had a beard. Bugger. These were the fellow re-enactors I had heard about. They played music and taught the children Tudor dance and etiquette. I began the morning wandering around to the nursery and reception class to meet the children and talk about Henry and Tudor times. They were really diddy and cute, all in fabulous costumes. I began by asking them how long ago they thought Henry had been around. One little chap ventured five years. I told them it was longer than that, so he guessed six, and then seven. This could take a long time I thought. Later on in the morning I was in the main hall with years 3, 4, 5 and 6, and we had a really good time. Lots of laughs and great knowledge from the children. Lunch was a fine Tudor banquet seated around long tables, with yours truly on the top table with the teachers. This soon led on to more talk and music stuff from me and finally a grand jousting tournament that culminated in a win for the ladies. This made the score now:
I presented the winning certificates in an end of day assembly attended by some of the parents. Great stuff. I loaded up the car and then headed off to Acle and my luxury Travelodge abode for the evening. It was, as any Travelodge, a bit spartan but warm and comfortable, and I slept very well.
In the morning I was up and out the door to Old Catton School in north Norwich. This was another new school and I had been recommended to them by the good people at White Woman Lane School. The teachers were a lovely lot at this school and we had plenty of laughs. It was a big group of children and sometimes they were a bit difficult to keep under tabs, but it all turned out fine in the end. The jousting tournament was another loud and fun affair which ended with ANOTHER win for the ladies! They had completed their come back from being so far behind. The score is now:
I drove back to Essex after the show and took Amanda and James out for a curry at the star-studded Bas Vegas. James has announced that he wants to be an actor when he is older. He then got a bit confused as he stated he'd rather be an actress than an actor. It appears he would give his all for his career. What a hero!
I am down to Kent tomorrow and then on Friday at Leeds Castle with the BBC for the Children in Need evening. Keep watching!

Monday, November 15, 2010

Cwmduad (and that's not a spelling mistake)

Good King Hal playing spot the castle. And failing, obviously.

I had originally been invited out to Cwmduad near Carmarthen in Wales back in September, however the group that had booked me suddenly realised that most of their members and potential audience were still on holiday, so the show was postponed for two months. So on the Friday just gone I drove down to Newcastle Emlyn, where my parents now live, which is only about 10 miles north of Cwmduad. I arrived on Friday at about lunch time and joined my parents, and my sister Susan for a bite to eat at Harrison's Cafe in Newcastle Emlyn - trust me on this, you would be well worth your while seeking this place out. Great food and always a warm welcome. It was great to see my sister Sue just back from a Rubinoos spotting trip to San Francisco (and you thought I was weird)...
On the Saturday morning my father and I drove down to Cwmduad to see if we could find the Community Centre Hall where I was to do my show that evening. I also had some stuff to post from sales on Ebay and there was a post office in Cwmduad so we could kill two birds with one large parcel. Or something like that. The drive down to Cwmduad from Newcastle Emlyn is nice at the best of times, but this time of year it is wonderful. The trees are a russet red and crowd in round the edges of the Teifi River that meanders alongside the road as you drive along. Lovely! In Cwmduad we popped into the Post Office which is situated in a local B&B. Three people were sitting chatting in the breakfast area. As I walked in one of the men immediately said "Hello Michael!" which astounded me. It turned out these lovely people in the B&B were the organisers for this evening's "Henry VIII" event! As I had pulled up in my father's car outside they had all agreed I just had to be the same bloke they had been talking to via email! After posting my stuff we went up to the Community Hall with them to see how it was set up. The community had done themselves proud, the hall was small, but was brilliantly set out with long tables, secluded lighting, tapestries, heraldic shields and everything else you could imagine for a Tudor banquet. It was going to be a good evening.
With the afternoon to kill, my father and I went down to see the mighty Newcastle Emlyn FC in their latest home match. A humongous crowd of about 25 had turned up and I graciously offered to pay the entrance fee of £2 for me and £1 for my father as an OAP. I told him he could get the tickets next time we go to the San Siro in Milan. The match was against the awesome Newport YMCA, so we knew Newcastle Emlyn should really walk this one. After just 1 minute, Newcastle Emlyn burst through and scored a fabulous opening goal so it was obvious this match was going to be very one sided. And it was. Newport YMCA won 6-1. Newcastle Emlyn were awful and could barely string two passes together and succeeded in making Newport YMCA look like Brazil. With 10 minutes to go, my Father and I were the only two mugs still sitting in the tiny grandstand. Everyone else had given up and gone. I can't wait to go back and see them again!
In the evening, with tickets for the event now purchased for my parents, I drove down to Cwmduad. It was a lovely evening, a great turn out, about 50+ people, many of them in wonderful medieval fancy dress. I was at the head of the table on a grand throne and with the others gathered around me. The meal was a fine rustic vegetable soup to begin, then roast pork rolls with apple sauce, crackling, and stuffing, and then finishing with apple pie. I was on between the pork roll and the apple pie (which sounds messy, but trust me it was OK) and the talk seemed to go really well. All the people made me very welcome, had worked incredibly hard and had made the whole evening a roaring success. Pats on the back all round.
Sunday I had lunch with my parents at Sue and Ian's place (sister and other half, if you were wondering), which was an indescribably tasty vegetarian cottage pie, followed by an apple pie with custard, which was brought alive with some zesty lemon. Great stuff. After that, I sat in the car like Buddha and drove back to Somerset.
This week I am off to Essex today, then tomorrow I am up to Norfolk for two days, then back down to Kent for an appearance at Leeds Castle on Friday night for BBC1's Children in Need. Turn on, tune in and don't blink, cos you might miss me!

Thursday, November 11, 2010

St Francis Junior, Ventnor, Isle of Wight

Good King Hal firing a tranquilising dart at restless pupils during his fourteen hour presentation on the Pilgrimage of Grace. My how they laughed.

On Wednesday evening I had popped over to Martock to see my friend Judy who is making me a new Henry costume. She was also renovating my hat as it was looking a bit tired. The evening was a perfect example of what winter can be - clear, bright and crisply cold. Lovely. I knew that in the morning I was up with the lark to drive down to Lymington to catch the ferry over to the Isle of Wight for a visit to St Francis Junior School in Ventnor, and a clear crisp morning would make the drive down to the New Forest port a delight. The alarm went off at "OH MY GOD IT'S EARLY" O'clock and I was horrified to look out the window and see heavy rain spattering against the pane and the loud moan of a strong wind. I think the word rhymes with "rugger".
The drive down, despite the weather and lots of patches of water gathering on the road, was remarkably easy. It was so nice to see the roads so clear. As I got down to Lymington I was rewarded with the site of a ferry waiting in the port. I popped in to pick up my ticket and was soon on board. My car was warm and inviting, and the thought of staggering up the stairs to the passenger lounge as the ferry tossed around on the wind blasted Solent didn't exactly make the heart beat any faster. So I simply snuggled down in my drivers seat and nodded off.
My journey from Yarmouth to Ventnor was via Freshwater and along the old military road. This was like something out of the Bible - the sky was black as Lemmy's leather jacket, the wind was hammering against the car and frequently jerking it to one side, and the rain was screaming in horizontally. My mood was lifted enormously when Aled Jones (the wonderful replacement for thirsty DJ Sharah (sic) Kennedy) announced that their celebrity "Birthday Wishes" for today, November 11th were going out to Andy Partridge, lead singer and guitarist with XTC! He even announced he was going to play an XTC track to celebrate! Now this would normally get me excited, but I know the BBC Radio playlist for XTC consists of "Making Plans For Nigel", "Senses Working Overtime", and usually something lamentably awful like "Generals and Majors" or "Science Friction". And then he played...wait for it... "The Mayor of Simpleton", one of my all time favourite XTC tracks, and suddenly that Bible black morning didn't seem quite so horrible!
St Francis School in Ventor is an odd place, honestly. It is a mixed Catholic and C of E School. I wondered if they had half the children down one end of the playground brandishing pictures of Pope Benedict XVI and waving Irish tricolours above their heads, whilst the other half marched around in bowler hats and orange sashes screaming about "NO SURRENDARRR!" But they didn't, it was a lovely place. I was warmly welcomed by Emily Ridett who I had previously seen at Haylands School in Ryde on a previous Vectis visit, and was soon set up in the hall. We had a great morning, lots of laughs and some really sparky smart children. We had a break at 11am to mark the two minute silence for Armistice Day. After a lovely lunch we were back in the hall quite early for some fun with the stocks and then a storming, noisy and memorable jousting tournament that went right to the wire. This time the Gents finally broke away and won the final. This now makes our score:
I packed up and was on my way, and was soon at Yarmouth, just as a ferry was coming into port. I thought I'd soon be on board and on my way. But we sat there, and sat there, and sat there. Occasionally a member of staff would walk down the gang plank, scratch their arse, puff on their fag and (probably) blow off, before wandering back on board again. After about 45 minutes we were finally let on board. Again I waited in the car, though my sleep was somewhat disturbed this time by various idiots on board leaving their car alarms on before going up to the passenger deck. As soon as the ferry hit open water outside the port, and the strong winds and waves hit us every single car alarm seemed to go off in unison. My how we laughed. Of course by the time I got back to the mainland it was about 4.30pm and of course the rush hour had started. It took me some time, to fight my way through the heavy traffic and the terrible weather, but I was finally back in Crewkerne. I treated myself to a Chinese meal and am even now, girding my loins for another long drive tomorrow up to Wales.

Tuesday, November 09, 2010

A Quickie... (ooh er!)

Just a quick note to anyone who was considering tuning in to Emma Britton's show on Wednesday this week on BBC Somerset in the hope of hearing my dulcet tones... Well, my appearance has been postponed. They are doing a special, very serious sounding show tomorrow now, and don't need a mock Tudor Monarch camping it up a storm in the studio. I have now been re-booked to appear on Emma's show on the morning of 25th November. Tune in then!
And now, here's Daniel Corbett with the weather. Daniel?

Archbishop Cranmer School, Taunton

Good King Hal attempting to write crude graffiti on the ceiling in the main hall at Barrington Court using a lance. He got as far as "Gertrude Jekyll is a..." before he was shot with a tranquiliser dart. He was later released back into the wild in the Serengeti Safari Park.

I only get to visit Archbishop Cranmer School (or ABC as it is known locally) every other year as I do years 3 and 4 combined. However, this was my fourth visit in the past seven years and it was a delight to be back. I was warmly welcomed by Sally Westney again, and got to see dear Tracy Crossman, who is now Tracy Owens as she has recently got spliced. But she works with a different year now, so was not in for the full day.
It was about 50 children for the day, and they were as ever at this wonderful school, great fun. Knowledgeable, fun, sparky and ready to laugh. There seems to be a hell of a lot of upgrading going on at ABC, some of which might be finished, and some of which my not. It was hard to tell! The main hall was distinctly nippy for the most part of the day, so I guess the heating is on the "to do" list! The morning session went down a storm, but I did make a bit of a boo-boo during the question and answer session just before lunch. I was taking various questions from the children when I went to one boy with his hand up. He said:
"How long he be King?" In a high pitched, almost helium influenced sing song voice. I told him to repeat the question in a sensible way and in his own voice. Sally Westney called to me that the child had only recently started at the school, was Portuguese and really did talk like that. Oops. Sorry!
I had some sandwiches for lunch, before we were back in the hall for a fun stocks session, followed by yet another brilliant joust. This one was really close, but it was the Ladies who triumphed again! They have now closed the gap on the gents to make the score:
Wonderful stuff! I am back on Emma Britton's show on BBC Somerset on Wednesday morning between 9 and 10am, and then on Thursday (which according to the current weather forecast looks fairly apocalyptic) I am off to Ventnor on the Isle of Wight for a show there. Should be fun!

Friday, November 05, 2010

Manor Court Junior, Chard

Good King Hal (left) yesterday, just before he woke up from the dream. Seen here scratching his arse with a big sword. As you do. And I really do look like this, until I wake up.

It was the final day of a long week today, and another return visit, this time to the wonderful Manor Court School in Chard. The original plan had been that the children from this school would come and visit me at Barrington Court for their Henry day. However, the heating system at the Court house is at present a bit hors du combat as the French would say in a very poorly written way, and the thought of the poor little pupils freezing in the old kitchen, it was decided to swap the day back to Manor Court School itself.
It was good to be back and nice to see all the old familiar faces again, like the lovely Laura Devereaux, the lady who had booked me for the show this year. It was two year 6 classes today, a total of about 55 pupils. The morning was fun, but a little truncated as there was an assembly just before morning break. After tottering down to the new Sainsbury's in Chard for a sandwich it was soon back to the main hall and the Tudor day continued. The afternoon was fairly riotous, but was also curtailed due to another assembly! The jousting was a fabulous event and was won this time by the ladies! Our score now moves to:
And so this long week is done. I got back fairly early to Chez Henry in Crewkerne, and promptly fell asleep in my coma chair. I am really looking forward to my weekend off. I am back on show on Monday with another return visit, back to Archbishop Cranmer School in Taunton. Tired, but happy.

Thursday, November 04, 2010

Dunster School

A tense moment as Keith Emerson realises his mighty wurlitzer has just fallen apart. Music lovers from around the globe wept with joy, however their happiness was short lived as mere nano-seconds later Carl Palmer launched into a 23 minute drum solo brought only to a finale due to a sudden attack of Tigers.

The long week continued, but today it was time to go to Dunster. This was my 7th visit to this lovely village/school and once again I was warmly greeted by the charming head teacher, Peter Hoyland. The teacher I normally see, Nicola Grey, had a child last year and is now only working at the school in a very part time basis, so it was a new class teacher for this year's group. Her name was Katy Swann and she was lovely! She pre-warned me the group could be a little "lively", but they were pretty good all in all. It was a small group, only about 30 children, but they were excitable, eager to join in and good fun as ever at Dunster. If you are ever in Somerset, you really should go out of your way to visit Dunster. Most visitors to this part of the North Somerset coast tend to head for Minehead, an act I think worthy of committal for treason. Minehead is a typical "knees up Mother Brown", knotted handkerchief on head, fish and chips, "lets all go down the Strand - HAVE A BANANA!", paddling in the surf, plastic bucket and spade, God-awful seaside resort as you can find anywhere. But Dunster, just a few miles inland from this hell hole is a delight. The high hills around the small village are dominated by the grand walls of Dunster Castle, whereas down in the centre all is olde worlde charm, beams, leaded light windows and period detail. Quaint is the ideal word to cover it. I have only ever been to Dunster to work at the school, but I really must get back there sometime as a genuine visitor.
The morning passed at great speed and was loud and entertaining. I had lunch with Mr Hoyland and we discussed his amazing musical taste, and all the great bands he has seen recently and is going to see. Mr H is quite a groovy dude with trips to see Madness and Ocean Colour Scene recently under his belt, and he is off to see Paul Weller at the end of this month. Lucky chap! Mind you, I am off to see Kathryn Tickell soon (who? I hear you cry. Google her!) and I am looking forward to it.
After the musical interlude it was back to Tudor times for a slightly dinner-lady-delayed afternoon session. The jousting was such a closely fought contest in the final, but it was the gents again back on the winning trail as they just squeaked the narrowest of victories. This now makes our score:
How much different it would have been if the ladies could have just taken that win today. Amazing. As I left this lovely school today, the sky above was leaden and heavy with cloud. However, the Quantock Hills in the distance were bathed in bright sunshine and looked almost unreal. Villages, hamlets and houses on their green undulating uplands were picked out in natures spotlight and sparkled alluringly. Lovely!
Tomorrow I am back at Manor Court School in Chard for more Tudor nonsense. Read all about it here tomorrow.

Wednesday, November 03, 2010

St Paul's Junior, Shepton Mallet

More rock and pop nonsense as Otis Redding and James Brown go pale at the price of a half of mild at the old "Kebab and Calculator" in downtown Harlem. Damn!

Ah, that was a bit better. A slightly less early start today and a return visit to St Paul's Junior School in Shepton Mallet. Shepton Mallet always sounds like Timmy's older Shakespearean actor brother. Perhaps he is, who knows. Early starts with Radio 2 have improved considerably of late as well. Long time thirsty DJ Sarah Kennedy is now a thing of the past and has lately been replaced by Aled Jones. This is a good improvement, but I feel they could find someone even better. Chris Evans' show is now starting half an hour earlier at 6.30am and he is always worth a listen.
St Paul's is a great school, tucked away in the heart of Shepton Mallet. It gives the impression of having once been a fairly grand house, and is still attractive to this day. The teachers are without fail friendly and welcoming and the children are always funny and fizzy. Before the show started today I was pre-warned about one little chap who was very sensitive and had a tendency to burst into tears at the slightest thing. He came to meet me before I got into the Henry costume, and I showed him some of the props I would be using during the day. This seemed to gain his confidence and he managed to stay with us for the whole day without too much upset. He also managed to be the only child today to get 20 out of 20 on the Tudor quiz, which pleased him a lot. Bless!
Lunch was lasagna and veg, followed by a nice home made flapjack. My idea of school dinner heaven. After lunch it was back to the hall for lots of nonsense and a great jousting tournament. The lads teams seemed to struggle with the rules and for some reason kept rushing round the course for extra laps for no adequately clear reason. In the final though, there was no denying the clear winners who were the ladies again! This now makes the year long score very interesting indeed.
I have a feeling it is going to be this close throughout the entire year. We shall see.
Tomorrow I am up early again for a drive over to one of my favourite schools - Dunster, near Minehead. It is always a delight to go over there, so fingers crossed for another good day.

Tuesday, November 02, 2010

Elmlea Junior

Good King Hal continues his music theme from yesterday, by posing with the Nolan Sisters. From left to right: Bridget, Bernadette, GKH, Colleen, and Barry. This was to promote their new single "I'm in the Mood for Crackling".

Elmlea? That's a type of cream substitute, isn't it? I had been summoned to Elmlea Junior by the teacher Beth Lem, who sounds vaguely Biblical, as she had seen me doing my Henry stuff in years gone by when she used to work at the Hugh Sexey School in Wedmore. Elmlea School is in Westbury on Trym, the wonderfully named area of Bristol that sounds more like something out of a Dickens novel. Even when you get to this bizarre suburb it is difficult to know how to take it. Leafy lanes clash cheek by jowl with roads that would not look out of place in Dagenham. The school itself is quite big and I was doing a mixed group of years 3 & 4 today, six classes in total and about 150 children. They were a very lively noisy bunch, but great fun with it. The day began in strange style by a load of the parents coming in to watch the year 4 children do a pre-rehearsed Tudor dance - each of the three classes doing it one after the other. I was asked to make comments after each performance, and decided that rather than act as a kind of Simon Cowell, I would be much more of a cheerful Tudor Len Goodman type.
The morning itself went really well - we spent all the pre-lunch period in the dance studio (you will be glad to hear I wasn't wearing leg warmers and doing the splits). After a lovely roast dinner lunch we moved up to the big main hall for the stocks and jousting session. The head teacher must be cursing her luck as she just happened to wander into the main hall when I was looking for a teacher to put in the stocks. She took it all in good spirit and only stuck a screwdriver in two of my car's tyres. The jousting was a noisy rambunctious affair which nearly tore the roof off the main hall! In a pulsating final a great ladies team stormed to a brilliant win. This now brings our score to:
So the ladies are coming back into it. They will get their latest chance to pull closer to the chaps tomorrow when I make a pleasant return visit to St Paul's School in Shepton Mallet.

Monday, November 01, 2010

Half Term and a Half.

A very early publicity shot of The Human League in concert in some God awful dump in Sheffield, probably.

It's been half term, of course, and quite a fun one for me. I have had James with me for most of the week, which is always fun, and he has been a little angel this week. I drove up to Essex at the beginning of the week to pick him up, and took advantage of being in that locale on the Saturday night to meet up with an old friend, which was great! On the Monday morning, Amanda and I took James to Brentwood and the group he attends called SNAP! (SNAP stands for Special Needs and Parents and is a wonderful resource for parents who have children with special needs, whatever their situation). James normally goes over there for a right old run around and play, but on the Monday they had a photographer in and we wanted to get some new snaps (if you'll pardon the pun) of him. They looked great. After lunch James and I drove down to Somerset for the rest of the week. We had a great time and James enjoyed visiting a lot of his old favourite places - Barrington Court, Bilby's in Ilminster to see Tris, I took him up to Street to get him some shoes and he had a lovely time having a go on a mock rock climbing frame, shooting up over 20 feet in no time at all, despite just getting over a sprained ankle. My parents came to stay on the Thursday as they wanted to visit Lawrence's Auction Room in Crewkerne where I was selling some stuff for them. In the evening on the Thursday we went over to the Royal Oak at Barrington for dinner. Now in a previous posting on this blog I reported on the death of this pub, and it has for the last few years been run into the ground by various disinterested managers etc. It has now most recently been occupied by two Australian gents called Graham and Tony, and the place has just come alive again. Both these gents are great characters and are as camp as a row of pink tents. An example for you is this - on their menu none of the dishes are just called "Steak and Chips" or "Lasagne", each and every item is named after someone famous. For instance you can order a "Bill Clinton" which is a large burger, with loose meat, and a bit on the side. And for the vegetarians, you could ask for a Monica Lewinsky, which is predictably, the bit on the side.
Mum and Dad curtailed their brief visit and headed back to Wales on the Friday. James and I went into Yeovil where I bought James the Lego Harry Potter game for his Wii console I had promised him. He was overjoyed. We also went to James' favourite restaurant in the world - Pizza Hut. He doesn't like pizza of course, but he loves their spaghetti bolognese and would mud wrestle his own Nanna for a go on their ice cream machine. I went for the buffet option on this day and was amazed to see some of the most gluttonous behaviour I have ever seen, and it wasn't me! I went up to the hot plate when some pizzas were brought out, and was practically elbowed out of the way by two pensionable age women who proceeded to stack up slice after slice of pizza on their two plates. They must have had 8 or 9 huge slices on each plate, which if you have ever experienced a lunchtime buffet at Pizza Hut and have seen the tiny size of plate they give you, you will know is an engineering feat of Brunelian proportions. When they stepped away from the hot plate, like two wizened vultures having a break from a zebra carcass, there were two slices of pizza left. So I had them. I watched where they went back to sit, and I thought, fair enough they have two teenage girls with them and a primary school age boy. However, the girls and the boy were going up to help themselves as well! All that pizza was just for themselves! Greedy old cows!
I drove James back to Essex on Saturday, had an evening with him and Amanda, and then came home on the Sunday, but even then the oddness of the week wasn't over. I stopped for petrol at a station on the A13 leading down to the Dartford Crossing. As I was coming out of the shop with a bag of sandwiches and some drink I heard someone calling me.
"Oi! Oi you!" I looked round. The voice came again. "Oi!" I looked to see a sort of Chris Moyles-ish looking bloke sitting in a big silver Range Rover with one window down calling to me. "Get back in that shop!" he shouted. Eh? I looked at him blankly.
"Pardon?" I asked.
"If you're going to do that, get back in the shop!" He shouted again. I was completely non-plussed by now.
"Are you talking to me?" I asked. He pointed a finger now.
"Put that cigarette out!" He barked. Christ, what a loony. No fag on the go with me folks.
"I'm not bloody smoking!" I shouted. He made direct eye contact with me.
"Oh, sorry Sir!" He said "Not you, but that prat there!" he pointed to the drivers side of the BMW parked between me and him. "If you want to blow yourself up, Sir, do it somewhere by yourself and don't take innocent people with you!" It turned out the tattooed troglodyte in the BMW was only sitting on the forecourt of a big petrol station smoking a fag with the window open. As I drove away up the A13 I kept a check on my rear view mirror for signs of a mushroom cloud rising over the Stanford Le Hope by pass. Not a sausage.
Sunday evening I went back to the David Hall Centre in South Petherton for their open Mic night, but I hadn't prepared anything, so despite some very generous invites to go up and do some stand up, I reluctantly declined. It was a good evening, but seemed to lack the excitement of the previous month, possibly having something to do with the fact I wasn't as nervous as hell and about to go on stage!
A busy week ahead - Bristol tomorrow, Shepton Mallet on Wednesday, Dunster on Thursday and Chard on Friday. Should be fun!

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Leeds Castle & Taverham in Norfolk

The Maiden's Tower where Henry VIII locked up Catherine of Aragon's ladies in waiting. And yes, I said LOCKED up.

I was back in a familiar place with a new look about it. Leeds Castle had contacted me and wanted to know if I was available to attend the re-launch of their re-vamped and freshly overhauled Maiden's Tower. The last time I had properly been in the Maiden's Tower was when I did Henry's Horrid History back in 2007. Back then it was a cold slightly dingy old place with only two rooms worthy of being shown to visitors. Upstairs, where I had to go and get changed during the shows, was even worse with parts of the floor missing and a general air of decay and dereliction. I was interested to see what they had done with the old place. I drove to Kent the day before and spent a very nice afternoon and evening with my sister Cathy and her husband Julian, before heading over to the Castle early afternoon the next day.
Once changed and in the building I was stunned. It was just amazing, particularly upstairs which had changed beyond recognition. Instead of decay and broken floors, there were now sumptuous bedrooms, each and everyone with a beautiful en suite bathroom. Downstairs were two huge function rooms and downstairs below that was a fully fitted professional kitchen. Out the back where a slightly manky old swimming pool used to be, there was now a beautifully secluded garden with terraces and patios. Lovely. A film crew from Kent Business TV (or something like that) roamed around filming everyone. I did a few pieces with them including a scene where I demanded the female presenter brought me some wine. The segueway safari people were there again, but once more I refused to stand on one. Too dodgy looking by far! Davey the Jester had been booked as well, along with a fire breather friend of his, so we all prepared ourselves for the onslaught of invited guests. But not many appeared. Of the 200+ invited, about 75 had replied, 50 had intimated they were coming and in the end about 30 turned up. It was OK, we had some fun and everyone who saw the new refurbished Tower were hugely impressed, so it was a case of job done.
I drove up to Essex after the show and was then up and early for a drive to Taverham in Norfolk for a return visit to the school there. I always forget just what a lovely school this is. It is just delightful! The teachers are universally friendly, chatty and welcoming, the large group of children (about 140 I would guess) are fun, full of laughter and this year, in amazing Tudor costumes. We had a fun, slightly truncated morning due to an over running assembly, but when we finally got going it was one of the best shows I have had this academic year so far. Lunch was lovely - fish and chips, followed by a lovely moist flapjack, then it was back in the hall for what turned out to be a deafening jousting tournament. It went down to the wire with a dead heat finish between the gents and ladies in the final. So we went for the "penalty shoot out" option and.... the gentlemen won AGAIN! They just can't stop winning this year. This makes our score now:
A scoreline to make all old timers think of Wembley 1953 and Puskas and co.
I am now with my son for most of the half term, but will be back on parade as Henry after half term with a first ever show at Elmlea Junior in Bristol. See you then!

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Riverside Junior, Hereford and a quiz...

Good King Hal (left), trying to flog some second hand stocks to an innocent Visitor Services Manager at Barrington Court. This was shortly before the aforementioned VSM tried to drink all world stocks of Burrow Hill Cider in one evening and fell asleep on his sofa.

Hereford. Do you know how the city of Hereford got it's name? Apparently it comes from where people would ford the river and a place was put on maps actually saying "you can ford here", which became "Here Ford". Hereford! What a mine of useless information I am sometimes. The last time I had been in Hereford was back in 2003, just after I had left Skandia Life in Southampton, and just before I embarked upon a year of stifling boredom at Debenhams in Taunton. Amanda, James and I had holidayed just outside Hereford staying in a big old half timbered house along with my parents, my sister Cathy and her husband Julian, and Julian's brother Ged, his wife Mimi and their son Elliot. We had a lovely holiday, but rather worryingly I simply cannot remember the name of the place we stayed, so if anyone who was on that holiday can remember, can you remind me and let me know!
I was visiting a school today called Riverside Junior, summoned there by the lovely Emma Shearer, formerly of Coalway Junior in Coleford in Gloucestershire. It was lovely to see her again and in such a wonderful school. Brand Harry Spankers (i.e. new) as they say and still not completely finished. It will be hugely impressive when done. The children were a group of about 50+, year 4's, a bit quiet and reticent to begin with, but got more confident and lively as the day progressed. A good morning was followed by a lively lunch in the staff room with some hilarious teachers - great fun. In the afternoon a rip roaring Jousting finale saw yet another victory for the Gents! They really are an improvement on last year! This now makes the score:


Emma had very graciously allowed me to finish half an hour early today as it is a two hour drive back to Somerset from Hereford, and in the evening it was time for the 4th Annual National Trust South Somerset Pub Quiz. Once again I was host for the evening and question setter. Which is a bit like a red setter, only slightly less slobbery. For a change this year, instead of at the pub (which was booked) we had the evening in the restaurant at Barrington Court. At first it seemed like hardly anyone was going to turn up, but eventually a number of people arrived and we ended up with four teams ranging in sizes from 4 in one side up to 7 in another. It was great fun and was won by a team helped, or possibly hindered, by Graham from Montacute House.
After the quiz when all the other groups had cleared off, a hardcore of Barrington-ites hung around drinking cider and having some laughs. It was great fun, Matthew Applegate was on such good form that he ended up sleeping on the sofa that evening, apparently, but it was also nice to see the lovely Rachel Brewer, her charming other half Anthony, and their friend, the deeply wonderful Sarah from Dorset. What a nice evening!
Right, I am off to Kent now for a corporate do at Leeds Castle tomorrow and then up to Taverham in Norfolk on Friday for a return visit to that lovely school.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Wimbledon Chase School

Good King Hal, after hearing you should feed a cold, enjoys a bijou snackette. What a ham.

Why is it, whenever a man gets a cold, whether he moans or not, the level of sympathy from most women is of the "oh, man-flu, huh!" sort? I came down with a real stinker of a cold on Monday halfway through the show I was doing at Billericay. On the Tuesday and Wednesday I really did feel like death warmed up, and did I moan extensively? I did not. What comments did I get from most of my female friends? "Oh, man-flu, huh! You wuss!" etc. Now sticking the boot on the other foot, a friend of mine (female) was moaning on Facebook about how bad her cold was, how ill she felt etc., and I was very tempted to say "next you'll be telling me you're talking absolute rubbish and have an inability to park a car in a limited space, then you'll know you have full blown bird 'flu..." But being the stunningly restrained gentleman that I am , I kept that all to myself.
Now,where was I? Oh yes, Wimbledon. The last time I had been in Wimbledon for any length of time was back in the early 90's when I spent a couple of Christmas' working on a Christian Radio Station there called "Radio Cracker". Now, as most of you know I am the most heathen, un-Godly barbarian you could possibly meet and was only working there to get some radio experience. It was mostly good fun, but I found the station's rules on what you could or couldn't play somewhat limiting, but it was always fun seeing what you could get away with. So first night on air I played some Led Zeppelin - that immediately disappeared out of the station's music library, so then I tried Billy Bragg's "Sexuality" - I actually managed to play that twice on different shows until one of the station manager's read the lyrics - so that vanished from the music library. My greatest coup de grace though was playing a song called "Satellite" by American band The Hooters on nearly all of my shows, even though it satirises TV evangelists in America and the lyrics aren't even that subtle! But I digress...
I was invited to appear down at Wimbledon Chase School by Angela Dumont, one of the teachers there. She had heard about me as her daughter is a pupil at St Cecillia's Primary in Sutton where I visit quite regularly. Her daughter had apparently given me a glowing report to her mother, and hence I got this particular booking. Wimbledon Chase is a pretty big school and is about to get even bigger. But despite it's size it is warm, welcoming and the teachers are all delightful. I was to do the show in the big school hall which has a high almost vaulted ceiling, and wonderfully dark wood panelled walls. The group of children numbered just under 60 and were all Year 6's. They were bright, sparky and ready to learn and laugh in equal measure which always makes my life easier. Lunch was taken in a packed staff room and consisted of delicious sweet and sour chicken. For the afternoon we had even more fun, loads of laughter and a brilliant jousting tournament which a very competent ladies team won by a mile! This now makes the year long score:
In the words of Barry Davies "interesting! Very interesting!" I drove back to Somerset and a very cold flat, but soon had the heating on and felt a lot better. I cooked a pad Thai dinner and suddenly life seemed very nice indeed.
Next week I am in Hereford on Tuesday during the day and then will be back at Barrington on that evening for the National Trust Annual Pub Quiz. And as for the exciting BBC news I mentioned in a recent blog entry.... well on November 19th I will be appearing down at Leeds Castle as part of BBC1's coverage of their annual Children in Need Appeal, which will hopefully involve some parts of that show being broadcast nationwide. Keep an eye out for me!

Monday, October 11, 2010

South Green Junior, Billericay

Hooray for Hollywood! These new letters, by the A127 welcoming you to Basildon can be seen from as far away as 30, even 40 feet.

Back in the south east for a few days, so it was ideal to spend some time with my lovely son. I drove up on Friday evening, not leaving Somerset until about 8.30pm which meant I reached the hallowed grounds of Basildon at about 11.30pm. It was a wise choice as the roads were virtually empty and made my journey very easy. I had a lovely weekend with my boy, taking him out for fun and games, and also helping him with his homework on Sunday evening where he showed just how much he has come on at school recently by whizzing through his maths sums homework. Bless him!
Monday found me back at one of my old stamping grounds - Billericay! I lived in Billericay for a year back in 1993, living in a house belonging to an acquaintance of mine from the local pub. The house had been his Mother's but had been standing empty for at least two years since she died, so I moved in with plans to bring the house back up to speed so to speak. When I first moved in I was horrified to find that the owners seemed to have locked the front door on leaving two years ago and had not been back since. There were simply piles of dead insects round all the windows, the freezer was still running and was one huge block of ice with food packets suspended in it like some kind of cryogenics experiment, but worst of all, on one of my first nights at the house I decided to grill myself some bacon. I turned on the oven and switched on the grill, there was immediately a bizarre smell filling the house. I looked under the grill and there, placed carefully across the grill pan were 12 sausage rolls, virtually fossilised and with a light covering of dust over them. GROSS!
The thought of all that hadn't even crossed my mind for many years, but here I was back in old Billericay at the lovely South Green Junior School for my 4th annual visit. It was great to be back and see so many familiar faces. We had a great day with a really excitable bunch of Year 6's. There was much fun and laughter and the morning seemed to just zap along. The only drag factor was my ever burgeoning head cold. It had come along this morning and really had it's claws into my by the afternoon session. I felt like death warmed up, but kept the show going at a good pace. The jousting was of a very high standard and once again the Gentlemen triumphed. What on Earth is going on???? This now makes our year long score:
So very different from last year. The ladies have another chance to pull the score back a bit on Thursday when I am Wimbledon Chase School Wimbledon. This will be my first visit there, so fingers crossed it will be a good one!

Thursday, October 07, 2010

Dean Close Prep, Cheltenham

Good King Hal discussing his new contract at Barrington Court with a thrilled Matthew Applegate.

I had a lovely chat with an old friend on Facebook last night and went to bed relatively early with a spring in my step and a smile on my face. I knew I had to be up early in the morning for my trip up to Cheltenham, but being in such a good frame of mind that shouldn't be a problem, should it? Wrong. I could NOT get to sleep! But luckily I am now the proud owner of the nearly famous "Coma Chair". This is a lovely big squashy armchair that I purchased virtually brand new from a charity shop in Yeovil earlier this year. It is so comfy that unfortunately whenever I sit in it to watch a film or something I invariably fall fast asleep and wake up as either the titles are going up at the end, or at about 3am in the morning - hence the name "The Coma Chair". So after a few hours fruitless trying to sleep I gave in, abandoned my bed and stomped off to my front room with my duvet and an appointment with "The Coma Chair". And it worked! Within about 10 minutes I was asleep!
This morning I was up bright and early...oh alright...early, and out the door and off towards Cheltenham. And the journey was relatively trouble free, sorry, no mad annoying BMW drivers this time. However, to Cyberkim, one of the followers of this blog, I love the idea of having a Land Rover Defender, but feel I would actually need to be as rich as the real Henry VIII to afford the fuel bills for driving it round the country!
Dean Close Prep is another of my long term regular schools, a bit like the recent visits to Blean and St Cecillia's. I have been coming up to this nice private school in Cheltenham for about 6 years now and it is still a pleasure. Great bunch of kids again today, nice friendly teachers as ever and a great lunch and chat with the school's new verger to the Chaplain. One little girl didn't want to come in first thing in the morning - she made this clear by screaming and hiding outside the hall. Apparently she is terrified of anyone dressed up and had been like this with clowns, a Viking visit to the school, and now me! So I was in good company! Eventually she was persuaded inside the hall and spent the first hour of the show clamped to the arm of a female teacher at the back of the hall. I must have been doing something good as by the end of the day she was jousting with the rest of the group and even came up to me as I was packing away at the close of the show and thanked me for a fun day! What a change. The jousting was good again, very noisy and exciting and culminated in another win for....................... the gents! This now makes our year long score:
Interesting. The next Henry show is this Monday at South Green in Billericay in Essex. See you there. Also, watch out for some possibly very exciting news coming soon regarding Good King Hal and... BBC TV. I shall tell more as and when I know it!

Wednesday, October 06, 2010

St Cecillia's RC School, North Cheam

Good King Hal (right) showing what a rufty-tufty little sausage he is by simply laughing away being run through the shoulder with a bloody big lance. Mind you, he cried like a big girly when they tried to pull it through from the other side...

It seems there was something about my Mazda car that I didn't realise. Apparently on the bonnet, as you are driving along on the motorway, there is a big neon sign that says "go on, it's only a Mazda, it can't be going as fast as it seems to be, pull out in front of it without signalling, you'll be alright!", and it is only visible to BMW drivers. It happened about eight bloody times up the M3 and also during my brief drive along the M25 yesterday. One woman in a dirty big five-series BMW did it to me TWICE. I had been overtaking her and she had pulled out without signalling, causing me to brake sharply and offer her some choice advice on her parentage. After stopping for fuel at Fleet Services I carried on up the road only for the same stupid cow to do it again! I wish I was rich enough to be a motor car version of the Sea Shepherd (radical environmentalist who attacks Japanese whaling ships). I'd get some harmless looking vehicle, a Morris Traveller or something, I'd beef up the front of the car with about a ton of pre-stressed concrete, pop a Saturn V rocket engine under the bonnet and then target arrogant BMW drivers, which basically covers pretty much all of them. Every time one of the smug gits pulls out in front of me I can simply stick my toe down and slice their teutonic bourge-mobiles in half. Oh, the power! There, I feel better now...
Back to the Henry day... This was, like Blean School the other week, my SEVENTH visit to St Cecillia's RC School in North Cheam, Sutton in Surrey. I had got up at 4am and was on the road with the jolly BMW drivers by 4.30am. I arrived at the school at about 7am and was welcomed in by the friendly caretaker with a very much needed cup of tea. It was another great day at this lovely school - the children were all dressed in brilliant costumes, as were the teachers and teaching assistants. Everything about the day was good, with only one slight change of plan for the afternoon. I had been contacted the day before to be told that the year group I was seeing (Year 4) were due for a visit from a Gaelic Football Teacher in the afternoon and would be going off for a lesson with him. So I would be running the jousting tournament twice as at any one time one half of the year group would be with me, whilst the other half would be off being taught Gaelic Football. I wasn't sure how you teach Gaelic Football. "KICK IT FURTHER!" "RUN!" "HURT HIM!" "DON'T PUNCH HIM LIKE THAT, PUNCH HIM LIKE THAT!" Mind you, you could say the same about me making them take part in a jousting tournament.
The jousts were both very loud and very exciting and were both won by... THE LADIES! This now makes our score:
All square again. The next tournament will be tomorrow when I am up at Dean Close Prep School in Cheltenham again.

Monday, October 04, 2010

Whoa There, Pickle! Chutfest 2010...

Good King Hal (left), singing "I'm a Barbie Girl" to a room full of astonished Japanese tourists. Final score: 23 arrests, 2 falls and 1 submission. And now, here's Carol Kirkwood with the weather. Carol?

Chutfest! Ah, the very name almost sings to you, doesn't it? CHUTFEST! More chutney and pickle than you can shake a stick at. Mind you, who'd want to shake a stick at some chutney? Still, whatever gets you through the night.
Barrington Court's annual Chutney Festival began last year in what was assumed would be a fairly modest way, but it seems the National Trust and Matthew Applegate, for this is really his baby, had totally underestimated the great British public's desire and love of all things pickley. Last year had been a complete sell out with over-flowing car parks and queues of people trying to get in to the library where you could swap your chutneys. (Which sounds like a euphemism, so let's not dwell on that). Well, all of a sudden it was one year on and time for ChutFest 2010, and King Henry was back...
It wasn't to be the smoothest of starts for the King, oh no. I got up fairly early on the Saturday morning and decided to have a nice leisurely brekkie. I began munching my way through a nice slice of toast, when for some reason best known only to my body, I managed to bite a chunk out of my own tongue. Now if you have ever done this you will know exactly how painful it is, how much blood can suddenly appear as if from nowhere, and how it will leave you talking like Jamie-sodding-Oliver for the next few days. Well, it can't get any worse than that, can it? Funnily enough... I was putting my gear together for the two days of the show when I suddenly realised my shoes were split in several different places. So when I really should have been on my way to Barrington and getting ready for the show I instead found myself in Stuart Marsh Shoes in Crewkerne trying to decide which of their admittedly HUGE selection of slippers, looked most Tudor-ish.
The first day of the festival was just like last year - packed! Some of the food and drinks on display were gorgeous. There was the smokery people from Honiton again, tables and tables of home made pickles and chutneys, cakes, sausages, bacon, and of course the delightful Rachel Brewer and her Barrington Cider, helped out as ever by the equally lovely Sarah. There was a very pleasant and chatty chap who had a load of fresh vegetables on his large outside stall, but his chat was somewhat random. He just seemed to start talking about whatever was on his mind at the time and would continue endlessly until really the only way to stop him was to just walk away.
A new venture this year was to have a "Chutney of the Year" competition which was won by a local lady called Teresa Udall with her date and apple chutney, utilising a recipe handed down from her great grandmother. For this she won an engraved trophy in the shape of a copper chutney pan presented by Tracklement's Pickles, this she will hold for a year but must then come back and try and win it again in 2011. She will also visit Tracklement's factory and they will make up her recipe as a limited edition chutney to purchase from them.
On the Sunday, it was much quieter. The horrific early morning weather seemed to keep many people away and it was only as the afternoon progressed that the public began turning up in any significant numbers. My friends Thomas Hammill and his other half Katherine turned out, which was nice to see and more fun was seemed to be had by everyone.
Sunday was also Matthew Applegate's birthday, which for some reason he didn't want any one to know about, so of course we all clubbed together and bought him a card and some cakes, and would sing "Happy Birthday" to him at the drop of a hat. He deserved to be praised. The amount of work he and his assistant Tamsin put in getting the Chutfest together was unbelievable and they get so little recognition and thanks from the powers that be at the National Trust. So I shall do it here! Good work chaps
Henry is back off to St Cecillia's School in Sutton tomorrow for another visit! So time to set the alarm for an early start...

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

A Comedy Memory From the Past...

Good King Hal in September 2005 working for the BBC at Trafalgar Square and wondering where all the cameras have gone. This man got kissed by Cherie Lunghi you know.

I was on national radio today. I was. But if you had sneezed loudly you would probably have missed it. I was driving over to Chard in Somerset whilst listening to Radio 5 Live, and Victoria Derbyshire was doing an item about the "mid-life crisis" and had you done anything a bit strange at or about your late 30's early 40's. I texted the show that I had quit my job at the age of 37 and had become a full time professional Henry VIII instead and had been doing it ever since. The BBC phoned back immediately - would I like to go on air and be interviewed by Victoria? Does the Pope have a balcony? So at 20 to midday I was called back again and told I would be on air shortly. At three minutes to twelve, Victoria finally came to me, asked me one question, listened to my answer and went off on something else. I was on air for a total of about 20 seconds. A little anonymous BBC voice then said "thanks Mike" and I was cut off. As I sat in my car muttering a few choice oaths, it suddenly reminded me of a previous encounter with the BBC back in 2005 when I was asked to appear on the "Rolf on Art" TV show from Trafalgar Square. Back in those days I wasn't doing a blog, but I wrote up my experiences of the day as an email to send to a friend, and I was so happy with what I wrote I kept it. And as that nice Jennie Towan lady in Australia keeps telling all her friends how funny my blog is I thought I had better try and prove it. So for the first time, with a few names changed to protect the innocent, is my full write up of my experiences of working for the BBC back in 2005. Let me know if you enjoy it!
ROLF ON ART – The Chilling Truth

I had been asked by the BBC to take part in a programme called “Rolf on Art – The Big Event” where everyone’s favourite antipodean wobble board wrangler would be re-creating a long lost portrait of Henry VIIIth by Hans Holbein as a massive 10 metre high collection of canvasses by separate artists. I arrived at Trafalgar Square at about 9.15am, thrown from a speeding car being driven by my father (God bless him). The only thing I knew was that I had to be at the Trafalgar Hilton Hotel for about 9.30-ish. I had been informed by my BBC contact that it was “the opposite end of the square from Canada House”. I, and my Henry costume in its inordinately heavy case, trundled across a rapidly filling Trafalgar Square away from Canada House. Not a sign of a Hilton Hotel. Asked a man who was sweeping a paving stone with all the zeal and gusto of a bereaved sloth on mogadons where my hotel was and he informed me it was “on the uvva side”. So I went to the uvva side and there it was.

As I was being ushered inside by a large security guard and Anna (My BBC person), I suddenly realised I had a large grinning lummox with me. To my horror he turned out to be another Henry. 6’5” and built like a brick shithouse, he had a beard but no other discernible likeness to Henry the VIIIth. He also had all the personality of a sunken trawler. The two Henrys were brought inside and whisked upstairs in a flash lift to the BBC nerve centre, which consisted of a “green room” with platefuls of biscuits and muffins, bottles of mineral water, Coca Cola and 7up, and constantly brewing tea and coffee. We had to wait as the other Henry (another one?) was already getting changed in the solitary dressing room available. The door to this room suddenly opened and John Culshaw from “Dead Ringers” walked in, said “hello”, grabbed a cup of coffee and a muffin and disappeared again. That’s the sort of thing you can do when you’re famous I suppose.

Finally the other Henry had finished and was brought in to meet us. His name was Bob; he was from “Lancasheeeer” and was about 107 years old. Henry Lummox and I were ushered into the changing room and asked whether we minded sharing. I’d show him mine if he showed me his. (Henry costume that is of course). I was in my costume in my customary 10 minutes, but Lummox was struggling a little. I went back into the green room where Bob and his ugly wife were sitting.
“’Ere!” Shouts Bob, in that gratingly annoying Lancashire drawl. “You got yer codpiece on oopside down!” I automatically looked down, but all was in fine working order. “Made him luke! Didn’t I? Eh? HUR HUR HUR!” Chortled Bob. What a fun chap he was going to be. How I hoped that any suicide attack on Trafalgar Square that day would get him. Finally all Henrys were assembled and ready for action. We had to go down to the foyer of the hotel and await a final briefing from the Producer. We went downstairs and waited and waited. We waited sitting down and we waited standing up, which is pretty much the same only higher. After several more waits we were informed by another BBC person that he was not available. What he was going to brief us on, God alone knows, as far as I knew all we had to do was walk around and look Tudor. If a cameraman shouted “OI! COME HERE!” we would respond.

Once out in the square I was informed by one of the production assistants that Rolf Harris would be doing a filming section shortly in a tent nearby and could I encourage some kids to go and join him. Now normally wearing tights in Trafalgar Square and encouraging small children into tents with elderly Australians is the kind of behaviour to get you on the sex offenders register – but now I was being encouraged into that sort of thing by the BBC. So I started wandering round doing my usual Henry nonsense – booming out to kids and parents alike. But wherever I went, the Lummox kept following me. It was like he was scared to go off by himself. Now I could see his costume in the daylight, no wonder he was a little ashamed. It looked like he had simply got drunk and fallen into his grandmother’s wardrobe. Added to which, his hat (bright orange) was starting to leak colour and run down his forehead making him look like a slowly melting sorbet.

Eventually the BBC producer caught up with us. Bob from “Lancasheeeer” was offered a young and impressionable BBC researcher dressed up as Anne Boleyn to follow him around. The Lummox was told he would be taken down to the Embankment with a film crew to meet Claire Sweeney as she stepped off a Tudor barge with some more canvasses for the giant portrait. And me? Well…they would think of something. Eventually I was asked to go into a tent where a mixture of celebs and ordinary Joe’s were painting frantically at various canvasses. I was asked by the camera operator to wander round and interview various artists. First I got shoved in front of a woman doing a collage painting of various brown lumpy things. I started talking to her on camera and it began to dawn on me that I knew her from somewhere. I finally twigged that it was Maggie Philbin, late of Tomorrow’s World and Keith Chegwin’s bedroom. Nice person. Next up was some kids and then Bill Oddie. As soon as I approached, the hirsute Goodie began hollering and screaming about how awful Henry the VIIIth was making him do his canvas of the carpet. This is a tactic he obviously uses with most members of the public and it probably usually works as they would feel a mixture of terror and annoyance and so therefore clam up. Not me. I gave as good as I got, until after one particularly saucy gag about Anne of Cleves and an upright Dyson stumped the shortarsed twitcher into silence and brought guffaws from the crew. He shook my hand and everyone seemed happy. “That’ll be used” I thought. HA! Then I had to interview Sarah Greene late of Blue Peter and have a quick gawp at (wait for it) Cherie Lunghi (ARGH! QUICK! NURSE! THE SCREENS!) before being dragged over to shout at the children again.

For the next few hours I plodded around Trafalgar Square being photographed endlessly by people from countries including Libya, USA, Poland, Portugal, Israel, Spain, Germany, Estonia, Latvia, India, Colombia, Australia, New Zealand, Mexico, Sweden, Finland, and even the odd one or two from England, Scotland, Wales and Ireland. After meeting all these people I have decided to move to the Ukraine. They may have dodgy nuclear reactors that occasionally drop a cog or two, but by God the women are stunning. Until that is, they reach 40 and turn into an unfortunate cross between a turnip and a tractor.

Lunch was pleasant as I could sit quietly in the air conditioned luxury of the Hilton restaurant next to Rolf Harris and his wife, before being yanked back to my feet and cattle prodded back to the Square and my life as a photographic study. The orchestra had turned up on the big stage by now and were scraping their way through various mood music moments and a seemingly endless repetition of “I’m Henry the 8th I am”, to the extent that grown men would have chewed their own arms off rather than have to hear it again. Millions more photos of me grinning into a million different cameras, which will no doubt horrify and bore relatives in countries around the world for years to come, are taken. Rolf Harris then bounded on to the stage and the entire programme was run through as a rehearsal. Wow.

Suddenly the heavens opened and a downpour of near biblical proportions threatened the entire day. Trying desperately to stop my expensive costume getting soaked I dived headlong into one of the tents full of celebs as a tiny little BBC person tried to hold me back. It was like watching a meerkat try and stop a wildebeest. And there was Cherie Lunghi again. (ARGH! MORE COLD COMPRESSES NURSE!). By now though my feet were like two plates of well chopped steak and I had almost had enough for the day – and it was still an hour before the show went “live” at 5.45pm. Anna, my dear little BBC helper found me and near carried me back to the hospitality tent next to Nelson’s Column. We sat on a bench together drinking free BBC tea and complained about sore feet. Cherie Lunghi walked in so I immediately dropped to the floor and began showing her how many press ups I could do. After just one and lots of screaming I gave up. Suddenly we were commanded back into the Square and told we were about to go “live”. And we did.

Well, if you saw the programme you know what happened next. Lots of pre-filmed bits of Bob from Lancasheeeer, a load of Lummox on the bus with Claire Sweeney, looking about as much like Henry VIIIth as Mother Theresa did, and two seconds of footage of me shouting at some terrified looking children. Of the Bill Oddie and Maggie Philbin interviews – nuffink! More of the Lummox speaking like a broken “speak your weight” machine to Claire Sweeney, a big hoo-har of putting the painting together, Rolf leading a rousing chorus of “I’m Henry the 8th I Am” and that was it. Just as I was contemplating suicide, I was approached by two photographers, one from the Evening Standard and one from Associated Press. Would I be interested in doing some shots on the stage in front of the finished portrait? As long as I could keep my tights on I was all theirs. So, happy in the knowledge that I was at least getting one over on the Lummox and Bob from Lancasheeeer, I happily grimaced and gurned my way through about 30 shots with the press. GREAT! I WOULD get national exposure from this day if it killed me!

Just as I was about to leave the stage I heard a call.
“Oi, Henry! OI!” I looked across. There was a man of about 60, smothered in tattoos and wearing an F.C.U.K shirt and leaning heavily against the security crash barrier.
“Yes?” I answered. As I moved across the stage to get closer to him, I could smell the booze. Even though he was at least 12 feet from me and behind loads of metal barriers you could almost taste the alcohol fumes from him. He had obviously had a hard day.
“Is that the best painting Rolf could come up wiv, den?” He spittled, pointing at the massive picture behind me.
“Er…yes, what’s wrong with it?”
“Well he’s painted one shoe white and the other one green.” I looked round. True, the shoes were of a slightly different hue, but then they had been painted by separate artists on separate canvasses. “All he’s done is made it look like Henry has pissed on one shoe. What are you gonna do about that then?” He demanded, and then laughed as though he had just said the wittiest bon motte since Oscar Wilde’s days. He was a big bloke, but he was behind several tons of crash barriers and BBC security staff. So I went for it.
“Are you a professional comedian by any chance?” I enquired sweetly.
“Yeah, I am as it goes.” He lied.
“You’ll f****** starve then.” He started shouting at me, but I was tired and already on my way out through the “celebs” exit.

Of course you can’t get back to the hotel dressed as Henry without something occurring and of course I was set upon by hundreds more tourists. I finally got to the door of the hotel when I was hauled back by a group of elderly reptilian looking American ladies. I had to pose in the middle of the scrum and look happy. My smile must have appeared cracked. I had been on my feet for nearly 11 hours now.
“Your smile looks a little forced Henry!” Shouted the dozy, face-lifted, vacuous-brained harridan with the camera. They all cackled like senile chickens.
“That’s because it is!” I said and hitched the smile up further.

Inside the hotel there was pounding dance music coming from the after show party in the bar. But there was Cherie Lunghi! ARGH! I had to say something. What? “I liked your hair in Excalibur?” “Do you really drink Kenco coffee?” Er… I walked up to her and she curtsied elegantly.
“My Lord” she said. Of course, I was still dressed as a mock Tudor pillock. I bowed in return. Now to say something devastating.
“Er… You’re beautiful” I said. That was the best I could come up with??? She smiled, kissed my cheek and chalked me up as a basket case.

I changed back in the dressing room and staggered down to the bar with the costume in its suitcase. I had a drink with Anna, Bob from Lancasheeeer, his wife and the Lummox, who for some reason didn’t want to change out of his vile orange outfit. It was all free from the BBC – gallons of red and white wine, so I swallowed my pride, and then a lot of the red wine. I had phoned my father and he and my wife were on their way to get me. One over paid BBC twit o/d’s on the booze and ends up losing his deposit over a table, before being hauled out by leviathan-like bouncers who escort him off the premises. I go to leave. There is Rolf again. I have a nice long chat with him. He is such a genuinely nice guy. What you see on TV is what you get. Instantly likable and unforgettable. Then there is John Culshaw again. I have a long chat with him. Another lovely bloke, remarkably modest about all that he does. Then there is Cherie again. Oh heck, I’ll have another bash. I introduce myself again, just in case she cannot see that this enormous ginger monster swaying in front of her is the same enormous ginger monster in the Tudor robes about an hour previously. She is delightful, says how wonderful my costume is and gives me yet another peck on the cheek. I retire to pour a soda siphon down my trousers to extinguish the flames. I go outside and an extremely drunk Bill Oddie is trying to dial a lift from his mobile phone and constantly dropping it on the pavement. I shake his hand and we have another chat. Suddenly a loud mouth walks past.
“Don’t talk to him about the Goodies, he gets angry” shouts the loud mouth. Bill offers him some advice about spatial positioning and procreation. I chip in with:
“I wasn’t going to mention the Goodies. I was going to mention the ‘Saturday Banana’.” This was a kids TV programme Bill did back in the 70’s.
“Oh God…” He sighs. “I’d forgotten that.”
“It was good” I insist “You had good bands on it, like XTC.” He smiles, nods a drunken nostalgic nod, drops his mobile for the 15th time, shakes my hand and off I go into the London night. By the time the car comes for me, I am nearly asleep sitting on my suitcase in Northumberland Avenue. I shall never look at it the same way again on a Monopoly board.

I bought all the national newspapers the following day, AND the Evening Standard. I wasn’t in any of them. I think the phrase rhymes with “row locks”.
There - all finished. Hope you liked it!