Friday, February 26, 2010

Coalway Junior, Coleford and Many Happy Returns!

Good King Hal about to get his robes caught in a piece of fearsome looking farm machinery. (left)

The alarm went off at 5am. Not again! It would have been very, very easy just to turn it off and slip back into the arms of sleep - I had to really make myself get up on Thursday morning. The drive up to Coleford in the Forest of Dean is nearly always a pleasurable one as you travel through some wonderful countryside once you have escaped from the M5. I have been visiting Coalway Junior for the past five years, and Thursday it was my sixth visit to this wonderful place. It is almost like returning to a family with each visit as there are so many friendly welcoming faces. You have not in your entire life heard such a loud, funny, laughter filled staff room! And the children are pretty cool too. We had a lovely day, with plenty of laughs in the morning and the children really displaying a fine level of Tudor knowledge. Some of their designs for their coats of arms were staggeringly good!
After a nice tuna baguette and salad at lunchtime it was back into the main hall for more of the same silliness. Despite frequent interruptions from children going into the canteen for music lessons on a loud piano, everything went swimmingly. The jousting tournament was again of a quite brilliantly high standard. Two fine teams went head to head in the final, and after a poor start the gents pulled themselves into a slight lead, only for them to be reigned in by a quite fabulous ladies team who stormed to victory. Wonderful stuff. This now makes the score:
The ladies are starting to pull away again now. Come on Gents!
At home I treated myself to a venison steak for dinner, which was delicious. So what was the cause of this gluttonous levity? Well, today is February 26th and is my 43rd birthday! So I am celebrating this morning with a banana and strawberry smoothie, and I am now expanding my mind by watching The Jeremy Kyle Show. I know how to enjoy myself! Dinner tomorrow night with a load of friends and family to look forward to, at the Duke of York pub in Shepton Beauchamp. Lovely!

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Birchfield Junior, Yeovil

A huge ancient monument. And behind him, a big old wall.

Today was meant to be the first day of filming on the long anticipated TV documentary being made about me and my silly job as Henry VIII. I had enquired if Birchfield Junior in Yeovil had minded being filmed with me, and they were really up for it. I had chosen Birchfield as it is such a fabulous school, really friendly and welcoming and with great kids and teachers. Everything was ready to roll until I got an email late on Monday stating that the sound recordist due to visit with the crew was going to be stuck in Manchester and was unavailable. Therefore all was postponed which was disappointing for me, but the children at Birchfield were even more disappointed. Hopefully we have re-arranged the filming for the 10th March when I visit St Michael's School, Wimborne in Dorset - fingers crossed.
Today was a fun day anyway, film crew or not. What I love about Birchfield is the sheer enthusiasm the children have and also the fun friendly staff. I arrived and unpacked the gear and was soon being chatted to by Katie Angus the delightful lady who had booked me this year. She is expecting her first child in May so I wished her all the very best for that. A great morning seemed to just zip by and soon found myself in a very quiet staff room. They were interviewing new teachers at the school today and a lot of people who didn't know each other were all lumped together in the staff room, giving it the impression of a dentist's waiting room. My dinner was a bit bizarre as well - pizza, with mashed spuds and baked beans! Not something you find at the Savoy Grill every day - even if you were Giles London.
The afternoon was similarly hilarious and we finished with a rip roaring joust which a more than capable ladies team romped away with at the end. This now makes the score:
Who knows what the rest of this week will have in store! Tonight I am off shortly to United FM again for some more voice over work and then tomorrow morning I am up at an unspeakably early hour to drive up to Coleford and Coalway Junior for my 6th visit to that lovely school. Then, my birthday on Friday!

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Blundell's Prep School, Tiverton

Good King Hal and daughter about to suffer from a tremendous pain in the arse.

Ah, dear old Blundell's Prep School in Tiverton. This was my fifth visit to this fine old school and it was a little different today. For the first time dear Steff Jeffs (wonderful name and wonderful lady!) was only with the group briefly in the morning and also for the truncated afternoon session.
The morning drive down the M5 was not exactly pleasant. The weather was awful, a mixture of driving rain, sleet and high winds. Therefore I was very pleased to get to Blundell's and start to get ready. I had a quick chat with the head master, Nick Folland, formerly of Somerset County Cricket Club, and he very kindly invited me to join him in watching some cricket at the county ground in Taunton this summer. I might just have to take him up on that kind offer!
It was a lovely group today - only about 40 children, but in some terrific costumes and all of them bright, sparky and ready to laugh. With it being a private school the timings were all different from state schools, so I ended up doing a large portion of the afternoon session in the morning to fill in time to lunch. And what a lunch it was! A superb beef pie with carrots and mash in a thick juicy gravy - lovely.
For the afternoon I was off over to the pre-prep part of the school and their hall for the stocks and the jousting. The two opening legs of the jousting were pretty run of the mill, but the final was a classic with the gents getting a big early lead, but slowly being pegged back by a dogged ladies team. It finally came down to the last quoit from the quintaine, and it was the Gents who finally stole the victory, much to a loud crowds delight! This now makes the score:
How will it all end? You'll have to keep checking back here. Tomorrow I am off back to the delightful Birchfield Junior in Yeovil.

Monday, February 22, 2010

North Town School, Taunton

Good King Hal about to give a Tudor Short Back and Sides to a TA at North Town School last year.

The show today very nearly didn't happen. I went back to Essex for the half term and spent a fine week being trashed at Mario Kart on the Wii by my seven year old son. I got back to Somerset late on the Saturday night. On Sunday I went through my mail and emails, but I had a nagging thought at the back of my mind. The date of the 22nd February sounded familiar. I checked through my emails, but nothing showed itself up, so I searched them by putting on the date in the search engine. Up came a load of emails from Viv Farrow a teacher at North Town School - 22nd Feb had been mooched as a possible date for me to visit the school, but I didn't think it had been confirmed. Now I wasn't sure what to do. Were they expecting me or not? This was late on the Sunday afternoon now - not a chance of getting hold of anyone at the school and no home number with which to contact Viv! Finally I took a look at the North Town School website, where I finally found a calendar of what was on, and there I was confirmed for February 22nd!
I was up bright and early and off to Taunton. The traffic wasn't too bad and I was soon down the back small lane that led to the car park at the school. I had chosen to park my car in a spot where there was a puddle roughly the size and depth of the Pacific Ocean and so consequently I frequently had to splash in and out of it when getting the props in and out of the school hall. As of last time the school was magnificent. It was so nice to finally get to meet Viv Farrow after she was off sick last year. Also, the lovely Kirsty was feeling much better than she did last time around and was even kind enough to nip out and purchase some lunch for me. What a nice lady!
The kids were fun too! Full of laughter and good questions, plus they showed some remarkably good Tudor knowledge. At lunchtime I saw the nice Irish lady from County Donegal seen being beheaded above from last year's show. She was as delightful as ever and even told me how to pronounce the name Gweedore properly - very useful if I ever bump into Clannad or Enya.
The afternoon was fun and loud and culminated in a fantastic jousting tournament which was won by a very able Ladies team. This now makes the score:
Back home this evening, then off tomorrow for another return visit this time to the wonderful Blundell's Prep in Tiverton in Devon. Should be a fun one!

Friday, February 12, 2010

What a Blow Out...

Good King Hal's Mazda 323 but with tyres intact and not a pikey in sight.
Back to the south east again! Sunday 7th February I drive up to Essex to spend some nice quality time with my wife and son. We had a nice couple of days, but then come early Wednesday morning I was off at the crack of dawn heading up the merry old A12 towards Norfolk and a return visit to the wonderful Caister Junior School. The journey started off very well and I was making good progress, but it was cold outside and getting colder. We suddenly had a tremendous flurry of snow, but it didn't seem to settle. Getting up into Suffolk there was suddenly frequent announcements on the radio that because of icy conditions, the A47 east of Norwich was now shut - this is where I needed to go to get to Caister. I cut across country and was soon making even better progress - this was going to be a doddle! Then it snowed again. Almost as soon as it snowed the moisture on the road froze solid. A pleasant easy main A-road to drive along immediately morphed into a slick, sheet-ice, hell hole. A long queue of traffic snaked ahead of me and we crawled along at only just over 10 mph and keeping a big enough space to the car in front in case we needed to stop, something that would be virtually impossible on this surface. As 9am approached I phoned the school to explain why I was so late - they were great, very understanding and just said "get here safe and sound, that's all that matters". Well it was worth it when I got there! A big group of brilliant children, bright, sparky and full of laughter. Their costumes were as brilliant as ever. The teachers were lovely and welcoming as well, particularly Snow White! (She'll know who I mean!). The afternoon session was wild and full of laughter and the jousting was deafening! It was a rip-roaring success and ended with a very close finish with the Ladies team just triumphing. This brought our score now to:
It's getting interesting now folks!
Amidst more flurries of snow I headed up the now re-opened A47 and headed for Acle and my appointment with a Travelodge there! Now I hadn't stayed in a Travelodge since I did the Education Show at the NEC in Birmingham back in 2006 - well I was very pleasantly surprised. A big comfy room, double bed, en suite shower room, secluded lighting and a posh plasma screen telly on the wall. And all this for just £29! The receptionist was also very pleasant and charming and was very interested in my job as Henry! I veged out in my room for the evening listening to music on my MP3 player and reading the entertaining but slightly melancholy new Sue Townshend "Adrian Mole" book.
Up bright and early and over to Drayton for a return visit to another lovely school - Drayton Junior. Another warm welcome from Angela the lovely teacher and we were soon off and running. It was another superb group, very quiet to begin with but getting brighter and louder as the day went on and in the end we had a roof lifting jousting tournament. The Gents stormed to a resounding victory. This brings our score to:
This is getting closer and closer. Drayton was a lovely school to visit and I had a lovely chat at lunchtime with a charming young trainee teacher from Ireland. A wonderful young lady.
I began to head for Basildon and dinner with my wife and son. I made very good progress until I got just south of Colchester. While bombing along at about 75MPH my front right tyre suddenly blew. The car slewed sideways and I ended up rumbling along at about 20MPH desperate to get to a lay by. I finally stopped and got out to survey the damage. The tyre was shredded and hanging off the metal tyre rim in sad looking strips. I checked the spare tyre - it was a emergency space saver, suitable only for slow driving and about 50 miles in total, and I had to get back to Somerset. I was not a member of the RAC or AA. Problems. With several phone calls to my wife, my mother and a friend in Colchester, I was eventually a member of the RAC and awaiting saving. I had been sitting in the lay by for about an hour when a big vehicle suddenly screamed to a halt behind me. It turned out it was the Police asking me if I was OK, which was quite re-assuring. After they had gone the RAC phoned back and said someone would be with me within the hour. As soon as they had gone another big pick up suddenly screamed to a halt behind me. I saw a figure get out and starting circling round the back of my car. This must be the RAC bloke - the figure wandered round next to my door, so I wound down the window and said "hello". The effect was electric - the big figure dashed round to the near side of my car and for some reason began to look into the scrubby undergrowth next to the carriageway, as if looking for something. He then turned round, whistled nonchalantly, and waddled off back to his pick up. He drove off. What the hell was that all about? When the real RAC bloke turned up he said with absolute definition that the man in question must have been a "pikey" checking out my car to see if it was abandoned and if he could ransack it. Nice.
Well I eventually got the car sorted, a new tyre, and finally I was on my way - at just short of 9pm. The tyre had burst at about 5pm. I got back to Crewkerne at about 11.30pm and was just so exhausted that I immediately collapsed into bed. I was glad to be home, but too tired for any good this weekend, so my visit to the Lake District and return visit to see Andy and Kate near Penrith has had to be postponed.
Half term next week and a visit to Wales with my son to see his Grandparents. Should be fun!

Friday, February 05, 2010

Grange Junior, Swindon

Anne of Cleeves keeping her fingers crossed that this isn't really "handsome" King Henry, just a bizarre cross between an orangutan and a water bed.

Ah, Swindon! Swindon! Home of the Great Western Railway! Birthplace of Saint Billie of the Pipers! The starting point of Melinda Messenger's awesome career! And we can blame it for Mark Lamarr... But it is also home to XTC, the finest, most underrated, fantastic, creative, original, melodic rock band Britain has produced in 40 years. As you can tell from that rabid, frothing at the mouth sentence I am a bit of a fan. This is a bit like saying Billy Graham is a touch evangelical.
I had last come to visit Grange Junior in Swindon about two years ago. This show had been postponed for a week as the school had to endure an Ofsted inspection the previous date we had arranged. It was a large group - about 90 children, but they were really great. Fantastically excitable, full of enthusiasm, ready to laugh and all of them bright as buttons. I was warmly welcomed by the teachers and also the caretaker who, it turned out, had been to school with Andy Partridge (main man in the aforementioned XTC - just thought you should know). I was also grabbed by another teacher who had seen me about four years ago when I appeared at North Somerset Museum in Weston-super-Mare (you'll probably find my blog about that in the archives!). She said I was very funny and a bit rude. I don't know what she means! I was equally warmly welcomed by the lovely school secretary who could quite easily have a fabulous career as a wench if she wanted to.
After a very pleasant lunch and a sit down it was back for the madness for the afternoon. The stocks were a riot with some of the children getting almost too excited, especially the Mayor of Swindon (he knows who he is!). The jousting was amazing. Both the gents teams in their final were a little...ahem...clumsy? To be honest I thought they were the two most incompetent teams I had ever seen and I reckoned whoever got through to the final against the ladies would be absolutely trounced. Quoits were sent flying, quintaines were knocked over, wrong directions were gone in and various members of each team were nearly run through with loose lances! And yet....come the main final against a really good ladies team - THEY WON! Can you believe it? They stormed to victory! This now makes our score:
It's hotting up! Next week I am in Norfolk for a couple of days at Caister and Drayton.
In the evening when I got back I was down at United FM, the prospective new radio station for Crewkerne, recording some jingles and adverts ahead of their "live" launch. Check them out at and see if anything is happening yet!

Tuesday, February 02, 2010

St Dubricius First School, Porlock

Good King Hal just mere nanoseconds before the infamous "stage diving" incident. Several witnesses had to be helped out by sliding them under a door.

Who is St Dubricius? He's Welsh you know! According to Wikipedia he came from Madley in Herefordshire originally and in Welsh is known as Dyfrig and in "corrupt Norman-French" as Devereux. He even went to Llanddewi Brefi - but no jokes about that, please. He sauntered about preaching in South Wales but also found time to pop over to the North Somerset coast including, it would seem, Porlock. And now, in the year 2010, here was I about to bring my own mission to Porlock, preaching Tudor lunacy and Olympic standard poo-flinging.
St Dubricius First School is a lovely place. Fantastic building, nice Head Teacher, lovely friendly generous teachers and some really sparky, excitable funny children. We had a fabulous morning where we were joined by some students from two other close by smaller schools (sorry, their names escape me at present!). Some of the children had fabulous Tudor knowledge already and they were very eager to learn more. One little lad laughed so much I kept worrying he might have an accident! Luckily the floor remained dry.
One of the teachers very kindly nipped out and bought me some lunch from the local shop. As I am still on my salad, healthy food and bouts-of-screaming-diet, I asked him for a sandwich and a Diet Coke and that was all. When I got to the staff room I found he had bought me a prawn sandwich, smothered in mayonnaise, TWO pork pies, a Kit Kat bar, a packet of crisps (roast pork flavour - with all this pork and seafood it is a good job I'm not Jewish) and the requested Diet Coke. And if that wasn't enough I had just had half of my sandwich when one of the lads I was teaching today came in with a big slice of birthday cake as today was the big day! I left the Pork Pies and crisps! What a good, rapidly shrinking King.
This afternoon was fun and was run slightly out of order from a normal afternoon. As the two visiting schools had to leave by 2.30pm we had the jousting before the stocks session. It gave the end of the day a faintly disjointed feel. The jousting was of a very high and exciting standard, one of the boys teams finished so fast their final rider fell stumbling over the line and narrowly avoided running me through with his lance! The final was close and exciting and finished with another win for the Ladies team! This now makes our score:
How exciting! St Dubricius is a deeply wonderful school and it was a delight and an honour to appear there today.
I will next be appearing back at Grange Junior in Swindon (home of the wonderful XTC!) on Thursday this week. See you then!

Monday, February 01, 2010

Frome Valley History Society

Chestnuts roasting on an open fire. Perhaps I shouldn't have stood so close.

I had been contacted back in November by a very nice chap called John Darneley from the Frome Valley History Society inviting me to come and talk to the group at Rampisham Village Hall on the 1st February. Now I knew where Rampisham was, but wasn't too sure on the exact whereabouts of the village hall. Therefore on Saturday afternoon just gone, inspired by the nice weather, I headed off down the Dorchester road to Rampisham to find out where the village hall was hiding. I drove down through the pretty winding road with pleasant cottages dotted along it, but no sign of the village hall appeared. I drove past a rather battered and damp looking dull green glorified nissen hut - surely that couldn't possibly be the... could. Yup, it was. Confirmed by a passer by, this was the village hall for Rampisham. "It's having some work done on it at the moment!" he said brightly. Yes, it needed it as well.
All joking aside they are doing a wonderful job bringing the village hall into the 21st century. It is a work in progress thanks to the lottery commission and will be brilliant when it is finished. Turns out it was supposed to be a temporary build from the first world war and here it is still standing in 2010! With all the heaters on, some subdued lighting and a group of about 25 people we had a great evening! The group seemed to really enjoy themselves and I had some good banter with a number of the people there, particularly one charming lady who was a retired health visitor. A really nice pleasant evening.
Up bright and early tomorrow for a drive over to Porlock and a first visit to St Dubricius First School. See you there!