Good King Hal, auditioning for a part in the follow-up to Captain Corelli's Mandolin - known as "Captain Birdseye's Banjo".
About four years ago I did a one off Henry show at Downham School in Ramsden near Billericay in Essex. We had a good time as I recall, but now, out of the blue here I was being asked back for not one, but two days at Downham on consecutive days. Interesting and fun! I had driven to Essex on the Saturday so that I could spend some time on Mother's Day with Amanda and James.
I drove down early on Monday morning and actually got to Downham a bit too early, so I decided to take a short stroll down amnesia lane and headed a bit further up into Ramsden Heath to the Cricket ground where my old club "The Hoop Cricket Club" used to play their home games. We played there from between 1991 and 1998 when I left for the wilds of Somerset and the club almost immediately folded (see? Without the guiding hand of yours truly...). Sitting in the car park by the old club house it was a sad sight to behold. Admittedly we weren't a particularly talented team (me especially) but we had great camaraderie and the apres cricket was of an almost legendary status. The pitch we used was only a concrete strip with matting on it, but it was OUR pitch! Looking at it this week some nearly 12 years hence it looked very worn and abandoned, plus with two regularly used football pitches abutting onto it, one of which has now for some unknown reason been surrounded by a small white picket fence, there is no chance of any cricket being played on there again. Very sad. It made me think back to all the players and characters associated with the Hoop Cricket Club - Paul Smith, the Captain; Mick Stephenson, vice captain and naturally gifted wicket-keeper; and all the other players and members - Malcolm Taylor, Stuart Filby, Gareth Clipstone, Andy Banks, Adam Hudson, Gordon Scammell, Mike Slowey, Mike Escott, Sara Turner, Jim Hawes, Steve Fawkes, Paul Lagden, Paul Eaton, and our near legendary umpire, dear old Alan Bourne - the fastest finger in the west! I got back to the school and got set up for the show. But I was in for another haunting from the Hoop Cricket Club past! As I was sorting out my paper work, a small note left for me from St Michael's School in Wimborne in Dorset last week fell out. It was contact details for another school in the Dorset area recommended by a teacher at St Michael's and it was called - believe it or not - Allenbourne Junior! Alan Bourne strikes again!
Both of my days at Downham Junior were brilliant. Fabulous school, delightful kids, really kind and attentive teachers, and payment from County Hall in Chelmsford that really was faster than a speeding bullet! It was about 90+ children on the Monday and another nearly 60 children on the Tuesday. Excellent stuff, loads of laughs, some great Tudor knowledge, and fun and learning hand in hand having a good time! Wonderful.
On both days the jousting was of a quite brilliantly high standard and on both days we had the same result - comprehensive victories for the ladies in both instances! This now brings our score to:
GENTLEMEN 13 - 22 LADIES
This is getting embarrassing chaps! Come on! I am off to Falcon Junior in Sprouston in Norwich tomorrow, so a bright early start from sunny Basildon for me! Then back to Somerset and on Thursday the long awaited interview with Andy Partridge of XTC is destined to take place. I can't wait. There is also a possibility in the near future of another phone interview with a rock idol of mine - namely the wonderful Thomas Walsh of Pugwash and the brilliant cricket obsessed band The Duckworth Lewis Method. Again, watch this space!