Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Henry Day at Barrington Court

Barrington Court - a very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very nice place.

This is the day Matthew Applegate and I had been planning and looking forward to for quite some time. The first of the big Henry VIII Days at Barrington Court. We were expecting about 60-70 children from the combined schools of Barrington, Ilton and Shepton Beauchamp, but instead we got over 100! Some had come in costumes which were great, others were in their brightly coloured school uniforms. There were familiar faces - Matthew's two daughters, Hannah and Isobel, plus my friends from Kingstone, Ali and Ian's daughter, Amy who goes to the Shepton Beauchamp School. Matthew, his assistant Tamsin, and various other volunteers at Barrington worked their socks off in the morning getting the extra chairs in the kitchen where I was going to do the majority of my presentation. We could not have done the day without them.
We were running the day for two reasons - one, to see if the Henry VIII Days that I do in school could be done at Barrington Court as well, which I think we proved that they could. And secondly, to get some publicity for future Henry VIII Days, to which end I had contacted the Western Gazette, the Chard and Ilminster News, View from Crewkerne Newspaper, BBC Somerset and even Points West, the local BBC Television News. The TV News people had told me that our event was in their diary and that unless something significant occurred there was a good chance they would come and cover it. Well, I am assuming Mrs Trubshaw of Radstock ran out of cat food, or Mrs Osborne turned her ankle over in the High Street in Frome as we saw not a glimpse of the BBC today! They missed a great day.
We had great fun in the morning though I think some of the really young children from the schools were a bit too young for the opening talk and some struggled to concentrate on the whole thing. But the vast majority of the children were fantastic! After a nice relaxing lunch we had a fun session with the stocks in the kitchen, and then had an unbelievably noisy jousting session in the main hall. It was a rip roaring affair with noise, shouting and the bizarre feeling of the sprung dance floor in the hall literally bouncing up and down with the excitement of the children. A gents team combining the talents of all the schools sauntered to a very classy victory! This added to our annual score now makes it:
The day finished and I bade the children farewell at the main door of the Court House. Matthew Applegate and Tamsin came and stood next to me.
"How the hell do you do that every day?" Asked Matthew. I just do, I suppose! I've got used to it over the previous six years. But each and every day is different and fun, which is why it never becomes a chore. So if any teachers out there fancy the idea of having a really amazing Tudor Day with Henry VIII for their Key Stage 2 Pupils in the surroundings of Barrington Court House then either contact me through my website of or contact Matthew Applegate, Visitor Services Manager at Barrington Court on 01460 243124.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Paulton Junior, World Cup Exits and The Emma Britton Show.

Good King Hal about to try the Cambridge Diet. When he's finished that he'll try and eat Oxford.

A hectic few days began with me driving down to Southampton again (I had only just been down to see some old friends from Skandia the previous couple of days) but this time to pick up my parents on their return from their Queen Mary 2 voyage up to the Norwegian fjords. It was a glorious day and we stopped at the Angel Pub in Hinton on the way back for a very nice lunch. I spent the following Saturday not really doing much apart from occasionally opening the window, turning my fan up to full blast and then going "corr" with buckets of sweat falling off me. Now this WAS global warming and it was happening in my front room.
On the Sunday morning I got up extra early and headed over to Ilchester to the car boot fair held over there. I found a few bargains and also found that Greg Stephens, late of United FM in Crewkerne had a stall there, so I had a quick chat with him when I had finished having a potter about. But I was getting myself ready for the afternoon and England's impending match in the World Cup against Germany. Surely we could raise ourselves for this match? Well if you saw the debacles then you'll know we most certainly couldn't. England played like a bunch of pub footballers who had never set eyes on each other before and were deservedly thrashed 4-1 by a far superior German side. When England did get home today there was a nice message waiting for them at Heathrow from David Blaine, the illusionist. He congratulated Wayne Rooney for breaking his world record for doing absolutely nothing in a box for several weeks.
I took my mind off the awful World Cup drubbing by appearing on the delightful Emma Britton's latest "Have Your Say" show on BBC Somerset on Monday morning. I was on with a very pretty young lady called Kathryn who ran a horse riding holiday company in the Quantocks. We had a real laugh and a good show, which you can hear for the next seven days if you go to the BBC Somerset website and click listen again for the Monday morning show. I was on for the first hour.
Tuesday I was back at one of my favourite schools in the south west - Paulton Junior in Paulton, near Bath. This is such a fabulous place to come and do a show - the children are so well behaved, the teachers are very friendly and chatty and the whole atmosphere of the place lifts your heart while you are there. We had a typically fun day, lots of laughs, some great costumes for the children and some very good examples of Tudor knowledge. The afternoon session was particularly insane and entertaining and ended with another desperately close jousting tournament that really did go down to the wire. This time the Gents just stole victory with literally the last half second of the contest. It was incredibly close and very exciting. This now brings our score to:
Tonight I have been to Barrington Court for their annual volunteer's barbecue. There was a wonderful hog roast, some live music from a cool trio and lots of old friends. Not just Matthew Applegate and his lovely wife Sue and children, Hannah and Isobel, but there was the wonderful Rachel Brewer, her nice chap, Anthony, the indefatigable Trotts, and everyone else at this lovely National Trust house that have become such good friends of mine over the years. I am back at Barrington Court tomorrow for the first of our special Henry Days at the Court House with the combined children of Barrington, Ilton and Shepton Beauchamp schools. Should be fun! Watch this space...

Monday, June 21, 2010

Thundersley Junior, Essex

Good King Hal's saucy advert left in prominent telephone boxes in London. It didn't work.

After all that 50th wedding anniversary celebrating etc., it was nice to get back to being a Tudor despot again. I was back in Thundersley, sandwiched as it is between Southend and Basildon in south Essex, at Thundersley Junior School for a 4th annual visit. I drove to Essex on the Thursday and firstly joined Amanda and James at SNAP in Brentwood. SNAP stands for Special Needs and Parents and is a charity based in Brentwood. It is a voluntary organisation supporting parents and carers of children with any special need or disability. James attends as he has recently been diagnosed with autism, and he absolutely loves going there! It is a wonderful place and they do all sorts of fun and educational things with the children. James spends an hour there playing with his friends he has made and gets so much out of it. The parents and carers can sit and chat with each other over welcoming mugs of tea or coffee. I really can't praise this place enough and the wonderful work they do!
On the Friday I was down at Thundersley for the Henry day. This is a fantastic school, great kids, very friendly teachers and always a good laugh. It was a full and exciting day that we had and about 99.9% of the children had dressed up in terrific costumes, as had all the teachers. The morning went swimmingly and we were soon back in the hall for the afternoon session. We had an absolutely deafening jousting tournament which culminated in yet another victory for the ladies. They just keep on winning! This now makes our year long score:
Closer than I would have expected, but I don't think the ladies can be caught now. I got the children to roar their support for England for the match against Algeria in the World Cup that night. After the show, Amanda, James and I drove down to Kent to see my sister Cathy to watch the England match on her big TV. To be honest I wish we hadn't. England were appalling and could not have hit the backside of a cow with a banjo from now till Doomsday. Professor Stephen Hawking on a space hopper would have had more control of a football than these overpaid embarrassments.
We had a nice Father's Day weekend including lunch at Pizza Express on the Sunday for which Amanda had found an on-line voucher that allowed Dad's to eat their pizza for free! Sounded good to me! Eventually I set off for Somerset on the Sunday evening, but with it being the late last knockings of the 20th June it was obvious that Stonehenge would be a no-go area (I think Doctor Who might agree with that having seen what happened to him there on Saturday night's episode!) so I did a dipping detour, down the A343 into Salisbury and then back out again onto the A303 much further down. It worked a treat and I was soon home.
I have a meeting with Matthew Applegate over at Barrington Court this morning, then on Wednesday I am down to Southampton for a Skandia Life lunch with Sue Marsh and Ruth Le Mesurier, then back to Southampton again on Friday to pick up my parents from their Queen Mary excursion to the Norwegian fjords!

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Death of an English Pub

I went out for a beer with Matthew Applegate this evening. We do this quite often, discussing future events at Barrington Court and just having a good chuckle or two. Tonight was going to be one of our usual evenings, but turned out a bit different. We were due to meet at our usual pub, the delightful Duke of York in Shepton Beauchamp but when we arrived there the car park was full to bursting and the place was packed. So I drove us both over to East Lambrook and the Rose and Crown there. This is a very "nice" pub, all dining facilities and expensive beer. But it was generally quite busy. I managed to inflame the wrath of the landlady when I asked for the sparkler to be taken off the beer pump. (Sparklers are put on to real ale beer taps to force air into the beer and give it a foaming head - but it also makes the beer go like that execrable John Smith's Smooth Flow crap, so beloved of Northern Beer drinkers. I wanted a pint of beer, not something I could wash my socks in). Apparently me asking her to take the sparkler off the beer tap appeared to be the social equivalent of me leaning over the counter, slipping a £20 note down her bra and asking her for a lap dance. She started to lecture us about beer and the pub trade, and went on and on and on. This woman barely paused for breath. Eventually after a couple of beers we'd had enough and we headed back to the car. This time we went to the Royal Oak at Barrington. What a sad sight. This is a pub that is dying, slowly and obviously. Punch, the group that owns the pub, are trying to sell it and there is a big over-bearing "FOR SALE" sign on the outside. There is a temporary manager in the place, running it for the owners. When Matthew and I got in there, there were two men having a pint in the main bar, two lads playing pool out the back, plus us two. And that was it. Both the other pubs we had seen that evening (and all in the locality) were very busy, but the Oak was like the Marie Celeste. The two men having pints finished and were gone, and the lads playing pool followed soon afterwards. Before 10pm Matt and I were the only people in the place. Now the Oak could be a fabulous pub - Barrington is a beautiful chocolate box English thatched cottage village with the added attraction of Barrington Court being in the middle of it. But the Oak just doesn't seem to work - it has attracted a bad reputation, and in the pub business that is very difficult to lose. What would be ideal is a consortium of local people to club together and buy out the pub and run it properly as a good old fashioned local public house. Are there any takers out there to help save a small part of our English heritage? It would be nice if there was.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Not Six Wives - Just One Happy Couple!

My father, looking amazed as, exactly as it was 50 years ago a ventriloquist has just shouted "I do" and he's had his chips.

A wonderful weekend has just been had! It was my parent's 50th wedding anniversary celebrations in Wales. They re-newed their vows on Friday 11th June, exactly 50 years to the day from their original ceremony, with my cousin Jack Elwin officiating, exactly as he did back in 1960! We had dinner as a big group on the Friday evening at the wonderful Emlyn Arms Hotel in central Newcastle Emlyn. Then on the Saturday there was a big party at their house with a multitude of guests - all friends or relatives, some of whom we hadn't seen for years. It was a truly magical weekend and proved just how strong my parents love is for each other, even after all these years. They are an inspiration to us all.

On the Sunday they travelled to my place in Somerset and then on the Monday morning I drove them down to Southampton and the Queen Mary 2! They are now on their new honeymoon sailing round the beautiful fjords of Norway. Fantastic! And here are some more photos of the great weekend. The next Henry outing is this Friday and a return visit to Thundersley Junior in Essex.
Cathy Martin revealing how many crates of champagne she has just drunk.

Many of my parents friends "having it large" at the 50th Anniversary party.

A Tudor King, soon to upgrade to being a Four-Door King.

Tuesday, June 08, 2010

More Jousting Pics!

Top master of ceremonies and voice over artist, Roland, showing you the amazing things you can achieve with an old pair of curtains and a bowl of bananas.

Sir Jasper du Barry and Sir William of Antioch squinting at the camera in front of a medieval parking lot.

Sir Stephen of Porlock and Sir David of Kent attempting to rustle some horses.

This is for Jen and Sophie at Leeds Castle - ladies and gentlemen, I give you heart-throb, Royal Knight and tongue tied wallflower - Sir Ashley of Hampshire!

Monday, June 07, 2010

Henry's Royal Jousting Tournament, Leeds Castle. Smashing.

Henry VIII, proving what a stunningly wonderful chap he is by appearing in full colour, while Leeds Castle can only manage sepia. This pic was taken during the week of the jousting tournament by the very wonderful Nigel Wheal. I have to say this as he has my Mother hostage in a safe house on the Lincolnshire fens.

I suddenly realise how old I am becoming. I went to a wedding reception near Sherborne on the evening of Saturday 29th May. Had a fantastic evening boogieing the night away and singing my head off at a really great 80's disco. Then I woke up on the Sunday morning. Ouch. Everything hurt. And I mean everything. Even the toast I had for breakfast was in pain. (That's a French pun on the word pain. I know you're out there, I can hear you breathing). Anyway, after staggering out of bed I packed a big suitcase and then drove up to Essex for an evening with Amanda and James. I parked in the usual side road near their house and settled in for the evening. Halfway through the evening there was a knock on the door. It was one of Amanda's neighbours asking if our car was alright as there had been a collision in the street with some little chap in a car driving into a parked car. Amanda quickly nipped downstairs and checked what she assumed was our cars, but everything seemed OK. So we all slept soundly and happily. The next day we went downstairs to pop over to Amanda's parents when I noticed a note stuck to the windscreen on my car. I suddenly felt a cold chill. The note was nicely written and apologetic and said my car had been hit and badly damaged, and the person who left it had left their name and phone number. I walked round the back of my car. Oh dear. Bumper smashed, rear off-side lights smashed, exhaust system damaged, rear panel pushed forward, even possibly damage to the rear wheel. Oh bother, I sweetly murmured.
So instead of seeing my in-laws I was back at Amanda's on the phone, calling insurance companies. To cut a long story mercifully short my car was not safe to drive any distance, and probably illegal anyway, so Amanda and James had to drive me down to Kent and my stay at Cathy and Julian's place while I was working at Leeds Castle.
Leeds Castle! Two words guaranteed to put a smile on the face of any Henry VIII look-a-like. But a bit different this year - for the first time ever I would be doing an event at Leeds Castle without the ever presence of Helen Budd. She was sorely missed, I have to be honest, but Darlene and her wonderful team did sterling service throughout. I almost couldn't believe it was a year since my last appearance at the Royal Jousting Tournament. I was back on with The Knights of Royal England group, led by the noble Sir Jasper (aka Jeremy). They are a lovely group and nearly all of them are friendly and chatty. It was very good to see Roland again, who plays a wonderful central role as the commentator/master of ceremonies. There was also the deeply wonderful Sir Stephen of Porlock and his lovely wife - who, with a name like that, very obviously come from deepest darkest Somerset. Sir Stephen is a great character, strongly helped by the fact that he looks like the lovechild of a cross between Chewbacca the Wookiee, and Dusty Gibbons from ZZ Top.
Just like last year the weather started badly - cold and damp on the Tuesday. But suddenly - WHAM! Summer was back with avengence. It ROASTED. Each and everyday it got hotter and hotter. On the Saturday (easily the hottest day) I very nearly passed out while in the Royal Box. The heat was incredible. After that show I staggered back to my little hideaway on site and poured two bottles of ice water down my throat without pausing and then poured a third straight over my head and costume to cool myself down.
Most of the people and kids we met were wonderful. Sweet charming and dying to get their pics taken with Henry VIII. I even met a family group from Kazakhstan who knew who Henry VIII was! Surely a first. Amanda and James came down on the Thursday, and had a wonderful time. James even got to meet the Knights and their horses which he really enjoyed. In the tournament he had watched, Sir Jasper had lost out to Sir David of Kent in the finale. James took great delight in telling Sir Jasper to his face "better luck next time!" with an evil grin on his face! Some other friends of James and Amanda, Yolanda and her children, came down on the Friday with a big coach group. The only child I would happily have boiled in oil was a little lad who had been bought a toy bow and arrow set from one of the stalls and decided to shoot me in the face with it from point blank range, before running off. I watched where he went, and clutching the offending arrow wandered over and reported him to his Mother. He was suitably admonished. Then when we did the "parade of the children" in the arena before the next show, guess who was stuck right in the middle in front of my Royal Box? Yup, the errant young archer. Funnily enough he couldn't make eye contact with the King!
It was a great week away being with the Knights again, plus also seeing Cathy and Julian. My car is now being repaired down in Wellington in Somerset and I have a fantastic courtesy car - a virtually brand spanking new VW Golf Turbo Diesel Estate, in black, with tinted windows and all mod cons. Hopefully I should get my own jalopy back sometime in about 2012.
Next weekend - another big event! My parent's 50th wedding anniversary down in Wales! It should be an absolutely wonderful weekend.