Monday, August 30, 2010

Barrington Court on a Bank Holiday

A large erection in the gardens of Barrington Court. And on the right, a sun dial.

Summer is reaching it's climax with all the usual signs that we see so often. Temperatures are slowly ebbing away, back to school adverts are dominating the airways and the Pakistan cricket team are embroiled in another controversy. And so the World keeps turning. Another sure sign that summer is fading is the request to come over to Barrington Court on a Bank Holiday Monday and have a quick stroll round the gardens. And on a day like today, truly nothing could be finer. The sky was a Canaletto blue, the wind but a gentle breeze, the sun was a warming and trusted friend in the sky, and only one bloke asked me that stupid bloody question about which wife was I with today. Can it get any better than that?
We had a really good turn out today, the over flow car park was over flowing - that's how busy it was. I wandered the gardens and met some lovely people. It would appear the town of Bideford was empty today as nearly everyone I spoke to was from there. There was another family where the father had a strong Scottish accent. I asked him where he was from - Yeovil was the answer. You haven't always come from Yeovil, I said - where are you from before that? His response? Cornwall. Eventually I got it out of him that he was originally from Edinburgh, but the first two answers made me laugh. There was another little boy who every time he saw me would burp alarmingly and then burst out laughing. Possibly something that is tremendously amusing when you're six.
Matthew Applegate looked very relaxed and sun tanned after his two week break in France, and we are sure to be getting together soon for another session of "choir practice".
All in all, it has been a pretty nice day, and sitting here now with a cool breeze coming in the windows, a fine sunset across the valley and the distant bells of St Bartholomew's Church pealing across the other side of town there is no where else I really could want to be.
First new Henry show will be on 8th September in Newbury in Berkshire. But before that I might just put another wee advert on Ebay...

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Rain, Summer Holidays, Chickens & a Guinea Pig

Enough said, really!

I have a new string to my bow - oh yes. No longer am I just a former telephone installer, AS400 operator, Dad and mock Tudor Monarch - I am now officially the world's worst chicken keeper. With the summer holidays upon us I had the pleasure of looking after my son full time for a few weeks - something I always look forward to. It was decided pretty early on that James and I would be spending a large part of this time down in Wales at Newcastle Emlyn with my parents, known to James as Nanna and Bapa. So armed to the teeth with James' PSP, DS and Nintendo Wii (just what you need when visiting one of the most beautiful countries in the UK!) we struck out west. The majority of our time would be spent at leisure doing proper holiday things, but we had a period of a few days looking after my sister's small holding near Cynwyl Elfed, and in particular, her chickens. James was very excited about this, but it was an excitement I was pretty sure would wear off after a couple of days of muddy toil.
The week began with blazing sunshine and heat, so of course one of the first places we took James was the cinema to see Toy Story 3 - in 3D. This was at the Apollo Cinema in Carmarthen, which if you have never visited, you really must as it is a wonderful place. James, his Nanna and I all donned our snazzy 3D glasses and thoroughly enjoyed the film - a work of genius. It was just a shame the support film, usually one of Pixar's strong points, was so utterly crap. Other visits included a day trip to Poppit Sands near Cardigan where we built a sand castle and then flew a kite in the strong breeze - great fun, stopping for excellent fish and chips at St Dogmael's (a shop called Bowens) on the way back. We discovered a great smoothie and ice cream bar in Carmarthen called Cowpots ( which I cannot recommend strongly enough. On another day we went back down to Laugharne, Dylan Thomas' stamping ground, and had tea at the delightful Owl and the Pussycat Restaurant. I met up with my old Skandia colleague Carole Davey again at her lovely pub/restaurant The Daffodil at Penrhiwllan (see their website here for a fine meal. James carried on his valiant efforts to teach Nanna how to play Super Mario Brothers on the Wii console, which to give her her due, she was really getting the hang of it by the time we came to leave! James also took great delight in snuggling up with his Nanna to watch his favourite Indiana Jones movies of an evening on DVD. And a really big shout out to Harrison's Cafe in Newcastle Emlyn which is friendly, welcoming and has the most charming proprietress (if that is even a word) you could ever wish to meet. She is also very easy on the eye - another winner as far as James and I are concerned!
Soon it was time for James and I to become chicken wranglers. The balmy summer weather had long since scarpered and our first night of trying to get the chickens into their run took place during the Welsh equivalent of Hurricane Catrina, in the near pitch dark on a small holding which was doing a very passable impression of the battle field of Passchendale transferred to the north face of the Eiger. We slipped, we slid, we slithered. James cried. I swore a lot and the chickens went "bwock? bwo-ock?" but we did eventually get the feathery buggers in their home. James insisted on going into the run to put them to bed as it was slippery as hell in there and "you might hurt yourself, Daddy". Bless him. I think he was just worried that if I fell over he wouldn't have a snowballs chance in hell of levering me into an upright position again. So we looked after all 10 chickens, Buffy the goose, Bear and Marley the cats, and even Ted the shaggy guinea pig. And do you know what? James NEVER got bored of it once! He loved it! Oh sure we had some bad moments - the day I nearly broke my hip when I slipped and twisted in one agonising movement on the steeply sloping bank down to the chicken run, and the time James had collected six eggs, put them in his basket and then promptly slipped over and fell on them. He was devastated poor little mite. "I'm so sorry!" he kept saying, but I re-assured him and despite his upset and the fact he was caked in mud he was soon ready for more chicken related fun. Each night when he finally locked the door on the chickens he'd shout "Bingo!" We cocked up on a few things - I put the chicken's water back in the wrong place on the last morning causing it to drain out of their drinker so that when Sue got back that afternoon the poor chookies had no water - just mud. I had also managed to do something to their food hopper which meant their feed wasn't coming out properly. If chickens were covered by the NSPCC I'd be in prison by now... But all in all, for first time small holders I think James and I did pretty well.
I drove James back to Essex on Monday of this week and he had a lovely cuddly reunion with his Mum. I drove back to Somerset yesterday and I am missing him so much. He is my pride, my joy and my love. I feel like I have lost a limb today and I really can't wait to see him again.
Henry VIII returns this weekend on the Bank Holiday Monday where I will be appearing at Barrington Court for a garden walkabout. Come and meet the King between 12 noon and 4pm.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

If at first you don't succeed... give up?

Good King Hal's latest fiancee showing how excited she is about the forthcoming nuptials by trying to drink all Russian stocks of vodka.

Well, no one wanted me... I had a few bids but nothing like what I was hoping for. This was my attempt to flog myself on Ebay. Don't get the wrong idea, this wasn't me indulging in any self flagellation, just trying to raise some dosh! BUT (and lets face it folks, it's a big but) there was a hell of a lot of interest in the posting, and all publicity is good publicity. So, I am back on Ebay, under the sellers name of fleaflinko and awaiting whatever may occur. God knows what to be honest, but you have to try! Spread the word GKH fans.

Thursday, August 05, 2010

King For Sale

Yes, I have done what I threatened to do some time ago. Good King Hal is for sale on Ebay! You can now bid for a day with the King. Honestly, it was either this or prostitution, and frankly I would have starved. So sign into Ebay, the UK version, look for a seller called "fleaflinko" (don't ask) and you should find one used King Henry VIII for sale to the highest bidder. Come and grab a bargain! Don't leave me as a remainder on the shelf! Best before: 27.01.1547.

Monday, August 02, 2010

Henry's Horrid History, Day 2

Barrington Court (right), just about to smash into Strode House at high speed. What were they thinking?

So it was time to be back on parade at Barrington Court for the second of the Henry's Horrid History days. To begin with, on my first few totters around the garden it seemed as though not as many people were attending as yesterday. How wrong I was. Very soon the car parks were heaving masses of badly parked cars, hairy knees were on show in baggy shorts, and frequent cries of "Oi Henry! Where's yer Missus then?" rent the air. I get this call every time I do a show, and I usually counter with "probably at home with the mother in laws!" which raises a laugh. I suppose it is the equivalent of Richard Wilson frequently having "I don't believe it!" yelled at him, or Nicholas Lyndhurst enduring endless barrages of "You plonker, Rodney!" It goes with the territory. There was one gentleman on Sunday who, whenever he saw me, would suddenly launch into a rousing rendition of "I'm 'Enery the eighth I am, I am!" How I dearly wanted to shove him down the grand stair case, but I never got the chance.
The show itself was wonderful today - packed out again, and with a really responsive audience. I also managed to not fluff any of my lines, something I did a bit yesterday. It was also nice to see my friends Jill, Mark and young Thomas Beed from Bridport amongst the audience. They were very complimentary about the whole show. So a cheque is in the post to them. I had one last wander round the grounds and was soon on my way home. I stopped briefly to bid Matthew Applegate bon voyage, off on his family holiday to France today, but soon that was it!
It had been a fantastic weekend, exhausting, rewarding and entertaining. And Donna from Brighton in a stunning red ball gown... What more could any naughty old King ask for? Well a phone number might be a good start. Stop it!

Sunday, August 01, 2010

Henry's Horrid History - Day One & Brain Tumour UK Fundraiser

Good King Hal, lurking beneath mistletoe and puckered up waiting to get "busy". Current waiting time is standing at: 3 years, 4 months, 2 weeks, 6 days, 12 hours and 42 minutes, and rising. Please check your local press for opening times.

The day dawned and it was looking good. For this, the first of the "Henry's Horrid History" days at Barrington Court, we had faith in the advertising the shows had garnered from being included in the official National Trust "What's on" guide from the beginning of the year. Previous times though we had occasionally been let down by slightly underwhelming turn outs from the public, but today we had nothing to fear! The public were out in force and we even had to turn some people away as the venue was full. The very first couple I met up with on my perambulations round the grounds were from Chelmsford in Essex - my place of birth! They were very friendly and set the tone that was to continue throughout the day. Through my Facebook account I had invited a lot of friends to come along, but wasn't expecting much if anything. However, I was delighted to bump into my old friend Kathryn Lee who I used to work with at Skandia Life in Southampton. I hadn't seen Kathryn since I had left that job back in 2003, but it was great to see her again. She had come along with her Mother and also her 4 year old daughter Megan. They wandered the gardens and then came into my show and, I hope, seemed to thoroughly enjoy themselves. I chatted with them in the gardens afterwards as well. All too soon the day was over and I was heading for home, but not for long.
A friend of mine, Anna, had invited me to attend a charity fund raising evening she was hosting at Taunton School for Brain Cancer UK. It was a black tie and ball gown event, with a fine dinner, an auction, then the rest of the evening spent grooving to a live band plus the added fun of a casino with gaming tables. All proceeds to go to Brain Cancer UK. Anna was organising this as a tribute to her late husband John, who had passed away almost exactly a year ago after suffering from a brain tumour. I offered to come along as Henry VIII and run the auction and Anna jumped at the chance. I got to the school, a fine looming Victorian building, and soon was dressed up as Henry and wandering among the guests. I was on a large friendly table for the meal with some very pleasant people, particularly one gorgeous brunette lady called Donna, originally from Crewkerne but now living in Brighton. As Anna kept "subtly" pointing out, Donna was single - which was of no help to me as I really do look like a strategically shaved monkey with a glandular problem and this lovely lady was way, way, WAY out of my league. But she did look stunning in her red ball gown...
The auction went very well, Anna insisted that Donna help me as my glamorous assistant, a job she was most suitably qualified for! We had all sorts of lots - a luxury pampering day at a spa, various signed books by celebrities, a balloon flight, luxury dinner for two at a local hotel, and so much more. Well, Donna and I worked our butts off, and managed to sell the lot in about 20 minutes and raised £1,480 in the process! A job well done! By now it was after 10pm, the band had kicked off down in the ball room and everyone was heading for the gaming tables. I was exhausted and very hot in the Henry costume, so it seemed time to go home. So after lots of nice plaudits from various guests at the event, I got changed and quietly slipped away into the night. Job done!
Today I am back at Barrington Court for the second of the "Henry's Horrid History" days. So here's to nice weather and another good turn out. See you there?