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!

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Blean Junior, Kent

Will Somers, the jester, playing an invisible squeeze-box, while Good King Hal does a soft shoe shuffle. Simon Cowell described the performance as "pitiful" mere nano-seconds before being slapped in irons and beheaded. How the Nation (and music lovers) rejoiced.

Back in 2004 I did one of my first visits to a school in the Kent area when I went to Blean school near Canterbury. Little did I realise that Blean was to become my most visited school, for my show there today was my seventh visit. I drove up (or is it down?) to Kent on the Monday and once more I was staying at my sister's place, and once more she is still away enjoying herself in California. Has she no shame? The house was incredibly cold last night, so when I went to bed I actually made myself two hot water bottles - I know how to enjoy myself!
Blean is a wonderful school and as ever I was warmly welcomed, particularly by the teacher Mrs Rowbotham and the brilliant caretaker who warned me that I would only be seeing him for another "four, maybe five years, then I'm retiring!" Sounds like he is re-booking me for next year or so already. It was about 50-60 children today, all in some cracking Tudor costumes, one of whom had come as a falconer, complete with a plastic hawk on his arm. It did remind me a bit of Bo-Selecta, when he pretends to be Craig David with Kes the kestrel, but I kept that bit to myself. I just constantly referred to him as "the bloke with the budgie" which got a laugh or two. We were in the classrooms as ever for the morning sessions, but transferred to the big hall for the afternoon of stocks and the jousting tournament. The jousting was very exciting and deafeningly loud. All the races were close, but it was again the gents who came out on top! This now makes the rolling score:
Not the score we were expecting after last years results.
The drive back was long and a bit of a pain to be honest. There had been the now traditional smash up on the M25 in Surrey, but the good drivers of the south of England had pulled out all the stops for me today and had arranged a second smash up on the M3 at the junction with the A303. It dragged on and on, and though I left Blean at 3.30pm I didn't get back to my flat in Crewkerne until nearly 7pm. I treated my weary bones to fish and chips from the ever cheerful crew in Pejays Fish Bar ("Now THAT's sarcasm, Mrs Doyle...") and wandered back home before falling asleep in front of Chelsea in the Champions League.
This weekend it's CHUTFEST 2010 at Barrington Court! Come along, bring your own home made pickles and jams and swap recipes and jars! The King will be present.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Get Up - Stand Up. South Petherton

A terrifying prospect. Particularly if you're only four feet tall...

I had done some stand up in the past, but when I was doing it Margaret Thatcher was still stalking the land, like some huge Jurassic Tory nightmare. Some weeks ago, whilst sitting at home sipping a glass or two of Shiraz, I was reading the programme of forthcoming events at The David Hall Centre in South Petherton. The David Hall is an old church that has been re-born as this wonderful arts centre that seems to specialise in folk music and small scale touring theatre groups. Their programme stated that on the last Sunday of each month they host a "performers night". This is an open-mic event where anyone can come along and, well, do what they want. In a moment of Shiraz fuelled bravado I emailed them and said something along the lines of "gaaarg-thnarrrg performersh night - hic - I can do that...BARP... I can do a shtand up shlot for you.... (thud - slides unconscious to the floor - but not before sending the email)." And I promptly forgot I'd sent it. About a week later I check my emails and I am doomed. I get a reply from Chris Latham at the David Hall stating that they were looking forward to seeing me on the 26th September and had booked me a ten minute slot. ARGH! Oh my God! It's real! And so that little entry on my calendar on the wall, the one stating "stand up" in an innocent looking way, was suddenly looming up before me like the iceberg must have looked just before it struck the Titanic.
I put together a little 10 minute routine about being Henry VIII, some of the things kids say to me, Viagra adverts on my emails and even a joke or two about new age/pagan names (sorry!). I rehearsed it a few times wandering round the flat, but would it make people laugh? I added some other jokes as well, about me having an eating disorder (I am a bulimic with amnesia - I gorge on food but then forget to throw up afterwards) and an addiction (I drink brake fluid, but I can stop whenever I want to) and it seemed to pep things up a bit. Suddenly it was Sunday morning of the 26th September. I had stage fright like I had not experienced since my first appearance at the Edinburgh Fringe back in 1987. By halfway through the afternoon I was on the verge of phoning the hall and saying I was ill, but I could not have looked myself in the face after that. So I went over...
It wasn't full, by any stretch of the imagination. The David Hall holds about 150 people maximum, but tonight we had about 25! There were folk singers aplenty, a very talented pretty young girl (probably still at school) who sang A Capella three numbers ranging from Elizabethan plain song to a Gershwin number, a duo with electric violin, and there was even one half of the band who had played at my 40th birthday party back in 2007 (see this blog passim). The lady in question (whose name escapes me - and I apologise) did some numbers accompanying herself on ukulele - and was brilliant. She included one delightfully moving little song about her 3 year old son called "Tick Tock", all about the passing of time and wishing it would stop so you could savour those golden moments all the more. I knew exactly what she meant. And then I was summoned onto stage...
...and it was all over! I went through my 10 minutes, got a stack of laughs, and on finishing got a roar of appreciation from the small audience and a long ovation. Very gratifying. I stayed to the end of the show watching the other artists before finally slipping away into the night. I got home about 11pm and celebrated with a glass or two of Shiraz (inevitably) - just hope I haven't sent any more emails to arts centres.
Today I am driving back to Kent to stay at my sister's near Sittingbourne as tomorrow I am back for my SEVENTH (yes, SEVENTH) visit to Blean School near Canterbury. I can't wait! And don't forget, next weekend it's the return of Chut Fest at Barrington Court. Chut Fest 2010 - see you there!

Monday, September 20, 2010

Robin Hood Jousting Tournament, Leeds Castle

Good King Hal doing a fine impression of a deep fat fryer (geddit??) whilst clutching a large twiglet. It's a filthy habit (geddit??) but we all have our crosses to bear. (Geddit??) (You're fired. GKH)

So for Henry VIII it was time for a rest. I drove up to Essex on the 15th September to spend some time with Amanda and James in Basildon. It was great to see my lovely James again. My pride and joy. I had a couple of nice days there, then on the Friday I drove down to Kent, to Leeds Castle to try on my new frock. Well, when I say frock, it was actually a monk's habit as I was now about to portray Friar Tuck at a Robin Hood themed jousting tournament for the weekend. As you can see from the picture here (very generously sent to me by the lovely Jennifer Dodd who works at Leeds Castle) the seamstress down there had done a fine job. Dallas, who normally builds my Father Christmas grotto when I am at Leeds in December, knocked up the large crucifix and I borrowed the over-sized twiglet (aka a quarterstaff) from the Knights of Royal England jousting team. It was nice to see Darlene, Jean, Lynn, Judy and everyone else again on the Friday, and it was good to meet Darlene's new assistant, Becky. Helen Budd was a very hard act to follow, but I think Becky is going to do very well.
The set up was more or less the same as ever. There was an encampment of food outlets, a bar, a sweetie shop, and a craft tent for the children to design their own shields, hats or helmets. Then over the road was the jousting arena, resplendent with flags and tents. We had the added bonus at the top of the hill of another tent village, this time run by local Rotary Clubs, with side shows such as coconut shies, hook a duck stalls, and a myriad of other sundry side shows raising money for good causes. They even had space hopper jousting. The mind boggles.
I was staying at my sister's house in Stockbury again, only this time on my own! Cathy and Julian are off over on the west coast of America enjoying themselves in such places as Carmel, San Francisco, Las Vegas, Yosemite, Monument Valley and the Grand Canyon. And I'm not jealous in the slightest. That growling sound you can hear is oh sod it. Yes, I am jealous! Grrrrr! But I hope they have a lovely time over there.
So on the Saturday we had a great day. I drove down to the castle and early on it was a bit quiet, but it soon hotted up. The weather was gorgeous and it was soon packed out. The management at the castle had budgeted for 4,500 visitors and they got over 5,000, which was great news. I began by wandering round near the tent village meeting people, having my photo taken and generally larking about. I then wandered up to the Knight's enclosure and would parade into the arena with the Royal Knights and spent the majority of the show berating the audience and working as a sort of Holy Cheer Leader. I got loads of gags from the audience regarding the visit of the Pope to these shores, but most of them I couldn't possibly post here. I was joined by a young couple who had been dressed up by the Castle people as Robin Hood and Maid Marian. The young girl was OK, and chatted with the people perfectly, but the poor lad dressed up as "The Hooded Man" barely smiled or said a word for the whole two days. He just permanently went about with the expression of a rabbit about to be mown down by a speeding articulated juggernaut - in tights. Poor little chap. Actually, he wasn't wearing tights. But it just sounds funnier.
On the Sunday morning I got up to the Castle particularly early as there was a car boot sale on in the upper car park. It was a slightly posher do than your normal car boot sale as the sellers were there by invite only and entrance for punters was at £4 a head! Most of the people selling there were from awfully nice families with frightfully long pedigrees and there was all sorts of ephemera on display. Darlene, Becky and I jaunted up there on one of the golf buggies from the jousting village and had a quick troll round, but quite a lot of it was over-priced, but I did pick up a nice sort of mandolin/lute instrument for £20. James Braxton (Toni's brother) from "Bargain Hunt" was there doing valuations in a Jackson Stops and Staffs tent (and with them there you knew it was a posh do!). We finished our plod around and headed back to the jousting arena. The Sunday was another good fun day, but the weather was a lot cooler and windy. There was even a few spots of rain. As it was one of the Royal Knights final shows for the year there was a distinct "end of term" feel about the show with lots of in-jokes and larking about, but everyone seemed to enjoy themselves. It was nice to see Jeremy and his family again, and Bill, Roland, Ashley and everyone else.
I drove back to Essex that evening and was due to have dinner out with Amanda, James and my parents who were up for the weekend from Wales visiting old friends. But James was tired and grouchy so it ended up with just myself and my parents eating. It was a Harvester restaurant, so you can guess what the grub was like. The word plastic comes to mind. We went back to Amanda's afterwards where James had made a miraculous recovery from his headache, and had lots of cuddles from his Nanna. Mum and Dad made their way back to their friend's house in Great Dunmow where they were staying and I had the delight of cuddling up with my son for the night.
I drove back to Somerset this morning, and despite a horrendous hold up on the M25 where a bloody great big Range Rover had come a disappointing second in an argument with a lorry, I was eventually home. My next engagement this week is on Sunday evening where I am doing a stand up slot at the David Hall Centre in South Petherton, near Ilminster. ARGH! But I can't escape from it now!

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Good King Hal Fan Page on Facebook

A screen shot of "Good King Hal - The Computer Game" shortly before his Majesty gets disnitigrated by some Martian git.

I know a lot of people read this blog, and I thank you all for that, but I thought I should just bring to all your collected attentions the fact that on Facebook there is a Good King Hal fan page. You can access it via this link: or simply sign in to Facebook and in the search box, type Good King Hal and take it from there. Join the group by clicking on the "Like" button - the more the merrier!
You can catch me at Leeds Castle next weekend for the jousting tournament, but not as Henry VIII - as it is a Robin Hood themed event, I bet you can't guess which character they have me signed up to appear as....? Let me have your best guesses.
And yes, I did spell disnitigrated like that on purpose.

Friday, September 10, 2010

An Evening at Dillington House

Dillington House near Ilminster, exactly as it looked this evening when Good King Hal left. Except it was night time. To achieve this effect look at this picture with your eyes closed or turn the lights off.

From one of my many appearances at Barrington Court, a fine upstanding chap by the name of Ben Lankester managed to get my details and had booked me for the show I did this evening. Ben is a consultant orthopaedic surgeon (I think) and had organised a big day meeting at Dillington House near Ilminster for lots of other orthopaedic consultant-type people. This culminated in a lavish dinner this evening with me as the guest speaker. I arrived and was immediately told by a man sitting on a chair in the lobby that they had been expecting me. This all sounded a bit James Bond for me, so I checked under the carpet for any shark tanks, but there weren't any.
I got changed in one of the very plush upstairs cloak rooms in Dillington House and then made my way downstairs. I met Ben in the garden on the terrace - a really nice chap. I met his wife and various of his colleagues, and was soon requested to call the guests in for dinner. We were in one of the smaller downstairs dining rooms in the main house, the roof above us was beautifully decorated with bosses and Tudor roses. The main meal was delicious, starting with a choice of either leek and tarragon soup or smoked gravlax - I went for the soup which was absolutely gorgeous. Next up it was trout or chicken supreme - chicken won for me (not a very fishy King I'm afraid). Finally it was blackberry cheesecake to finish off. Wow, this was good stuff. Surely nothing could spoil it - oh blimey hang on, I've got to do a talk now! I launched into my Henry routine went brilliantly! They were a fabulous audience and really joined in and seemed to thoroughly enjoy the whole thing. When I finished they even kept the applause going till I stood up for a "curtain call" so to speak! Really gratifying! Ben Lankester thanked me profusely and soon I was out of the boiling costume, in my civvies and on my way home. It was a lovely, lovely evening and thoroughly enjoyable. And there was no huge shark tank or bald headed lunatic in a grey suit stroking a white cat while plotting damnation and total world destruction. No, he was appearing at Montacute House this evening.

Wednesday, September 08, 2010

John Rankin Junior, Newbury, Berkshire

Good King Hal with the Good Food Ireland people, mere nano-seconds before the regrettable "potato famine joke incident". Surgeons worked for 8 hours before they successfully removed the Maris piper in question.

A new school and a new academic year! Woo-hoo! The alarm going off at 5am this morning. Not quite so woo-hoo. However, on a more positive woo-hoo scale, the A303 and the A34 were relatively harmless today and there was the added bonus that Sarah "Caned-Already" Kennedy wasn't on air this morning, her place being filled by Lynn Parsnips.
John Rankin School is based on the south west side of Newbury, which was good as I didn't have to go right into the town to find it. I had been asked to this school by Helen Poore, a teacher I have worked with before at Long Sutton School in Hampshire, Medstead School and now here at John Rankin. It was a lovely school - great kids, about 60 of them, very sparky and excitable, just how I like them! Lots of laughs - some wonderful teachers. It was nice to see Helen again. She doubled up as official photographer for the day with her hugely impressive camera. The morning went swimmingly, even though they have this odd set up at John Rankin where lessons start at 9am and they don't have their morning break until 11am! So I began the day with a two hour session straight off. Quite a welcome back after the summer break!
Lunch was great - a really tasty roast beef, but was somewhat spoiled by the apple I had chosen for my "pudding". It was so sour! When I first bit into it I had to have a closer look as I thought I might have mistakenly picked up a lemon. It sort of made you suck your cheeks in and your eyes water. I took one more excruciating bite and gave it up as a bad job. The afternoon session seemed to whip by and we were soon in the midst of a fine jousting tournament. A lot of the parents showed up to watch, which was nice, and in a rip roaring finale the gentlemen finally ran out worthy winners. Well done lads! For the first time ever, I think, the lads are now in front on our leader board - but of course this is after just the one tournament. So the score says:
Next Henry show is on Friday night when I am doing a talk at Dillington House near Ilminster.

Monday, September 06, 2010

Back in the BBC.

The gigantic studio at BBC Somerset where Emma Britton spreads forth the love, good feelings and Charles & Eddie records.

So it was up bright and early for another return visit to BBC Somerset in Taunton and an appearance on the panel of Emma Britton's show and the section called "Have Your Say". You could really tell that the schools were back in Somerset today. The roads into Taunton were unbelievably bad! I was really worried at one point that I was going to be late late late. But as it happened I managed to arrive at the studio almost smack on time. Emma and her producer Will were as welcoming as ever and I was on the show with a lovely chap who owns/runs/is Curry Mallet village shop and post office. Have a look at their website and check out the incredible cakes they make and sell! Well worth a visit.
The show itself was great fun. Lots of laughs and jokes, the conversation kept flowing and there was some great interaction with the listeners of BBC Somerset. If you missed the show or would like to hear it again then go to click on the listen again button on the radio page and select the Emma Britton Show for this Monday. And then you might also understand the Charles and Eddie reference above!
Wednesday I am at John Rankin School in Newbury, Berkshire for the first Henry of the academic year. I am also back at Dillington House this Friday evening for a talk at a private party. Should be fun.
Also, have you noticed how the hit counter on the blog has got to nearly 30,000? Thanks to all of you who have made this possible.

Sunday, September 05, 2010

Dillington House Open Day 2010

Good King Hal (left) doing a very presentable impression of a garden gnome at Dillington House.

The Dillington House open day is always good fun. Lots of people to meet, interesting stalls and set ups, and a few jokes and laughs along the way. I have to admit this morning when I first woke up I had some doubts as to whether it would take place at all today. Rain was lashing against the window and the skies were low and moody. Not ideal for a mostly open air event. But as the morning progressed, the skies started to lift and though never a roasting bright sunny day, the threat of rain slowly dissipated.
If you are unaware of Dillington House, then let me illuminate things for you. I could write out a long and not very well put together history of Dillington, whereas I think the best thing is if you just click here: which will give you all the information you need. A wonderful fascinating building.
The open day is an annual event where Dillington shows off it's facilities and the sort of courses you can study there. Denise Borer, one of the managers at Dillington, books me every year to come along as Henry and wander about. It is always good fun and was no different this time around. I saw lots of old familiar faces which was delightful, and met some new ones as well. I posed for various photos, dished out a few business cards and just had a lovely time being Henry again! Then, right at the end, whilst preparing to go home I bumped into.... VALERIE SINGLETON! Yes! Valerie "Sticky-Back-Plastic-Incontinent-Elephant-Get-Down-Shep" Singleton. Now I know someone who worked with her in the past who had said she could be a little...ahem...difficult, but today she was an absolute sweetie. She was very complimentary about my Henry costume and performance, and came across as a very nice lady.
The photo above was given to me today by a very nice photographer who had snapped it 12 months ago at the last open day! He has offered to email me some more. Smashing. Tomorrow morning I am on BBC Somerset with Emma Britton between 9am and 10am - if you don't live in the Somerset area you can always listen on line via the web. Wednesday I am back for my first Henry day of the new academic year at Newbury in Berkshire.