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 actually....er....er... 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!