Sunday, November 28, 2010

More Mistletoe Fayre Funne...

Meanwhile, in an all night gas-lit pecan-nut crushing emporium on Streatham High Road, octogenarian Algerian wash board wrangler, Attila Corn-Plaster, heir to the fortune of Barbara Cartland's cartographer and first solo pianist to plummet off Niagara Falls and not live, has discovered the Nazi blue prints to Ethel Merman's diving bell fixated Persian cat-tweaking mobile laundry service on an S2 bus calling at Rokeby Street, West Ham Lane, Whalebone Lane and the Portway. A cold front has swept in from the arctic bringing war, death, pestilence and famine to western Yeovil. Police describe the situation as normal for a Sunday. And now here's Carole Kirkwood with the weather. Carole?

The second day of the annual Barrington Court Mistletoe Fayre dawned colder than yesterday, but there was certainly less snow around. As I arrived this morning it was very pleasing today to see that the car park was full to bursting, this meant we were due more people than the slightly disappointing turn out we had on Saturday. I was right, but it also meant that I had trouble finding somewhere to park. Luckily I ran into Matthew Applegate (not literally of course) and he allowed me to park in the private spaces tucked away around the back of Barrington Court and for use by the people who live in the apartments in Strode House.
It was a great turn out today, and some very nice stalls. I myself purchased some wonderful home cured smoked bacon and some pork and leek sausages. Lovely! I also got to meet some wonderful people all of whom seemed to be in very high spirits - apart from one. There was a heavily bearded man walking around pushing a lady in a wheel chair, who I assumed to be his mother. I chatted to the lady in the wheel chair, who had a face like a smacked arse, and then after speaking to the man with the beard I realised why she was so miserable. The first thing this Rasputin look-a-like said to me was "I heard a programme about you on Radio 4 the other night..." This made me nervous straight away as I find Radio 4 something of an enigma. I call it Radio Smug as it seems to have this air of being a closed club that only some people are allowed into. And I intend to stay that way until Kirsty Young allows me to be on "Desert Island Discs". Anyway, I am getting off the point. The Rasputin look-a-like continued and said "It was all about the disgraceful way you treated Catherine of Aragon." Before I could get a chance to say anything, he went up a gear. "You were a MONSTER to that poor girl. A MONSTER!" Foam was beginning to form around the sides of his mouth. At this point I tried to point out to him that I was in fact an actor (obviously a bloody good one to get this sort of reaction), but he carried on chuntering away before wheeling his long suffering facially downcast mother into another room. Thank God that was over. About an hour later I bumped into him again, this time on his own. On each day of the Fayre we had a Mummer's play which was performed in one of the upstairs rooms. Rasputin wanted to know if there was access to the upstairs of Barrington Court for disabled people. I told him there was only a lift in Strode House and therefore not any real possibility of getting his joy-free Mother and her wheel chair up to see the show. He simply hissed the word "pathetic..." and stomped off towards the toilets, preferably to fall into a blocked urinal and choke to death on a bleach cake. And would serve him right. But this miserable git aside, everything was good today. And so was the cricket.
Next week I am back to Nelson Junior School in East Ham for my 4th visit! Should be a good one. South East, here I come.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Three Days...

"Look at the size of that dibber!" exclaimed Good King Hal. He was immediately arrested.

This was a busy few days for me. It began on Thursday morning when I was due back on Emma Britton's Show on BBC Somerset. I had been due on a couple of weeks back, but there was a change of plan at the last minute and I was postponed for two weeks. I found myself for the first time in a long time being stuck in seriously bad Taunton traffic and actually arrived at the studio about ten minutes late. I was on the panel with Kate from the company Travels on Horseback (, a lovely lady who I had appeared on Emma's programme with before. We had a great discussion and it was also fantastic to know that my Aussie friend from Facebook, Jennie Towan, was listening on the other side of the world - and gloating about the Test Match. (It's only the first test, Jen!)
On the Friday I was off down to Exeter for a return visit to the Maynard School. As like last year they wanted the day to run from 10.30am to 4pm, which was fine by me. I left home giving myself plenty of time to get there - only to first come across a big smash on the A30 on Windwhistle Hill. This held me up for about 20 minutes, then when I finally got to Exeter I found the place virtually gridlocked with Christmas shoppers. I finally arrived at The Maynard approximately 10 minutes before I am due to appear at the start of my show. But as ever at this lovely school, I was warmly welcomed, especially by the lovely Keagh Fry, and was soon changed and ready. As ever it was a small group, 14 ladies this year, but they were very responsive, full of laughs and again in superb costumes. After the morning session, Keagh and I have a very nice lunch (Fish and chips!) and then it's back to the hall for more nonsense. Of course with it being an all girl's school I can't allow the jousting result to go into our year long score, but as you can guess, the ladies won!
Now instead of heading for home, I was now heading off to Dartmoor and an evening with my cousins, Mike and Janet Baker at their lovely home in Manaton. I had last visited them about 15 years ago with my late Grandfather, and had driven down there in bright summer sunshine and daylight. I was now fighting my way out of a yet again gridlocked Exeter, it is pitch dark and it is starting to snow. My sat nav seems to not have even the slightest idea where we are going. So instead of the sensible way of getting to Manaton (down the A38 and then turn off at Bovey Tracy) I now find myself on some tiny unlit track, with snow thick in the fields around me, somewhere near Mortonhampstead. And this seems to go on interminably. Added to which there seems to be absolutely no road signs whatsoever. After what seems like a lifetime of pitch dark single track lanes, with more and more snow falling, suddenly I see a tiny road sign that says "Manaton". Thank God for that! I slithered down this road and find myself by the church in Manaton which I remember parking up by the last time I had visited Mike and Janet all those years ago. But all is still pitch dark and snowy and there is no sign of their house. I finally slide down another hill and see some lights in the darkness, and there is Mike leaning against his front gate smoking one of his roll up cigarettes. As I climb from the car, I am sorely tempted to fall to my knees and kiss the ground, a la Pope John Paul II. I was warmly welcomed into their nice snug home, in which they have just had installed a brand new wood burning stove, which was so nice to sit around. Janet cooked a lovely meal, we drank too much wine and Mike let me have four trenchers (Tudor wooden plates) that he had specially made for me. I stayed overnight and after a nice breakfast I was soon on my way back to Somerset.
There was a fair bit of snow about on the hills of the Dartmoor, but not as much as I expected, but I thought it would thin out as I got closer to home. WRONG! By the time I got to Chard there was thick snow all around. Well, what other type of snow would you expect in Chard? I stopped off at home for a quick sit down and a cough (as Tony Hancock nearly said), I was off and out the door again for another run around at Barrington Court for their annual Mistletoe Fayre. As usual there were the fabulous selection of stalls and vendors of fine foods, drinks and wonderful crafts. It was good to see the Blackdown Babes selling group again, but there was slightly less people around this year than in previous times. This was mostly due to the weather most people assumed, so we are hoping for a better turn out tomorrow. Matthew seemed in good form, but I didn't see much of him.
All this and we are still being hammered by the Aussies in the first test. SIGH. Some things never change...

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Parkfield School, Taunton

Good King Hal during his career as a doorman at the "Codpieces" Nightclub. His frequent cries of "Oi! No denim pantaloons!" made him few friends.

A return trip to Parkfield School in Taunton and the unique Mr Sides, the head teacher. I love this school and it's great kids, and all the teachers are friendly, chatty and a laugh a minute. On top of all this of course, is the aforementioned Mr Wynford Sides. He is outspoken, individual, quite old school, but a great head teacher none the less. He greeted me again on Tuesday morning when I arrived for my latest appearance at his school. It was another fine day at this brilliant place - the drive in was nice and easy, which isn't always the case in Taunton, and the work that was being done on the car park last year that resulted in me having to park about half a mile away, is thankfully over.
As ever all the children had dressed up in some fantastic costumes, including one lad dressed as a Knight in Shining Armour which seemed to consist of most Somerset based stocks of bacofoil. There was even one lad who seemed to be a cross between Kurt Cobain and a Musketeer. The morning was great with lots of laughs and some great displays of Tudor knowledge by the children. There were more nice comments about how good my new costume looked, which was very gratifying.
During lunch I sat and chatted to one of the teachers I had met at Parkfield before. She is a French lady who now lives over here with her husband and children. She was telling me a bit more about Francis the 1st, King of France and Henry VIII's contemporary - they met at the Field of the Cloth of Gold where they famously supposedly wrestled. I asked her how Francis is perceived in France in modern times, i.e. was he seen as some kind of monster as Henry is now seen by most modern people in this country. Apparently Francis is seen as a great moderniser, the person who dragged France into the modern world, a great patron of the arts (the man who brought Leonardo da Vinci to France!) and the builder of some famous and beautiful castles across the whole country. So just like Henry really... (ahem)...
The afternoon was a belter, so many laughs and a really brilliant jousting tournament. I knew there was little chance of the ladies winning here as during their race off, both teams proved as inept as each other! The actual final against the gents was a lot closer than I anticipated, but the Gentlemen ran out winners comfortably in the end. This now makes our score:
All square again, and as I have stated before, a lot closer than last year.
I am finally back on Emma Britton's Show on BBC Somerset tomorrow morning between 9am and 10am, then on Friday I am back at the Maynard School in Exeter which will be nice to see Keagh Fry and all her chums down there again. And by the look of the weather outlook I had better keep myself wrapped up in my furs! Brrrrrrrrr!

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Children in Need & Kathryn Tickell

Good King Hal, in brand spanking new costume and with a bear behind. That's Pudsey, shortly before he needed another lie down.

Now I had a nasty feeling that this long trumpeted appearance by yours truly for the BBC at their annual Children in Need appeal was going to turn into another Rolf on Art. Well, I was nearly right. I had driven down to Kent on the Thursday to see my parents who were spending this week with my sister Cathy and her husband Julian at their house in Stockbury near Sittingbourne. On the Friday, after briefly getting two new tyres on my car, I drove down to Leeds Castle. My first stop was to try on a brand new Father Christmas outfit that I will be wearing for the festivities this year. It looks great and I am sure will be a big hit. Next it was time for a Production Meeting with the BBC people and the Leeds Castle people to let all of us know what the heck to expect for the broadcast in the evening. When this little thing was out of the way I went up to Darlene's office with her and her assistant Becky for a swift cup of tea before the rigours of the evening began.
Things had not got off to the best start when it turned out that I was sharing my dressing room with four other people as one whole dressing room had been bagged by the person playing Pudsey Bear. He had insisted on this as he was sometimes "utterly drained" from his performances and needed somewhere dark and quiet to lie down. I suggested Romney Marsh when the sun goes down. I was in with the Go Ape! and Princess Sparkle people, which if you saw the evening on BBC1 you'll probably have some idea what I am on about. The whole broadcast was going to be staged in the Fairfax Hall, across the moat from the main castle. The castle itself was to be illuminated and would have a giant picture of Pudsey projected onto the main walls. Inside the Fairfax there would be a band playing and a large area for kids and parents to sit and enjoy face painting and nibbles supplied by the castle. I spent the opening hour wandering round talking to the parents and children, but soon it was getting close to the first broadcast. I was frog marched out to the terrace overlooking the castle and was bandied in with groups of fund raisers from local schools, each with large cheques to show off to the camera. It was perishingly cold out on this terrace. They did a technical run through of where the cameras would go, then a rehearsal, and then a full rehearsal. The little lad standing in front of me, though clearly nervous, was word perfect. We then had to hang on and hang on until it was time for us to go "live". The lights came on, the female presenter started shouting at the camera, and they came to the little lad in front of me - and he completely cocked up his lines. Bless. There were a couple of close ups of me in the new costume from Judy, but for the rest of the evening that was about it for me. I was in another couple of shots, but was frequently shoved to the back so various children, teenagers and Pudsey-sodding-Bear could stand in front. After a brilliant fire work display it just seemed right to call it a night. I went back to my dressing room and changed, before briefly tottering round and saying goodnight to all my friends at the Castle. When I got back to my sisters, there were a lot of unhappy faces.
"We watched that stupid bloody programme all night, saw your face twice and your hat once. I'm going to bed." This was my jolly father before he stomped off upstairs to bed. Ah good, he was in a good mood. I treated myself to a couple of glasses of much needed wine to help relax, and then repaired to my own bed and slept very well.
Saturday morning I was off fairly sharpish from Cathy's in Kent as I had tickets for the Saturday evening for a concert by the delightful Kathryn Tickell at South Petherton in Somerset. I had originally purchased four tickets for this show, two for me and a "guest" and two for my friend Matthew Applegate and his wife Sue. However, after having looked her up on You Tube, Matthew decided he and his wife didn't like Kathryn Tickell's music and would not be coming. That's alright, another one of my masses of great mates would want these tickets, I was sure. WRONG! People were either busy, not interested, or in the case of my friend Jill Beed in Bridport, openly hostile to the idea of seeing Kathryn Tickell in concert! Her exact words were "wild horses could not drag me into that hall to listen to THAT woman!" I really wish she wouldn't beat around the bush and would let me know exactly how she feels about this music. Eventually, my dear old friend Ali Bessell came up from Portsmouth where she lives, we had a quick dinner at Ip's Palace Chinese in beautiful downtown Crewkerne, and then headed over to the David Hall Centre in South Petherton for the show. 150 people were crammed into the hall, and it was a superb show. The musicianship, the technical skills, the on-stage banter, it was all magical, and Kathryn and her band were on top form and went down a storm. One of the best musical evenings of my life. If you ever get a chance to see the Kathryn Tickell Band in concert, allow wild horses to drag you in - you will love it!
My next show is on Tuesday this week with a Henry visit to Parkfield Junior in Taunton, then I am off to the Maynard in Exeter later in the week.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

This.... is Norfolk.

Norwich's most famous export apart from Delia Smith, Mustard and Jeremy Goss with that volley against Bayern Munich! Did you see that? He must have a foot like a traction engine!

I was up for two days in sunny Norfolk at two brand new schools for me. So to begin with I drove to Essex to spend some time with my son James and his Mummy, but it involved the next morning getting up at 4.30am to drive up to Gresham village, north of Norwich on the way to Cromer. It was a cold icy morning and the thermometer on my car never rose above minus two for the whole journey. As the sun began to bleed it's light from the horizon the verges by the road appeared bright white, as though dusted with snow, but it was just a very thick frost. Despite these low temperatures I was making excellent progress and my destination grew closer and closer. Suddenly the sat nav chimed and announced I had arrived. I stopped the car and looked round. I was by an empty open field. A bemused looking pheasant cast a beady eye at me and then sauntered off. Great. Where the hell was I? I re-programmed the sat nav using the name of the village rather than the post code as I had been using. The machine almost seemed to say "what the hell are you doing in this field? Your destination if over there!" and so off I went. I eventually managed to locate Gresham Village School in a very nice area of rural land and red brick Victorian country houses. Extremely attractive. As I was unloading my car another vehicle pulled up next to mine with two long haired Tudor be-decked figures. "Ah!" I boomed, "Two lovely wenches!" One of them had a beard. Bugger. These were the fellow re-enactors I had heard about. They played music and taught the children Tudor dance and etiquette. I began the morning wandering around to the nursery and reception class to meet the children and talk about Henry and Tudor times. They were really diddy and cute, all in fabulous costumes. I began by asking them how long ago they thought Henry had been around. One little chap ventured five years. I told them it was longer than that, so he guessed six, and then seven. This could take a long time I thought. Later on in the morning I was in the main hall with years 3, 4, 5 and 6, and we had a really good time. Lots of laughs and great knowledge from the children. Lunch was a fine Tudor banquet seated around long tables, with yours truly on the top table with the teachers. This soon led on to more talk and music stuff from me and finally a grand jousting tournament that culminated in a win for the ladies. This made the score now:
I presented the winning certificates in an end of day assembly attended by some of the parents. Great stuff. I loaded up the car and then headed off to Acle and my luxury Travelodge abode for the evening. It was, as any Travelodge, a bit spartan but warm and comfortable, and I slept very well.
In the morning I was up and out the door to Old Catton School in north Norwich. This was another new school and I had been recommended to them by the good people at White Woman Lane School. The teachers were a lovely lot at this school and we had plenty of laughs. It was a big group of children and sometimes they were a bit difficult to keep under tabs, but it all turned out fine in the end. The jousting tournament was another loud and fun affair which ended with ANOTHER win for the ladies! They had completed their come back from being so far behind. The score is now:
I drove back to Essex after the show and took Amanda and James out for a curry at the star-studded Bas Vegas. James has announced that he wants to be an actor when he is older. He then got a bit confused as he stated he'd rather be an actress than an actor. It appears he would give his all for his career. What a hero!
I am down to Kent tomorrow and then on Friday at Leeds Castle with the BBC for the Children in Need evening. Keep watching!

Monday, November 15, 2010

Cwmduad (and that's not a spelling mistake)

Good King Hal playing spot the castle. And failing, obviously.

I had originally been invited out to Cwmduad near Carmarthen in Wales back in September, however the group that had booked me suddenly realised that most of their members and potential audience were still on holiday, so the show was postponed for two months. So on the Friday just gone I drove down to Newcastle Emlyn, where my parents now live, which is only about 10 miles north of Cwmduad. I arrived on Friday at about lunch time and joined my parents, and my sister Susan for a bite to eat at Harrison's Cafe in Newcastle Emlyn - trust me on this, you would be well worth your while seeking this place out. Great food and always a warm welcome. It was great to see my sister Sue just back from a Rubinoos spotting trip to San Francisco (and you thought I was weird)...
On the Saturday morning my father and I drove down to Cwmduad to see if we could find the Community Centre Hall where I was to do my show that evening. I also had some stuff to post from sales on Ebay and there was a post office in Cwmduad so we could kill two birds with one large parcel. Or something like that. The drive down to Cwmduad from Newcastle Emlyn is nice at the best of times, but this time of year it is wonderful. The trees are a russet red and crowd in round the edges of the Teifi River that meanders alongside the road as you drive along. Lovely! In Cwmduad we popped into the Post Office which is situated in a local B&B. Three people were sitting chatting in the breakfast area. As I walked in one of the men immediately said "Hello Michael!" which astounded me. It turned out these lovely people in the B&B were the organisers for this evening's "Henry VIII" event! As I had pulled up in my father's car outside they had all agreed I just had to be the same bloke they had been talking to via email! After posting my stuff we went up to the Community Hall with them to see how it was set up. The community had done themselves proud, the hall was small, but was brilliantly set out with long tables, secluded lighting, tapestries, heraldic shields and everything else you could imagine for a Tudor banquet. It was going to be a good evening.
With the afternoon to kill, my father and I went down to see the mighty Newcastle Emlyn FC in their latest home match. A humongous crowd of about 25 had turned up and I graciously offered to pay the entrance fee of £2 for me and £1 for my father as an OAP. I told him he could get the tickets next time we go to the San Siro in Milan. The match was against the awesome Newport YMCA, so we knew Newcastle Emlyn should really walk this one. After just 1 minute, Newcastle Emlyn burst through and scored a fabulous opening goal so it was obvious this match was going to be very one sided. And it was. Newport YMCA won 6-1. Newcastle Emlyn were awful and could barely string two passes together and succeeded in making Newport YMCA look like Brazil. With 10 minutes to go, my Father and I were the only two mugs still sitting in the tiny grandstand. Everyone else had given up and gone. I can't wait to go back and see them again!
In the evening, with tickets for the event now purchased for my parents, I drove down to Cwmduad. It was a lovely evening, a great turn out, about 50+ people, many of them in wonderful medieval fancy dress. I was at the head of the table on a grand throne and with the others gathered around me. The meal was a fine rustic vegetable soup to begin, then roast pork rolls with apple sauce, crackling, and stuffing, and then finishing with apple pie. I was on between the pork roll and the apple pie (which sounds messy, but trust me it was OK) and the talk seemed to go really well. All the people made me very welcome, had worked incredibly hard and had made the whole evening a roaring success. Pats on the back all round.
Sunday I had lunch with my parents at Sue and Ian's place (sister and other half, if you were wondering), which was an indescribably tasty vegetarian cottage pie, followed by an apple pie with custard, which was brought alive with some zesty lemon. Great stuff. After that, I sat in the car like Buddha and drove back to Somerset.
This week I am off to Essex today, then tomorrow I am up to Norfolk for two days, then back down to Kent for an appearance at Leeds Castle on Friday night for BBC1's Children in Need. Turn on, tune in and don't blink, cos you might miss me!

Thursday, November 11, 2010

St Francis Junior, Ventnor, Isle of Wight

Good King Hal firing a tranquilising dart at restless pupils during his fourteen hour presentation on the Pilgrimage of Grace. My how they laughed.

On Wednesday evening I had popped over to Martock to see my friend Judy who is making me a new Henry costume. She was also renovating my hat as it was looking a bit tired. The evening was a perfect example of what winter can be - clear, bright and crisply cold. Lovely. I knew that in the morning I was up with the lark to drive down to Lymington to catch the ferry over to the Isle of Wight for a visit to St Francis Junior School in Ventnor, and a clear crisp morning would make the drive down to the New Forest port a delight. The alarm went off at "OH MY GOD IT'S EARLY" O'clock and I was horrified to look out the window and see heavy rain spattering against the pane and the loud moan of a strong wind. I think the word rhymes with "rugger".
The drive down, despite the weather and lots of patches of water gathering on the road, was remarkably easy. It was so nice to see the roads so clear. As I got down to Lymington I was rewarded with the site of a ferry waiting in the port. I popped in to pick up my ticket and was soon on board. My car was warm and inviting, and the thought of staggering up the stairs to the passenger lounge as the ferry tossed around on the wind blasted Solent didn't exactly make the heart beat any faster. So I simply snuggled down in my drivers seat and nodded off.
My journey from Yarmouth to Ventnor was via Freshwater and along the old military road. This was like something out of the Bible - the sky was black as Lemmy's leather jacket, the wind was hammering against the car and frequently jerking it to one side, and the rain was screaming in horizontally. My mood was lifted enormously when Aled Jones (the wonderful replacement for thirsty DJ Sharah (sic) Kennedy) announced that their celebrity "Birthday Wishes" for today, November 11th were going out to Andy Partridge, lead singer and guitarist with XTC! He even announced he was going to play an XTC track to celebrate! Now this would normally get me excited, but I know the BBC Radio playlist for XTC consists of "Making Plans For Nigel", "Senses Working Overtime", and usually something lamentably awful like "Generals and Majors" or "Science Friction". And then he played...wait for it... "The Mayor of Simpleton", one of my all time favourite XTC tracks, and suddenly that Bible black morning didn't seem quite so horrible!
St Francis School in Ventor is an odd place, honestly. It is a mixed Catholic and C of E School. I wondered if they had half the children down one end of the playground brandishing pictures of Pope Benedict XVI and waving Irish tricolours above their heads, whilst the other half marched around in bowler hats and orange sashes screaming about "NO SURRENDARRR!" But they didn't, it was a lovely place. I was warmly welcomed by Emily Ridett who I had previously seen at Haylands School in Ryde on a previous Vectis visit, and was soon set up in the hall. We had a great morning, lots of laughs and some really sparky smart children. We had a break at 11am to mark the two minute silence for Armistice Day. After a lovely lunch we were back in the hall quite early for some fun with the stocks and then a storming, noisy and memorable jousting tournament that went right to the wire. This time the Gents finally broke away and won the final. This now makes our score:
I packed up and was on my way, and was soon at Yarmouth, just as a ferry was coming into port. I thought I'd soon be on board and on my way. But we sat there, and sat there, and sat there. Occasionally a member of staff would walk down the gang plank, scratch their arse, puff on their fag and (probably) blow off, before wandering back on board again. After about 45 minutes we were finally let on board. Again I waited in the car, though my sleep was somewhat disturbed this time by various idiots on board leaving their car alarms on before going up to the passenger deck. As soon as the ferry hit open water outside the port, and the strong winds and waves hit us every single car alarm seemed to go off in unison. My how we laughed. Of course by the time I got back to the mainland it was about 4.30pm and of course the rush hour had started. It took me some time, to fight my way through the heavy traffic and the terrible weather, but I was finally back in Crewkerne. I treated myself to a Chinese meal and am even now, girding my loins for another long drive tomorrow up to Wales.

Tuesday, November 09, 2010

A Quickie... (ooh er!)

Just a quick note to anyone who was considering tuning in to Emma Britton's show on Wednesday this week on BBC Somerset in the hope of hearing my dulcet tones... Well, my appearance has been postponed. They are doing a special, very serious sounding show tomorrow now, and don't need a mock Tudor Monarch camping it up a storm in the studio. I have now been re-booked to appear on Emma's show on the morning of 25th November. Tune in then!
And now, here's Daniel Corbett with the weather. Daniel?

Archbishop Cranmer School, Taunton

Good King Hal attempting to write crude graffiti on the ceiling in the main hall at Barrington Court using a lance. He got as far as "Gertrude Jekyll is a..." before he was shot with a tranquiliser dart. He was later released back into the wild in the Serengeti Safari Park.

I only get to visit Archbishop Cranmer School (or ABC as it is known locally) every other year as I do years 3 and 4 combined. However, this was my fourth visit in the past seven years and it was a delight to be back. I was warmly welcomed by Sally Westney again, and got to see dear Tracy Crossman, who is now Tracy Owens as she has recently got spliced. But she works with a different year now, so was not in for the full day.
It was about 50 children for the day, and they were as ever at this wonderful school, great fun. Knowledgeable, fun, sparky and ready to laugh. There seems to be a hell of a lot of upgrading going on at ABC, some of which might be finished, and some of which my not. It was hard to tell! The main hall was distinctly nippy for the most part of the day, so I guess the heating is on the "to do" list! The morning session went down a storm, but I did make a bit of a boo-boo during the question and answer session just before lunch. I was taking various questions from the children when I went to one boy with his hand up. He said:
"How long he be King?" In a high pitched, almost helium influenced sing song voice. I told him to repeat the question in a sensible way and in his own voice. Sally Westney called to me that the child had only recently started at the school, was Portuguese and really did talk like that. Oops. Sorry!
I had some sandwiches for lunch, before we were back in the hall for a fun stocks session, followed by yet another brilliant joust. This one was really close, but it was the Ladies who triumphed again! They have now closed the gap on the gents to make the score:
Wonderful stuff! I am back on Emma Britton's show on BBC Somerset on Wednesday morning between 9 and 10am, and then on Thursday (which according to the current weather forecast looks fairly apocalyptic) I am off to Ventnor on the Isle of Wight for a show there. Should be fun!

Friday, November 05, 2010

Manor Court Junior, Chard

Good King Hal (left) yesterday, just before he woke up from the dream. Seen here scratching his arse with a big sword. As you do. And I really do look like this, until I wake up.

It was the final day of a long week today, and another return visit, this time to the wonderful Manor Court School in Chard. The original plan had been that the children from this school would come and visit me at Barrington Court for their Henry day. However, the heating system at the Court house is at present a bit hors du combat as the French would say in a very poorly written way, and the thought of the poor little pupils freezing in the old kitchen, it was decided to swap the day back to Manor Court School itself.
It was good to be back and nice to see all the old familiar faces again, like the lovely Laura Devereaux, the lady who had booked me for the show this year. It was two year 6 classes today, a total of about 55 pupils. The morning was fun, but a little truncated as there was an assembly just before morning break. After tottering down to the new Sainsbury's in Chard for a sandwich it was soon back to the main hall and the Tudor day continued. The afternoon was fairly riotous, but was also curtailed due to another assembly! The jousting was a fabulous event and was won this time by the ladies! Our score now moves to:
And so this long week is done. I got back fairly early to Chez Henry in Crewkerne, and promptly fell asleep in my coma chair. I am really looking forward to my weekend off. I am back on show on Monday with another return visit, back to Archbishop Cranmer School in Taunton. Tired, but happy.

Thursday, November 04, 2010

Dunster School

A tense moment as Keith Emerson realises his mighty wurlitzer has just fallen apart. Music lovers from around the globe wept with joy, however their happiness was short lived as mere nano-seconds later Carl Palmer launched into a 23 minute drum solo brought only to a finale due to a sudden attack of Tigers.

The long week continued, but today it was time to go to Dunster. This was my 7th visit to this lovely village/school and once again I was warmly greeted by the charming head teacher, Peter Hoyland. The teacher I normally see, Nicola Grey, had a child last year and is now only working at the school in a very part time basis, so it was a new class teacher for this year's group. Her name was Katy Swann and she was lovely! She pre-warned me the group could be a little "lively", but they were pretty good all in all. It was a small group, only about 30 children, but they were excitable, eager to join in and good fun as ever at Dunster. If you are ever in Somerset, you really should go out of your way to visit Dunster. Most visitors to this part of the North Somerset coast tend to head for Minehead, an act I think worthy of committal for treason. Minehead is a typical "knees up Mother Brown", knotted handkerchief on head, fish and chips, "lets all go down the Strand - HAVE A BANANA!", paddling in the surf, plastic bucket and spade, God-awful seaside resort as you can find anywhere. But Dunster, just a few miles inland from this hell hole is a delight. The high hills around the small village are dominated by the grand walls of Dunster Castle, whereas down in the centre all is olde worlde charm, beams, leaded light windows and period detail. Quaint is the ideal word to cover it. I have only ever been to Dunster to work at the school, but I really must get back there sometime as a genuine visitor.
The morning passed at great speed and was loud and entertaining. I had lunch with Mr Hoyland and we discussed his amazing musical taste, and all the great bands he has seen recently and is going to see. Mr H is quite a groovy dude with trips to see Madness and Ocean Colour Scene recently under his belt, and he is off to see Paul Weller at the end of this month. Lucky chap! Mind you, I am off to see Kathryn Tickell soon (who? I hear you cry. Google her!) and I am looking forward to it.
After the musical interlude it was back to Tudor times for a slightly dinner-lady-delayed afternoon session. The jousting was such a closely fought contest in the final, but it was the gents again back on the winning trail as they just squeaked the narrowest of victories. This now makes our score:
How much different it would have been if the ladies could have just taken that win today. Amazing. As I left this lovely school today, the sky above was leaden and heavy with cloud. However, the Quantock Hills in the distance were bathed in bright sunshine and looked almost unreal. Villages, hamlets and houses on their green undulating uplands were picked out in natures spotlight and sparkled alluringly. Lovely!
Tomorrow I am back at Manor Court School in Chard for more Tudor nonsense. Read all about it here tomorrow.

Wednesday, November 03, 2010

St Paul's Junior, Shepton Mallet

More rock and pop nonsense as Otis Redding and James Brown go pale at the price of a half of mild at the old "Kebab and Calculator" in downtown Harlem. Damn!

Ah, that was a bit better. A slightly less early start today and a return visit to St Paul's Junior School in Shepton Mallet. Shepton Mallet always sounds like Timmy's older Shakespearean actor brother. Perhaps he is, who knows. Early starts with Radio 2 have improved considerably of late as well. Long time thirsty DJ Sarah Kennedy is now a thing of the past and has lately been replaced by Aled Jones. This is a good improvement, but I feel they could find someone even better. Chris Evans' show is now starting half an hour earlier at 6.30am and he is always worth a listen.
St Paul's is a great school, tucked away in the heart of Shepton Mallet. It gives the impression of having once been a fairly grand house, and is still attractive to this day. The teachers are without fail friendly and welcoming and the children are always funny and fizzy. Before the show started today I was pre-warned about one little chap who was very sensitive and had a tendency to burst into tears at the slightest thing. He came to meet me before I got into the Henry costume, and I showed him some of the props I would be using during the day. This seemed to gain his confidence and he managed to stay with us for the whole day without too much upset. He also managed to be the only child today to get 20 out of 20 on the Tudor quiz, which pleased him a lot. Bless!
Lunch was lasagna and veg, followed by a nice home made flapjack. My idea of school dinner heaven. After lunch it was back to the hall for lots of nonsense and a great jousting tournament. The lads teams seemed to struggle with the rules and for some reason kept rushing round the course for extra laps for no adequately clear reason. In the final though, there was no denying the clear winners who were the ladies again! This now makes the year long score very interesting indeed.
I have a feeling it is going to be this close throughout the entire year. We shall see.
Tomorrow I am up early again for a drive over to one of my favourite schools - Dunster, near Minehead. It is always a delight to go over there, so fingers crossed for another good day.

Tuesday, November 02, 2010

Elmlea Junior

Good King Hal continues his music theme from yesterday, by posing with the Nolan Sisters. From left to right: Bridget, Bernadette, GKH, Colleen, and Barry. This was to promote their new single "I'm in the Mood for Crackling".

Elmlea? That's a type of cream substitute, isn't it? I had been summoned to Elmlea Junior by the teacher Beth Lem, who sounds vaguely Biblical, as she had seen me doing my Henry stuff in years gone by when she used to work at the Hugh Sexey School in Wedmore. Elmlea School is in Westbury on Trym, the wonderfully named area of Bristol that sounds more like something out of a Dickens novel. Even when you get to this bizarre suburb it is difficult to know how to take it. Leafy lanes clash cheek by jowl with roads that would not look out of place in Dagenham. The school itself is quite big and I was doing a mixed group of years 3 & 4 today, six classes in total and about 150 children. They were a very lively noisy bunch, but great fun with it. The day began in strange style by a load of the parents coming in to watch the year 4 children do a pre-rehearsed Tudor dance - each of the three classes doing it one after the other. I was asked to make comments after each performance, and decided that rather than act as a kind of Simon Cowell, I would be much more of a cheerful Tudor Len Goodman type.
The morning itself went really well - we spent all the pre-lunch period in the dance studio (you will be glad to hear I wasn't wearing leg warmers and doing the splits). After a lovely roast dinner lunch we moved up to the big main hall for the stocks and jousting session. The head teacher must be cursing her luck as she just happened to wander into the main hall when I was looking for a teacher to put in the stocks. She took it all in good spirit and only stuck a screwdriver in two of my car's tyres. The jousting was a noisy rambunctious affair which nearly tore the roof off the main hall! In a pulsating final a great ladies team stormed to a brilliant win. This now brings our score to:
So the ladies are coming back into it. They will get their latest chance to pull closer to the chaps tomorrow when I make a pleasant return visit to St Paul's School in Shepton Mallet.

Monday, November 01, 2010

Half Term and a Half.

A very early publicity shot of The Human League in concert in some God awful dump in Sheffield, probably.

It's been half term, of course, and quite a fun one for me. I have had James with me for most of the week, which is always fun, and he has been a little angel this week. I drove up to Essex at the beginning of the week to pick him up, and took advantage of being in that locale on the Saturday night to meet up with an old friend, which was great! On the Monday morning, Amanda and I took James to Brentwood and the group he attends called SNAP! (SNAP stands for Special Needs and Parents and is a wonderful resource for parents who have children with special needs, whatever their situation). James normally goes over there for a right old run around and play, but on the Monday they had a photographer in and we wanted to get some new snaps (if you'll pardon the pun) of him. They looked great. After lunch James and I drove down to Somerset for the rest of the week. We had a great time and James enjoyed visiting a lot of his old favourite places - Barrington Court, Bilby's in Ilminster to see Tris, I took him up to Street to get him some shoes and he had a lovely time having a go on a mock rock climbing frame, shooting up over 20 feet in no time at all, despite just getting over a sprained ankle. My parents came to stay on the Thursday as they wanted to visit Lawrence's Auction Room in Crewkerne where I was selling some stuff for them. In the evening on the Thursday we went over to the Royal Oak at Barrington for dinner. Now in a previous posting on this blog I reported on the death of this pub, and it has for the last few years been run into the ground by various disinterested managers etc. It has now most recently been occupied by two Australian gents called Graham and Tony, and the place has just come alive again. Both these gents are great characters and are as camp as a row of pink tents. An example for you is this - on their menu none of the dishes are just called "Steak and Chips" or "Lasagne", each and every item is named after someone famous. For instance you can order a "Bill Clinton" which is a large burger, with loose meat, and a bit on the side. And for the vegetarians, you could ask for a Monica Lewinsky, which is predictably, the bit on the side.
Mum and Dad curtailed their brief visit and headed back to Wales on the Friday. James and I went into Yeovil where I bought James the Lego Harry Potter game for his Wii console I had promised him. He was overjoyed. We also went to James' favourite restaurant in the world - Pizza Hut. He doesn't like pizza of course, but he loves their spaghetti bolognese and would mud wrestle his own Nanna for a go on their ice cream machine. I went for the buffet option on this day and was amazed to see some of the most gluttonous behaviour I have ever seen, and it wasn't me! I went up to the hot plate when some pizzas were brought out, and was practically elbowed out of the way by two pensionable age women who proceeded to stack up slice after slice of pizza on their two plates. They must have had 8 or 9 huge slices on each plate, which if you have ever experienced a lunchtime buffet at Pizza Hut and have seen the tiny size of plate they give you, you will know is an engineering feat of Brunelian proportions. When they stepped away from the hot plate, like two wizened vultures having a break from a zebra carcass, there were two slices of pizza left. So I had them. I watched where they went back to sit, and I thought, fair enough they have two teenage girls with them and a primary school age boy. However, the girls and the boy were going up to help themselves as well! All that pizza was just for themselves! Greedy old cows!
I drove James back to Essex on Saturday, had an evening with him and Amanda, and then came home on the Sunday, but even then the oddness of the week wasn't over. I stopped for petrol at a station on the A13 leading down to the Dartford Crossing. As I was coming out of the shop with a bag of sandwiches and some drink I heard someone calling me.
"Oi! Oi you!" I looked round. The voice came again. "Oi!" I looked to see a sort of Chris Moyles-ish looking bloke sitting in a big silver Range Rover with one window down calling to me. "Get back in that shop!" he shouted. Eh? I looked at him blankly.
"Pardon?" I asked.
"If you're going to do that, get back in the shop!" He shouted again. I was completely non-plussed by now.
"Are you talking to me?" I asked. He pointed a finger now.
"Put that cigarette out!" He barked. Christ, what a loony. No fag on the go with me folks.
"I'm not bloody smoking!" I shouted. He made direct eye contact with me.
"Oh, sorry Sir!" He said "Not you, but that prat there!" he pointed to the drivers side of the BMW parked between me and him. "If you want to blow yourself up, Sir, do it somewhere by yourself and don't take innocent people with you!" It turned out the tattooed troglodyte in the BMW was only sitting on the forecourt of a big petrol station smoking a fag with the window open. As I drove away up the A13 I kept a check on my rear view mirror for signs of a mushroom cloud rising over the Stanford Le Hope by pass. Not a sausage.
Sunday evening I went back to the David Hall Centre in South Petherton for their open Mic night, but I hadn't prepared anything, so despite some very generous invites to go up and do some stand up, I reluctantly declined. It was a good evening, but seemed to lack the excitement of the previous month, possibly having something to do with the fact I wasn't as nervous as hell and about to go on stage!
A busy week ahead - Bristol tomorrow, Shepton Mallet on Wednesday, Dunster on Thursday and Chard on Friday. Should be fun!