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.