A brief reminder of Good King Hal's previous performances of "Henry's Horrid History" at Leeds Castle three years ago. You can be assured he did not have a fireplace like that in his marquee this time around.
Leeds Castle, near Maidstone in Kent. Three shows a day. Nine days straight off. A total of twenty seven shows. But it wasn't, actually. It was only twenty six. This was because the very first show we did on Saturday the 19th February no one turned up for, which could possibly have given you the idea that this was some sort of portent of doom. How wrong we were! As the week progressed more and more people attended the shows - on sunny days (and we had a couple of those) we were reluctantly having to turn some people away. This prompted Leeds Castle's management to add an extension on the side of the grand marquee I was in to get more bums on seats. On our best day we had just short of 600 punters in for the three shows which was wonderful.
Once more I stayed with my sister at her house in Stockbury near Sittingbourne, and I was right royally pampered the whole time I was there. Cath and her husband Julian were perfect hosts, and it was great to see their lovely friendly dog Charlie again. They have a new addition to the household with another rescue dog living with them - she is a tiny Lurcher called Oona. She is very affectionate, but blotted her copybook slightly by peeing all over my bed on the last night I was staying there. Well, Cathy SAYS it was the dog... Perhaps she was trying to tell me I had out stayed my welcome!
My set up at the Castle was impressive. They had erected a large square marquee next to the maze up near the aviary. Dallas, the genius who builds so many of Leeds Castle's temporary, but brilliant props and sets, had constructed me a partitioned off "dressing room" in one corner of the marquee, and had brilliantly disguised my big Father Christmas chair from the grotto and turned it into a throne for the King. I was to do three shows a day - one at 11am, one at 1pm and one at 2.30pm. We quickly had to change the 1pm show to a 12.30pm start as my talk clashed with the bird flying display outside by World of Wings and I was getting drowned out by their PA system and mood music. As crowd sizes increased as the week went along, my voice was coming under more strain, so I was issued with a throat mic and amplifier for the rest of the week - which was great and saved me from sounding like Barry White by the end of the run.
Lots of friends came to see the shows. Adam and Lisa Hudson with their kids came on the first Saturday, my old friend Bonnie came down from Lincolnshire with her family on the Wednesday, a couple of the teachers from White Woman Lane School in Norwich came on the Thursday, and on Saturday the 26th February (my 44th birthday!) I had loads of visitors! My sister Cath and her husband Julian came, along with my sister Sue all the way from Wales! There was my old friends Anne and Ben Lyle and their lovely daughters Nell and Tilly, Michelle Coda and her chap Matt, plus cute daughter little Victoria, my lovely friend Ali Bessell and her sister Laura, her husband Steve and Ali and Laura's Mother! After I finished the last show on the Saturday I was going to announce to the crowd it was my birthday and maybe try and get them singing "Happy Birthday" - but I was out manoeuvred as Darlene Cavill, the wonderful events organiser at Leeds, had pre-empted me and led a large phalanx of staff from the Castle up the central aisle of the marquee brandishing champagne, a birthday cake and a massive card. For once I was mostly lost for words, until I said "bloody hell" quite loudly into my throat mic, which got one of the biggest laughs of the day. As usual everyone at the castle was so friendly and helpful - Becky Lander, Jeanne Beaton, the Cheeseman's, Adam, and just everyone who helped - I could not have done it without you.
So mostly it was good fun - there was one lady out of the hundreds who came to visit the show who complained to Darlene that my show was "unsuitable" for primary school children as I hadn't used any audio visual displays. Ah, so that is where I have been going wrong for the previous 700 shows I have done throughout the country. Also, on the morning of my birthday as I drove into Bearsted to buy some lunch for later on I was nearly challenged to a fight by a very aggressive lady. I was trying to turn into the small Tesco garage as she was trying to get out - but she was being partially blocked in by a very impatient man in a 4x4 with a trailer on the back. He had got so close to her she could hardly go forward or back. I gestured for him to move back, but he ignored me and I gestured for her to come out, but she made it clear she couldn't. Time was flying, so I drove away to the other smaller petrol station on the other side of the road. As I was walking towards the front door I heard a shout behind me.
"OI!" I turned round. It was the woman from the stuck car at the Tesco's forecourt. "Were you having a f***ing pop at me back there!?" She shrieked, stalking towards me with a deranged look in her eye. I decided to placate the mad cow.
"No, I was getting hacked off with the idiot in the 4x4 with the trailer behind you..." I began. She almost immediately nearly burst into tears.
"Oh, sorry!" She shrieked. "I've had such a stressed out morning... and then I got stuck in the front of Tesco's, and then..." She'd obviously had a bad morning. I was sorely tempted to lean out of the window as I drove off and shout "I REALLY WAS HAVING A POP AT YOU, YOU MAD DERANGED COW! HAHAHAHAHAAAAAAAA!", but my gentlemanly side got the better of me.
Finally, to the lady who obviously reads this blog religiously - I got back to Stockbury for a cup of tea, then I drove up to Basildon for a cuddle or two with my son, and I am driving back to Crewkerne tomorrow. Glad you and your pink-haired friend enjoyed the final show - nice to see you!