Would you believe that Good King Hal had trouble finding this school? And it has an automatic toilet and a Ukrainian teacher. Remarkable.
I hate loathe and detest the M25 more than I can possibly let most of you know. It is a road that brings me only bad memories of hot static traffic jams, idiot lane hoggers and more queueing. Therefore anytime I have to go anywhere near this road I try to do it as out of hours as possible. I have been staying in Essex for the past few days - Basildon to be precise. Now from sunny Basildon to Radlett, where the school is, can be no longer than about 45 minutes - but that would be 45 minutes on an M25 with no roadworks, no other traffic - NOTHING. That never, ever happens. The nearest you can get to it is by driving as early or as late as you can possibly manage. Therefore to avoid any heartache or masses of traffic I left sunny Basildon at 5am. Now I know this sounds like overkill, but come on. I found Radlett remarkably easily, but could I find the Prep School? Could I heck. I drove up and down Watling Street (for 'tis where the school is) in the pitch dark and could not find even a hint of the school. I even stopped and asked a very early morning commuter in Radlett High Street if he knew where it was and he claimed to have never heard of it. Finally after driving nearly all the way into Elstree and heading back, I saw a tiny sign for a "school ahead". I slowed down and turned into an unmarked side road to be presented by a fairly non-descript set of gates, but with the magical words "Radlett Prep School" emblazoned upon them. They were locked, it was 6.30am, but I had found them! I parked up in a nearby lay by, turned on the Chris Evans Show and snoozed for a little while.
The school itself was lovely - a fine old Georgian building with various lumps and bumps added over the years, all built on a site which is even mentioned in the Domesday Book. I was warmly welcomed by teachers and staff alike, including the remarkable head teacher, a lovely friendly avuncular man who has worked at Radlett Prep for the previous 41 years! It was a group of about 50-60 children, all in brilliant costumes and full of laughter and sparkiness. They seemed to really enjoy the day and thankfully laughed in all the right places.
There were two very remarkable things about this school - one was the toilet I was allowed to get changed in. It was a small old fashioned looking room, but had recently had a technological re-fit and was now kitted out with state of the art hi-tech bog stuff. (Let me know if any of this techno babble is losing you). The toilet was automatic, the taps were automatic and even the hand dryer was automatic. With the toilet you either waved your hand (or any other appendage you felt like waving around) in front of a sensor and it would flush automatically, or if you finished with the WC, moving towards the sink to wash you hands would also cause it to flush automatically. This particular sensor was obviously very sensitive as it would go off at the drop of a hat. Change your shirt - FLUSH! Put socks on - FLUSH! Clench buttock cheeks a bit too quickly - FLUSH! You get the idea. Every so often you'd go a bit too close to the hand dryer and suddenly WHOOSH! This would kick in like a small jet engine cranking up for lift off. In between flushing and whooshing I would get changed and would come out of the small room with people staring at me wondering what the hell I had been doing in there. The other truly remarkable thing at this school was a year 4 teacher from the Ukraine. If she had been my teacher at school I'd still be there, purposefully flunking exams. "You're being held back for another year, Farley!" "Really? Woo-hoo!" She wasn't just smouldering, she was "burning down the house".
Lunch was a surprise. The surprise being that they didn't do any! I had to drive back to Radlett and find a shop to get some sandwiches. After another fine chat with the head teacher I set up for the afternoon session. Everything went swimmingly and the jousting tournament was a belter. This time the ladies stormed to a very worthy victory. This now makes the score:
GENTLEMEN 20 - 23 LADIES
Last night I sat and watched the England v Ghana international from Wembley. James decided to watch the match with me and lasted all of about 5 minutes before the lure of his Nintendo DS took over! I cuddled up with him in bed last night which was lovely - he is such a cuddly little boy!
Today I am driving up to Derbyshire and staying near Ashbourne, before tomorrow heading to the little village of Parwich for an appearance at their school. Should be fun!