Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Wolsingham? Canny!

Good King Hal (right), checking the number of fingers on Ms Boleyn's left hand, just to make sure it is really her.

It would seem that the repercussions of my visit to James' school for his "Bring Dad to School Day" were still being felt. One of the other Dad's there on the day was the former Catholic Priest who worked at the school. By all accounts during his time working there he was quite strict and pious towards most of the families. But, Lo! It came to pass that this priest didst gaze upon one of the single mothers attending the school and thought "Phew, what a scorcher!", tore off his dog collar and moved in with her. He is now a good little secular step father. He came to the "Bring Dad to School Day" and during the bit where we all had to stand up and tell the others what we did for a living, he announced how he used to be the Priest for the Catholic school but was now training to become an Anglican Vicar. Putting on my best stentorian and outraged Catholic voice, I shouted "GET OUT!" and pointed at the door, which brought loud guffaws from everyone else in the room. He looked daggers at me and has now probably booked me a nice little spot in Hell for judgement day. Still, I am sure it was worth it for all the laughs I got from the other fathers.

And so it was time to be Henry VIII again. On the Sunday morning I left for the long drive up to County Durham and my appointment at Wolsingham Primary school near Bishop Auckland. I was heading for Sedgefield as I was booked into another "luxurious" Travelodge - but this time for the bargain basement price of £15 for the night. Last of the big spenders, that's me. The journey up from Essex to County Durham was relatively easy, but very warm on one of the hottest days of the year. I reckon the highlight of the long drive was being overtaken by a gleaming De Lorean sports car looking as though it had just come off the set of "Back to the Future". I stopped off for some petrol and food for the evening when I found the Travelodge. I knew I was in County Durham for sure as on my arrival in the shop, the man behind the counter hailed me with a "Afternoon, wee man." And when I mentioned how hot it was he described the weather as "right canny". He could of course have been a stereotype placed there by the County Durham tourist board, but he wasn't just wearing a t-shirt and didn't refer to me as a "shandy drinking cockney man woman man". Or something. The hotel room was stiflingly hot and had windows that you could only open to a very small degree for "health and safety" reasons. So they save you from plummeting to your death, they just let you cook slowly instead. So I set myself on at gas mark 4 and went to bed.

I had a half hour drive over to Wolsingham, where the school was, the next morning. It was a pretty little town/large village, and the school was tucked right away down a tiny back road. It was a very small group today - about 31 children and they were possibly the quietest group I have ever encountered. I was a little worried about them at some points during the day, but they kept reassuring me that they were enjoying themselves. After a delicious roast dinner lunch the day finally got some noise with the stocks and then a rip roaring jousting tournament. Amazingly enough and for the first time in what seemed like ages, the Gents won! But only just. This makes the score now:


The journey home to Somerset from County Durham was going to be a long one. I left the car park at the school at approximately 3.15pm. I arrived outside my flat in Crewkerne 350 miles later at nearly 9pm. About the only thing that kept me going was listening to the frequent traffic reports of the 20 miles of virtually stationary traffic crawling away from Glastonbury after the festival ended. As I neared the end of my journey home down the A34 and A303 I saw many a "crusty bus" clanking along looking all funky and crap heading east back towards London and the home counties. When I stopped for petrol at the end of the A34 there was a young lad in the queue in front of me at the pay desk obviously on his way home from a long hard festival. His trousers were those trendy sort that look like they are riding at half mast, giving the poor unfortunate git behind him (i.e. Me) a fine and totally unwanted view of his grundies. He had purchased £10 worth of petrol, a bottle of mineral water, a can of Red Bull and some mints. His card was now being frequently and loudly declined by the machine by the check out. He eventually wandered off muttering like Kevin the Teenager about life's unfairness. As I got to my car he was leaning into the car n the bay next to mine trying to rouse two comatose travelling companions with oft intoned whiny nasal implications as to if any of them had any "wonga". Ah, the joys of youth.

Home for now, with my next Henry appearance this Saturday when I am working at Dillington House near Ilminster at a wedding, which should be great fun.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Thundersley Junior

The good citizens of Thundersley were delighted to see Good King Hal back for a fourth year in a row.

I had initially come back to Essex (again) for a visit to my son's school in Basildon. He attends St Ann Line Roman Catholic School and they were hosting a "Bring Your Dad to School Day". Therefore I found myself in a school and for once, not dressed as Henry VIII. The father's were corralled in the main hall at first before being met by our children who then took us to their class room. After the children had done register we then had in turn to stand up and introduce who we were, what we did, what we liked and which football team we liked best. After that we took part in a treasure hunt around the school grounds which, amazingly, James and I won! James was so excited, but slightly less so when he discovered the prize was to take Dad over to their allotment and dig up some potatoes. As we walked back with the spuds he kept muttering loudly "I was expecting gold coins, not stupid potatoes..." which could be the sub-title for the next "Pirates of the Caribbean" movie.

Speaking of Caribbean I saw a brilliant sign in a pub in Somerset last week. I was at the Dinnington Docks Pub near Ilminster and they have a very big selection of food on blackboards for your perusal. This includes a "Curry Night Special" board which had amongst it's choices that of a "Trinidadian Curry" which promised a "flavour of the Mediterranean". Close, but no cigar.

On the Thursday of this week I took a break from frequent thrashings at Mario Kart by my son to visit Thundersley School in Southend. This was my fourth, or even possibly fifth visit to this lovely school. It was a biggish group of about 60 children, all turned out in fantastic Tudor costumes. About 90% of the kids were very well behaved, almost too quiet, but there was a small minority hell bent on being over involved and mouthy. This was one of my first experiences of, once having moved a child, having to then move them again, and then AGAIN as they continued to have an attitude. What a shame! The rest of the day was fine though and again an enjoyable experience. After lunch the hall was soon booming to the noise of another great jousting tournament. It was a close run thing but culminated in yet ANOTHER win for the ladies. There is just no stopping them at the moment. Our score for the year as we get close to the end is:


I think they are out of sight now, I really can't see the gents coming back from this far behind with such short time left.

I now have a couple of days with my son in Essex then on Sunday I am off for the long drive north for a show on Monday near Bishop Auckland. Now THAT is north.

Saturday, June 18, 2011


Good King Hal playing "Where's That Anti-Personnel Mine?" in the great hall at Barrington Court in front of a group of stunned children. And on that BOMBSHELL...

My previous visit to Kingsclere in Berkshire had been three years ago and I had forgotten nearly everything to do with this school. I even read up my blog entry about it from 2008, but it still didn't really stir up the brain cells. I am really getting old now...

The evening before had been very pleasant as I had dinner with my old friends Malcolm and Linda Taylor from The Hoop Cricket Club in Essex. They were on their way down to Port Isaac in Cornwall for their holiday and decided to stay in Somerset on the way down, and stayed at the Manor B&B in Wayford where lots of my friends used to stay when I was living in Clapton. I picked up Malcolm and Linda and drove them over to the Dinnington Docks near Ilminster where we had a lovely meal and lots of laughs about the old days. A very agreeable amble down Amnesia Alley. I must do it more often.

Up, bright and early on the Friday morning and up along the A303 and cutting across country to Kingsclere. This is a lovely village/town just to the north of Basingstoke. I was warmly greeted by Sally James, the teacher who booked me. Before you ask, no, she wasn't some pensionable brunette with a nice pair of legs who had appeared many centuries before on Tiswas with Chris Tarrant. This particular Ms James was blond, young and very friendly, but I am sure she has nice legs. We had a fabulous morning with some of the nicest kids you could want to meet. Lots of fun and laughter, and everyone getting all the gags and jokes. Lunch was absolutely lovely - a cheese and onion quiche with salad and chips, yum! The morning had been almost completely perfect aside from when I had done the Henry meeting King Francis I at the Field of the Cloth of Gold wrestling bit. The young lad I had picked got a bit over excited and basically attacked me during the wrestling joke - punching and elbowing me ferociously. Thank Christ he was only 9 years old. If I had been in a secondary school I'd either be in hospital or a coma by now! The young lad in question was given the dressing down to end all dressing downs by Sally and her fellow teachers later...

The afternoon was fantastic - very very funny and loud, loads of laughs and fun all round. The jousting tournament was a belter where a very competent ladies team came through for a well deserved victory. This now makes the score:


I think that is it for this year. I don't think there are enough gigs left before the summer break for the gents to catch up. So another triumph in the year for the ladies. Well done!

Sunday, tomorrow, I am at Barrington Court for another walkabout. Straight after that I am driving up to Essex. On the Tuesday I am being "me" at St Anne Line RC School in Basildon (the school my son James attends) as it is a "Bring Dad to School Day". Should be fun. Then on Thursday I am back at Thundersley School near Southend for a much looked forward to return visit.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

David Tennant, Catherin Tate, Hats, Am Dram, Walkabout and Paulton... and relax.

Good King Hal takes a straight right jab from Jane Seymour on the lawn in front of Leeds Castle. Either that, or he's blowing a raspberry on the back of her hand.

So, I went back to Somerset to pick up the tickets for "Much Ado About Nothing" at the Wyndhams Theatre, starring David Tennant and Catherine Tate. Me forgetting them in the first place was more of a case of "Much Rushing About The Country For Nothing". Anyway, my sister Cathy and myself went up to London on the 7th June to see the play. We were driven up by Cathy's husband, Julian. Now if you have never experienced a car journey with Julian Martin, then you are in for quite a shock. You know those old film clips of astronauts going through rigorous training before blasting off into space, where they get put in the centrifugal accelerator thingy and are then whizzed round at high speed, and we are treated to close ups of their faces contorting with the g-force they're experiencing. Well you can recreate that look and feeling simply by sitting in Julian's Volvo and going on a journey with him. We blasted off from Kent and seemed to arrive at Aldgate East tube station mere nano-seconds later, mind you I did have my eyes closed. The play itself was wonderful - David Tennant has a real presence on stage and is one of those actors that you simply can't take your eyes off him for every scene he is in. Catherine Tate was equally good and not too over the top, as I thought she might be. And she was looking mighty slinky too!

It was back to Somerset on the Wednesday and then in the evening down to Bridport to meet up with Jill Beed who has invited me to take part in the 2nd Annual Bridport Hat Festival in September. I sat in on their planning meeting and it looks like I could be taking part in the opening ceremony on the Friday evening with legendary Country and Western loony Hank Wangford (careful how you say that). Friday evening I was at Barrington Court to see the Barrington Players perform a couple of one act plays. As usual with this am dram group the quality of the performances were 99% excellent. The 1% other was a member of the cast I have seen before, who once again shouted most of the lines he could remember and spent most of the rest of the time looking round for the prompt, but the audience loved it, and it was fun and diverting for the evening.

I was back at Barrington Court the next day for a Henry VIII walkabout in the gardens. It was a relatively quiet, but fun to be back walking around these beautiful gardens. There seemed to be a lot of New Zealanders about this day - strange how you get little pockets of nationalities like this.

On the Monday it was a return visit to Paulton Junior near Bristol. I LOVE this school. It has always been such fun to go there. The kids are fun, bright and really get the whole concept of the show. The teachers are all uniformly lovely, charming, friendly and can't do enough for you. It was as ever at this finest of schools fun, loud, and full of laughter. The afternoon in particular was so raucous and full of laughter as to be one of the loudest ever. In a rip roaring finale the ladies once again triumphed in the jousting which brings the score now to:


Only a few shows left now - can the gents close the gap any more? Or are they doomed? Stay tuned.

My Monday wasn't over even then, as I had to drive to Essex that evening for a family funeral. Thankfully all went well and so back to, relative normality. My next two Henry appearances are this Friday with a return visit to Kingsclere School in Berkshire, then on Sunday another walkabout at Barrington Court near Ilminster. Come along and say hello!

Tuesday, June 07, 2011

Royal Jousting Tournament 2011 - some more pics!

A load more pics from the recent Royal Jousting Tournament at Leeds Castle. Please note the driving rain in the last photo to prove how much the King sometimes has to suffer for his people...

Monday, June 06, 2011

Leeds Castle Royal Jousting Tournament 2011

Sir Jasper du Barry, Lord High Badger Pursuivant to his Majesty, reveals his dirty big pokey thing to an astonished audience at Leeds Castle.

It was to be a busy week once more as the Jousting roadshow rolled into Leeds Castle again. It hardly seemed like a year since the previous one, and of course thinking back now it wasn't! I had been there for the September joust when I had spent the week dressed up as Friar Tuck - the deep fat friar. But here I was back as Henry VIII, on familiar turf.

I had driven up on Saturday 28th May to visit Amanda and James in Essex first, then there would be six days in Kent performing at the show and finally a day off and then a trip up to London with my sister Cathy to see David Tennant and Catherine Tate in "Much Ado About Nothing" at the Wyndhams Theatre in London. Well, that was the original idea. I managed to scupper that at the first hurdle by driving all the way to Essex before realising I had left the tickets for the show on my desk at home. Arse. Anyway, I had some great fun in Essex being thrashed repeatedly by my son at Mario Kart on the Wii console - he really has got to a point now where I can't beat him!

I drove down to Kent on the 30th May to see Cathy and Julian, and their two very bouncy and excitable dogs, Charlie and Oona. Going to Leeds Castle on the first day was nice - it's such a fabulous place to drive into when you're working there. You have to keep reminding yourself that, yes, this really is the place where you're working! The weather was looking a bit iffy on the first morning with threatening clouds and the possibility of rain ever present. I was not alone today though! Two lovely ladies, Zarrina and Diane, had contacted me via Facebook and my website and announced they would love to come along to one of my shows and be my Queens for the day. They had spent four months making their costumes and were very keen to show them off. I had cleared their appearance with Darlene and Becky in the Events Office at the Castle and they were there waiting for me at reception as I arrived on the first morning. Zarrina had brought along her husband and son as well to join in the fun. We went across to our dressing rooms and got ready - the ladies finally appearing in their stunning gowns - Zarrina as Anne Boleyn and Diane as Jane Seymour. Wonderful! They looked spectacular and as soon as we were down on site at the jousting arena we were mobbed by people with cameras. The plan was for Zarrina to be my queen in the Royal Box for the first show and Diane to take over for the second. Sadly, for the first show, just as we began our procession into the arena, the heavens opened, but luckily it was just a passing shower.

It was good to be working with the jousters again, Jeremy, Roland, Sam, Kim et al. As ever they made me very welcome and kept the laughs and fun flowing all week. The two ladies with me on the first day were obviously a big hit as after they departed, for the rest of the week I was repeatedly asked where they were! Shame they could only make the first day, but there is more work in the offing and I should be seeing them both again very soon.

On the Thursday we were asked to come in early so that Daybreak TV could come along and cover the show. So at 5.30am I arrived at Leeds Castle, the earliest I have ever seen the place aside from occasional early morning visits to the toilet when I was snowed in last December. We were to go "live" on several occasions as we were blessed with the presence of Daybreak's weather girl. During her second broadcast to the nation, the Knights had set up a mock joust to be going on behind her - in the middle of this was to be a fall by one of the Knights (Ashley), something they do in the shows every single day. As he fell, the weather girl screamed in alarm and Ashley did a fine impression of lying twitching on the grass. Apparently the fine intelligent viewers of Daybreak could not tell that this was a stunt fall and swamped the telephone lines at the TV Station asking if the nice Knight was alright. Despite propping him up in front of the cameras to prove he was OK, this was not enough, and so Ashley and, head honcho, Jeremy were summoned to their studio's the following day for a live interview on the sofa. This led to much mockery of Ashley who from there on was often referred to by Roland our master of ceremonies as the "Lorraine Kelly of the Tilt Yard". I did a couple of pieces to camera with the weather girl and then it was over, and still two hours before our shows started. So I hied myself back to my dressing room and had a crafty kip on my bed. The reaction to my appearance seemed quite good, aside from my Father who deemed that Daybreak was a "f*****g awful show for morons", which was harsh, but probably reasonably accurate.

It was hot for the rest of the week and I currently sport a very fetching sunburned nose. Amanda and James came down for a visit on the Saturday, bringing with them Amanda's friend Emma and her daughter Ella who goes to school with James. They enjoyed the show and James and Ella had great fun meeting the Knights and their horses afterwards. As ever, everyone at Leeds Castle was warm, welcoming and helpful. The weather held out until the final day where on Sunday it poured with rain. On the final day Roland, the master of ceremonies for the show, asked me if I would be MC for his forthcoming wedding in October to his lovely fiance Sally. I was very touched to be asked to do this and accepted happily. There is also the possibility of working with Diane and Zarrina again with the jousters at some shows in July at Hever Castle - watch this space for more!

My drive home on the Sunday was awful as the dear old M25 was shut in both directions and so I ended up taking a huge detour across country via Pease Pottage, Horsham and the delights of Guildford before finally finding my way back onto the M3. And all of this because I forgot the fecking tickets for David Tennant and Catherine Tate. So it is back on the road again tomorrow back up to Kent to Cathy and Julian and then a trip to the Theatre. I'd best not forget the tickets again.