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.


Order and Chaos said...

Fabulous show and we had a great time.

Moonroot said...

Diane and Zarrina look great - what amazing costumes! And you and Prince Edward look great too. Sorry we couldn't get down to see you there, we'd love to come and see the jousting one day!