Monday, August 29, 2011

For Hever and Hever...

Anne Boleyn beckoning the photographer over. A pagga then ensued. Ruddy paparazzi.

And all of a sudden, it was the last weekend of Hever jousting! I couldn't believe it had come round so quickly. The weather had been looking vaguely threatening all week - could our luck of just one really wet weekend hold out? It didn't start well - a journey up to Essex to see my beautiful son was certainly damp, and our shopping trip to Toys R Us was similarly moist. However, James came away with a "Pirates of the Caribbean" Lego set AND a box set of "Pirates of the Caribbean" DVD's (can you see a pattern here folks?). James is now convinced that he is in fact Captain Jack Sparrow, and can even do the Johnny Depp walk/run perfectly. He is also madly in love with the idea of dressing up as Prince Edward to my Henry VIII - should be fun.

Friday at Hever was damp to begin with, but luckily the rain held off for the entirety of the show, which was a real blessing. After the success of handing a glove to Sir Stephen of Porlock as a "favour", Michelle Coda came up with the idea of more gifts for the Knights from Anne Boleyn. This time she had been on a shopping trip to a local charity shop where she had purchased a simply enormous pair of flowery knickers. These were simply industrial in size and probably best described as apple catchers. Somehow Michelle managed to roll/fold these down to a size that she could secrete them between her boobs in her Tudor dress and produce them (the knickers that is) at will when the time required her to dish out the Queen's favour. Once more it was decided that the prize should go to the Knight that won the "Challenge of the Rings" in the arena. This time Sir Jasper de Barry (Jeremy) was the winner and approached the Royal Box with some trepidation. Michelle handed him the rolled up knickers and he said "ooh, socks!" However, just after he climbed back into the saddle of his horse he unfolded them. A huge cheer went up from the crowd as he displayed the passion killers above his head! How on Earth could Michelle top that???

On the Saturday we were back at the Castle and Michelle was there with her daughter Victoria (delighted that Mungo was back in the show after a day off) and her partner Matt. This time Michelle had purchased some large jelly snakes from a sweet shop. She rolled one of these into a ball and once more it was stuffed between her boobs. Again the weather held off for us, despite early heavy rain showers. The show was a good one today - fast and funny, with a brilliantly responsive crowd. The tournament of the rings went down to a ride off between Sir Jasper de Barry and Sir Stephen of Porlock. We were delighted when Sir Stephen won and once more he approached the Royal Box - Michelle managed to make the removal of the snake something of an artwork in itself and there was much laughter from the crowd as Sir Stephen claimed his prize.

It has been a fantastic summer at Hever Castle and I have enjoyed every single minute. So a big thank you to all the ladies who have been Anne Boleyn this summer - particularly Michelle Coda, but also Lisa Hudson, Tamsin Lewis, Zarrina Bull, Diane Collings and Sarah the steward from Hever! I couldn't have done it without any of you. A final celebratory curry was had at my sister's house on Saturday night and I was off back to Somerset on the Sunday morning. I am next working with the Knights at Leeds Castle on the 9th, 10th and 11th September for a tournament. Come along if you can!

All that AND Tottenham Hotspur 1 - 5 Manchester City. Wow.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Hevery Little Thing She Does Is Magic...

Good King Hal and Anne Boleyn being stalked through the grounds of Hever Castle by an Italian Fashion Victim of uncertain vintage. Jimmy Saville also appears to have eaten all the pies in the background.

Can a man get tired of Hever Castle? I hope not as I seem to be spending every waking hour at the place just lately. And it has been terrific fun. It was back for another Friday, Saturday and Sunday at the Castle this last weekend, again accompanied by the wonderful Michelle Coda and her cute daughter Victoria. I had spent the Thursday with my beloved son James in Essex where I took him to the cinema to see "Mr Popper's Penguins" as he was absolutely "busting to see it" - his words, not mine. Well, that was nearly two hours of my life I won't get back. But James enjoyed it immensely and we did have a very nice meal at Frankie and Bennie's before we went into the cinema.

On the Friday we had a large crowd for the jousting show, which was good fun, and it was nice to have William of Antioch back with us again, though his participation in forthcoming shows maybe somewhat limited by the fact that he is about to become a Dad at any second. Michelle and I mucked about shamelessly before the show. We were in our little Tudor drawing room, waiting to be summoned to meet the masses, when Michelle lent out of the window to wave at some camera wielding tourists. As they turned away after taking our photos, and with Michelle still bending over leaning out of the window in front of me, I pretended to be a very naughty King and did something that would only be allowed on television after the watershed, but happened a lot in the "Tudors" TV series. Cue much guffawing and f'narring from Michelle and myself. Well we repeated the gag every single day this weekend and so far have not been photographed by a startled tourist yet - we hope. Well, what did they expect Henry and Anne get up to in their spare time? Play shove ha'penny?

At my sister's place on the Friday night she had a dinner party with her friends Darren and Karen as guests, as well as me and herself, and husband Julian. We had a lovely evening, loads of laughs and probably too much wine was had, but it was splendid none the less.

The Saturday crowd at the Castle was large but strangely quiet and reserved, but Sunday's crowd more than made up for it. Sunday was a really good show, I hope everyone there enjoyed it as much as we did. Michelle offered the Queen's favour (a white glove with "AB 4 S of P" on it!) to Sir Stephen of Porlock, who was most moved! I drove back on the Sunday afternoon, delighting in listening to Manchester City taking Bolton Wanderers to the cleaners. I was up bright and early on Monday morning for an appointment at Yeovil Hospital for a scan on my troublesome gall bladder. Thankfully I got the all-clear with no stones, but I shall continue to eat my new super healthy diet as I am really enjoying it and feel remarkably healthy. I have also lost about a stone and a half since I began doing it five weeks ago. I might have to invest in some pillows for stuffing up my Henry costume if this continues. Hever again this weekend, just on the Friday and Saturday. Should be fun, but be careful when looking in the windows of the castle... ;-)

I leave you with a lovely picture of Michelle's daughter Victoria with Sir William of Antioch on the right, and on the left - James, aka Mungo, one of the Knight Marshalls of the Tilt and Victoria's first BIG crush! It truly is love. Bless!

Monday, August 15, 2011

Smarter Than the Hever-age Bear...

Good King Hal and Anne Boleyn launch into an eye watering rendition of "Riverdance" during their "live" appearance at Hever Castle.

Another weekend, and another trip down to Hever Castle. The Friday (12th August) was proving a bit dodgy as I was suddenly short of one Anne Boleyn. I tried many friends and finally had to admit defeat. I called Hever Castle with the news on the Thursday, but they were wonderful and said they'd ask some of their staff to see if someone was available - and they came back with good news! A lovely lady called Jane, who happened to be one of their senior stewards, volunteered and arrived just before the show was due to start in her own costume, and she looked brilliant. We had a fine day with not too much heat and a relatively good turn out for the show. We were short of William of Antioch, which is always detrimental to the shows in my humble opinion, but he was due back on the Saturday and Sunday.

For the Saturday and Sunday I was to be ably supported by my dear old friend Lisa Hudson who was going to be Anne Boleyn. I was so pleased she agreed to come along and do this for me as I knew she'd look fabulous in the costume - as you can see from our "Riverdance" picture above - she did! We had a little trouble getting Lisa sorted in her costume as she is relatively short, but is also very large in the chesticles department. We therefore had a fair old battle lacing her into her corset top, but she looked beautiful when finished! Lisa was an absolute star on both days and we had a real laugh doing both the shows. The kids we posed for photos with really warmed to her and she even got one little girl wanting to keep hugging her! Lisa's husband Adam (an old cricket team companion of mine from The Hoop Cricket Club) came along on the Sunday along with their lovely kids Luke and Joe.

We managed to get another "real" injury on Saturday, to compliment Sir Stephen of Porlock's dislocated shoulder at the previous show! This time, doing one of his spectacular falls, Sir Ashley of Hampshire managed to cut his head badly on the inside of his jousting helmet. Blood everywhere and five stitches were needed - he completed the show with a large white bandage on his head which prompted the commentator to refer to him as "Ahmed of Hampshire" first of all, and then later on as "Sir Ashley bin Laden". He was back to his usual "ruggedly handsome" self on the Sunday.

Changing the subject, as some of you may or may not know, my personal life is somewhat fraught at the moment. However, I have been overwhelmed with messages of love and support from so many friends over the previous couple of days that I am truly very touched and moved. It is at times like this that you do discover your true friends, and I am lucky enough to say I have many. You all know who you are, so thank you one and all. (Moves right and brushes something away from his eye, which is not a tear... honest. I am a roughtie-toughtie King FFS).

Anyway, Manchester City thumped Swansea 4-0 tonight, so that is enough to put a smile on my face for a little while. And now to listen to "Your Dictionary" by XTC - a lot.

Wednesday, August 03, 2011

Honiton Museum Day

Good King Hal, not sure about his future with current wife Anne Boleyn, keeps a close eye on a possible part-exchange model called Jane Seymour.

No Hever this weekend as all the jousters are heading off to Blenheim Palace for a tournament over there. Jeremy did ring me up and ask me if I'd like to come along and commentate, but I had already committed myself to a weekend and more of looking after my lovely James and taking him down to Wales to see his Nanna and Bapa. Therefore my only Henry booking for this week was a long standing obligation to appear at Honiton's All Hallows Museum for a couple of Henry's Horrid History talks. I was looking forward to this as I had been booked through Russ and Mary Wardell, a lovely couple who I often see down at Barrington Court and thought it would be a fun day. Well, it most certainly was, but it wasn't quite as successful as we hoped it might be.

I drove down to Honiton which is a lovely little town - reminded me a lot of Bridport - and then began the search for the museum. Finally located it and got in. I was stuck in a side room where the local history group normally meets which I could use as a dressing room. Not sure what the local history group gets up to in there at their meetings as all their seemed to be were lots of maps, microfiche and a naked female mannequin model with huge prominent nipples. Ooh er!

I walked outside and spent some time in the High Road as a kind of benevolent Tudor press gang, cajoling people into coming into the museum for the talk. In the end it didn't work very well as we only had less than 10 people, but they all seemed to like it and there were lots of laughs. I changed for lunch and Russ then took me for a meal at a local wine bar, which was delicious, as was the brunette waitress with the tight skirt. In fact, one of the things I liked best about Honiton today was the preponderance of gorgeous ladies! They were everywhere. One young lass I spoke to during my afternoon on the pavement trying to sort out an audience looked just like a young Rachel Weisz! She was on her way home from her first day at a new job in a local coffee bar and was all excited. Bless! The second show didn't take place in the end as we only had two punters - an English ex-pat who lived half the year in Honiton and the other half in California (sounds like a good mix to me) and her excitable young son. So instead I had a little chat with them and played them some tunes on my recorder which actually seemed to delight them!

I went outside after this for a final recce on the High Street, and who was sitting out there on a bench eating an ice cream? Fiona Bruce! Fiona-bloody-Bruce! Fiona-Antiques-Roadshow-BBC-News-Looks-a-bit-saucy-Bruce! I said a hello and asked if she'd like to see inside the museum, but she politely declined. This was proof, if I needed any, that it was time to get changed and head for home. So that is exactly what I did.

Tonight I am off up to Essex to collect my lovely son, and then bring him down to Somerset for a little holiday, and then on to Wales this weekend.

Monday, August 01, 2011

Where Hever I Lay My Hat...

Good King Hal and Lady Rochford launch into an impromptu version of "Tubthumping" by Chumbawumba before putting on a show in the barn with Judy Garland and Mickey Rooney. The wall plug behind them is a genuine Tudor power supply. Honest.

So it was back up to Essex to begin with - how well I am learning this route. But it was worth it, for more time with my lovely son, James. He is my everything these days. I had fun taking him to the bright lights of Festival Leisure Park in Basildon (known locally as Bas Vegas) and we played on the air hockey games as usual, but for a rare change I won - even though I tried to lose. James was very good at scoring own goals. We then had a bite to eat at a Chinese restaurant for lunch and then took him to see the movie "Cars 2". He seemed to enjoy it, but ended up making about 4 trips to the loo after drinking one of the industrial sized cartons of 7-Up that the cinema chain laughingly refer to as "Regular".

Back at Hever I was on for three days, the Friday, Saturday and Sunday. My two lovely Queens from Leeds Castle joust (Zarrina and Diane) were coming along, but due to my general fuzzy headedness and idiocy I had told them the event was on on Saturday, Sunday and Monday, rather than the true days. Therefore I was a Queen short for the Friday. I asked my friend Kiri Bloom whom I worked with at Rochester Castle last year if she could make it, but she was busy, but she suggested a friend of hers called Tamsin Lewis. I spoke to Tamsin on the phone and she was available on the Friday and happy to come down. Gawd bless yer, ma'am! I offered to pick her up from Edenbridge railway station for the show at Hever. She texted me and said she'd be there at about 11.30am. I drove up to Edenbridge and followed the signs to the station. I parked up at about 11.35am and of Tamsin there was not a sight. I tried to phone her mobile. No reply. I texted her and asked her where she was waiting at the station as it wasn't very big and I couldn't see her. She replied and told me she was standing outside the ticket hall. She wasn't. I asked her what the name of the station was where she was standing. It was Edenbridge. I was at Edenbridge Town. Bugger. I asked a local idiot in a local sandwich bar where Edenbridge station was and he gave me directions. It was only about a mile away. Why does a town as tiny as Edenbridge need two stations FFS? Anyway, I found the correct station and I found Tamsin. Bless her. Well we had a great day, lovely turn out, not too hot and I think Tamsin enjoyed herself. I dropped her back at the correct station after the show and headed to my sister's for the evening.

Saturday and Sunday was with Zarrina and Diane from Chippenham. They were great - fantastic costumes as ever, Zarrina in a brand new blue creation as you can see from the picture above. There was a nice breath of wind on the Saturday which made the hot weather a lot more bearable. Sunday was much more muggy. The Saturday night was spent at my friends John and Viv's in Crawley where Viv cooked a fantastic meal of tandoori Monk fish steaks with raita, salsa and guacamole dips and hot flat breads. Mmmmm! We then drank almost our entire body weights in rioja and decided this was the perfect warm up for sitting and watching "A Knight's Tale" on DVD. I think I managed to remain conscious for the first 20 minutes, but missed the rest. Viv only managed 10 minutes. John watched the whole thing and then put on another movie. What a guy! The Sunday at Hever (hang over conquered at first) was good, but marred by two unfortunate incidents. First Sir Stephen of Porlock (the wonderfully nutty Steve Beart from Porlock in Somerset) had finished a ball and chain fight and several jousts, when he wandered back to his squires and as a joke decided to pull his tabard over his head, a la a premiership footballer after scoring a goal. He succeeded merely in dislocating his shoulder and had to be treated by medics at the side of the arena. He looked in agony as he left. Poor man. On the walk back to the castle after the show we were photographed by lots of lovely people - plus one total bastard of a family who's feral kids ran riot, asked rude questions, kept trying to steal our hats, invade other people's photographs and generally behave much as flies do round a horse's bum. And the eldest of the kids was probably only about 12 at most. And of the parents? Well they seemed to think it was hilarious. Scratters. It was a delight to get back to the calm cool order of the Castle afterwards. I drove back to Somerset that evening and was delighted to be home, if alone. As ever. I then had to starve myself for 15 hours after 6pm on the Sunday as on the Monday morning I had a blood test at my Doctor's for my ongoing gall bladder fun and games. Professionally life is great at the moment, but everything else seems to be falling apart, including me. I literally have no idea what life is going to throw at me next, but knowing my recent luck, it won't be good!

A weekend off from Hever this weekend so I am traipsing halfway across England again to see the lovely James, and then I will take him away for a holiday down in Somerset and maybe down to Wales to see his Nana and Bapa. He and I will enjoy that. On Wednesday this week I will be at Honiton Museum in Devon for a couple of talks. Come along! Poke my gall bladder! Enjoy yourselves.