Thursday, September 29, 2011

BBC Somerset, Yetminster, Somerset Museum and TIGHTS!

Good King Hal attempting to hide his four and a half ton body behind a painfully thin quintaine pole. It didn't work.

YETMINSTER! Home to Yeti's. It is! Honest. Well, the Yetties actually, who if you're not entirely sure who they are, they're actually a sort of Happy Shopper version of The Wurzels, which is no great recommendation if you're a music lover. Well I was back at St Andrew's Junior School in this delightful little town/big village just over the border from Somerset into Dorset. I was last here back in September 2008 (see this blog for my rave review of the place!) and it was good to be back and welcomed by such lovely kind and friendly teachers. It was a biggish group - years 3, 4 and 5 combined for a total of about 90 kids, and they were fantastic! All but one of them had dressed up in brilliant Tudor costumes, some of which you could tell had been lovingly made by a member of their family. Great stuff. We had a fine morning, but stiflingly hot! This is supposed to be September for heaven's sake! I suppose it is God's way of letting us know that the cricket season is over. I was very grateful for a fan being supplied for me for the day which I constantly had running trying to stop me spontaneously combusting. I had a school dinner, and whilst waiting for this one of the dinner ladies came up and said "'Ere, is that padding or all you?" pointing at my stomach. Without waiting for an answer she poked me. I pretended to grab for her ample bosom saying "My turn!" I was talking to some of the other dinner ladies about my recent gall bladder health problems and my low fat diet, when they brought my dinner out - a burger, salad... and chips. Oh well. The original dinner lady who wanted to poke my midriff snorted at the sight of my dinner. "I spose you're gonna tell us them chips is low fat, eh?" Now I don't mind ultra skinny people making derogatory remarks about my ample size, but this woman could easily have worked as a body-double for the R101, so she was on no moral high ground I can tell you. "Probably not" I said, looked her up and down and said "So what's your excuse?"

The afternoon was great fun - but even hotter, and we then had the wee ones from year 2 come and join us for the final joust. It was another rollicking affair with some very closely fought contests, but finished with a win for... the Gentlemen again! This year it seems they're inseparable. Current score is:


Next Henry show in a school is on Friday at St Edward's Junior in Cheltenham. Watch this blog for the latest score and results.

Today I was in Taunton bright and early for an appearance on the BBC Somerset Emma Britton Show, except that Emma is currently off on holiday, so it was actually the Vernon Harfield Show. Vernon is a very professional presenter, but like a lot of BBC presenters seems to think that he is actually the natural heir apparent to Jeremy Paxman. Anyone he interviews he plays the Devil's Advocate and keeps asking them probing annoying questions. We were doing an interview about new electricity pylons being build across Somerset and what people felt about them, and a couple of times Vernon kept asking protesters questions like "how much extra would you be prepared to pay for no pylons and all the electrical work done in tunnels?" to which the protester would begin to answer and Vernon would leap back with "You're dodging the question - HOW MUCH??" as though he was trying to skewer a slippery Michael Howard. Chill, Vernon! After the show I walked round to Taunton Castle and the new Museum of Somerset which is reopening this week after a multi-million pound three year re-fit. I met Steve Minnitt, County Head of Museums outside, it was good to see him. And Carrie Blogg, the project manager for the whole thing was there too - hadn't seen them in ages. Inside - wow. The Museum is STUNNING. The money has been well spent and it is breath taking. I shall give a proper report of it on Saturday when I am appearing there for a couple of shows. Great stuff. It was nice to see the original scroll that I signed at the launch of the project there on display with all it's signatures. It was partially unrolled at the top so that all you could really see was the signatures of Mick Aston, Tony Robinson and Helen Geake from Time Team - and ME! Fame at last. In the afternoon I nipped over to Yeovil for some new tights - a King's outfit is not complete without fresh tights!

Even now this evening it is still sweltering here. After Cheltenham, I am at the Museum of Somerset on Saturday, and then at Barrington Court for the Chut Fest 2011 on Sunday. Hope to see lots of people there, especially if this weather continues.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

South Green Billericay and a perfect time to PARTY.

Good King Hal, just checking his roof for nesting Catholics. As you can see, he was on his way to the stock exchange. The writer of this blog would like to apologise for the previous joke, it was nicked with much love from a very reasonably priced Christmas cracker.

Good heavens! Back in Essex again. There should be a law against this sort of thing. It was lovely to see my son again and he took great delight and no little time in once again thrashing me at Mario Kart on the Wii. I also let him scoff large amounts of my Chinese take away on the Thursday evening. What a nice Daddy I am. On the Friday morning I was off over to South Green Junior in Billericay for my fifth visit to this lovely school in as many years. Once more I was very warmly welcomed, only this time with words of warning by the fine teachers there - the group I was to see were apparently challenging, which is I think the P.C. and polite way of saying they were quite a handful. So I was a little nervous about what to expect - but I really needn't have worried, they were a lovely group all in all! We had great fun in the morning session and even though the children had only relatively recently begun studying the Tudors properly, they showed tremendous early knowledge. Lunch was that lovely good old fashioned Friday staple of primary schools - fish fingers and chips! Back in the hall we had a fairly riotous afternoon session culminating in the inevitable roof-lifting jousting tournament. The final outcome was another victory for the ladies - their first for three schools. Our on-going score now reads:


I am next on show as every one's favourite Tudor despot with an appearance at Yetminster in Dorset. Look out for a blog coming your way soon.

Saturday morning I took James into town for breakfast, and he insisted on going to McDonald's. He was only out of the will during the meal, don't worry. Saturday evening I was down at my sister's and brother-in-law's house for my sister's birthday party. Her 46th birthday - yeah, that's right - 46th. Poor old dear. I should have bought her a zimmer frame and some dentures. The party was lovely, just a smallish gathering of close friends and with lots to drink and eat. Among those attending were Michelle Coda and her other half Matt (late of Hever Castle jousting tournaments!), and her cute daughter Victoria; John and Viv Rich who had only just got back from their holiday in Somerset where I had seen them last week; and Ann and Dave Turner-Maynard from Chelmsford who are always great fun to be around - so a splendid time was guaranteed for all. I drank an industrial amount of good red wine and felt tremendoushly schplendid for it (hic). A truly memorable and fun party.

I drove back to Somerset this late morning feeling slightly fragile, but as the day has progressed so I have got better and better. In fact I feel just about strong enough now to go to bed.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Cheshire, Oldbury and beyond

Good King Hal, walking through the streets of Bridport with a large tree growing out of his head.

It is always nice in this business to visit new areas that you don't really know. So what did I know about Cheshire? Grinning cats? Check. Some sort of cheese? Check. Home for a lot of overpaid morons living in posh houses chasing inflated pigs bladders round a field? Check. Well, there you have it! All you need to know about Cheshire. I am of course, joking. I really honestly didn't know what to expect. I was heading for Nantwich near Crewe, which to a soft southerner like myself conjured up images of shunting yards and industrial landscapes. How wrong I was! True the weather when I drove up on the Monday was filthy - pouring with rain and miserable as sin. But the countryside did seem very pleasant with some lovely houses. I was booked into another luxurious Travelodge (ah, the excitement of showbiz folks) and for once it was quite nice! It seemed to be a brand spanking new build and seemed slightly better fitted out than some of the ones I have visited recently. Some of the usual things were there as ever - the confusing shower/bath combination thing that would need someone like Professor Stephen Hawking to work out how to make it work, the hot water that either comes out cold for several hours, or is immediately the same heat as volcanic magma and strips the flesh from your hands. But for once it was not just a lonely building in the corner of an industrial estate or a cow field - there were facilities! True, one was one of these God-awful plastic "family pubs" called things like "The Jolly Farmer" or "The Badgers Nadgers", and another was a Subway outlet selling sandwiches so full of salt they could exterminate an infants school with one mouthful. But there was also a nice looking Chinese take away and a Co-op Supermarket. Being the health conscious King I am these days, I put on my blinkers, walked straight past the Chinese and headed for the low fat food in the Co-op. What a good boy I am. I spent a restful evening watching "X-Men: The Last Stand" and having very naughty thoughts about Famke Janssen. (Dirty boy!).

The drive to St Oswald's Worlstone Primary was quite painless the next morning, though the rain was continuing to fall mainly in the downwards direction. It is a lovely old Victorian school building in a very leafy country lane seemingly miles from anywhere. The teachers who greeted me were lovely and friendly and it seemed pretty certain I was on for a good day. And I was right! It was a group of about 35 children and a mixture of years 3, 4, 5 & 6, and though they began the day a little subdued, they soon got into their stride! We had a fine morning,with lots of laughs and were even delighted to notice that the sun was coming out! Hoorah! Lunch was a delicious spaggy bol, and then it was back to the hall for more Tudor mayhem. The concluding joust was close, but won in the end by a very fine Gents team - and about time too! Our score for the year at this point was then:


I packed my stuff away and headed for an hour long drive down to the Frankley Services on the M5 and yet another rendezvous with a Travelodge. This was much more like your usual text book Travelodge. A bit run down, a surly receptionist who kept tutting if people asked her questions and once you got into the corridor towards your room, an over-powering smell of fetid dampness. Frankly, Frankley Services were enough to make you want to chew your own foot off. We did have facilities! You could dine in the sumptuous surrounds of Burger King, or play very loud flashing fruit machines. I instead headed for the near deserted Marks and Spencers food outlet and purchased some more of my low fat grub. There was no Famke Janssen to keep me company this evening, so I ended up retiring to bed at 9.30pm (yes, it's that wild showbiz, rock'n'roll lifestyle again folks!). I am currently reading "1,000 Years of Annoying the French" by Stephen Clarke, which is a mildly diverting book about our "entente cordiale", or rather lack of it, with our Gallic chums over the channel. It is a hefty tome of some 700 pages, and I tend to lie on my back in bed when reading, but this does then bring you the danger of when you're nodding off of dropping your reading matter on your face. Not so bad if it's a newspaper, but a 700 page anti-French comedy book can do some serious damage. After bashing myself on the nose for the 4th time I decided it was time for sleep.

My second show on the road was at Perryfields Primary in Oldbury in Birmingham. To get to this place I had to drive down the M5 for about five miles to the next junction and then turn round and come back again up past the Frankley Service area where I had stayed the night before. It was such a delight to be on the motorway with all those friendly midlands motorists. I'd particularly like to say a big "hello" to the utter Merchant Banker in his glistening silver BMW who seemed to think he had a God given right to drive wherever he fecking wanted on the road and tough luck if you're in his way. I can only wish him my fondest regards, and hopefully terminal dysentery. The school was lovely - I was greeted by Miss Bridgewater who had booked me for the morning and was soon in with the 60+ children from years 3 & 4 combined. We had a great morning - really terrific fun. But the whole thing seemed to pass in a flash and before I knew it, it was over and I was on my way home! The jousting was a close run thing and had to go to TWO ride offs to find the eventual winners which was the Gentlemen AGAIN! So we are now at:


All square as I now head to Essex for a show at South Green Junior in Billericay this Friday.

Wednesday evening I met up with my friends Viv and John Rich from Crawley who are staying in Somerset for a little holiday at the moment. We went to the Mason's Arms at Odcombe near Yeovil and had a lovely meal, which John insisted on paying for. What a nice man! I hope they enjoy the rest of their stay.

On a final note I would like to send my best wishes for a speedy recovery to my old mate Pete Flanagan who is currently in hospital after a very nasty accident when he had his leg crushed by a car that hit him while he was out walking his dog. Hope you are soon back and firing on all four again soon, Pete.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Shillingstone, Cowboy, Hat - just a normal weekend really...

An extract from Good King Hal's diary: "Day 34 of low fat diet. All going well, still enjoying myself, most symptoms of gall bladder pain now utterly subsided." "Day 35, lard roasted ham... nom nom nom." "Day 36. AAARRGGGH! GALL BLADDER!"

After the first school back on Tuesday with West Leigh, I was now back in Somerset and time for my first school visit here. Well, actually if you're being totally pedantic it was actually in Dorset, but you know what I mean. On the Friday morning I was due back at Shillingstone School just to the north of Blandford Forum, it's a very pleasant drive down to this school through some charming west country scenery - even going past deer park where you can see... yes, you guessed it! Herds of deer! Delightful. The last time I had visited Shillingstone School was a good couple of years ago and they were housed in a tiny Victorian building, flush against the main road and with no parking. Back then I'd had to park about 100 yards down the street and carry my props up the road to the school. They have now moved to a brand new building about half a mile away and tucked away in a quiet side road. It is a stunning new build - bright, airy and full of interesting shapes and angles. The view from the classrooms is of the ancient Wessex landscape - one hill dominating the surroundings has a fine looking bronze age enclosure on the top and various tumuli here and there... (I know you're still reading this, I can hear you breathing...).

It was a great day at the school with a combined year 5 & 6 group of about 30 children. They were quiet to begin with, but once they got going there was no holding them. We had a riotous morning - I even did the Tudor Quiz as a sort of re-enactment of the old "ITV" kids show "Runaround" with the children deciding which large floor mat they would run to for each of their answers. Great fun! The jousting tournament was as ever a loud and exciting affair, and unsurprisingly the ladies won AGAIN. This makes our score:


My day was not over. On the Friday evening I was due down at Bridport in Dorset for the launch of the 2nd Annual Bridport Hat Festival. I was to go on stage at the Arts Centre and introduce legendary British country and western singer Hank Wangford and his backing band The Lost Cowboys. I got down to Bridport and wandered up to the Arts Centre. Hank and the band were ripping through a sound check so I took the opportunity to nip into the dressing rooms and get changed. I met Hank who seemed like a lovely bloke, as did most of his band. There was also a strange lady dressed in a sort of florid burlesque gear with a fascinator on her head, who at half time was apparently going to do a little dance about hats while pointing to the words projected on a screen behind her. She spent a short time before the opening of the show asking Hank's puzzled looking drummer if he could play various rhythm's for the different hat dances she was going to perform. The long winter evenings in Bridport must just fly past. Well the time came and I was on stage with main festival organiser Roger Snook doing a sort of cross talk routine as we introduced Hank and the band. And that was it! On came Hank, launched into a song and I was finished for the evening. I drove back to Crewkerne and stopped for a Chinese. Parked outside the restaurant was a tractor - how very Somerset I thought. Inside was, I assume, the driver. He was an enormously pissed neanderthal, perched on a bar stool supping lager from a pint glass while his lady friend moaned about drunk he was. I sat waiting for my order as the neanderthal and his lady continued mildly arguing, with the neanderthal only pausing to belch or fart thunderously. What a talented chap he was. I went home, ate Chinese food and passed out in the "coma chair". What a talented chap I was.

This wasn't the end of my contribution to the Bridport Hat Festival, oh no! I was there all day on the Saturday! I drove down at about 8am in the morning to make sure of my parking spot - they are at a premium during the festival. I got changed in a small room at the back of Roger Snook's hat shop but was soon out pounding the streets, shaking hands and being photographed. If you have never experienced the Bridport Hat Festival on the main Saturday then I urge you to rectify this as soon as possible. It is terrific fun - everyone, but everyone, is turned out in brilliant hats - you see the lot. Pith helmet, fascinators, flying helmets, top hats, deer stalkers, big fancy wedding hats, bowlers, derby's, trilby's... the lot! There was some terrific acoustic live music in the delightfully named Bucky Doo Square, including a great turn from the Dub Liberators who do great acoustic versions of songs like "Anarchy in the UK", "London Calling" and "The Ace of Spades". The weather was on the whole very kind to us and it was a good day all round.

Next Henry appearance is on Tuesday when I up in Cheshire visiting a school for my first ever show in that county. Should be fun.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Leeds Castle and West Leigh

Good King Hal's front room. Notice hot and cold running stocks and huge fold back speaker. Nice!

So after all the fun and games of jousting at Hever Castle this summer, it was time for one final tournament - this time back at dear old Leeds Castle. It was all to kick off on the Friday evening with a "Sunset Joust" - this was like a normal joust only done in a sort of hazy twilight. Probably quite romantic with the Castle in the background, but you did feel that most of the Knights would have been within their rights if they'd claimed for bad light and walked off. I was on the microphone for this whole weekend which was great fun and I have to say I thoroughly enjoyed myself - I hope the public did too, they didn't seem to run off in any great numbers which was a help. We'd only just started the show when one of Leeds Castle's hot air balloons suddenly came looming over the castle before coming to Earth with an undignified thump in the field just one up from our arena. We finished the show as the light was finally completely fading, and were then replaced in the entertainment stakes by the showing of "A Knight's Tale" on a giant screen next to our arena. I had an appointment with a bottle of Shiraz at my sister's house, so I made my farewells and left.

The final Saturday and Sunday were back to the usual set up for jousting at Leeds. Two shows each day, one at 12.30pm and one at 2.30pm - except on the Saturday the second show was put back to 3.30pm to accommodate a visit from some kids from Kent Youth, or some such organisation. Such was the ill behaviour of some of their number, then a visit from Genghis Khan and his Mongol Hordes might have produced less bad language and partial destruction of my costume. I have nothing against youth organisations, but I do feel the rest of us should have been issued with Luger pistols to give us a fighting chance.

I had my own little tent down on the site for, initially getting changed in, then also with my old throne from the "Henry's Horrid History" shows back in February (see this blog from February for details!) on a raised dais with the idea that I would have people coming to be photographed with The King. It was a nice little bolt hole as well at lunchtime. However on the Saturday night, long after I had gone, while the Kent Youth yobs....I mean kids... were still on site the heavens had apparently opened and some of the little darlings had taken refuge in my tent. This I discovered on the Sunday morning when I found my costume bag completely rifled, some of my clothes on the grass soaked in dew (I hope) and my hat crumpled up into a ball and had apparently been kicked around as well. Bless 'em. All four shows on the Saturday and Sunday went really well. My old friend Clara turned up with her kids on the Saturday, then on Sunday Greg and Diane Nash, who I have been friends with since I lived in London back in the 80's turned up with their sons Barnaby and Joseph - both of whom were primary school kids when I last met them, but who are both now at University. Where does all the time go..? Also Michelle Coda, her partner Matt and daughter Victoria, fresh from being Anne Boleyn at Hever Castle came along to see all the jousters with a view to Michelle doing some of the sound system work next summer at Hever. Much fun was had with all. I was also accompanied by The Tudor Roses, two fine ladies who turned up in brilliant Tudor apparel and were my Anne Boleyn and Jane Seymour for both days. There are apparently three of them in total, but I only got to meet two of them as one was away in Cyprus! The two I met were Emma and Katherine (I think - HUGE apologies if I have either name wrong!). They looked fantastic - please check out their Facebook page.

It was a fitting end to the summer season, the final show being very much a "end of term" event with lots of in-jokes and larking about, but the audience seemed to really enjoy it as well. Sir Stephen of Porlock was over joyed to see Michelle back in the audience and promptly let her have another of his stunning ditties, even if it was a bit rude (he obviously struggled to find something to rhyme with "ditties"). He also spent a large part of the final tournament wearing a big frizzy yellow wig which caused him to bear a startling resemblance to Yazz from "The Plastic Population" circa 1989.

Monday was spent up in Basildon seeing as much of my lovely James as possible. Tuesday (that's today to you and me) and it was my first visit to a school for this term and I was back at West Leigh Junior School near Southend in Essex - a school I last visited back in about 2008. It was great to be back and I was very warmly welcomed by the charming staff. It was a very large group, about 128 of them in total, of Year 3 children, but they were brilliant. Great fun, very fizzy and full of laughter - we had a superb day. With such a big group the afternoon was a rip roaring affair and culminated in a deafening jousting tournament which, predictably (if you go by previous years scores) was won by the ladies. So after the first show of the year, our opening score is:


Who knows where it will go this year. I am next back at Shillingstone School in Dorset on this Friday (16th) and then that evening and the following Saturday I am appearing at the Bridport Hat Festival. Come down and see some big hats, Hank Wangford and yours truly strutting my stuff.

Thursday, September 08, 2011

Hat's All Folks...

In a couple of weeks time I shall be appearing at the Bridport Hat Festival, but this evening just gone I have been to one of their "warm up" events - a hat auction. My dear old friend Jill Beed is one of the main organisers and she invited me down for dinner with her, her husband Mark and son Thomas. After this we wandered down to the town for the charity auction. The Hat Festival has been organising a hat amnesty - people have been handing in unwanted and now unloved hats, and tonight with them all collected together we were going to auction them off. When Jill and I got there, we found there was 102 lots going under the hammer! As the auctioneer was a bit late I did the first lot, but by then he arrived and took over. Much fun was had, silly bids made and lots of jokes. There was one very drunk older man there that no one actually knew who he was - but he bid on and won stacks of hats, both men's and women's, and ended up with them stacked one on top of each other on his head. I'd love to know how he explained all of them to whoever he had at home waiting for him. By the end he had more hats than you would normally expect to see on Ladies Day at Ascot. I went mad and bought one hat!

To see more of details on the forthcoming hat festival and my involvement then go to and any money raised from tonight's auction and other events at the festival go towards a very worthwhile charity - check out their web page here

At Leeds Castle this weekend for the jousting, then next week I have school shows at West Leigh in Essex and Shillingstone in Dorset, then it is the Hat Festival at Bridport on the 16th & 17th. See you there?