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.

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