I told a friend of mine on the phone the other night that I was off to Walsall to do a show. He asked if after that I was moving on to Gdansk. I had to repeat myself and tell him I was going to WalSALL, not Warsaw. Mind you last time I was in Walsall I had got up so early due to an inability to sleep I probably could have driven to Warsaw to do a show. Not to be caught out again I had decided to drive up on the Sunday and book myself into the luxury that is a Travelodge so as to be fresh and early at the school on the Monday. I booked online and found out to my delight that a room at a Travelodge in Walsall at the beginning of December was only £12. What a bargain! The drive up to begin with was quite nice - cold and bright, with not much traffic on the road. However as I approached the Midlands the sky became black as Newgate's Knocker and the rain just hammered down. I finally sloshed to a halt outside the august portals of the Walsall Travelodge. Now, yes admittedly it was only £12 to stay the night, but they then immediately charged you £3 for the pleasure of parking there. There was a small cafe/restaurant downstairs that offered you breakfast. But this appeared to consist of a rather forlorn looking slice of bacon, a chipolata, some watery scrambled eggs and some toast for £7.95. I'd rather starve, so I did.
I had a comfortable night in my room on the 2nd floor only being disturbed by the drunken shrieking of some demented woman at about 11pm - she wasn't happy about something and obviously wanted everyone else in the hotel to know about it. I got up the next morning and drove round to the wonderfully named Edgar Stammers School. Now to me, the name Edgar Stammers sounds like a 1960's soul singer on the Stax record label rather than a nice primary school in the West Midlands. It was a really fun group on the day - about 40+ children and all very enthusiastic. All was going really well until we got to the end of the morning session. At this point, halfway through my talk, there was a barely audible knock on the door to the hall before it was smashed open and several scary looking women of advanced years and varying degrees of gold dentistry, stormed into the hall and began noisily chucking tables and chairs around while cackling to each other. Tables were crashed down, chairs dragged honkingly loudly over the floor and voices like Thames barge foghorns were projected. I made a comment fairly loudly about them being a tad rude in stomping in like that and was shot a look from one of the teachers that said "LEAVE IT! THEY AIN'T WORTH IT!" As they began to finally (and equally loudly) to leave I called after them "Why did you bother knocking?"
After lunch, and more loud haranguing from the antediluvian dinner ladies ("'Ere! 'Enry! Where's yer Mrs? Eh? Eh?") it was back to normality, or as normal as I can get without using make up. The jousting was of a very high standard and ended up with a good Gents team coming home first. Our score therefore now moves up to:
GENTLEMEN 10 - 11 LADIES
And of course with the next contest coming up very quickly. Edgar Stammers was a lovely school, great children, lovely teachers, and very scary dinner ladies. It was like Jurassic Park with tabards.
I drove from Walsall over to South Witham near Grantham where my dear friend Val Smart lives. We wandered down to the local village pub that evening and had a lovely meal at The Blue Cow Inn. I stayed there once before as you might recall from a previous entry in the blog. It was a cold frosty evening but we sat next to a blazing log fire and had a lovely meal. The only drag was when the pub manager, who looked like a gnome who'd lost his mushroom, noticed my Manchester City t-shirt I was wearing and came over for some good natured banter as he was a Man Ure fan. He then regaled us with tales of his past life, where he'd lived, what illnesses he'd had, which RAF stations his son has been posted to and for how long, why Mousehole in Cornwall is called Mousehole, how many light bulbs they use in illuminating the village in winter... At one point I didn't think he was going to stop and I was seriously considering trying to shove him into the fireplace in a desperate attempt to escape. But we did get away. I slept in Val's spare room on a tiny, but very comfortable bed.
Tuesday morning and I was again up at bloody-hell-o'clock in the morning for a drive up to Nottingham and my visit to Southglade Junior School. This is another lovely school and I was very warmly welcomed by the teachers and staff. The children were unbelievably enthusiastic this day. It was all that I could do to reign them in and keep them on this side of hysteria. They were the same sort of size group as the day before, but about 20 times louder. Perhaps their dinner ladies were 20 times louder as well. I hoped not. The morning did honestly seem to just shoot past and I ended up for the last few minutes being interviewed in the classroom by one of the two classes, as I sank slowly into an unbelievably squashy low chair. Thank God I had my walking stick with me as I might have needed a midwife to get me out of it. Lunch was pretty awful to be honest - an all day breakfast consisting of bacon (OK), wedges (dry), mushrooms (nice), beans (stewed) and two of the most tasteless sausages I have ever experienced in my life. I know schools have to cut down on the old sodium for the sake of the kids health, but this was just taking the proverbial. They were just flavourless greyish tubes full of mush.
The afternoon was predictably loud and popular and the jousting was a joyous occasion as two really good teams fought it out in the final. The ladies came through for a deserved win though, and so our score goes back to:
GENTLEMEN 10 - 12 LADIES
I left the school at 3.30pm and made steady if unspectacular progress, until I reached junction 5 of the M42 where a car had caught fire and two lanes were blocked. I got held up there for just over half an hour. But I was soon on my way again - until the Avonmouth Bridge on the M5 where about 6 or 7 cars had decided to smash into each other and closed another couple of lanes. I was held there for about another 45 minutes. I finally walked into my flat at about 8.30pm - that had been a long long day. But worth it! And I know I am far enough away from the Dinnerladysaurus to be completely safe - for now. Tomorrow I am driving to Essex to see my lovely son and then down to Leeds Castle this weekend for the first Father Christmas weekend of the festive season. Looking forward to grooving on down with my Elves to the "Santa Rap" - HOOO-HO-HO-HOOOOO!