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So this is Christmas. And what have you done? Stuck on a big white beard and headed for Leeds Castle again in my case. Yes, it's that time of year again when parents bring small children into Santa's Grotto and scare the crap out of them. Back at Leeds we were once again in the Dog Collar Museum which has been transformed into a winter wonderland by the genius that is Dallas, the man who always masterminds the building of the Grotto. Again it looks amazing, with the parents and children walking through on a raised walkway surrounded by deer and penguins in various states of deep freeze. I am at the end of the walkway in my large Santa throne with a very impressive Christmas Tree and a big sack of presents. We started on Saturday 10th December and it was busy buy not too hectic. On hand again were two of the wonderful Dodd sisters - Jen and Pippa, plus able support from Lynn Jones, Marina, Trisha and of course, Darlene and her assistant Becky. On the first day we had one very cute little lad in who was a bit gobsmacked when he first came into the grotto but soon got into his stride. When I asked him what he wanted for Christmas he thought long and hard, then said "Thomas". I asked "Thomas, what?" and he replied, after a long silent think - "Thomas pants." Well, you can't argue with that. Over the first two days we had a good few absolutely terrified children, but also lots of very happy jolly ones as well. I stayed at my sister Cathy's on the Saturday night where she cooked a fabulous meal, and then after the Sunday show I drove up to Essex for dinner with my lovely son James and his Mum, Amanda who had cooked a lovely roast beef meal which was delightful.
On Monday I headed up to Cheshire for a Henry show on the Tuesday in Ellesmere Port. I was booked in again at a delightful Travelodge near Chester and spent a not very nice evening listening to Manchester City being unfairly beaten by Chelsea. The main unfair part was that Chelsea scored one goal more than we did. Swines! This morning I headed up to Wolverham Primary in Ellesmere Port, which was a lovely school and met up with Joseph Bullen the teacher who had booked me. He had heard about me from a friend of his who had seen my previous appearance at a school in Cheshire when I was up near Nantwich a little while ago. It was a small group - only about 20 children, all from year 3, but they were enthusiastic, loud and, importantly very knowledgeable about Henry and the Tudors. We had a fun morning before a very nice lunch, then the afternoon started in one of the classrooms as the hall was temporarily in use. So I did the stocks session in there before we headed back to the main hall for a very loud and enthusiastic jousting tournament. It was closely fought but culminated with a good win for a Gentleman's team. As this is the last show before my Christmas break our current score for the end of the year stands at:
GENTLEMEN 11 - 12 LADIES
It is as close as that! I headed out for the long drive back to Somerset at about 3.15pm and made steady if unspectacular progress down towards the M6 - but got held up after a car smash on the A500. I finally made it onto the motorway and began south. Eventually I made it back to Crewkerne at about 7.30pm, tired, hungry but glad that I had not hit too much of the appalling weather we had been promised. Yes, the wind was very strong but there was not the Biblical rain storms that had been hinted at and no snow, and as far as I am concerned that is GOOD! I have tomorrow off, then on Thursday I am off back down to Kent again for the big push through to Christmas Eve in the Grotto.