Monday, December 31, 2012

Six Hours To Go....

2012 has been a fantastic year for me, both professionally and personally, and I hope that 2013 will be even better.  So to all my friends, family and followers of this blog (both of you), and to people who read the Facebook page or the deeply infrequent Twitter updates from Good King Hal, then have a very happy new year and may the new year bring you all the peace and happiness that you need.
So, link arms everyone and.... all together now.... "should auld acquaintance......" etc etc.  HAPPY NEW YEAR!

Monday, December 24, 2012

And the World Did NOT End!

So 2012, a year when we were supposed to see the world end has come and nearly gone, and as far as I can see I am still here.  It has been a pretty phenomenal year for a lot of people, but also for me and Good King Hal.
My professional year has just come to a close with my final evening in the grotto as Father Christmas at Leeds Castle.  It is a fairly well known fact the sainted Darlene Cavill is leaving her post as Events Manager at the Castle in May after so many years fulfilling the position.  The place just won't be the same without her and after eight years of working as Santa at Leeds, with Darlene's departure it seems right that I should hang up the red bobble hat and hand over the present sack to someone else.  To be honest it will be lovely just to have a normal Christmas without being cocooned within the grotto for three weeks and unable to do "normal" things!  I personally think as in Doctor Who there should be a regeneration scene where I morph into the next person who plays Santa.
Being Henry this year has been great fun with visits to new areas such as Liverpool, Hexham, Barry and other various far flung corners of the British Isles.  Plus I spent most of the summer months gallivanting around a variety of stately homes and castles with the wonderful Knights of Royal England - a truly epoch making experience.  But this sort of travelling will pale into insignificance if the plans for 2014 come to fruition - I have been invited out to Shanghai in China for some Good King Hal appearances.  I can't wait!  I am so excited by the idea and really hope this all works out and becomes a reality.  There are equally exciting plans for 2013 for the business, but I shall reveal my master plan piece by piece and as we reach each milestone.  I like to keep my powder dry!
And my final reason for making 2012 so memorable is that I have met the lovely Shelley, a lady who has brought back the sunshine into my life long after I honestly thought I would never be personally happy again.  For that I cannot thank her enough, but will have to start somewhere, so why not here?  THANK YOU!
So to everyone who has been a part of the madness, fun and historical rantings that has been Good King Hal in 2012, many thanks to you.  Hope you enjoyed yourselves as much as I did.  Here is to 2013 and hoping it is as successful and prosperous for you all.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

It's Beginning to Look a Lot Like The End of the World as We Know It

Father Christmas, with his wages in a small red sack to his right, totally failing to pull the wool over the eyes of Sir Owen of Leeds Castle and the Broomfield Exit.  The Elf on the right has just been pushed through a window into this picture.

They do say you live and learn.  They do.  And now after eight years I find myself being Father Christmas AGAIN down at Leeds Castle.  Eight years of donning the red suit and the white beard, all those ho-ho-ho's and all those happy children.  And also all the unhappy ones, the minuscule little toddlers, heads already stuffed full of advice from parents, advice like "don't talk to strangers", or "don't take sweets from strangers", or even "look out for strange characters".  And then they find themselves in a room which looks like it's been decorated by members of the band Parliament and introduced to a rotund strangers in bright red outfit and a massive beard and ordered to tell this figure their deepest desires and also to accept presents from him.  No wonder so many of them scream and hide behind their parents legs.  And don't forget the embarrassed ones.  Kids who have reached an age of maturity where this sort of demeaning childish outing is now the nadir in their development.  How I love to embarrass the hell out of them.  Or the smart arse kids.  The ones who are "precocious" (i.e. spoilt little shits) and say something rude to Santa and get a guffaw of laughter from the parents when really a vicious elbow in the ribs would be more agreeable.  And speaking of parents, what about the pushy/moody/never-bloody-satisfied parents?  The ones who however long you spend with their child it is never enough, they always want more, or one more photo, and all this time there is a legion of other irate parents outside the grotto, desperate to get in and slake the blood lust of Christmas greed in their children.  It sort of makes you and your Elves feel like gaudily dressed defenders of some tinsel-bedecked Rorkes Drift.  Don't get me wrong, I love what I do, but I feel I am reaching the end of the line.  This could be, as they say "it".
If it is to be my Lapland "Swan Song", then it was lovely to go out with a visit from my lovely Shelley and her son Sir Owen.  He arrived in his wheelchair unaware of what exactly I was doing at Leeds Castle, and I hoped with the red suit and white beard and with my glasses taken off he might not recognise me.  Nope, not a chance.  As soon as he was wheeled into my presence he looked at me and went "MIKE!"  Rumbled.  But despite what I said at the start, I have lived and learnt this last week or so.  So here goes!

  1. Don't snore next to a lady with an ear infection
  2. Never believe anything you read in a Mayan calendar.  End of the world, my arse.
  3. Don't have a tea party with people with the norovirus.
  4. Don't live in Tovill.
  5. Christmas shopping in any town anywhere in Britain in December is NOT fun.
  6. Smile at everyone, even the miserable gits.  It doesn't half annoy them.
  7. The man with the shovel and the shit filled wheel barrow is NOT the new events manager at Leeds Castle.

Sunday, December 09, 2012

It's The Most Wonderful Time of The Year (If you like freezing cold weather)....

Good King Hal, letting everyone know just how cold and wet he is feeling at Blenheim Palace during the Summer, so God knows how cold and wet he is feeling now that it is the middle of winter.

I have a lot of catching up to do.  I sometimes wonder where the time goes.  On checking back on this blog it seems I have FOUR shows to catch up on.  How on Earth did that happen?  What have I been doing?  Surely not a passable Ray Milland impression and having a lost weekend?  No, I can't afford that sort of thing and I am sure poor old Ray would feel the same if he was still with us. 
So let's begin, we have to roll the time back to last week when I had just finished the show at Dunster School.  The following morning I was up and about, but thankfully not too early as I was heading back down to The Maynard School in Exeter and they didn't want me to start until 10.30am, which was fine by me.  I do love to come and visit the Maynard, it is a lovely school and the staff are just a delight to be with, particularly Keagh Fry, the main teacher I deal with, who is simply one of the loveliest people you could ever wish to meet.  It was a bigger group than normal for the Maynard - 18 children this time!  It was a good fun day all round with lots of laughs and some fantastic costumes among the ladies.  The jousting was good too, but as the Maynard is an all-girls school, alas I can't add the result from this show to our overall year long score.
I had a day at leisure on the Wednesday and then on the Thursday it was another return visit to a very nice school - Dean Close Prep in Cheltenham.  The drive into Cheltenham is relatively easy - you go past GCHQ and try not to notice it, just in case you are arrested and water boarded, or some such, and then along Lansdown Road, with many grand old buildings to your right, most of which is Dean Close School.  I always look out for the little hall in the middle where I always do my shows.  Last time I had driven through Cheltenham back in the summer (coming back from a Sudeley show) I had been delighted to see everything at Dean Close was as it had ever looked.  So in the early morning watery light, I drove up Lansdown Road and kept an eye out for my hall.  But it had gone - completely.  All that was left was a massive pile of rubble and a few builders and labourers standing round scratching their arses and drinking tea.  Was it something I said?  I finally met up with Jon Harris who books me at the school and it appeared my drama room was being "re-developed" but it might take a couple of years.  So I was in the main building for a change, and we had a great day, some really nice kids and a fun day all round.  Superb lunch of immaculate roast beef, and then after a stocks session in which I almost made an Australian teacher wet himself (you really don't want to know) it was outside for the final joust.  It was a great final and I was delighted to see a very cocksure lads team come completely unstuck and were trounced by the ladies.  Wonderful.  The score clicks remorselessly round to:
After Dean Close and a whistle stop weekend back to see my lovely son James in Essex and my gorgeous Shelley in Kent, I was back down to Somerset and all points west for my final two Henry VIII shows for 2012.
Thursday 6th December found me at Redstart School in Chard for a half day with the year 4's under the auspices of the wonderfully named Lisa Organ.  Redstart is a delightful school and the shows I do here are always fun, even if they are half days.  There was talk after the success of this year of going for a full day next year - so watch this space.  It was a fun, mad, loud, laughter filled morning and culminated in another great joust - so much talent this year.  And this time the ladies stormed through for a memorable and well earned victory.  There seems to be no stopping them now.  Our score goes over to:
Another win.  Can the gents ever hope to be in the lead?
My final Henry for the year was at the delightfully named Air Balloon Hill Primary School in Bristol.  The early part of the day was not promising it has to be said.  Freezing cold weather, lots of mucky salty spray off the road, tons of traffic and lots of roadworks it seemed.  It took me far longer to get to the school than I intended and I was then horrified to discover that they didn't have a car park, but that was the last of the unpleasantness.  Air Balloon Hill Primary is a SUPERB school with wonderful kids.  It was a biggish group today, about 90+ children from year 5, but they were brilliant!  Their enthusiasm, willingness to laugh and their already formidable Tudor knowledge made for it to be one of the best days of the year.  Thoroughly enjoyable day all round.  The staff were lovely (I had been recommended to the school by a supply teacher there who had seen me at Twerton some two or three years ago) and responded so well to my show that they have already demanded a return visit for next year, which suits me down to the ground.  The joust was deafening and ended with a long overdue win for the Gents.  They pull the score back to:
The drive back to Crewkerne was almost as tortuous as the journey up, so I was glad when I finally got home and put my feet up. 
2012 has been one of my busiest years since I started back in 2004, and 2013 is looking even better still.  So to all the people I have worked with throughout the past 12 months, thank you so much for your help, bookings, enthusiasm and laughter, here is to 2013 being the biggest year ever.  And to all fans of Good King Hal and anything Tudor related, stick on a choral version of "In Dulce Jubilo" and boogie round your peasant sacks, and have a deeply wonderful and merry Christmas and a most lovely, peaceful and happy new year.  I am off to stick on a red suit and white beard and shout "ho ho ho" at various terrified children at Leeds Castle for the next two weeks, before Henry VIII strides back into view on January 9th 2013 with a return visit to Blackbrook School in Taunton.  Until then, no snow, please!
Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year from Good King Hal and all at Past Presence Ltd.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Backstroke to Dunster

Good King Hal was feeling slightly less negative this week.  Either that or he has just been shot by a Dalek in the 1960's, which is jolly painful.

And so it was back to Dunster for another visit to a school that I love very much indeed.  That was the plan, but things depended as to how the weather was intending to behave.  The weekend, Saturday aside, had been mostly cataclysmic with deluges of rain and high winds.  Already saturated ground couldn't cope with the extra water, and it had flooded many side and minor roads.  The drive out to Dunster from Taunton is along a main(-ish) road, but I had visions of it being submerged in various places.  I was really in two minds whether to try and get there at all as reports on the radio and TV suggested that parts of the south west were giving passable impressions of the Marianas Trench in the Pacific.  But to be honest, I just sailed through (no pun intended).
Dunster is such a beautiful little town and looked delightful in the watery morning sun when I arrived.  I was as ever so warmly welcomed by everyone at the school, from Mr Hoyland, the head, right through to the cooks and the caretaker.  This was my 9th visit to this school since 2004 and it was just as much fun as ever. I sat and ate with Mr Hoyland in the big dining hall during the lunch break.  He was thoroughly impressed that my lovely son James had decided to become an Arsenal fan.  I suppose it could have been a lot worse - it could have been.... argh...  I can't even bring myself to say it....  A....  Man United fan.  ARGH!  What a horrendous thought.  I really would have to sell him off to a vivisectionist if that happened.  It would be for the best.
The afternoon was a blast and ended with a very closely fought joust which the gents managed to struggle through and win on the very last quoit after being miles behind at one point.  Suddenly the year long competition is closer than it has been for a long time.  Our score is:
So back to the car for the long slog back to Crewkerne, but it was again quite easy, even the bottle-neck that is Taunton centre.  Home cooked sweet and sour pork with sticky rice was the order of the evening and helped make a very tired, but comfortable King.  That evening I received this nice message from Mr James the teacher who had booked me at Dunster this year.  It read:

Hi Mike/Good King Hal,

Thanks for a great day!  We had such a good time and the children got so much out of it! They haven't stopped talking about it all afternoon. I am sure it will be the talk of the week!

Thanks again for a super show,
Best wishes,
Paul James

Now that makes doing the job worthwhile!  Off to the Maynard in Exeter next...

Monday, November 26, 2012

Mistletoe Fayre 2012 Pts 1 and 2

Good King Hal adopting the "George Osborne Move" in getting money out of terrified elderly peasants to help support a poor investment banker fallen on hard times and down to his final Porsche and only £12 million to see him through at his hovel in Mustique.

Two days of the Mistletoe Fayre alongside a weekend with my lovely Shelley and the benighted Sir Owen of Leeds Castle and the Broomfield Exit.  What could possibly go wrong?  Well, the weather for a start.  For a few days it had hammered down with rain, and then it continued in much the same way, in enough quantities to make someone like Noah think "shit, where did I put my nail gun?"  However, Shelley made it to Somerset from Kent, and we had also managed to get to Barrington from Crewkerne across some of the dampest, wettest most mud caked roads you have ever seen.  Our cars were soon Somerset two-tone - normal body colour and then caked on layers of mud, cow dung and assorted flattened road kill. 
The Mistletoe Fayre looked as good as ever, the Blackdown Babes had done themselves proud!  Matthew Applegate also looked particularly chipper and happy, which was lovely to see.  Shelley and Owen accompanied me on the first day and we treated ourselves to lots of lovely yummy things like some pork and apple sausages, fresh meat pies, Scotch eggs and even some Cherry Brandy.  All real healthy stuff as you can tell.  Then in the evening, Shelley spoilt me even more, in a way only a woman can do for a man she truly loves.... Yes, we sat and watched "Prometheus" on DVD.  I thoroughly enjoyed it.  I think.
On Sunday, Shelley and Owen decided to make a run for the east ahead of the anticipated rain, and would include a stop off at Tidworth to see Owen's brother Jamie at his barracks.  I went back over to the Mistletoe Fayre and had another fine day, had a few chats with the lovely Rachel Brewer and took great delight in drinking some of her magnificent mulled cider.  Delicious.  Then to add to the fun and games, all the electrics in Barrington Court house fused plunging everyone into darkness.  I was in the old kitchen when it happened first - the lights flickered for a moment and then conked out.  It reminded me somewhat of when you watch movies of the Titanic and the electrics all fail on the doomed liner.  Well, just to keep up with the same sinking feeling I immediately started playing "Abide With Me" and "Rock of Ages" on my recorder.  But as far as I was concerned it was women, children and Tudor despots first, and when the lights had finally all been sorted I thought enough was enough for the weekend, and I made run for it.  So another very successful Mistletoe Fayre and another lovely weekend with Shelley. 

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Old Cats and Wombles. Plus Dear Madam Barnham...

Good King Hal wondering why he is still clutching a gear stick, hours after parking the car.  Perhaps he did it manually, perhaps it was just automatic.

Roads, roads and more roads.  And Travelodges.  When you last read this riveting missive, your favourite mock Tudor monarch was ensconced in a Travelodge near Kings Lynn in Norfolk.  It doesn't get much more exciting that this folks.  No wonder anything up to six people still bother reading this travesty of the English language.  And of those six people, I thank you all and will buy each and everyone of you a beer.  But I feel this blog has almost run its course.
Anyway, away from me moaning about people not bothering to read this crap, back to Henry on the road.  According to my sat nav, the drive from Kings Lynn to Old Catton School in Norwich should take about an hour and a quarter, so I gave myself and hour and a half, just to be on the safe side.  I should have given myself longer.  The traffic was bad all round, but by the time I reached the outskirts of Norwich it was horrendous and the journey ended up taking me over two hours and made me a bit late.  But there were fun moments.  Whilst driving along the A47 to the west of Norwich I drove past the Canary and Linnet Pub where many years ago a whole group of us had spent a mad New Years Eve, with a miserable landlord with a round pool table (yes, round).  It was a space saving pool table where you could turn the table round for your shots, but we soon discovered in our drunken states that if you racked all the balls up in the middle, removed the frame and then spun the table round all of the balls would immediately shoot straight into the pockets.  Very life affirming.
Old Catton School was a sight for sore eyes when I arrived and I was doubly lucky that they were having a morning assembly before the school day began so I had a bit of spare time to get my stuff in and get changed into my frock.  We had a fine morning with a lovely group of children.  They were lively knowledgeable and fun to work with.  The afternoon joust was incredibly loud and threatened to blow out the windows of the hall.  It ended with much needed victory for the gents, who now cut the useful lead the ladies had.  Our score after the Old Catton show:
And so I was on my way, heading first of all to Essex for an evening with Amanda and my lovely James.  We had a fun evening watching a bit of Night at the Museum 2 and eating a very welcome curry.  But when they went to bed early it was time for me to hit the road again and head down to Maidstone and see my lovely Shelley again.  I had the Thursday at leisure and was taken for a nice shopping trip round Maidstone by Shelley before she bought me lunch at Mexxa Mexxa, a marvellous Mexican restaurant near the Haslitt Theatre.
Friday was Children in Need day - and I was a King in Need.  It was too early!  And I was driving on the M25 (ARGH!), heading for London (ARGH!) and a return visit to St Matthew's School in West Wimbledon (ARGH!.... no actually, hang on, this is a lovely school).  It was lovely to be back and I was very warmly welcomed by one and all, especially the lovely Katie Barnham who booked me there, or "Dear Madam Barnham" as I deliberately miss-spelt her after the XTC song.  It was a funny little group today, just 20 children and of them, only five boys.  They were quiet to begin with, but soon perked up and we had a great day all round.  The afternoon session, including the jousting was very exciting but due to the lack of boys at the school made scoring this tournament an impossibility.  As it was a mixed team of boys and girls raced to victory.  So no change in the overall score.
So it was back to Maidstone for a long weekend with Shelley, but it wasn't terribly restful as poor Sir Owen was a bit poorly and Shelley didn't get to sleep much.  But we had a nice time anyway.  It was back to Somerset and a couple of days visiting old friends, and to keep that whole simile going I am off to Southampton today to see old friends at Skandia Life for a bit of lunch.  This weekend is the Mistletoe Fayre at Barrington Court, so hopefully I should see you all there briefly.  The King will not be staying long!

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Nottingham and Knackered Bogs

A gratuitous pussy shot for the start of this latest blog entry.  How shocking.

After a week of not moving around very much down in the west country.... Oh OK, Isle of Wight, Chandlers Ford AND Taunton in one week?  Not much moving around?  It was a lot of moving around for a normal person but nothing for Henry to be honest.  So this week we are back on the usual insane treadmill.  For my first trick I will drive from Maidstone in Kent to Nottingham, blindfolded, carrying a cement mixer and whistling the more difficult parts of a Stockhausen symphony.  The weather was a bit lousy, but then I was blindfolded so what the hell did I care?  I was on my way to the luxurious august portals of the Travelodge at Trowell services on the M1.  I have stayed at many different Travelodge's over the past few years, but this was not one of the great ones.  The welcome from the lady behind the reception desk was very warm and genuine, but that was as good as it got.  The room was grotty, there were some rather worrying stains on the carpet and everything had a sort of down at heel feel to it.  The toilet was decidedly dodgy and didn't flush particularly well early on.  The water deluge into the pan was less of a deluge and more of a subtle trickle.  This was going to prove tricky if I was a big boy later.
The bed was comfortable it must be said but appeared to have been tucked in by the Incredible Hulk in a strop.  The sheets appear to have been welded under the mattress.  The added fun for the room was that there was only five working channels on the TV.  Now I know back in the early 70's we'd have given our eye teeth to have that many channels to choose from, but in 2012 it seemed a bit meagre.  I had bought food with me so I didn't have to go out and sample the delights of the local Burger King for my dinner, and that was a real plus point.
After a good nights sleep, I woke up bright and early for a trip to Southglade Junior in Nottingham.  I decided to finally test out the toilet's ability to handle a really job.  Well it was the morning.  Right, slipway greased, bomb bay doors open, target selected and AWAY we go.  Message delivered.  Now was the time to see if the poor flushing capacity of this toilet could handle it.  I gripped the flush handle tightly, pulled it up to a big height, and keeping the fingers of my other hand crossed for good luck, plunged it down with a reasonable amount of manly force....  The handle promptly fell off in my hand.  Shit.  In fact, quite a lot of it to be honest.  Oh dear.  What does one do?  Well, when you're English and almost terminally embarrassed about anything to do with bodily functions you do what I did.  You take the toilet cistern apart with your bare hands and begin to re-assemble it, even though you are to plumbing what Abu Qatada is to Jordanian tourism promotion.  But, I am very proud to say I fixed the damn thing, and got it working again and flushing better than ever.  What a clever chap.  It did bring to mind an embarrassing moment from my past that I am here to reveal to the rest of the world for the first time ever.  Back in about 1993 I was living in Essex (that is not the embarrassing bit, before you say anything) and one evening I was invited to dinner at some friend's house in Billericay.  I really liked this couple and found them great company, but always looked up to them as a very sophisticated duo.  I was looking forward to the visit on the Saturday, but on the Wednesday evening during the week before, I was struck down with what Peter Tinniswood used to call a savage attack of the Nawab of Pataudis.  I had eaten something that violently disagreed with being eaten and was hell bent on escaping from me via whichever was the quickest route.  I was feeling extremely ropey even up to the morning of the Saturday, but by the early afternoon I had perked up enough to feel confident to take on a dinner party at my friend's house.  So the early part of the evening went well, but about halfway through the main course I could feel some turbulence building up and decided that I would be better off making a quick to journey to the toilet to ease my discomfort.  Sure enough once in the small downstairs toilet all hell broke loose and I was somewhat alike to Jeff Daniels in the toilet scene from "Dumb and Dumber".  It was not a pretty site and before I did anything else like cleaning myself up I decided to flush away what was in the loo.  I pulled the chain and expected a mighty deluge.  Wrong.  I got a pathetic trickle that didn't really flush much away, just sort of stirred it up a bit.  But that wasn't the worst of it, oh no.  The worst of it was the sound of the cistern re-filling.  Where you normally here a nice healthy sluice of water topping up the flush for another go, all I got was a gentle drip drip sound.  This was going to take hours.  I tried to pull the top of the cistern off to refill it manually with water from the sink, but it was screwed on.  So I waited and waited,  and waited and waited, and waited some more.  Eventually my friends started knocking on the toilet door.  Was I alright in there?  I assured them I was, but I couldn't leave the bog looking like it did.  Eventually the cistern was just about ready for another trickle flush, which made a slight improvement.  But I couldn't wait for it to re-fill again as my friends would be past the main course and the pudding and would be almost at the end of cheese, coffee and cigars.  I walked back into the dining room and thought I'd make a little joke.  "I'd give it five minutes if I was you!" I chuckled as I sat down.  There was a painful silence.  The evening never really recovered and as I recall I don't think I ever got a return invite.  Funny that....
And so to the school.  It was lovely to be back at this wonderful school in Nottingham, what with their properly flushing toilets and everything.  The kids were great - almost too excited to be honest, but hugely enthusiastic in the extreme.  The morning passed in a flash and I was soon sitting in the very comfortable staff room ploughing my way through a very tasty plate of home made lasagna and garlic bread.  Fantastic.  That set me up for the afternoon thrash and what turned out to be a fantastic jousting tournament.  The final with the ladies and gents ebbed and flowed with who was winning and who was losing, but finally a really good ladies team again stormed to another victory.  This brought the score to:
I packed my stuff away and then hit the road.  I am in Norwich tomorrow for a return visit for the first time in many years to Old Catton School.  I have driven about half the way from Nottingham to Norwich and am currently in ANOTHER Travelodge, this time near Kings Lynn at a place called Long Sutton.  And you will be pleased to hear that their bogs flush a treat!  Good night!

Friday, November 09, 2012

Big Blog No Looky

Good King Hal asking King Charles II of Spain in drag, to spare him a couple of hundred groats for a cup of Reformation.... TEA!  He meant tea.

Honestly, loyal folks out there, the spirit is willing, but the flesh is failing fast.  I am slowly losing the will to write this blog to be honest.  The worst thing I could do was to publish it on Facebook, as now they send you a weekly update as to how your page and posts are doing.  The caption competition?  Regularly garners somewhere in the region of 200-300 hits.  My little one line updates?  Anything from about 80 up to 200.  My blog entries?  Er.... well, not as many.  In fact a recent one which I had written and taken a long time over getting it right managed to only get 19 hits.  Now that is not the sort of results you are looking for after pouring your guts out on the page.  So despite doing three shows this week I have struggled to find the enthusiasm for writing the damn thing up.  Perhaps I should just make it all up, and see if anyone notices.  OK, lets do that for a bit.
Ahem, OK, so I was at the "Skyfall" premiere the other night in my full Tudor gear.  I had been asked to go along by Cubby Brocolli's ghost and a small bowl of petunias.  I was accompanied to the soiree by Cardinal Richeleu, Max Jaffa, The Dagenham Girl Pipers and Dog the Bounty Hunter.  We arrived in a stretch limo made out of two off cuts of a Bond Bug and a US Military Hummer.  I waved at the crowd and shouted "God kväll mina underbara brittiska vänner! Denna Bygel-BH dödar mig, men tack och lov kan jag skaffa mig en Pimms och saft kort. Toodle pip!"  It's amazing where a bit of fluent Swedish can get you - Ulrika Jonsson's house for a start.  Just ask Sven.  Anyway, I tripped up the red carpet, but didn't spill a drop.  Sir Alex Ferguson came to greet me with a big smile on his ravaged red face.  I felled him with a swinging left hook.  As he struggled back to his feet I once more pole-axed the puce faced thistle arsed Scottish whinge bag with two short upper cuts and a lethal rabbit punch.  The crowd cheered tossing marmite vol-au-vonts in the air.  Just at that moment I felt a weak pathetic tap on my shoulder.  It was Daniel Craig in an I-Zingari romper suit with matching bonnet.  He mumbled something in that weak girly voice of his.  "WHAT?" I roared back at him, in my finest Brian Blessed.  So startled was he that he didn't need Movicol that night.  He finally managed to mumble something about leaving his wife alone.  I reached past him and grabbed Rachel Weisz, pulled her to me for a vacuum like snog and then said "Don't let's cheapen this, it was fun while it lasted, but you'll get over me..."  She fell to her knees, begging me to have her back, but it was too late.  I was already halfway up the Shard skyscraper with Fay Wray in my hands, and trying to stop bi-planes shooting me up the arse.  But then, all of a sudden, I couldn't have been more surprised when who should open a window on the 126th floor but... (continued on page 96).
There, that should confuse some of my foreign fans on Facebook.  Or perhaps I should have shouted in Czech?  A teď něco úplně jiného. Zde je Good King Hal obvykle blog.  See?  I told you.
Well for those who really do read this far, this is how the week has gone.  Sunday saw me driving back to the Isle of Wight, one year on from that awful journey (please see former entry about that!).  This time around my voyage to deepest darkest Ventnor was most pleasant, and apart from missing the 3.45pm boat I was booked on at Lymington, hassle free.  On the boat however, the personal choice Fascists have got to work.  No longer can you just kip in your car for the 20 minute crossing - oh no.  No, you are not allowed to enjoy that little pleasure.  You are forced, virtually at gun point up to the passenger lounge where you are assailed by piped music, advertising video screens and over priced coffee and sandwiches.  And if you complain you get keel hauled, which in the Solent is not much fun.  I arrived at Hannah Larkin's place (the teacher who books me at St Francis' School in Ventnor) just after 6pm and we went straight out, with a friend of hers to a nice pub called The Dairyman's Daughter at Arreton. 
The following day at the school was fun, hard work,  but ultimately very rewarding.  The jousting session in the afternoon was deafening and culminated in another win for the gents.  They have been doing a lot better of late and have managed to claw the score back to:
I left Ventnor and drove across the island in beautfiul early winter sunshine, taking in the magnificent views from the old Military Road down to Freshwater Bay.  Lovely. I managed to get an earlier ferry than expected and was soon being forced at gun point back up to the passenger lounge.  I drove back through Christchurch (for my sins) and eventually found myself at home munching through a very welcome Chinese meal.
I spent Tuesday visiting my old friend Pete Flanagan over at Tatworth where he lives, and it is nice to see him back on his feet again after such an awful injury he suffered in a road accident just over a year ago.  Again for details, search this blog.  On the Wednesday I was up bright and early for a trip back down to Knightwood School in Chandler's Ford near Southampton.  I was warmly welcomed as ever by Lee, the caretaker, who made me a bucket of tea and then told me his latest health problems, which was a bit of an eye opener.  Knightwood is such a brilliant school and we had a great day in their brilliantly architectured hall.  Even a disappointing lunch wasn't too bad - the dinner staff hadn't been told I was coming so hadn't cooked enough, but they let me have some home made pizza.  Now normally cheese at a primary school is as mild as Rowan Williams, but today the cheese on the pizza was more like being shouted at by Rev Ian Paisley.  It was CHEEEEEEEEESE, with a capital ouch.  But it filled a hole!  Everyone seemed to enjoy themselves on the Tudor Day and once more the joust went down a storm and we finished with another victory for the ladies team.  They now poke their noses back in front again, just holding off the gents.  Our score moves on to:
It was surprisingly cold down in Chandler's Ford that day and I was grateful for my big coat and heating in the car.  The drive home back through Salisbury was just like my old days going back from Skandia Life in Southampton.  I also might be startling some other old Skandia chums as the local rag for Southampton came along and did a load of photos of me for publication.  It will interesting to see if anyone in that neck of the woods notices.
Thursday was another show day, but a lot closer to home this time.  I was off back to the lovely Parkfield School in Taunton and another meet up with the legendary Head Teacher there, the deliciously named Mr Wynford Sides.  Parkfield is a delight, and it didn't disappoint one jot this time round.  Great fun day, lovely to see all my old friends there, including Christine - Bonjour, mon petit ami français!   A group of 60+ children, all very enthusiastic and all dressed in great costumes was the recipe for a perfect Henry VIII day. Even lunch was great - each year the staff at Parkfield insist on nipping out and buying me lunch, which makes me feel very grateful, but embarrassed.  So this year, on the way in I had stopped at a Spar store in Ilminster and had grabbed some sarnies and a drink.  I told EVERYONE at the school I had done this - everyone that was, except one.  And she trudged off to the local Tescos and returned with a lunch for me, only to discover me chewing my way through my own sandwiches when she returned to the school.  Bless her, she let me keep the lunch she'd bought, so I had it as a light dinner in the evening when I got home.  The final joust was another nail biter and finished with another victory for the ladies.  So our week finishes with the score at:
I drove home, ate my second lunch and then went out for a drink with Matthew Applegate at the Rose and Crown at East Lambrook.  Luckily the landlady wasn't there, so we had a lovely evening.
(cont from page 96)....with thick bleach and an oven glove.  But it wasn't enough.  Sure enough rivulets of molten magma began seeping under the door of the crofters cottage.  I turned quickly to see if anyone had any bright ideas.  Bryan Ferry was simply rocking back and forth on a stool in the corner saying "go to a happy place go to a happy place" over and over.  Douglas Bader was worried he'd be burnt to the ground (ba-doom-tish!) and Lily Cole STILL hadn't replied to my message on Facebook.  Call yourself a cousin???  With a final surge of energy and adrenaline, I leapt out of the window in a shower of glass and landed on the former speaker of the House of Commons, Bernard Weatherall.  I said "I thought you were dead."  He said "You can talk, dressed as Henry VIII".  I cuffed him playfully round the ear with my speaking trumpet and was soon on my Honda Fireblade roaring through the countryside on my way for a date with destiny.  But would you believe it, but who should come round the corner on a traction engine, with the Somerset T20 squad, Schnorbitz the dog and Dorothy Squires, but none other than old....(cont. next week).

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Coughing All Over the World

Good King Hal, wowing his audience so much at a recent performance of "Henry's Horrid History" Barrington Court, that some of the punters, overcome with emotion, have to make a mad run for the exit.

This was a week to test the endurance and tensile strength of everything from my lungs to my underpants, as I careered around the country, full of cold and coughing over as many people as I could manage.  Things started on the Thursday night when I was booked to appear at Tatworth WI club near Chard in Somerset.  Hollywood glitz?  You don't know the half of it.  So I was at this glamorous post war village hall, surrounded by the great and good of the Tatworth committee rooms, singing my heart out to "Jerusalem" at the beginning of the meeting.  Then I was on stage, entertaining them with bonne mottes of Tudor history and humour, interspersed with violent coughing fits and some gentle swearing.  Gosh this cold was turning out to be fun.  Nearly all of my symptoms had gone, and all I was left with was an occasionally runny nose, but this awful rumbling chesty cough that only ever reared it's head when I went to laugh.  And here, a week hence, I STILL have that awful cough and I am FED UP OF THE GIT!  Anyway, my evening with the quiet ladies of the WI came to an end and I was thanked and photographed a lot.  But that was not the end of my evening, oh no.  No sooner had I left Tatworth, I had to leap into my car and drive right the way across the country in the pitch dark and occasional violent downpour of rain, to my beloved Shelley's house in Maidstone.
On the Friday I was due to join Michelle Coda and various members of the Knights of Royal England on a visit over to East Grinstead and Saint Hill Manor, former home of L Rob Hubbard and now a centre for the International Scientology Movement.  We were to be part of the entertainment at their international symposium, or something or other.  Now my own personal view of Scientology is (THE FOLLOWING SECTION OF GOOD KING HAL'S BLOG HAS BEEN SCREENED FOR LEGAL AND SAFETY REASONS AND IN AN EFFORT NOT TO UPSET TOM CRUISE ANY MORE THAN HE HAS BEEN UPSET IN THE PAST YEAR.  FOR YOUR READING PLEASURE, SOOTHING MUSIC IS NOW BEING PLAYED AND IT WOULD PROBABLY BE BEST IF YOU NIPPED OFF FOR A GLASS OF WATER OR SOMETHING.  HANG ON, I THINK HE'S FINISHED). And another thing (OOPS, MY MISTAKE.  HE'S OFF AGAIN. ER.... DREADFUL WEATHER WE'RE HAVING LATELY, DON'T YOU THINK?  AND THAT ROY HODGSON, DOES HE KNOW WHAT HE'S DOING OR WHAT? WHAT'S THAT?  OH, HE HAS FINISHED NOW.  BACK TO "COUGH-A-LONG" FARLEY)... and about as believable as most Tory party political broadcasts.  But that's just me.  So for the best part of a whole day we were surrounded by Scientologists from all corners of the World and I have to say that Saint Hill is a very spectacular location.  They are clearly not short of a bob or two.  The jousters with us for the day were Jeremy, Kim, Lucy, Ashley, Dan and Mack.  The weather was atrocious a constant never ending downpour of Scotch mist that soaked you to the skin and sapped your strength.  Just what you needed when you were full of cold and feeling like death warmed up.  I added to my fun and enjoyment by slipping on the steps at one point and jarring my back which pleased me not!  We were only there from 2pm to about 6pm, but the relentless dourness of the weather and the lack of response from some of the guests made the time drag awfully.  After a final prance up and down with the Knights and some Scottish pipers, who Jeremy took great delight in soaking by pushing up the rain sagging awning that was over them with his flag (extremely funny) we were soon on our way home as the big evening bash for the Scientologists began.  Michelle and I complained that we hadn't seen Tom Cruise all day, but mind you in the dreadful weather we had endured the poor little fella might have sunk I suppose.  As we drove out of the grounds as the good and faithful poured in through the gates, we went past a huge gleaming stretch limo with blacked out windows, followed closely by a brand new minibus full of very large muscular men in dinner jackets, wearing dark glasses and with ear pieces.  (INSERT YOUR OWN GAG HERE!!!!!)
We had a few days off over the weekend, but got together to visit some Wedding Fayres to get some ideas for possible business ventures.  Then I was due at Hever Castle on the Monday for a filming session on their new publicity video, however the weather was so gloomy and foggy that they gave up on Monday, and then gave up on Tuesday.  Filming has now been put back to either November (possibly) or next Spring (most likely).
Thursday this week found me back for a return visit to Wickford Junior School in Essex.  This was my seventh year at this lovely school and as ever I was warmly welcomed back, and even offered tea and toast on my arrival - what King could ask for more?  The morning was great fun, with laughs a plenty from the usual sort of thing you get at Wickford - a big group, fantastic costumes and lots of intelligence and plenty of laughs.  The morning seemed to go past so quickly. Soon I was in the staff room munching down a lunch that consisted of breaded cod, saute potatoes and beans (relatively healthy) followed by pancakes in maple syrup (so unhealthy as to be able to hear your arteries hardening as you gulped them down).  The afternoon was a riot of laughs and fun and culminated in a long overdue win for the Gents on the jousting.  This brings our score back to:
Back to almost parity again. I have a feeling it will be a lot closer this time.

Half term is here and the King is off for a holiday in Wales with the lovely Shelley, my son James and Shelley's son, Sir Owen of Leeds Castle, so should be fun.  And I have nearly finished coughing over everybody in the entire British Isles.  There is an elderly couple in Tenby who I haven't done yet, but I should be catching up with them next week.  Have a fun half term everyone.  See you soon.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

From Merseyside to Buckinghamshire - I Say!

Good King Hal showing Anne Boleyn her new residence.  Travelling by river taxi as they were would apparently get them there "chop chop".  Smashing.

It was going to be a long week, some estimates put it at over six days, but I'm not sure.  It begins last weekend where we find the King at home and full of cold.  Not a happy Tudor bunny, and if you want to know just how ill I was....?  Well, I cancelled an evening of drinking beer with Matthew Applegate.  Now THAT is ill.  On the Sunday I found myself on the M5 heading north on my way towards Liverpool.  The reason for this Royal Progress North?  The King was to appear at Liscard Primary School in Wallasey, an area of the country that I really have not visited in about 31 years.  I was booked into a Travelodge in New Brighton which didn't really sound a desperately enticing prospect, however when I got there it was amazing to behold.  The front by the sea wall has been enormously redeveloped of late, to be honest they're still doing it, but are very nearly finished.  The Travelodge is cheek by jowl next to various restaurant and coffee house-type outlets, and backs onto an enormous Morrisons and a cinema.  This may sound horrific but in it's seaside location it actually looks quite good.  Sadly the wall they've built round the hotel car park looks like the sort of solid rock obstacle you'd see around a Soviet Gulag.  After checking in I asked the receptionist where the nearest petrol station was - apparently about 20 minutes away, and I was amazed to discover it was!  As you drive towards Seacombe from Wallasey you see all aspects of Merseyside, from pleasant leafy side roads that gently slip down to the water front, to long terraces of shops, boarded up and covered with graffiti and one or two burnt out shells of buildings.
Liscard Primary is a lovely school, formerly being a Grammar School, and inside a lot of money has obviously recently been spent to redevelop the site.  I had a group of about 90 children today, mostly year 4 and they were fun.  My chest was tight and full of coughing fits, plus my throat would occasionally dry up and more coughing would ensue - my how we laughed.  But I got through the morning and we had lots of fun with the children.  After lunch I was back in the main hall for the stocks and jousting.  Both were as popular as ever and the joust was of a particularly high standard and culminated in an amazing finish as the boys just needed one quoit to win the race, but their final rider just could not get the final target clear of the quintaine.  The ladies snuck through to claim an amazing victory.  Quite remarkable stuff.  Our score now goes to:
And so the poor old gents losing streak goes on.  I packed away my stuff and began the long drive back from Merseyside to Somerset.  I have to admit by the time I got home I felt like death warmed up and the prospect of getting in the car the following day and driving all the way to Buckinghamshire for another show really did not appeal.  However, my lovely Shelley had a brilliant idea.  Rather than me phone up Maltman's Green School in Gerards Cross (my next destination) and say "I'be godda code ib by doze..." why don't I phone them and say "I've got a bit of a sniffle, I don't want to pass on my germs to your lovely pupils, would you like me to stay away until I am all better?", and they said "Nah, come on in and infect everyone!"  Well, not in so many words...
So I found myself driving up to another Travelodge, only this time in Beaconsfield.  This was a lot different from New Brighton, it was a 1930's building that looked like it had snuck in behind an old coaching inn and had simply died of embarrassment there.  It was hard to find, but very comfortable inside.  I settled down for the evening and decided I would be soothed into a beautiful sleep by watching England play Poland in a World Cup qualifying game.  The match was to be played in Warsaw's brand new, multi-million pound, state-of-the-art stadium with retractable roof for use during inclement weather.  Well, it was frightfully inclement in Warsaw, but no one had actually remembered to close the sodding hi-tech roof, so we had the surely unique experience of a football match due to be played in a brand new stadium with a retractable roof being called off due to a water-logged pitch.  Another first for Europe.
I had only been at Maltman's Green a few months previously and had happy memories of a friendly fun school, and I had remembered correctly.  It is a girl's school, and all the young ladies were dressed in superb Tudor costumes.  It was a fun day all round, my throat and chest managed to survive all the way through and the jousting finale was of an incredibly high standard, but sadly as it was not a co-ed site, the result cannot be added to our year long score.  What a shame.  We had a great day and I was pleased to be on my way back.  I listened to the re-arranged England v Poland game, and it was so exciting I nearly fell into a coma.  Michael Carrick played in such a brilliant way.  Every single pass he made went straight to a white shirt.  It was such a pity England were wearing blue that evening.  What a bunch of over paid tossers.
And so the King is home briefly, tonight he is off to Tatworth near Chard for a talk for the Tatworth WI (all together now "HOORAY FOR HOLLYWOOD!!!" etc etc.) before driving through the night to Maidstone to see my lovely Shelley.  I am then going over to East Grinstead for a get together with the Knights of Royal England and Tom Cruise.  Should be amazing.  Watch this space....

Thursday, October 11, 2012

A Bit of a Pickle

Good King Hal and Natalie Dormer show you how "that" scene in The Tudors would have looked like if it had taken place indoors, on a boat, and with clothes on.

Sometimes life goes past so fast that if you blink, you can miss some of it.  That is how this last week has felt to be brutally honest.  No sooner had the two days in Bristol gone last week, then I was getting ready for a visit down to my place from the lovely Shelley, and Sir Owen of Leeds Castle.  They arrived on the Friday afternoon, mainly to see me, but also to come along to the annual Chut Fest at Barrington Court, to which I had been invited again by the splendid Matthew Applegate.  As ever the whole of Chut Fest was a roaring success - very busy with plenty of interested punters wandering around sampling Chutneys, Jams and Pickles, and much fun to be had with Matthew, Rachel Brewer and everyone else.  Shelley and Owen stayed over until Monday morning when we went on our separate ways with me heading off to Romford in Essex for an afternoon at a school, and Shelley and Owen off back home to Maidstone.
My afternoon was at Broadford School in Harold Hill, which is the Latin quarter of Romford.  I had previously visited this school in 2009 for a full day, but I had managed to remember where the site was, so I felt quietly confident when I arrived.  Nope, confidence might have been a bit misplaced - the reception area was partially boarded up and visitors were encouraged to go to the new building.  I couldn't find the new building and it was hammering down with rain.  This was beginning to be a bit of a pain.  I saw a lady with a push chair and asked her where the new school was, and she patiently pointed out the obvious and massive new build behind the old school house.  Oh, THAT school.  I drove round to a big side entrance to the car park on the side of the new school building.  I got out in the pouring rain and pushed the buzzer entry on the gates.  There was no reply, so I pressed it again.  Still no reply.  By now I was virtually soaked to the skin, so I had one last hopeless go with the bell and was delighted to get a reply.  Soon I was in and drying off in a very welcoming staff room, along with a warming cup of tea.  It was a fun afternoon with a combined group of years 3 and 4, with just an opening talk and music from Henry and then a loud and exciting jousting tournament.  It was a very closely fought final between two very good teams, but I had to disqualify the Gents team in the final as one of their riders only collected three quoits before returning to base and handing on to the next team member.  This brought out score back to:
So any advantage the gents had has already slipped away.  Normal service now resumed?  We shall see.  I spent the Monday night with my lovely son James in Basildon, desperately trying to convince him of the positives and advantages of an early night.  He didn't seem to get the message.  I personally had to go to bed early as I was up and out of the front door at the crack of dawn the next day.
So the Tuesday dawned with me heading back to dear old St Cecillia's School in North Cheam in Surrey - this was my 10th year of visiting this lovely school and it was, as ever as pleasure and delight to be back there.  The journey down was hard work, with the M25 being in an absolute pig of a mood with stacked up cars and drizzly lousy weather.  I eventually arrived at St Cecillia's and was warmly welcomed by the caretaker (with yet ANOTHER new car) and all the other staff members, nearly all of whom said "is it another year already?"  It was a group of about 60+ children, all of whom were in fantastic costumes, as were the teachers.  What can I say about St Cecillia's which I haven't already said in previous blog entries about this school?  It was a superb day as ever, plenty of laughs and warm friendliness from all the staff and children.  The final joust was predictably loud and exciting and, with one poor little lad having a bit of a melt down in the final, it was left to a ladies team to walk away unopposed with the title.  The score clicks inexorably on to:
So there is something faintly familiar about how the scores are starting to turn.  I drove from North Cheam back down to Maidstone to spend another evening with Shelley.  We had a lovely day out in Maidstone (it is possible, honest) on the Wednesday, before I drove back to Somerset that evening.  I was home just after 11pm, but I had to be up early again as I was back on BBC Somerset the following morning as they were broadcasting live from Montacute House near Yeovil and I was on their tour bus as a special guest.  Emma Britton wasn't available as she was on leave and so the show was run by Vernon Harfield instead, who obviously has designs on being the next Jeremy Paxman.  And he is ALMOST there, he just needs to get his nose and sense of moral outrage a bit more pronounced.
I am now full of cold and considering an early night, or death.  To be honest, the way I feel at the moment, either would do.

Thursday, October 04, 2012

600th Blog Post - and a pair of Bristols (two schools that is...)

Good King Hal and Lady Katherine celebrate the 600th posting on this blog by re-enacting the famous bow scene from "Titanic".  As a special celebration Celine Dion was torpedoed on the Thames and sank with all hands.  Good.

600 posts on this blog?  Wow.  Please feel free to send thanks and congratulations, that is if anyone actually ever reads this thing.  I do wonder sometimes...
Anyway, enough of this self doubt nonsense, it was back to being Henry VIII at schools this week, with visits to two separate sites in Bristol.  On the Tuesday it was a visit to a brand new school for me - Two Mile Hill Primary and arrived at about 8am to find a packed car park.  The only way I could get in was not to double park but TRIPLE park, but I left a polite note on my dashboard explaining who I was, where I was and what the people could do if they wanted me to move (unprintable).  There were a lot of stairs in this school, and a lot of locked doors, and it was just my luck that my big "treasure chest" that I carry a lot of my props in, decided today was the day to break it's handle, making it very difficult to carry.  I had a feeling I was beginning to know how Sisyphus felt... It was a big group on this first day of the week - about 160 children and a mix of years 3 and 4.  I have to be honest and say that the year 3 group in particular were quite hard work - not really badly behaved, just very fidgety, loud, and seemed like very immature year 3's.  It made for a long-ish morning, but I felt by the end of the pre-lunch session that I had won them over and turned the corner.  After a very convivial lunch in the staff room we were on for the afternoon session.  As expected the stocks routine was loud and well received and the jousting tournament was pretty loud and popular as well.  The final itself was closely fought but ended up with yet another win for the Gents team.  So our score at the end of this day stood at:
Possibly the biggest lead that the Gents have had for a long time!  I drove out of Bristol and made my way gently down the A37 and back to South Somerset and home.  I was very tired when I got back.
It's funny isn't it - you wait all year for a school in Bristol, and then two come along at once.  For the second show I was back at a school I last visited back in 2010.  It was Elmlea Junior (not a cream substitute before you ask) which is located in the deliciously named Bristolian suburb of Westbury Upon Trym.  As I recalled the area around the school was quite nice and leafy, it is a shame the weather was so dreadful as I arrived, with rain falling mostly downwards but with an occasional tendency to go sideways and spatter against the window.  It was another mixed group of years 3 and 4 today, but this time about 180 of them, but this time all decked out in fantastic Tudor costumes, as were the teachers.  The morning was partially truncated by a whole school assembly but it did mean I got a longer morning break, which I something I will never complain about.  We had a great time on the quiz, even if one little chap did very blatantly cheat by altering all his answers at the end - apparently according to the teachers it wasn't the first time he had done this at school.  I can see a career in politics looming for him.  Lunch was a nice roast pork dinner, and then before we launched into the stocks and jousting, there was a brief and long overdue revival of my coat of arms designing session - but it seemed to go down very well.  The stocks were loud and popular, but the jousting tournament was truly deafening, to the point that we had to stop it at one point, take some of the more sensitively eared children out and beg some of the girls to not scream quite so piercingly during the tournament.  At times it sounded like Concord coming into land.  In the final a Year 4 boys team was full of confidence and they took on a very shaky looking Year 3 girls team.  But amazement above amazement, the ladies romped to a famous victory that sent the crowd into delirium!  I posed for a few photos and then began loading stuff into the car.  The score in the joust goes back to:
It is going to continue being close.  After loading some of my boxes back in the car, I came back into the school to be told one of the little girls who had been in on the day was in hysterics.  I immediately assumed she had been effected by the deafening screams and shouts during the joust, but apparently her tears were caused by the fact that my day was over and I was going home!  Oh bless!  Elmlea is a superb school and it was a delight to be back there.  See you in two years folks.
This weekend is one of double delight for me - my lovely Shelley is coming down to stay and.... (insert fanfare here) ..... it is time for Chut Fest 2012 at Barrington Court!  So the King will be there on both days, so come on down an say hello.  And don't forget your jams, chutneys and marmalade's.  Saints preserve us. (GEDDIT?)
Oh, and if anyone IS reading this and wants to send messages of congratulations on reaching 600 posts on the blog, please feel free to make comments, either on here or on Facebook.

Friday, September 28, 2012

Le Temps Viendra Book Launch (with added Natalie Dormer for good measure)

Three roses, and a Tudor prick, all shamelessly plugging the book that EVERYONE MUST BUY!!!!

It has promised to be a very prestigious evening, and it delivered!  I had been asked by my friend Sarah Morris to appear at the launch of her first novel, "Le Temps Viendra" which was to take place on a river boat cruising up and down the Thames in London, with many guests including some very well known faces.
The early part of the day I had spent in Essex for a visit to my son James' school for his annual statement review.  All the school people were very pleased with him and it was a delight to have seen him make such excellent progress.  I left the school and headed down to Kent to spend some time with my lovely Shelley.  She very kindly gave me a lift to Maidstone East station to catch a train up to London for my appearance at the book launch.  Despite vast numbers of gobby school children the journey up was relatively pleasant and I arrived at Victoria Station with plenty of time to spare.  The taxi rank had masses of annoyed customers and virtually no taxis, but eventually I managed to grab one.  I jumped in the back and tried to strike up a conversation with my driver.
"Had a busy day?" I asked.  He looked at me in his rear view mirror and said nothing.  Perhaps he hadn't heard me.  So I tried again.
"Had a busy day?  Today?" I ventured, a little louder than the previous time.  Once more he studiously ignored me.  I could see what all of his concentration was focused on, and that was driving like a demented twat through very heavy traffic.  He carved up cars, bikes and buses with a complete lack of any fear or common sense, roaring up behind the car in front as though he was trying to get on board with them.  By the time we arrived at Westminster Pier for my drop off I was ready to kiss the tarmac in thanks for a safe delivery.  I went to pay him for this terrifying ordeal and as he wound down his window I decided to get my own back a bit.
"It has been such a pleasure chatting away with you on this journey....thank you...."  He looked blankly at me and prepared to roar off and terrify some more customers.
At the top of the steps next to the famous Victorian statue of Queen Boudicca, various idiots dressed in crappy Shrek and clown outfits posed for photos with tourists, and then demanded money off them afterwards for this intrusion.  Various heated arguments began from people who hadn't realised that their photo was going to cost them money. I waited at the pier head amongst some "lovely" French students, and was soon joined by the band Waytes and Measures who had previously worked with me on various visits to Sudeley Castle.  Next to arrive was the top historical author Alison Weir, and shortly afterwards Sarah Morris herself who looked absolutely stunning in a 1940's style figure hugging dress.  Finally, my Queen for the evening, dear Katherine Miller, arrived with her parents, so we wandered down to the pier end where our launch, the wonderful vessel "Edward" was waiting for us.  Upon boarding we found that there was only one room suitable to get changed in, so Katherine and I had to take turns to get into our Tudor togs.
Once changed we were soon upstairs in the viewing lounge where the whole presentation was going to take place.  Alison Weir was very approachable, especially after her third or fourth glass of champagne! As the daylight dimmed and London became illuminated the city just looked magical.  The new Shard building loomed out of the darkness and resembled some tower from "The Lord of the Rings" movies.  We cruised down past other river boats, many of who's passengers were started to see Henry VIII and one of his wives on our boat.  Drinks and food flowed, as did the conversation and the entire evening was an utter delight and a perfect way for Sarah to launch her book.  The "Edward" cruised as far down as Greenwich where the O2 Arena stood out like some sort of sci-fi dome in the Stygian gloom.  The meridian laser stood out stark from the Greenwich observatory and the Cutty Sark, in it's newly fitted surroundings looked incredible. This was turning into a magical night.  After speeches from Sarah's publisher, Alison Weir and Sarah herself we began the return trip back up the Thames to Westminster Pier.  It was a pleasure to meet and speak to the beautiful Natalie Dormer who had famously portrayed a very sensual and sexy interpretation of Anne Boleyn in "The Tudors" TV series.  She was an utter delight, friendly, chatty and staggeringly beautiful.  As you can see we managed to get some great photos of Sarah, Natalie, Katherine and myself all clutching copies of Sarah's excellent book.  We later went up onto the bow of the boat and Katherine Natalie and myself mucked about pretending to re-enact the bow scene from the movie "Titanic".  Luckily we managed to avoid any icebergs and arrived back at Westminster Pier just before 9pm.  I bid fond farewells to all the lovely people who had turned up on this special night and had supported Sarah on her big event.
I disembarked and walked up to Westminster Bridge and awaited a pick up from Dean the taxi driver, the fine man who normally takes Sir Owen to school each morning.  He picked me up by 9.30pm and soon I was whisked back to my lovely Shelley in Maidstone. It had been a superb, fantastic evening, but I was absolutely cream crackered.  Well done to Sarah on a brilliant evening.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

South Green, Billericay

Good King Hal looking for his lost roll of lino in the lovely gardens of Barrington Court near Ilminster, in Somerset, which is in England in the United Kingdom and just off the coast of Europe, a minor land mass on the planet Earth which is the third rock from the star known as Sol.

Can it really already be a year since I was last at South Green Junior School in Billericay in Essex?  No, it isn't - its actually just over a year since I was last at South Green Junior School in Billericay in Essex.  Funny old World, innit?  Perhaps I really am getting old, but the years just seem to by flying past these days.
I had spent the Saturday evening with friends at the David Hall Centre in South Petherton in Somerset at a fund raising quiz evening.  Apparently there was some very strict rule about only being a team of four.  We turned up as a group of five which almost caused a complete melt down and over-load for one jobsworth volunteer at the hall.  His solution to the problem?  To dock us 5% of our score at the end to "make it fair".  As one of our team members said "he does know it's just a little quiz night for a charity?"  Anyway, he needn't have worried - it was quite a cryptic sort of quiz and we did struggle a little, however out of a field of nearly 20 teams we came a very respectable 4th.
I was up and out of the door very early on the Sunday morning and drove down to Kent to see my lovely lady Shelley.  We had a lovely day together and later, on the Monday I drove up to Essex to see my son James and get ready for the visit to South Green Junior School in Billericay.  This is a lovely school and one that I have visited over the past 5-6 years.  It was great to be back and I was warmly welcomed, and it was nice to see a very nice lady who had frequently seen my shows from when she used to work at Wickford Junior, a school I am funnily enough visiting in a few weeks time.  It was a group of about 60 children today from the year 6 group and they were mostly very well behaved, fun and ready to enjoy themselves.  The morning was fun and the group showed some really good genuine Tudor knowledge which was nice to see and hear.
Lunch was a surprisingly good lamb rogan josh and some ice cold cooling glasses of water. Super, smashing, lovely.  Again the stocks proved to be a big hit with the group and there was an absolute landslide victory (or should that be defeat?) for the lady teacher, formerly of Wickford Junior, in the vote amongst the children as to which teacher I should stick in the stocks.  The jousting was of a consistently high standard, but the final was a bit of a walkover for a more than competent Gents team.  This now makes our year long score:
I can't remember the last time the gentlemen actually had a lead in the competition.  It does make you wonder how long they can hang on to the lead, and can they actually win the year long thing for the first time ever.  All these questions and many more will probably eventually answered in this blog, but don't hold your breaths folks.
The King is off to London on Thursday for a book launch for his friend Sarah, which involves being driven up and down the Thames on a nice boat.  Splendid!  Then he is back to the school routine with a couple of visits to schools in Bristol next week.  It should be fun.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Better Late Than Never (And TOPLESS KATE MIDDLETON PICTURES!!!!! - that got your attention didn't it?)

Good King Hal in his latest replacement double glazing advert.  "I liked the product so much, I dissolved the monasteries, and made myself head of the newly formed Church of England.  Beat that, Victor Kiam."

I was feeling listless, uninspired, torpid to be honest.  And then I realised what the problem was - I had not had a single blog in over a week, and that is not good for you.  So, today I have decided to attempt a new blog, and here we are 50 words in and all is going well still.  The shock title of this blog is to try and see if I can get a few more hits from the outside world.  I suppose if I was going to really try and court publicity I should put on some crudely drawn cartoon of the Prophet Mohammed, but then some people in this world have had a complete sense of humour by-pass and I'd end up with some deranged lunatic setting fire to Tudor Roses (the pictures, not the ladies) and hurling stones at my windows.  But I can handle the pressure! Or as Prince William said to Kate Middleton "get yer writs out!", so let's get on with the blog.
Tuesday the 11th of September found me driving up to Harrogate in Yorkshire for a visit to Bicton Grange School in the town.  Normally when I am going away to do a show and have to find somewhere to stay I tend to plump for the obvious Travelodge option as they are cheap, easy to find, but admittedly utterly soulless.  So in advance of my trip I went on to the Travelodge website - their hotel in the middle of Harrogate wanted to charge an extortionate rate just to get your head down for the evening, plus they had no car park and your only nearby option was to use a local municipal car park at a breath-taking £1.10 per hour.  I would find somewhere else.  With the help of my lovely Shelley we went on line and checked various of these "Last Minute dot com" and "You want a room, where!!??" type of websites.  I had soon found the St George's Hotel and Spa in the middle of Harrogate that would normally charge somewhere in the region of about £120 a night for the most basic of room, but on this site was flogging off rooms at £40 per night - so I went for that.  After the long drive up to Harrogate I was delighted to find what a charming town it is - very leafy and pleasant, with big wide open spaces right in the middle of the town.  Finding the St George's Hotel, or more specifically it's car park was proving a bit more of a headache.  I eventually stopped and asked a couple of ladies walking by the side of the road where I could find the St George's Hotel, and scarcely cracking a smile they pointed to a sign directly behind them that said in letters about four feet high "ST GEORGE'S HOTEL".  Should have gone to Spec-Savers.  Now I know I got a cheap room, but a hotel of the quality of St George's will make sure it can screw every other penny out of you at every opportunity.  So just to leave my car in their small car park over night was an extra £5. KER-CHING! Wi-Fi Internet connection was free, it just didn't work very well and was quite staggeringly slow.
I decided to spoil myself that night with a nice dinner in the hotel restaurant.  It appeared I was one of only two people eating in the cavernous dining room that night, but never mind.  I kicked off with coquille st jacques, which was delicious but tiny, and then had a succulent sirloin steak which was cooked to perfection.  I washed this down with a very agreeable bottle of Merlot.  This meal alone cost more than the rental of the room had originally cost. KER-CHING!  I slept OK, but there was a lot of noise outside the hotel at night which disturbed me from time to time.  I got up in the morning, showered and shaved, and prepared for the short drive to the school.  However, before that I decided to have my "free" breakfast at the hotel.  I dashed down to the dining room and explained my haste to a bewildered looking east European waiter, and grabbed a plate of egg, sausage and bacon, and gulped down a pot of tea.  It was OK, but as it was "free" it tasted a bit better.  I went to check out only to discover the breakfast wasn't free at all - for my egg, bacon and sausage, and one cup of tea I had been charged £10.  KER-CHING!  So I might have started off with a cheap room but I was now starting to head for a cost close to the import deficit of a medium sized third-world country.  KER-CHING!
Bicton Grange School was a delight.  I was very warmly welcomed by all the staff who were very excited about the arrival of Henry VIII at their school.  I was with the year 5/6 group today and they wanted to split the groups into three and then have me do three separate "Henry's Horrid History" presentations to the groups.  Sounded great to me, but I have to admit by the time I got to the final group at the start of the afternoon I was exhausted.  It was great to get all of the group together at the end for a right royal Jousting tournament.  It was uproarious and entertaining and culminated in a win for...... the Gents!  This makes our start of the academic year score:
It's nice to see it so close at the beginning of the year.  I wonder if the ladies will just race off into the distance like they did last year?  Watch this space...
Fully recovered from my 6 hours+ drive back from Harrogate, I was then on the road early again on the Saturday for a trip up to Wallington in Surrey for another Wedding appearance.  This time I was to be toast master and MC for the wedding reception of Manuela Jenkins and Ian Flowers at Carew Manor, one time home of the Carew family in Tudor times, but now a special school run by the local authority.  It was at Carew Manor that Henry VIII apparently had various assignations with Jane Seymour before their marriage, dirty old devil.  I arrived and was welcomed by the caretaker, a really lovely bloke and one of the catering managers for the event, the deliciously named Amie Poland, who apparently is cousin of dear old Mungo from the Knights of Royal England - what a small world it is.  Well it was a lovely event and a nice evening.  The Bride and Groom looked stunning as they arrived at the Manor being driven along in an 80+ years old open top Lagonda car, which rather worryingly smelt like my late grandfather's sit on lawn mower when the engine was switched off.  Bizarre. 
The meal was lovely, I introduced the speeches and then I was on my way, down to Maidstone and my lovely Shelley.  On the Sunday we went over to my sister's near Sittingbourne to meet up with Michelle Coda and young Vix for a cup of tea and discussions about possible future Tudor projects.  It was a very positive meeting given extra piquancy thanks to Sir Owen of Leeds Castle producing silent but deadly "Butler's Revenge"-style farts that could strip paint from 20 yards and make your eyes water like tear gas.  That's the last time he's getting onions for lunch, I can tell you.
Right, up to date now, and I honestly promise never to hang on to my blogs as long as this again.  I know it is bad for me.  Perhaps I should eat more onions like Sir Owen.  Oh, and no topless Kate Middleton photos, just a joke.  And definitely no cartoons of "you know who".

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Wedding 'Em at Hedingham! Plus Nonsuch Awareness...

Good King Hal and his Mother discussing the current rocketing price of rhubarb in the Yemen.

Ah, a late summer wedding - how nice!  Louise, a fine Tudor Lady who I have walked around some of the best stately homes in Britain with, was getting married to her fiance Jason, with the wedding taking place in the august surrounds of Hedingham Castle, followed by a reception at a lovely hotel in Old Harlow Town.  I drove up to Hedingham from Amanda's house in Basildon, and this time I wasn't chased round Chelmsford by the Police Interceptors team, so there goes my chances of appearing on Channel 5 in the next few months.  It was a scorching hot day on the Saturday and I wasn't sure how I would last in the full Henry gear.  I was joined in being costumed by the Tudor Roses who arrived very shortly after I did.  There was Lady Emma, Lady Erica and Lady Katherine, who seemed fully recovered from her recent visit to Barrington Court.  They were as ever accompanied by the splendid "Lord" Darren Wilkins and his ever present camera.
We were supposed to get changed on the top floor of the keep at Hedingham, but to be honest I wasn't sure my knees could manage to drag me and the enormous costume up that many stairs, so as the Roses disappeared off to their lofty perch, I chickened out and went into the deserted cafe on the 1st floor and got changed in there instead.  We were soon all Tudored-Up and ready for action, and just in time as well as the first guests were already arriving.  We greeted them outside the keep and ushered them up to the cafe where soft drinks were being served.  Some of the Tudor Roses got a little over-excited by the extremely muscular and buff paramedics on duty that day, but I blame the heat personally.  The groom and best man arrived and looked fine in their Tudor costumes, so we positioned ourselves in the main hall on the 2nd floor and awaited the arrival of the bride.  The hall was darkened and lit purely by candle-light and looked stunningly atmospheric.  With everyone seated news filtered up that the bride was here.  I was positioned at the front of the hall and armed with my Tudor recorder as I had been requested to serenade the bride in.  She seemed a bit taken aback by my rendition of the "Hawaii Five-O" theme, but perked up a little when I launched into a growl cornet version of "It Must Be Jelly 'Cause Jam Don't Shake Like That".  Of course I didn't, I had been asked to play "Greensleeves", so I did and it was either bloody awful or lovely as it reduced Louise to tears.  I also played during the signing of the register, and then it was time for photos outside the castle.  Myself and the Tudor Roses then made a run for it as we had to drive the 30+ miles to Harlow and the reception hotel, to be there ready for when the guests arrived.  This involved not getting changed out of the Tudor clothes and driving fully Henry'd up, which garnered me one or two odd looks from other drivers.
The Reception meal was delightful, and there were little gifts for all the Tudor Roses and myself.  I did my announcements for the arrival of the Bride and Groom, and then also did the announcement for the speeches. That was the end of the meal and tables were soon being moved as it was time for the evening dance to begin.  But I had an early start in the morning for an appearance at the Nonsuch Awareness Day near Epsom in Surrey in the morning.  So after getting changed and making my many goodbyes I drove down to Kent and an evening with my lovely Shelley.  Heaven!  Louise and Jason's wedding was really memorable and great fun - I wish them a long and happy marriage!

The King at the Nonsuch Awareness Day with a piece of impressive machinery in his hands.

Shelley very kindly offered to drive me and Sir Owen over to the Nonsuch Awareness Day, which was lovely!  I was going to go into great detail about Nonsuch Palace and it's history, but I would be here all day - the best I can suggest is you click on this link and read all about it there!  Better still go out and buy one of XTC's finest albums which is called "Nonsuch" and has a very nice wood carving of the palace on the cover.  Andy Partridge's bank manager will thank you profusely.
I was once more joined by the Tudor Roses, this time Lady Emma and Lady Erica, and the inevitable Lord Wilkins.  We had a fine time walking round the stalls and chatting to the various stall holders.  There was a fine mixture of craftsmen, associations, armed forces, BMX riders and charities there, and in the scorching weather there was a very good turn out - estimates put it at about 2,000 people, which was magnificent.  Shelley, Owen and I took great delight in watching the BMX riders doing their stunts and then laughing like drains when they fell off.  Very childish but tremendous fun. Lady Erica enjoyed herself enormously with the soldiers from the local TA, with their great big transporter - saucy thing.  All in all it was a fun day, a little too warm for my liking, but fun to be with the Roses and a delight to be with my Shelley.  It was also good to see the Tudor Roses showing the historical dancers there how to do it properly.  A big shout out to Leanne Pickard who organised the whole thing and did a fabulous job.  Well done!