Saturday, January 28, 2012

Here There and Everywhere.

Some of Manchester City's recent signings were a little surprising, but the new first XI seemed to be shaping up well.

Well, my dear old Blog appears to be working again, especially if you're actually able to read this, which I hope you are. So after rattling up and down the A303 and the A12 in Essex and Suffolk, and all points north towards Norwich last week, I was now back down in deepest darkest Devon for yet another return visit to Blundell's Prep School in Tiverton. I had been to this school so many times in the past, but it was different this time - for a start there was no Steff Jeffs. She has departed to pastures new, wearing a Dog collar and saving souls. There was also no Nick Folland as head teacher as he has now moved on. I met the new head teacher on my arrival first thing in the morning. I know I am getting old when head teachers start looking so YOUNG.

Blundells is a lovely school and I was very warmly welcomed by all the staff as ever. It was a nice group of children as well, and we spent the morning first of all in the main hall, before swapping back to the Drama studio for the final part of the morning. Lunch was a delicious chicken curry which was spent chatting to the friendly staff. As this is a private school the day is a little bit lop-sided. The morning doesn't finish until about 1pm, then you are back after lunch at about 2.15pm, and yet I still finish at 3pm! So the afternoon was a very rapid session with the stocks, before finishing off with a great Joust that ended with a thrilling win for a very good ladies team. Our score lurches on inevitably to:


I got home on the Monday evening and then went to meet some friends for a drink at the near legendary Dinnington Docks pub, where I was delighted to find that the guest ale for the evening was Adnams Broadside - my old favourite beer from my days at the Hoop Pub in Stock in Essex. Yum!

There was no time to rest on my laurels as first thing on the Tuesday I was driving back up to Essex for a return visit on the Wednesday to Wickford Junior School. It was good to see my lovely son James again, and he is doing so well at school it seems. On the Tuesday night he read me a new book he had, and read it from cover to cover with barely a wrong word. He has come on in leaps and bounds and I am so proud of him. Wednesday found me back at Wickford School, which is again a lovely place to visit and work at. I was welcomed and made to feel very much at home by the wonderful staff of this school, particularly Mike Williams, my main contact there. The children were a delight in this group today. Sparky, funny and very switched on to the whole Tudor thing! The morning just seemed to fly past. Lunch was great fun in the teacher's new improved, larger staff room. Plenty of laughs. The afternoon session was unbelievably loud and finished with another brilliant joust and yet ANOTHER win for the ladies. Boys, this is getting embarrassing now. So the score ticks over to:


I had a couple more days in Essex, with my wife and son, and seeing and helping some friends, but today (Saturday) I drove back to Somerset and tried to remember which flat I lived in. It had been a while... This week I am back up at Coalway Junior School in Coleford in Gloucestershire for another return visit to an old and favourite school. Hope the weather holds.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

The Parable of the Yo-Yo-ing Henry VIII

Good King Hal trying valiantly to out-stare a Triffid.

And Lo, it came to pass, that in the land that is known as Somerset, there dwelt a man called Good King Hal who didst wear tights and impersonate some old Queen or something. And verily he wouldst travel the country and startle children and teachers alike with stories of times past. And e'en now Good King of the Hal wouldst booketh his appearances so that they wouldst all be in the same area of the land that is known as Eng-Er-Land and he wouldst not have to fanny-eth about on the motorway too much. Well, that was-eth the plan. In the month that is January in the year of our Lord that is 2012, it did come to pass that Good King of the Hal had somewhat nausethed up his bookings and lo it did also come to pass that he would be doing a show in the land that is known as Dorset and then immediately have to driveth unto even like the Button that is known as Jensen, and haul his Tudor bottom all the way over to the land that is known as Norfolk in lesseth time than it taketh the on-line supplier, that is known as Amazon, to getteth a new DVD to you, even with their bargain delivery service. And there was much wailing and gnashing of teeth and use of the "F" word. And thou doesn't have to be a mind reader to worketh out what happened next... Here end the lesson.

Yes folks, it was time to get on the road and do some quite obscene amounts of driving. I was heading on the Thursday back to Downlands School at Blandford Camp in Dorset. This was my fourth visit to them, but I only get to go there every two years as I do my show for years 3 and 4 combined. As Blandford Camp is an army base you must sign in through their security post when you first arrive. As it was I arrived at the camp at about 7.30am and presented myself to the security guards. They had not been informed by the school that I was coming but seemed to see this as some sort of fault on my behalf. I was treated with utter contempt by one elderly uniformed creep and with slight disdain by the other hoary old Scottish git. When I asked them what I should do I was told in no uncertain terms to basically bugger off and sit in my car until 8am. This I did, but was then told on returning to the Chuckle Brothers that they had still not managed to get hold of anyone at the school. The elderly uniformed creep had now gone off duty and I was left in the warm tender care of the thistle flavoured one. Eventually word was got to the school and they avowed that I was not a psychotic Al Qaeeda operative with explosives strapped to my codpiece and I was let in.

It was nice to be back at Downlands - the school has been almost completely rebuilt in the two years since I was last there. It looks fantastic! It was a brilliant day as ever at Downlands - lovely kids, great teachers and lots of fun and games. I was warmly welcomed and treated like real Royalty by everyone there, which made up for the rude welcome from the Security Guards. After lunch we had a stunning jousting tournament which was won by a very good Ladies team. The score then stood at:


I drove back to Crewkerne and packed a small suitcase and was soon on my way up a rapidly darkening A303 for a trip to Essex. On my arrival I was hugged tightly by my lovely son, always a good welcome.

I was up at 5am on the Friday morning for a two and a bit hours drive up to Martham Junior School near Norwich. My previous two visits to this school had been at the height of summer, so it was a bit of a shock to the nervous system to arrive in temperatures only just above freezing. But the welcome was as warm as the hottest summer day. Martham is a delightful school and it is a real pleasure to go back there every time. It was a biggish group, over 100 children, a mixture of year 5 and 6, and they were fantastic - so full of life and enthusiasm. The noise when they really got going was almost unbelievable and the jousting was of a suitably high standard. At last though it was time for the gents to finally snatch a well deserved victory. So at the end of the week the score is:


I drove back to Essex for a couple of days with my lovely son, then this morning it was back to yo-yo-ing up and down the A303 for a return to Somerset and tomorrow morning I am off down to Tiverton in Devon and another visit to Blundell's Prep School. And just to show the yo-yo-ing isn't over, the day after that I have to drive back to Essex for a visit to Wickford School. I really must not organise a week like this again for a while. I don't think my car will forgive me if I do.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Wassail 2012

Matthew Applegate, reliable and deeply wonderful visitor services manager at Barrington Court, looking for his "front door keysh... hic!" in his Wassail bowl.

The previous few years, the Wassail at Barrington Court had suffered at the hands of the elements. Strong winds, heavy rain and piercing cold seemed to have been the common denominator. Matthew Applegate, usually the event organiser as well as being the most criminally undervalued Visitor Services Manager in the entire National Trust, was having trouble for this year's event with getting "acts" to come along. In previous years a samba drumming band had been one of the most popular turns, but they were not available this year and so it just seemed that a big public event was not in the offing. It was decided instead to have a private Wassail at Barrington Court, with entry by invitation only. However, the Langport Mummers group which appears every year had other ideas, and put the Wassail show on their official posters and this had garnered a lot of public interest, so it was therefore decided that all those invited should come, and if any members of the public turned up, well the more the merrier!

As it was there was quite a good turn out anyway, mostly familiar figures seen at the Court house throughout the year and at previous Wassails. It was an absolute delight to see Sarah Kennedy there (no, not the former early morning slurring-voiced BBC Radio 2 turps nudging presenter but the close friend of Barrington Court's pommellier, Rachel Brewer - who is currently away on holiday in Thailand hence no appearance by her and her other half Anthony) and we spent most of the evening almost huddled together against the cold. It was quite icy, but the hot mulled cider certainly helped matters.

Well we had the usual Wassail nonsense, a few carols, a poem by yours truly, The Langport Mummers and their play, the procession to the King cider tree, the offering of toast and cider to the tree, and then the firing of guns to scare away evil spirits. Wonderful stuff. If you have never experienced a proper Wassail then mark January 17th 2013 in your diary and get down to Barrington Court, but don't forget a torch and lots of thermal underwear. It can be bitter.

On the drive home various fire engines came roaring past me on their way to what seemed to be a nasty car crash on the back roads near Shepton Beauchamp - I hope no one from the Wassail was involved. Tomorrow I am off to Blandford Camp and a Henry day at Downlands School - looking forward to it!

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Penwythnos gwyllt yng Nghymru. (Oh a sioe yn Henffordd).

The sort of image that was once banned by the Geneva Convention.

Now try saying the title of this blog entry when you've had a few. Not easy is it. Mind you, it's not easy when you're sober either to be honest. I think the Welsh language sometimes goes out of it's way to be awkward. Last Thursday our story begins, with an early rise and a drive up to Hereford for a second visit to the lovely Riverside School there. I last visited this school back in 2010 and it was just in the final throes of being built back then. Now, in early 2012 it is complete and looks magnificent. It was a big group today, about 60+ pupils but all very lively and articulate. They were very much up for the day and to be honest had to be reined in a little from time to time. But I would always much rather have that scenario, than the one of them sitting in stony silence.

The morning passed fairly quickly, with a slightly extended morning break to allow the school to have an assembly. Lunch was a beef stir fry with noodles, which was surprisingly tasty for a school dinner. Usually there isn't enough salt in one of the meals to harm even the wimpiest of slugs, but this meal was very well seasoned and edible. The afternoon was loud and over-excitable and culminated in another thrilling joust which was won, inevitably it seems, by the Ladies AGAIN. This now makes the score:


They are escaping. No doubt about it. On leaving the school at about 3.15pm, I was not to head back down the jolly old M5 and home to Somerset - no! I was heading back out to Newcastle Emlyn for a long weekend being spoilt by my parents at their home. I had seen them at Christmas, but had been with my son who takes up most of my time, and my Father was not particularly well, so I wanted to see them and spend a bit more time with them. They had other guests staying with them - their old friends from Essex, Mike and Ros Bloomfield. We had a lovely weekend with a long day out over to Tenby where I managed to get yet more post cards of the Edwardian actress Gertie Millar to add to my ever increasing collection, and then the following day driving to the wonderfully named village of Gwber (pronounced Goober, as in "Goober and the Ghost Chasers" - how many of you remember THAT little pearl of retro-TV?)where we had a delicious lunch at the brilliant Flat Rock Restaurant. I drove back to Somerset on the Monday morning.

Tonight is Wassail night back at Barrington Court, but it is a much more laid back small affair this year, with attendance really only by invite only. I am then back to being Henry again on Thursday with a return visit to Blandford Camp in Dorset and a show at the Downlands School.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Ilchester, sir! Quite staggeringly popular!

A tense moment during the opening rounds of "Ye Stryctlye Comme Pavanning" from 1538. Amazingly the programme was being presented by Bruce Forsyth even then. And he was still utter crap.

This was my first Henry show back after the long Christmas and New Year lay off. It was a nice gentle re-introduction with just a short drive over to the town of Ilchester just off the A303. Life would have been easier if my pathetic sat nav could actually find the place I was going to. It had barely heard of Ilchester, let alone the road I was striving to find. Somehow, through a mixture of blind luck and asking a startled looking old man out walking his dog I managed to find a school. Not THE school, just A school. It was Ilchester Primary (Infants) and I was looking for Ilchester Primary (Juniors), so with a new set of directions ringing in my ears I was off again, and very soon at the place I needed to be. I was welcomed and let in by the school caretaker, a lovely friendly lady - which was a nice change. The only previous female caretaker I can recall was the one at Boxted near Colchester who looked like Daryl Hannah (the caretaker that is, not the school).

This is a lovely school, I cannot say how friendly I was welcomed or how kind and generous all the staff were. It was as if they had all known me for years which was absolutely wonderful. It was a big group of children today - over 90, but they were all absolutely terrific. Fun, buzzy and ready and willing to laugh and learn, something that always makes my job so much easier. When I was doing the talk about the fate of poor Anne Boleyn, I did my usual thing of choosing one of the female teachers at random to play the doomed Queen. As I approached the bit about the beheading, a small girl in the audience just dissolved into tears - it turned out it was this teacher's daughter and she was worried I was really going to lop her Mum's head off! The teacher I had chosen had the absolutely delicious name of Mrs Custard! I shall allow my hallowed readers to make up their own jokes at this point, but feel free to post the best ones to me...

Lunch was a delicious roast pork and then we were off and flying for the afternoon session. It was a riot, loads of laughs aplenty and much fun for everyone it seems. We finished off with the inevitable joust which went down to the wire before a very competent ladies team romped home to victory. This now makes the ongoing scores:


I headed for home and then indulged in a highly unhealthy Chinese takeaway, but to be honest I couldn't face the idea of cooking. Tomorrow I am up bright and very early for a drive up to Hereford and a return visit to Riverside School, before then driving on from there to visit my parents for the weekend in Wales. There's lovely.

Friday, January 06, 2012

It's The End of the World as We Know It... But not till later on...

Good King Hal, the morning after the 31st December wondering whether the third pint of kerosene was really such a good idea after all.

2012? So what is due? The London Olympics for a start. Not that I have been contacted by the organising committee - it might be a long shot if I am aiming to line up against Usain Bolt in the 100 metres, but I did give them my details a while ago wondering if they might need Henry VIII for some of their publicity. But so far - in the words of Bluebottle - "not a sossige". And what else for 2012? Oh yes, the end of the World. Apparently some Mayan Priests have predicted the end of everything by 2012, which is nearly quarter past eight on the 24 hour clock. So I better have an early dinner tonight otherwise I might be about to meet my maker with indigestion. Very embarrassing.

Professionally, I have Henry shows coming up at Ilchester, Hereford, Blandford, Tiverton and Wickford in Essex for this month and many more next month, which is good. I am also having a fund raising evening for the National Austistic Society masquerading as a birthday party at the end of February at which I am hoping many friends will come along.

But don't forget - for the finest Key Stage 2 Tudor Day for your pupils and at your school then contact Good King Hal either via this blog, at the website or follow Good King Hal on Facebook.

Happy New Year everyone - have a great year. Until nearly quarter past eight tonight when we're all DOOMED!!!!!!