Wednesday, February 29, 2012


An enormous Tudor edifice. And in the background, you might just be able to see Leeds Castle as well.

And so the dust came to settle after the birthday party weekend. It was quite a come down for me, the whole weekend having been such a success. On the Tuesday night I went back to the Phelips Arms Pub in Montacute for their monthly pub quiz. I had last entered this a couple of months back and our team had steam-rollered the opposition, so I returned feeling quite confident. I was on the same team and Rachel Brewer, her other half Anthony and our mutual friend Sarah Kennedy, among others. We started off well and led from the very first round, but the final round (naming different ropes and sails on a Brig) proved to be our Achilles heel and we lost by just half of one point to finish second. Not good!

I was up relatively early on the Wednesday for my first Henry show for a little while. This was a return visit to Redstart School in Chard, so literally just down the road. It was a morning only with a group of about 60 children, and they were all absolutely brilliant - decked out in fabulous Tudor costumes and full of enthusiasm. The teachers took loads of photos and we finished the half day with a great jousting tournament which culminated in the inevitable victory for the ladies team. Our ongoing year long score now comes to:


This is getting a bit one sided lads, so come on!

Tomorrow I drive to Essex for a show on the Friday down in Kent. So watch this space for another blog then. And so back to the mountain of cup cakes left from the party. This surely can't be doing my diet any good. But I will do my best.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

A Right Royal Knees Up

The true horror of the initiation ceremony for the Knights of Royal England was finally made public. The queue to join suddenly leaped from 3 to nearly 5.

Close friends and family, from across the country, were summoned to South Somerset for a very important reason. It was my birthday party! It's actually my birthday today, but frankly, apart from jobbing actors in the West End, no one has parties on a Sunday, so my 45th birthday thrash was to take place on February 25th 2012 at Barrington Village Hall. For once I was not to be dressed as Henry VIII at a party which was a relief. Music and sound was supplied by Party Tyme Entertainments, run by my mate Robbie Strickland from Stoke sub Hamdon, plus there would be a chance at the party for people to get up and do a song or two if they wished. Also we would be having a whip round to collect money for the National Autism Society and... well, just have a bit of fun! Lots of people chipped in with food and drink - my lovely friend Lisa Head (who I used to work with at Skandia in Southampton) was baking some cup cakes and bringing them with her. And they were fantastic - vanilla and chocolate, and just mind blowingly good.

Well the evening was a bit of a riot, mostly thanks to the Knights of Royal England, who turned up en masse, and made a pretty good party a quite staggeringly brilliant party. I kicked off the singing on stage by murdering "Fireflies" by Owl City, and then after a few crap jokes I sang "Chocolate Girl" by Deacon Blue in deference to the aforementioned, deeply wonderful Lisa Head. The Knights did a few songs, including an a capella version of "I'm Henry the Eighth I Am" with an impromptu "Full Monty" strip section, as you can see in the photo above. We ended the evening with wild singalongs to Guns N Roses, Green Day, Queen and a variety of others, and I had a splendid old time playing air guitar and singing The Boys are Back in Town with the deeply wonderful and insane Roland Bearne. Great stuff! The collected money came to about £220, which I shall bump up a bit more and then send a cheque off to the National Autism Society. I hope they'll be happy. We also had a jousting tournament, like in the schools, only this time with various plastered adults riding the hobby horses - most of the Knights of Royal England took part - and were soundly thrashed by a group of ordinary punters! Wonderful.

It was a truly legendary evening - made all the more special by having so many dear close friends and family with me. Thank you to all of you for your efforts to get there and support the evening. Today, I feel like I have just taken a punishment beating from the IRA, with aching knees and ankles (too much dancing), but it is definitely worth it. I can honestly say, it is the best party I have ever hosted. However, I think I now ought to go and have a long lie down in a dark room. Good night!

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Half Term Happiness

It was at approximately 11.45am that Good King Hal whipped out his big wooden trencher out and startled everyone.

Half term! Hoorah! What does half term normally entail for your average King Henry VIII impersonator? Well, to be honest, not a lot. With the schools all closed it usually involves lie ins and late nights, but this year the February half term was a bit different. For a start I had my lovely son James staying with me down in Somerset. Secondly I had a show to do at the Dementia Care Trust Home in Weston super Mare where I had appeared about four years ago.

It was funny - I had asked James what he was most looking forward to on his return to his county of birth, thinking he'd come back with something about "being with you, Daddy" or "a visit to Lyme Regis" or some such. Did I get that? Did I heck. What was he most looking forward to? Lunch at Bilby's Cafe in Ilminster. Well at least he has good taste in local food outlets. He and I drove down to Somerset on the Saturday, along with my sister Cathy who we picked up from her home in Kent as she wanted dropping off in Southampton to collect a new car she had bought from the Ebay website. She treated us, if that is the right word, to lunch on the way, which ended up being taken at the Rounham's service station on the M27. The food was, at best school dinner level and served by the sort of people you would imagine that if you asked them to follow your finger in front of their eyes, they'd be about two seconds behind. We found the home where the car was to be collected and waited with Cathy till she'd paid and then led her to the nearest petrol station that sold LPG for her new vehicle. Turned out it didn't sell LPG, but never mind, the thought was there. So as Cathy and her new Jeep Grand Cherokee headed east back to Kent, James and I continued west towards Somerset.

We had a nice lazy Sunday not doing very much other than watching Spongebob Squarepants endlessly on Nick Toons. On the Monday I fulfilled my promise to James and took him to Bilby's in Ilminster for lunch. Unfortunately, James' new medication for his concentration can also wreck his appetite, which it did on Monday. So while I sat and munched my way through ham, egg and chips (very healthy), James simply sat happily slurping from a bottle of diet coke.

Tuesday saw us up and early off for the show at the Dementia Care Trust in Weston super Mare. They are a lovely group and I am always made most welcome there - particularly from my dear old friend Diane Warren and her daughter Alice. James worked hard as my roadie helping me get my gear into the unit and waiting with me as I got changed. The talk went really well, and James sat happily with Diane throughout the show and even laughed quite loudly at a couple of my jokes. When the show was over James came up to me and said "you told some jokes!" as though it was illegal. I told him that I always try and make my shows funny, which he thought was marvellous.

Wednesday and I fulfilled another promise to James - to take him to see Star Wars - The Phantom Menace in 3D. We got into Yeovil quite early and I purchased the tickets for the 2.20pm showing. Next it was time for lunch and James wanted to go to Pizza Hut. Not a chance - a queue of Biblical proportions snaked out of the front door and down the road. OK, I was not heartbroken by this news, so we tried to get into Frankie and Bennie's, with pretty much the same result. Fair enough. About 20 yards up the road is a small Italian restaurant called La Tamboura or something - we walked down there, and it was virtually empty! We had a superb meal of real Italian food with a very hard working friendly staff who could not have been more attentive if they tried. After that blow out we wandered back to the cinema. OH MY GOD. It appeared that there had been an explosion in a "spotty-bed-haired-annoying-teenager-factory" somewhere and they had all landed in the cinema foyer. The queue for the ticket booth snaked right across the entrance hall and the queue for the popcorn was only marginally shorter. As we already had tickets we joined the popcorn queue. The huge amounts of spotty adolescents in the line was matched only by the spotty adolescents behind the counters who seemed to be content on finding anything to do other than serve the ever swelling crowd in front of them. Time was whizzing past and the queue was barely moving. With only about 5 minutes before the film was due to start, we finally got served. A small bag of popcorn and slush puppy for James, a small diet coke (small? It was about the size of your average garden water butt) and a packet of wine gums for me and it cost over £12. How on Earth can they justify these prices? Anyway, we belted into the screen where Star Wars was showing, expecting it to be chock full of the annoying adolescents to find the room almost completely empty - they'd all obviously come to see Daniel Radcliffe in "The Woman in Black", and I was insanely jealous. The Phantom Menace, not to put too fine a point on it, is a truly appalling film. Terrible script, abject plotting, half formed characters, stilted dialogue and of course Jah-Jah f*****g Binks. I put my 3D glasses on and promptly fell asleep until James elbowed me for snoring too loudly. The film seemed to go on forever, but James loved it, so that is all that matters.

So today, Thursday I am driving the little fellow back to Essex. I will thoroughly enjoy having my bed back to myself, but by God the flat (and my life) is going to feel very empty without him around. He is so gorgeous and my pride and joy. I can't spend enough time with him!

Thursday, February 09, 2012

Brass Monkeys In Norwich and West Wimbledon

Three Little Maids From School Are We, sung in middle English and with baggy tights on. It was never really going to bother the charts, was it?

Just when you think you've managed to escape from the whole of winter with barely a frost bitten appendage to worry about and - WALLOP - Snow. Horrid, white, freezing, slippery, slidey, time consuming, ankle breaking snow. And some people pay good money to travel the world looking for the ruddy stuff. They want locking up. Now, down in Somerset we're very smart, we don't hold with all this snow nonsense. Even while the rest of the country at the beginning of the week was ranting and raving about snow storms and travel chaos, in Somerset it was a balmy 8-9 degrees, and also dry and sunny. I was due for a drive to the south east for shows in Norwich and West Wimbledon, and to be honest I wasn't sure what to expect.
To begin with all was fine. I drove up the A303 and there was not a sign of any snow or ice, and it continued this happy way until I reached roughly the Andover area, and then various bits of melting snow were spotted in fields. Then towards the end of the A303 there was more and more, clearly a lot had fallen. By the time I got to that mighty metropolis of the east (Basildon to you and me), there was loads of snow everywhere. There was little or no more snow promised, but by heck it was cold. After a nice cuddly evening with my lovely son, I was up at a piercingly cold 5.30am for a drive up to Norwich and return visit to White Woman Lane School. The journey was pretty awful I have to say, not because of the weather, but of the extreme cold and the pathological terror the mere mention of ice seems to breed in some drivers. Queues of slow moving traffic were everywhere, most of them stacked up behind petrified Ford Mondeo drivers, gripping their steering wheels with white knuckled hands and barely getting much above 35 MPH, even on gun barrel straight, well salted, ice-free roads. The two hour journey eventually took me much nearer three hours to complete. But it was worth it, as White Woman Lane School is just so nice! Wonderful funny kids, genuinely lovely teachers and a guaranteed warm welcomed whenever I go - and some of the staff came all the way down to Kent to see me perform Henry's Horrid History last February. Above and beyond the call of duty chaps, seriously...
It was a fun, loud and laughter filled day. A particularly popular gag I did was about a Tudor version of the Teletubbies, with characters like Choppy-Woppy and Leechy, however all the gags seemed to go tremendously well and the kids were genuinely eager to learn more and more about Henry and the Tudors. The apres-lunch stocks session was an absolute blast, and in the jousting we finally managed to secure a win for the Gentlemen, the first time it seems in ages. Our score after Norwich was therefore:
Originally I was then due to have the Wednesday daytime off and then travel to West Wimbledon and a visit to St Matthew's Primary School on the Thursday, but at the last minute St Matthew's decided to swap their day and go for the Wednesday. So I found myself once again rising at the crack of dawn in freezing cold weather and heading round the M25, then up through the frightfully pleasant Esher and into the Wimbledon area. I was welcomed by an absolutely charming young lady called Katie Barnham and introduced to this school I had never visited before. Again, as with so many schools I visit, the overall welcome from all the staff could not have been kinder, warmer or more generous. It genuinely felt like I was an old returning friend, not some first time visitor, particularly one clad in white tights. It was only a relatively small group on the day - 29 children, but their lack of numbers was easily out-weighed by their enthusiasm, noise level and enjoyment of the day. It was a real pleasure to work with such switched on, intelligent and well behaved children. Katie Barnham has a smashing class, and I don't just say that about everyone! Lunch was a truly delicious roast beef dinner and we had a slightly curtailed afternoon to let me get away and attempt to beat the M25 rush back to an appointment in Essex. And it worked! The jousting was great though, very exciting and loud, but won by a superb ladies team (again!), which brings the score back again to it's current position of:
Back in the old routine, eh?
I am in Essex now until Saturday, then will pick up my lovely son and drive him down to Somerset for the half term holiday. I am doing a private party in Weston-super-Mare on Tuesday, but the rest of the week I am all his, so I hope we have some great fun.

Wednesday, February 01, 2012

Coalway Junior, Coleford

Good King Hal on the first day of shooting Guy Ritchie's new movie "Lock Stocks Pillory and Two Smoking Leeches", shortly before getting a bit medieval and "tasty" on Little Danny Dyer. And who can blame him.

Gad, it's cold! Frost on my codpiece and all other extremities are a reminder that the winter has not quite finished with us yet. The week started on a warm note though when I drove down to Southampton on the Monday night with the promise of dinner cooked for me by my old ex-Skandia colleague, Lisa Head. She cooked a fabulous meal and finished it off with home made bizarrely flavour cup cakes. How bizarre, you ask? Chocolate and bacon. Yes... bacon. And do you know what? It really worked! Delicious. Just don't tell my Rabbi, or my dietitian. Tuesday was a day spent catching up on emails and paperwork (and sitting eating a sandwich and watching "Bargain Hunt" just don't tell everyone about my wild and exciting lifestyle).

But today was Wednesday and that meant one thing - up at the crack of dawn on a very crisp frosty morning for a drive up to Gloucestershire and a visit to Coalway Junior School in Coleford. This was my 8th visit to this lovely school, and as ever it was an absolute delight to come back. Coalway is, amazingly, exactly 100 miles from my flat - door to door, and I managed to arrive at their august portals at just after 8am this morning. It was bright and sunny by now, but piercingly cold. I was set up to go in the hall, the main idea being that the children would be sat down with their backs to me when I first went in the hall, then I could shout and make them all jump. And it worked a treat! The morning went swimmingly with a group of about 60 children, all of whom were hugely enthusiastic, apart from one young lady who spent the whole morning either sucking her thumb or with her hands clamped over her ears, but even she perked up a bit in the afternoon.

One of the best things about visiting Coalway is the teachers and staff - they are all absolutely lovely, and the lunch and tea breaks in the staff room are always loud and laughter filled, and today was no exception. The afternoon was even more hilarious and we had a visit from the local newspaper who took a pile of photos of the kids and myself mucking about with the stocks, and another set of me sitting with a little lad in wheelchair as he posed with some of the jousting equipment. As for the joust - rip-roaring stuff! Very loud, but not particularly close. A brilliant ladies team simply blew away the gents team. This makes the score look very ominous for the gents now. It says:


Is there no stopping them? Probably not, but watch this space for more updates and reports.

Finally, on a sad note, I would like to get all my friends and colleagues to send good thoughts and best wishes to my old friend Anne Edwards who I used to work with at The London Borough of Newham back in the late 80's. Anne is currently hospitalised after suffering a stroke and faces a long and difficult path back to good health again, so please if you know her or would just like to send good thoughts and prayers, if that is your bag, then please do. Many thanks.