Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Male Modelling and Cotford St Luke x 2!

All the jokes used by this man are genuine, hand-stitched, leather antiques and have been carefully assembled by aged stand up comedians in a small lock-up garage in East Cheam.

Me? Being a model? A male model? That is just wrong. It goes against all that is right in nature. It's like Bernard Manning hang-gliding, or Dale Winton playing professional rugby league, or George Osborne proving he knows what the hell he is talking about. It is all highly unlikely. But happen it did. And where was this, I hear you murmur, with barely suppressed excitement? A photo shoot in LA for Cosmopolitan Magazine? A new calendar shoot in St Tropez? No. It was the slightly humbler surroundings of Shepton Beauchamp village hall and I was sitting in my full Henry regalia posing for the Shepton Beauchamp Art Group! It was a very pleasant evening in the end, lots of giggles, laughs, a nice cup of tea or two, and at the end of the day a bit of money and a very nice bottle of Australian Shiraz as a thank you. It had been organised by Jo Walshe, post mistress at Shepton Beauchamp post office and stores and I have to say her pencil drawings of me were very good, but then so were most of the artwork produced on the evening. What a talented bunch. This was last Friday.

After a terribly exciting weekend of doing the sum total of bugger all, it was back to being Henry again on the Monday morning. I was being summoned back to Cotford St Luke School near Taunton. Now I had last visited this school back in 2006 when I did a couple of days there a few months apart doing a big group of children. This time they wanted me on two separate days, but right next to each other. So I would be at Cotford on the Monday and the Tuesday. Getting to Cotford is no easy thing as you have to drive right through the middle of Taunton, which as I might just have mentioned in this blog on one or two previous occasions, can be about as easy as trying to excavate a new channel tunnel using a small white plastic tea spoon. However on both mornings Taunton's traffic was in a very benign mood, and I sailed through to the quiet leafy lanes that make up Cotford St Luke. I was warmly welcomed on the first morning by the caretaker, a happy smiley Hobbit of a man and I was soon set up in the big impressive, but squeaky floored hall. On the first day I would be working with a mainly mixture of years 3 and 4, then on the Tuesday I would finish off with years 5 and 6. The group on day one were the most hard work as there were one or two little "characters" in their midst - nothing more than a little bit of immaturity, but on the whole a very very pleasant group. Plenty of laughs in the morning were had, with the children as well as the very friendly welcoming teachers. Lunch was a delicious chicken korma curry, but all too soon it was back to the hall for the afternoon. The jousting was of a very high quality and (wait for it) ended with a win for.... the Gents! At last! This pegs the ladies back a bit to:


But there is still so much to do. At the end of the day I didn't have to pack the props back in the car, I just stowed them away in a class room ready for the next day...

Back on the road to Cotford St Luke on the Tuesday, this was almost like Groundhog Day. Taunton was again a placid place of no hold ups and it was back to the lovely school. Todays group of years 5 and 6 were great - really good fun, very intelligent, bright, sparky children, the sort of group that makes you want to come back and be Henry VIII over and over again. Cotford St Luke is a magnificent school! It was another great day - a good morning of many laughs, a lovely lunch of baked potato and sausages, and then back into the hall for more stocks and jousting shenanigans. And just to make the Groundhog Day simile come to full fruition, the Gents won the jousting AGAIN. You wait weeks for one, then two come along in two days. The score slowly clicks over to:


There is one very tired King here this evening, his Royal plates are about to be put up for a well deserved rest. Thank you, Cotford for two very memorable days. Sadly, I probably won't see you again until 2018 if the wait between visits is the same! Now that is just too long...

Thursday, March 15, 2012

St Michael's School, Wimborne AND Julian Richards

Good King Hal, as he appears on the brand spanking new time line wall mural at St Michael's School in Wimborne.

After the fun and games of visiting Broughton Astley again, it was back to visit one of my longest standing regular schools: St Michael's School in Wimborne in Dorset. This was to be my eighth annual visit, and as ever it was a delight, full of fun, laughter and one or two surprises. The school had recently had a new time line wall mural painted by a local artist, who also happens to be a mother to one of the pupils, and I had been pre-warned that I would be requested to take part in the morning school assembly and then also help with the "opening" of the mural for the press. So after an opening hour of my usual Henry day with the children, I was whisked out the hall as they brought the rest of the school pupils in for the assembly. In the staff room I was introduced to the other special guests for the day - namely the artist herself, and Professor Julian Richards, often seen presenting such historic TV programmes as "Meet the Ancestors". What a nice bloke!

The three of us were wheeled into the packed hall and sat on chairs at the front, where we were then given a thorough press conference by the children. Tremendous fun. Next we walked through to the mural itself where press photographers were waiting for us to pose like mad with a ribbon and some scissors. And then we were done! The school had it's new impressive mural, Julian Richards had met Henry VIII and I was back to the rest of the Tudor day with year 5.

It was a very big group today, about 120 children, but they were all magnificent, great costumes and lots of fun. It was nice to see regular teacher Jane Eyre back at the school after her brave year working for the VSO out in West Africa. Welcome back! Well the rest of the morning was good fun and very silly - as it always should be! Lunch was a very pleasant roast chicken dinner in the as ever laughter filled staff room.

Back to the Tudor shenanigans for the afternoon, and with such a big group we had a deafening jousting tournament. The gents team went into the final looking very good and very confident, as well they should as they trounced their opposition in the semi final. However, the gents luck is really not running their way at the moment in the finals, and so it proved again, as once more the ladies simply walked off with a very comfortable win. Amazing. Our score is now:


There is just no stopping them!

I am back to being Henry on Friday night as I am posing as a life model (with clothes on you'll be relieved to hear) for the Shepton Beauchamp arts group! My next school visits are Monday and Tuesday next week with two days back at Cotford St Luke near Taunton.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Orchard School, Broughton Astley

An artists impression of Justin Timberlake. The artist was then sacked.

The last time I had visited the Orchard School in Broughton Astley in Leicestershire, I made loads of unnecessarily childish jokes about Rick Astley. I promise wholeheartedly not to do the same thing again. Much...

I drove up to the Midlands on the Monday, for another visit to another wonderful, exciting, brilliant Travelodge. This time in Nuneaton! I got to the hotel at about 4pm and by 4.08pm I had exhausted the entertainment possibilities available to me. I had switched the lights on and off in the bathroom. I had laid on the bed in every conceivable compass point, and I had pulled and opened the curtains. There was nothing else for it - I was going to have to prepare for dinner in the evening. Slap bang next door to the Travelodge was a Harvester Inn. Now I am not a big fan of Harvesters at the best of times - they are to traditional English pubs what the Luftwaffe was to East End redevelopment. I went over just after 6pm and was amazed to find, on this Monday night, that the place was just one huge heaving mass of humanity. Is there nothing else to do in Nuneaton? Apparently not. I sat in the bar and ordered a large glass of Shiraz. It came to just shy of £5. Cripes. Harvesters always bang on about how good their steaks are, and as I don't normally eat steaks when I am out I thought I would give one of them a bash. I ordered a Sirloin steak, which I like to have well done. I am really not a fan of rare steaks - a plate awash with blood does not really get the old taste buds pulsing for me. My motto is never to eat anything that looks like a gunshot wound. Anyway, I asked for my steak to be well done and boy did they do that. When it arrived it looked like a piece of vulcanised rubber that had been caught in a flow of scalding hot magma, had then been rescued and for some unexplained reason had then been fired out of a howitzer on a number of occasions. All this and a spoonful of bullet-like peas and 24 chips (I counted them). £15.00. Good job I was hungry.

After a good nights sleep I was soon off to Broughton Astley. It was so nice to be back, warmly welcomed by all the lovely staff. Just as on my previous visit all of the staff and all of the children had dressed up in brilliant costumes. The morning was great fun - when I was doing the music section I played, as always, a brief version of Greensleeves, just as that is what everyone expects. Just before I played the piece I asked (again, as always) which piece of music is most commonly associated with Henry VIII. Today I was told by one little boy that it was the Main Theme from Star Wars. Brilliant. After a lovely lunch of baked potato and salad, it was back to the hall for more nonsense. The stocks were rigged so that one particular classroom assistant, who's 50th birthday is imminent, was set up to go in them! After that the jousting was bound to be good, and it was. And guess what - the ladies won AGAIN. Our score is now:


Where will it all end? The drive home was mostly trouble free and I was back at the flat by just after 6pm.

A nice quiet evening will be followed tomorrow for my eighth annual visit to St Michael's School in Wimborne in Dorset. I am due to meet Julian Richards, archaeologist and former presenter of the BBC TV series "Meet the Ancestors" as he will be at the school at the same time. I told my Mother this evening on the phone I would be meeting him - she was bitterly disappointed that it wasn't Neil Oliver from "Coast" as I think she has a bit of a soft spot for him. I told her he is next on my "to do" list. Hmmmmm, perhaps I'd better re-phrase that...

Monday, March 05, 2012

St James' School, Cheltenham

All England fruit bottling supremo, Egbert Lunge, whilst on a fact finding mission to the Seychelles, falls under the microscopic scrutiny of Kenyan bog-snorkelling champion, Loretta Goes-Nicely. In a tender flash back at the El Morocco Tea Rooms in Sleaford, Egbert reveals he is not a natural blonde, before enforcing the follow on. Shortly, despotic rhythm guitarist, "Dangerous" Malcolm Discharge, bowling unchanged from the Gas Works End, sings a moving version of "I Stuck My Finger in a Woodpecker's Hole" before bad light stopped play. Now, read on....

OK, it's March, right? March as in "not February", as in "not winter"? Yeah? OK, so I am driving back from Essex on Sunday, at about lunch time and I am driving down the A303 across Salisbury Plain - and it starts snowing. SNOWING! S-N-NOOOOOO-WING! ARGH! I should write to The Times about this. This pleased me not as I knew I was going to have to get up very early on the Monday morning for a drive up to Cheltenham in Gloucestershire, and I really didn't fancy doing that through snow storms. However, I had nothing to fear. By the time I got to the tropical climes of South Somerset, the outside temperature had rocketed up to nearly 7 degrees. Mind you, it was still a bit of a shock to the system when my alarm went off at 5.30 this morning. I wonder if Ernest Shackleton ever had worries like this?

The drive up to Cheltenham was actually very pleasant. It was a cold, but very clear morning, and the roads were relative empty. I was making a first ever visit to St James' School in Cheltenham and when I found the address it looked very nice, the school nestling in amongst a very attractive new housing complex. I was extremely warmly welcomed and handed a very cheering cup of tea. This was lovely as I am suffering with a somewhat unpleasant cold at the moment and a hot tea went down a treat. It was a group of over 80 children today in a mixed years 3 and 4 set up. But they were very switched on, very excitable and good fun to work with. The main teacher who had booked me, a simply charming gentleman by the name of Duncan Cook, could not have been more helpful, but then all the staff were very wonderful today. The morning seemed to shoot past at an express rate and before you could say "blimey, what the heck was that?" it was lunch time. I was treated to a very tasty plate of spaghetti and meatballs before heading back to the hall for the afternoon session. More fun with the stocks and then it was on to a very entertaining and interesting jousting tournament. In the grand final it finally looked like the gents were going to claim a much needed win as their first two riders streaked off into a seemingly unbeatable lead. But the ladies would not be denied and clawed back the difference. It was going to come down to the final quoit but the gents, in their haste and desire to claim a win virtually pushed the last quoit onto their riders lance. I had no option but to stop the race, re-hook two singular quoits and let the two teams have a race-off... and would you believe it - the ladies won AGAIN. Our score now moves on to an almost embarrassingly one sided:


This is getting too much lads - come on! Must do better! I packed up my stuff and was soon in the car, coughing and sneezing my way down the M5 and home. A nice dinner and pint of Tanglefoot, and all of a sudden my cold doesn't seem as bad as I first thought. It was lovely to visit St James' School today, and I sincerely hope Mr Cook's daughter gets well again soon.

Friday, March 02, 2012

All Saints, Wouldham

Finally, Good King Hal gets exactly what he wanted for Christmas. Sadly, he'd broken both of them by Boxing Day, and himself.

Another half day for the King today. I was in Essex with my delightful little boy, but had to be up relatively early for a morning jaunt down over the jolly old Dartford crossing to Kent for a visit to All Saints School in the village/town Wouldham. The drive didn't start with any great pleasure as there was dense fog everywhere which gave the journey the feeling of trying to drive through thick cold porridge. I was also surrounded by lots of thick cold fellow drivers as well.
The school in Wouldham is situated down a small side lane, and apparently was first used in about 1867, which does rather beg the question as to who thought it would be a jolly whizz to build an enormous, ominously throbbing electricity sub station right next door to the school. It certainly wouldn't have been there before 1867, unless Kent is far more advanced than we had previously given them credit for.
Anyway, it was a lovely half day, working with all the Key Stage 2 pupils - a cross section of years 3, 4, 5 and 6, a total of about 60 children. The teachers and staff were a delight to work with and we had plenty of laughs. The jousting at the end was somewhat disrupted by the arrival of the dinner ladies and so the tournament had to conclude outside in the playground, which was fine for me in all my robes, but some of the teachers and children looked a tad chilly. It was a good natured and well fought tournament that culminated in a win for the ladies yet again. They are trouncing the lads this year. Our latest score is now:
The gents will get another chance to try and pin back the ladies and their juggernaut of success this Monday when I am up in Cheltenham for a visit to a school up there. I will be in Essex until Sunday when I shall once more drive down the A303 to home. I am pretty sure one of these days I will notice that I have worn a groove in the tarmac on it.