The Guildhall and the Guildhall Art Gallery, mere seconds after it was announced Good King Hal was going to start his comedy routine.
If I am going to be completely honest, I was dreading going up to London this weekend. I sometimes find it hard to believe that I lived in London between 1986 and 1990 - and loved it! But then London is a young person's City and now at my rapidly advancing years I find getting there a pain, I find it busy, fast, clogged up and usually very unfriendly. However, Saturday was a lot nicer. I caught the train from sunny Laindon Station and was then whisked up to London Fenchurch Street in only about half an hour. I then caught a cab from there to the Guildhall Yard where I was due at the Guildhall Art Gallery. I was warmly welcomed by Catty (how it was pronounced!) and given a lovely cup of tea, which really hit the spot, before being given a whistle stop tour of the Gallery and exhibition. I got changed and then launched out into the yard - it was partially full of stalls, some selling craft type items, others fine smelling exotic food stuffs. This was all part of the City of London Festival known as Celebrate the City. Roads had been blocked off in the square mile to make it pedestrian friendly, and I was briefed with walking up and down King Street (rather appropriately), Cheapside (even more appropriately) and then back into the Guildhall Yard. There were masses of stalls celebrating each and everyone of the City's Famous Guilds, there was livestock, farriers, sporty things and masses of street entertainment - myself included. I had a quick bash at a ping pong game with two very sporty young lasses (down boy!) and an egg and spoon race (honest), before heading back to the Guildhall Yard, where I wandered round for the rest of the morning, meeting and greeting. I was given some very nice Thai food from one stall which I sat down and ate in the corner of the yard. I was then approached by a very nice lady who sat down next to me and offered me a cup of tea. When I said yes, she then disappeared - it turned out she had to go back to the church to get the tea, bless her. She also let me have a very nice white chocolate cookie, which was above and beyond the call of friendliness! And after all that, she then simply slipped away into the crowd, so whoever you were Madam, the King is very grateful.
I posed for another mass of photos, with various people, including one stunning young lady from Brazil - looks like it might be worth moving there.... And before long it was nearly 5.30pm and my time was done. I quickly changed back in the Art Gallery and then, dragging my Henry bag of costume behind me, I headed away to find a cab to take me back to Fenchurch Street Station. I was picked up by a very nice chap from Brentwood in Essex who was fascinated by my Henry VIII job and was so taken with my story of my alternative career that he knocked a whole £1 off my fare! What a nice chap. My view of London improved immeasurably. The journey back was uneventful and I was soon back with my lovely son James, devouring a very naughty take away pizza.
Sunday was supposed to be the uneventful day. How wrong I was. I was due over at Ingatestone Hall at about 11am, and the journey from the verdant grasslands of Steeple View to Ingatestone is only about 20 minutes at most. I came out of the road where I was staying to be confronted by non moving gridlocked traffic. I tried various back doubles and rat runs to escape this, but ended up being inextricably snarled up on a dual carriageway - FOR AN HOUR. So from leaving at 10.40am, I finally arrived, a broken man, at Ingatestone Hall at about 12.15pm. The Tudor Roses were already there and changed and ready for action. There was Lady Emma, Lady Erica, Lady Katherine and a young Lady (please insert name here if you know it!), who was joining in the fun, but looking utterly terrified every time she was near me.
It was great to see my dear old friend Anne Edwards there today. Anne has been very ill of late, but she was there with a couple of friends to enjoy the sunshine and ambiance of Ingatestone Hall, which is lovely. I had a good chat with her and her friends. We then had a spot of lunch, given to us by Lord Petre and his staff - very welcoming. I then had another long chat with Anne and her group. Next we were outside on the lawns for the Roses to give a display of Tudor Dancing, with yours truly tootling the Dordrecht and letting the ladies do their "thing". We had just finished a couple of dances, when I was walking back to the Hall when I heard a voice tentatively calling my name. I looked up to see Anuscheh Missaghian - a lovely lady I was at school with and someone I had not seen since 1984! She now lives in the Canary Islands and just happened to be in England for a couple of days, and just by chance happened to pop into Ingatestone Hall with some friends - and here we were! Fantastic! So a typical Tudor Day at a lovely country house ended up resembling some kind of "This is Your Life" episode. Anuscheh commented on my rotundity - how dare she! What does she want Henry to look like? Some kind of poor half starved child from the centre of a cholera outbreak zone? Anyway, it was great to see Anne looking so good and an utter surprise and delight to see Anuscheh. A lovely day!
And now........... a WEEK OFF! HURRAH!