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!

Friday, September 07, 2012

West Leigh School

Good King Hal clog dancing outside Strode House.  Total amount given by passers by?  Not a toss.

A new academic year!  Has there been a summer break?  I think I missed it.  With all that jousting and romping round the country I think I have an excuse for missing it.  I drove up to Kent first of all to spend some time with Shelley, and then the following day I drove to Essex to see my lovely son James and his Mummy.  After these two pleasant days of semi rest it was then time to don the robes and become Henry again.
West Leigh School is a lovely place - I was making my fourth annual appearance this year, booked as ever by the wonderful Bella Garrett.  It was a bright sunny morning for the drive down there, proving that after all the rain and misery of the summer holidays it was inevitable that the sun would come out and the temperatures would go through the roof as soon as the kids went back to school.  I was greeted with a hug and kiss from Bella, which was very sweet of her, and then a welcoming cup of tea.  It was a big group today, over 120 year three children - all of them very excitable and loud.  Their enthusiasm was very infectious, but it was sometimes hard to keep a lid on them as they got too excited!   But we had a great morning and lots of laughs.
Bella very kindly wandered down to the local supermarket to get me a sandwich for my lunch and then it was on for the mad afternoon session.  The stocks were a raging success, lots of laughs and whoops of delight from the audience.  The jousting threatened to dissolve into chaos to begin with.  During the first ladies race quintaines, quoits and lances went flying in all directions and several of the young ladies became distraught and claimed that the jousting was too difficult.  So I stopped the race after what seemed like a lifetime of directionless galloping and quoits flying around the hall and gave them another run down on how to make the jousting easier for them.  Still one of the little ladies, a cutie called Annie, claimed it was too hard, but luckily Bella persuaded her to continue to take part, and as it was her team won the ladies tournament!  Then we found the gents champions, and they were very good, so it was obvious who was going to win the overall title.  Yes, Annie and her hopeless ladies romped to a famous victory!  So our very first score for the new year has a familiar ring to it!
Different year, same results!
The King is off to Castle Hedingham again this weekend for a wedding appearance, which should be fun, and the weather looks good.  Then next week I am off up to Harrogate in Yorkshire for a school appearance.

Tuesday, September 04, 2012

Barrington Court and Horrid History! (and Burrow Hill Scrumpy - don't do it).

Lady Katherine and Good King Hal having a quick "Vulture" session at Barrington Court much to the amazement of the people around them.

Just what I needed!  After the rigours of the jousting season finally began to recede it seemed only right that I should go back to being Henry in my "Horrid History" show, this time at dear old Barrington Court.  The original idea was for me to be joined by a phalanx (or is it a flock?) of Tudor Roses, but initially with poor Emma Fuery sidelined after back surgery, one or two others couldn't make it, and in the end I was accompanied on the Sunday by a Tudor Rose (singular) - namely the lovely Katherine Miller.
My weekend was nice anyway as I had my lovely lady Shelley Hughes staying with me along with her son, the renowned Sir Owen of Leeds Castle and the Broomfield Exit.  The Saturday walkabout was very nice as the weather was very kind, not too hot and no sign of any rain.  Shelley, Owen and I had a quick picnic in the grounds of Barrington Court before I went off to get changed for my official Royal duties.  I strolled the grounds from 12.30pm until 2.30pm, where I then stepped into the Great Hall only just recently vacated by Anthony Gormley and his "Morphs".  It was a good show on the Saturday, a nice group of people and lots of laughs.  Sir Owen held my cane for me during the show, a very important job!  It was also nice to see Russ Wardell and his lovely wife at the end of the show.  We popped home to my flat and awaited the arrival of Katherine from London, and it wasn't long before we were down at Crewkerne Station picking her up.  She was to be staying at the Duke of York pub in Shepton Beauchamp just down the road from Barrington.  We delivered her safely there and decided to have dinner with her at the Duke.  We had a lovely meal, but by this time (about 8pm), poor old Sir Owen was done in, and even the temptation of a chocolate ice cream couldn't persuade him to lift his head from the table with barely audible mentions that he was "tye-erred".
The Sunday weather looked a bit dodgy as we drove over to Shepton to pick up Katherine for the second day of the Horrid History walkabout.  A spattering of rain as we got out the car didn't look too promising, but in the end we got away with the weather altogether, and I am a poet and I didn't know it.  Another picnic in the grounds was followed by Shelley helping to lace Katherine into her dress!  Soon we were off perambulating again, and this time the Horrid History Show was transplanted into the old Kitchen where I have done so many shows in the past at Barrington.  We had a huge turnout for the Sunday show and, if anything it went far better than the Saturday performance - loads of laughs from the crowd and many handshakes and congratulations afterwards.  Matthew Applegate, the Visitor Services Manager at Barrington was delighted, and was even told he was a "poo-poo man" by Sir Owen, which I am sure made his day complete.
We dropped Katherine off at Crewkerne Station after the show and she was soon winging her way back to the mighty metropolis that is London - it was lovely to see her again.  She is such a nice lady.  Shelley then treated me to a Chinese take away, which was most welcome and we finished off the evening watching Doctor Who (recorded from the Saturday night!) and my favourite movie "The Apartment".  A lovely evening all round.
Shelley and Owen headed back to Kent on the Monday morning and I went back to the flat to get everything ready for my next few days away doing shows and visits.  I attempted to write this blog up last night, but rather idiotically did it after drinking almost industrial amounts of Burrow Hill Scrumpy.  Now this was an incredibly stupid thing to do.  I woke up sitting on my sofa at 3am, freezing cold but happy that I had at least not published the rubbish I had been typing.  WRONG.  I looked at my blog and there for all to see was an entry that started off very lucidly, but rapidly descended into complete nonsense.  It was like reading Shakespeare after he'd had a goblet of mead too many.  Hamlet's soliloquy starts off all right with his "to be or not to be..." but unfortunately ended with him shouting "Grrrrrrrr.... thnarg bucket banana!" at Ophelia and then passing out on the chaise longues.  So kids, if you're thinking of writing a blog under the influence of scrumpy - don't do it!  (The really worrying thing is that by the morning 25 people had read it and two people said they liked it....  I hope they like this substitute and sober blog as well!).
Off to Kent now, then Essex for my first school visit of this educational year as I am off to West Leigh Junior near Southend.  Looking forward to it immensely.  But no more scrumpy....