Thursday, October 25, 2012

Coughing All Over the World

Good King Hal, wowing his audience so much at a recent performance of "Henry's Horrid History" Barrington Court, that some of the punters, overcome with emotion, have to make a mad run for the exit.

This was a week to test the endurance and tensile strength of everything from my lungs to my underpants, as I careered around the country, full of cold and coughing over as many people as I could manage.  Things started on the Thursday night when I was booked to appear at Tatworth WI club near Chard in Somerset.  Hollywood glitz?  You don't know the half of it.  So I was at this glamorous post war village hall, surrounded by the great and good of the Tatworth committee rooms, singing my heart out to "Jerusalem" at the beginning of the meeting.  Then I was on stage, entertaining them with bonne mottes of Tudor history and humour, interspersed with violent coughing fits and some gentle swearing.  Gosh this cold was turning out to be fun.  Nearly all of my symptoms had gone, and all I was left with was an occasionally runny nose, but this awful rumbling chesty cough that only ever reared it's head when I went to laugh.  And here, a week hence, I STILL have that awful cough and I am FED UP OF THE GIT!  Anyway, my evening with the quiet ladies of the WI came to an end and I was thanked and photographed a lot.  But that was not the end of my evening, oh no.  No sooner had I left Tatworth, I had to leap into my car and drive right the way across the country in the pitch dark and occasional violent downpour of rain, to my beloved Shelley's house in Maidstone.
On the Friday I was due to join Michelle Coda and various members of the Knights of Royal England on a visit over to East Grinstead and Saint Hill Manor, former home of L Rob Hubbard and now a centre for the International Scientology Movement.  We were to be part of the entertainment at their international symposium, or something or other.  Now my own personal view of Scientology is (THE FOLLOWING SECTION OF GOOD KING HAL'S BLOG HAS BEEN SCREENED FOR LEGAL AND SAFETY REASONS AND IN AN EFFORT NOT TO UPSET TOM CRUISE ANY MORE THAN HE HAS BEEN UPSET IN THE PAST YEAR.  FOR YOUR READING PLEASURE, SOOTHING MUSIC IS NOW BEING PLAYED AND IT WOULD PROBABLY BE BEST IF YOU NIPPED OFF FOR A GLASS OF WATER OR SOMETHING.  HANG ON, I THINK HE'S FINISHED). And another thing (OOPS, MY MISTAKE.  HE'S OFF AGAIN. ER.... DREADFUL WEATHER WE'RE HAVING LATELY, DON'T YOU THINK?  AND THAT ROY HODGSON, DOES HE KNOW WHAT HE'S DOING OR WHAT? WHAT'S THAT?  OH, HE HAS FINISHED NOW.  BACK TO "COUGH-A-LONG" FARLEY)... and about as believable as most Tory party political broadcasts.  But that's just me.  So for the best part of a whole day we were surrounded by Scientologists from all corners of the World and I have to say that Saint Hill is a very spectacular location.  They are clearly not short of a bob or two.  The jousters with us for the day were Jeremy, Kim, Lucy, Ashley, Dan and Mack.  The weather was atrocious a constant never ending downpour of Scotch mist that soaked you to the skin and sapped your strength.  Just what you needed when you were full of cold and feeling like death warmed up.  I added to my fun and enjoyment by slipping on the steps at one point and jarring my back which pleased me not!  We were only there from 2pm to about 6pm, but the relentless dourness of the weather and the lack of response from some of the guests made the time drag awfully.  After a final prance up and down with the Knights and some Scottish pipers, who Jeremy took great delight in soaking by pushing up the rain sagging awning that was over them with his flag (extremely funny) we were soon on our way home as the big evening bash for the Scientologists began.  Michelle and I complained that we hadn't seen Tom Cruise all day, but mind you in the dreadful weather we had endured the poor little fella might have sunk I suppose.  As we drove out of the grounds as the good and faithful poured in through the gates, we went past a huge gleaming stretch limo with blacked out windows, followed closely by a brand new minibus full of very large muscular men in dinner jackets, wearing dark glasses and with ear pieces.  (INSERT YOUR OWN GAG HERE!!!!!)
We had a few days off over the weekend, but got together to visit some Wedding Fayres to get some ideas for possible business ventures.  Then I was due at Hever Castle on the Monday for a filming session on their new publicity video, however the weather was so gloomy and foggy that they gave up on Monday, and then gave up on Tuesday.  Filming has now been put back to either November (possibly) or next Spring (most likely).
Thursday this week found me back for a return visit to Wickford Junior School in Essex.  This was my seventh year at this lovely school and as ever I was warmly welcomed back, and even offered tea and toast on my arrival - what King could ask for more?  The morning was great fun, with laughs a plenty from the usual sort of thing you get at Wickford - a big group, fantastic costumes and lots of intelligence and plenty of laughs.  The morning seemed to go past so quickly. Soon I was in the staff room munching down a lunch that consisted of breaded cod, saute potatoes and beans (relatively healthy) followed by pancakes in maple syrup (so unhealthy as to be able to hear your arteries hardening as you gulped them down).  The afternoon was a riot of laughs and fun and culminated in a long overdue win for the Gents on the jousting.  This brings our score back to:
Back to almost parity again. I have a feeling it will be a lot closer this time.

Half term is here and the King is off for a holiday in Wales with the lovely Shelley, my son James and Shelley's son, Sir Owen of Leeds Castle, so should be fun.  And I have nearly finished coughing over everybody in the entire British Isles.  There is an elderly couple in Tenby who I haven't done yet, but I should be catching up with them next week.  Have a fun half term everyone.  See you soon.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

From Merseyside to Buckinghamshire - I Say!

Good King Hal showing Anne Boleyn her new residence.  Travelling by river taxi as they were would apparently get them there "chop chop".  Smashing.

It was going to be a long week, some estimates put it at over six days, but I'm not sure.  It begins last weekend where we find the King at home and full of cold.  Not a happy Tudor bunny, and if you want to know just how ill I was....?  Well, I cancelled an evening of drinking beer with Matthew Applegate.  Now THAT is ill.  On the Sunday I found myself on the M5 heading north on my way towards Liverpool.  The reason for this Royal Progress North?  The King was to appear at Liscard Primary School in Wallasey, an area of the country that I really have not visited in about 31 years.  I was booked into a Travelodge in New Brighton which didn't really sound a desperately enticing prospect, however when I got there it was amazing to behold.  The front by the sea wall has been enormously redeveloped of late, to be honest they're still doing it, but are very nearly finished.  The Travelodge is cheek by jowl next to various restaurant and coffee house-type outlets, and backs onto an enormous Morrisons and a cinema.  This may sound horrific but in it's seaside location it actually looks quite good.  Sadly the wall they've built round the hotel car park looks like the sort of solid rock obstacle you'd see around a Soviet Gulag.  After checking in I asked the receptionist where the nearest petrol station was - apparently about 20 minutes away, and I was amazed to discover it was!  As you drive towards Seacombe from Wallasey you see all aspects of Merseyside, from pleasant leafy side roads that gently slip down to the water front, to long terraces of shops, boarded up and covered with graffiti and one or two burnt out shells of buildings.
Liscard Primary is a lovely school, formerly being a Grammar School, and inside a lot of money has obviously recently been spent to redevelop the site.  I had a group of about 90 children today, mostly year 4 and they were fun.  My chest was tight and full of coughing fits, plus my throat would occasionally dry up and more coughing would ensue - my how we laughed.  But I got through the morning and we had lots of fun with the children.  After lunch I was back in the main hall for the stocks and jousting.  Both were as popular as ever and the joust was of a particularly high standard and culminated in an amazing finish as the boys just needed one quoit to win the race, but their final rider just could not get the final target clear of the quintaine.  The ladies snuck through to claim an amazing victory.  Quite remarkable stuff.  Our score now goes to:
And so the poor old gents losing streak goes on.  I packed away my stuff and began the long drive back from Merseyside to Somerset.  I have to admit by the time I got home I felt like death warmed up and the prospect of getting in the car the following day and driving all the way to Buckinghamshire for another show really did not appeal.  However, my lovely Shelley had a brilliant idea.  Rather than me phone up Maltman's Green School in Gerards Cross (my next destination) and say "I'be godda code ib by doze..." why don't I phone them and say "I've got a bit of a sniffle, I don't want to pass on my germs to your lovely pupils, would you like me to stay away until I am all better?", and they said "Nah, come on in and infect everyone!"  Well, not in so many words...
So I found myself driving up to another Travelodge, only this time in Beaconsfield.  This was a lot different from New Brighton, it was a 1930's building that looked like it had snuck in behind an old coaching inn and had simply died of embarrassment there.  It was hard to find, but very comfortable inside.  I settled down for the evening and decided I would be soothed into a beautiful sleep by watching England play Poland in a World Cup qualifying game.  The match was to be played in Warsaw's brand new, multi-million pound, state-of-the-art stadium with retractable roof for use during inclement weather.  Well, it was frightfully inclement in Warsaw, but no one had actually remembered to close the sodding hi-tech roof, so we had the surely unique experience of a football match due to be played in a brand new stadium with a retractable roof being called off due to a water-logged pitch.  Another first for Europe.
I had only been at Maltman's Green a few months previously and had happy memories of a friendly fun school, and I had remembered correctly.  It is a girl's school, and all the young ladies were dressed in superb Tudor costumes.  It was a fun day all round, my throat and chest managed to survive all the way through and the jousting finale was of an incredibly high standard, but sadly as it was not a co-ed site, the result cannot be added to our year long score.  What a shame.  We had a great day and I was pleased to be on my way back.  I listened to the re-arranged England v Poland game, and it was so exciting I nearly fell into a coma.  Michael Carrick played in such a brilliant way.  Every single pass he made went straight to a white shirt.  It was such a pity England were wearing blue that evening.  What a bunch of over paid tossers.
And so the King is home briefly, tonight he is off to Tatworth near Chard for a talk for the Tatworth WI (all together now "HOORAY FOR HOLLYWOOD!!!" etc etc.) before driving through the night to Maidstone to see my lovely Shelley.  I am then going over to East Grinstead for a get together with the Knights of Royal England and Tom Cruise.  Should be amazing.  Watch this space....

Thursday, October 11, 2012

A Bit of a Pickle

Good King Hal and Natalie Dormer show you how "that" scene in The Tudors would have looked like if it had taken place indoors, on a boat, and with clothes on.

Sometimes life goes past so fast that if you blink, you can miss some of it.  That is how this last week has felt to be brutally honest.  No sooner had the two days in Bristol gone last week, then I was getting ready for a visit down to my place from the lovely Shelley, and Sir Owen of Leeds Castle.  They arrived on the Friday afternoon, mainly to see me, but also to come along to the annual Chut Fest at Barrington Court, to which I had been invited again by the splendid Matthew Applegate.  As ever the whole of Chut Fest was a roaring success - very busy with plenty of interested punters wandering around sampling Chutneys, Jams and Pickles, and much fun to be had with Matthew, Rachel Brewer and everyone else.  Shelley and Owen stayed over until Monday morning when we went on our separate ways with me heading off to Romford in Essex for an afternoon at a school, and Shelley and Owen off back home to Maidstone.
My afternoon was at Broadford School in Harold Hill, which is the Latin quarter of Romford.  I had previously visited this school in 2009 for a full day, but I had managed to remember where the site was, so I felt quietly confident when I arrived.  Nope, confidence might have been a bit misplaced - the reception area was partially boarded up and visitors were encouraged to go to the new building.  I couldn't find the new building and it was hammering down with rain.  This was beginning to be a bit of a pain.  I saw a lady with a push chair and asked her where the new school was, and she patiently pointed out the obvious and massive new build behind the old school house.  Oh, THAT school.  I drove round to a big side entrance to the car park on the side of the new school building.  I got out in the pouring rain and pushed the buzzer entry on the gates.  There was no reply, so I pressed it again.  Still no reply.  By now I was virtually soaked to the skin, so I had one last hopeless go with the bell and was delighted to get a reply.  Soon I was in and drying off in a very welcoming staff room, along with a warming cup of tea.  It was a fun afternoon with a combined group of years 3 and 4, with just an opening talk and music from Henry and then a loud and exciting jousting tournament.  It was a very closely fought final between two very good teams, but I had to disqualify the Gents team in the final as one of their riders only collected three quoits before returning to base and handing on to the next team member.  This brought out score back to:
So any advantage the gents had has already slipped away.  Normal service now resumed?  We shall see.  I spent the Monday night with my lovely son James in Basildon, desperately trying to convince him of the positives and advantages of an early night.  He didn't seem to get the message.  I personally had to go to bed early as I was up and out of the front door at the crack of dawn the next day.
So the Tuesday dawned with me heading back to dear old St Cecillia's School in North Cheam in Surrey - this was my 10th year of visiting this lovely school and it was, as ever as pleasure and delight to be back there.  The journey down was hard work, with the M25 being in an absolute pig of a mood with stacked up cars and drizzly lousy weather.  I eventually arrived at St Cecillia's and was warmly welcomed by the caretaker (with yet ANOTHER new car) and all the other staff members, nearly all of whom said "is it another year already?"  It was a group of about 60+ children, all of whom were in fantastic costumes, as were the teachers.  What can I say about St Cecillia's which I haven't already said in previous blog entries about this school?  It was a superb day as ever, plenty of laughs and warm friendliness from all the staff and children.  The final joust was predictably loud and exciting and, with one poor little lad having a bit of a melt down in the final, it was left to a ladies team to walk away unopposed with the title.  The score clicks inexorably on to:
So there is something faintly familiar about how the scores are starting to turn.  I drove from North Cheam back down to Maidstone to spend another evening with Shelley.  We had a lovely day out in Maidstone (it is possible, honest) on the Wednesday, before I drove back to Somerset that evening.  I was home just after 11pm, but I had to be up early again as I was back on BBC Somerset the following morning as they were broadcasting live from Montacute House near Yeovil and I was on their tour bus as a special guest.  Emma Britton wasn't available as she was on leave and so the show was run by Vernon Harfield instead, who obviously has designs on being the next Jeremy Paxman.  And he is ALMOST there, he just needs to get his nose and sense of moral outrage a bit more pronounced.
I am now full of cold and considering an early night, or death.  To be honest, the way I feel at the moment, either would do.

Thursday, October 04, 2012

600th Blog Post - and a pair of Bristols (two schools that is...)

Good King Hal and Lady Katherine celebrate the 600th posting on this blog by re-enacting the famous bow scene from "Titanic".  As a special celebration Celine Dion was torpedoed on the Thames and sank with all hands.  Good.

600 posts on this blog?  Wow.  Please feel free to send thanks and congratulations, that is if anyone actually ever reads this thing.  I do wonder sometimes...
Anyway, enough of this self doubt nonsense, it was back to being Henry VIII at schools this week, with visits to two separate sites in Bristol.  On the Tuesday it was a visit to a brand new school for me - Two Mile Hill Primary and arrived at about 8am to find a packed car park.  The only way I could get in was not to double park but TRIPLE park, but I left a polite note on my dashboard explaining who I was, where I was and what the people could do if they wanted me to move (unprintable).  There were a lot of stairs in this school, and a lot of locked doors, and it was just my luck that my big "treasure chest" that I carry a lot of my props in, decided today was the day to break it's handle, making it very difficult to carry.  I had a feeling I was beginning to know how Sisyphus felt... It was a big group on this first day of the week - about 160 children and a mix of years 3 and 4.  I have to be honest and say that the year 3 group in particular were quite hard work - not really badly behaved, just very fidgety, loud, and seemed like very immature year 3's.  It made for a long-ish morning, but I felt by the end of the pre-lunch session that I had won them over and turned the corner.  After a very convivial lunch in the staff room we were on for the afternoon session.  As expected the stocks routine was loud and well received and the jousting tournament was pretty loud and popular as well.  The final itself was closely fought but ended up with yet another win for the Gents team.  So our score at the end of this day stood at:
Possibly the biggest lead that the Gents have had for a long time!  I drove out of Bristol and made my way gently down the A37 and back to South Somerset and home.  I was very tired when I got back.
It's funny isn't it - you wait all year for a school in Bristol, and then two come along at once.  For the second show I was back at a school I last visited back in 2010.  It was Elmlea Junior (not a cream substitute before you ask) which is located in the deliciously named Bristolian suburb of Westbury Upon Trym.  As I recalled the area around the school was quite nice and leafy, it is a shame the weather was so dreadful as I arrived, with rain falling mostly downwards but with an occasional tendency to go sideways and spatter against the window.  It was another mixed group of years 3 and 4 today, but this time about 180 of them, but this time all decked out in fantastic Tudor costumes, as were the teachers.  The morning was partially truncated by a whole school assembly but it did mean I got a longer morning break, which I something I will never complain about.  We had a great time on the quiz, even if one little chap did very blatantly cheat by altering all his answers at the end - apparently according to the teachers it wasn't the first time he had done this at school.  I can see a career in politics looming for him.  Lunch was a nice roast pork dinner, and then before we launched into the stocks and jousting, there was a brief and long overdue revival of my coat of arms designing session - but it seemed to go down very well.  The stocks were loud and popular, but the jousting tournament was truly deafening, to the point that we had to stop it at one point, take some of the more sensitively eared children out and beg some of the girls to not scream quite so piercingly during the tournament.  At times it sounded like Concord coming into land.  In the final a Year 4 boys team was full of confidence and they took on a very shaky looking Year 3 girls team.  But amazement above amazement, the ladies romped to a famous victory that sent the crowd into delirium!  I posed for a few photos and then began loading stuff into the car.  The score in the joust goes back to:
It is going to continue being close.  After loading some of my boxes back in the car, I came back into the school to be told one of the little girls who had been in on the day was in hysterics.  I immediately assumed she had been effected by the deafening screams and shouts during the joust, but apparently her tears were caused by the fact that my day was over and I was going home!  Oh bless!  Elmlea is a superb school and it was a delight to be back there.  See you in two years folks.
This weekend is one of double delight for me - my lovely Shelley is coming down to stay and.... (insert fanfare here) ..... it is time for Chut Fest 2012 at Barrington Court!  So the King will be there on both days, so come on down an say hello.  And don't forget your jams, chutneys and marmalade's.  Saints preserve us. (GEDDIT?)
Oh, and if anyone IS reading this and wants to send messages of congratulations on reaching 600 posts on the blog, please feel free to make comments, either on here or on Facebook.