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:
GENTLEMEN 3 - 5 LADIES
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....