Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Backstroke to Dunster

Good King Hal was feeling slightly less negative this week.  Either that or he has just been shot by a Dalek in the 1960's, which is jolly painful.

And so it was back to Dunster for another visit to a school that I love very much indeed.  That was the plan, but things depended as to how the weather was intending to behave.  The weekend, Saturday aside, had been mostly cataclysmic with deluges of rain and high winds.  Already saturated ground couldn't cope with the extra water, and it had flooded many side and minor roads.  The drive out to Dunster from Taunton is along a main(-ish) road, but I had visions of it being submerged in various places.  I was really in two minds whether to try and get there at all as reports on the radio and TV suggested that parts of the south west were giving passable impressions of the Marianas Trench in the Pacific.  But to be honest, I just sailed through (no pun intended).
Dunster is such a beautiful little town and looked delightful in the watery morning sun when I arrived.  I was as ever so warmly welcomed by everyone at the school, from Mr Hoyland, the head, right through to the cooks and the caretaker.  This was my 9th visit to this school since 2004 and it was just as much fun as ever. I sat and ate with Mr Hoyland in the big dining hall during the lunch break.  He was thoroughly impressed that my lovely son James had decided to become an Arsenal fan.  I suppose it could have been a lot worse - it could have been.... argh...  I can't even bring myself to say it....  A....  Man United fan.  ARGH!  What a horrendous thought.  I really would have to sell him off to a vivisectionist if that happened.  It would be for the best.
The afternoon was a blast and ended with a very closely fought joust which the gents managed to struggle through and win on the very last quoit after being miles behind at one point.  Suddenly the year long competition is closer than it has been for a long time.  Our score is:
So back to the car for the long slog back to Crewkerne, but it was again quite easy, even the bottle-neck that is Taunton centre.  Home cooked sweet and sour pork with sticky rice was the order of the evening and helped make a very tired, but comfortable King.  That evening I received this nice message from Mr James the teacher who had booked me at Dunster this year.  It read:

Hi Mike/Good King Hal,

Thanks for a great day!  We had such a good time and the children got so much out of it! They haven't stopped talking about it all afternoon. I am sure it will be the talk of the week!

Thanks again for a super show,
Best wishes,
Paul James

Now that makes doing the job worthwhile!  Off to the Maynard in Exeter next...

Monday, November 26, 2012

Mistletoe Fayre 2012 Pts 1 and 2

Good King Hal adopting the "George Osborne Move" in getting money out of terrified elderly peasants to help support a poor investment banker fallen on hard times and down to his final Porsche and only £12 million to see him through at his hovel in Mustique.

Two days of the Mistletoe Fayre alongside a weekend with my lovely Shelley and the benighted Sir Owen of Leeds Castle and the Broomfield Exit.  What could possibly go wrong?  Well, the weather for a start.  For a few days it had hammered down with rain, and then it continued in much the same way, in enough quantities to make someone like Noah think "shit, where did I put my nail gun?"  However, Shelley made it to Somerset from Kent, and we had also managed to get to Barrington from Crewkerne across some of the dampest, wettest most mud caked roads you have ever seen.  Our cars were soon Somerset two-tone - normal body colour and then caked on layers of mud, cow dung and assorted flattened road kill. 
The Mistletoe Fayre looked as good as ever, the Blackdown Babes had done themselves proud!  Matthew Applegate also looked particularly chipper and happy, which was lovely to see.  Shelley and Owen accompanied me on the first day and we treated ourselves to lots of lovely yummy things like some pork and apple sausages, fresh meat pies, Scotch eggs and even some Cherry Brandy.  All real healthy stuff as you can tell.  Then in the evening, Shelley spoilt me even more, in a way only a woman can do for a man she truly loves.... Yes, we sat and watched "Prometheus" on DVD.  I thoroughly enjoyed it.  I think.
On Sunday, Shelley and Owen decided to make a run for the east ahead of the anticipated rain, and would include a stop off at Tidworth to see Owen's brother Jamie at his barracks.  I went back over to the Mistletoe Fayre and had another fine day, had a few chats with the lovely Rachel Brewer and took great delight in drinking some of her magnificent mulled cider.  Delicious.  Then to add to the fun and games, all the electrics in Barrington Court house fused plunging everyone into darkness.  I was in the old kitchen when it happened first - the lights flickered for a moment and then conked out.  It reminded me somewhat of when you watch movies of the Titanic and the electrics all fail on the doomed liner.  Well, just to keep up with the same sinking feeling I immediately started playing "Abide With Me" and "Rock of Ages" on my recorder.  But as far as I was concerned it was women, children and Tudor despots first, and when the lights had finally all been sorted I thought enough was enough for the weekend, and I made run for it.  So another very successful Mistletoe Fayre and another lovely weekend with Shelley. 

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Old Cats and Wombles. Plus Dear Madam Barnham...

Good King Hal wondering why he is still clutching a gear stick, hours after parking the car.  Perhaps he did it manually, perhaps it was just automatic.

Roads, roads and more roads.  And Travelodges.  When you last read this riveting missive, your favourite mock Tudor monarch was ensconced in a Travelodge near Kings Lynn in Norfolk.  It doesn't get much more exciting that this folks.  No wonder anything up to six people still bother reading this travesty of the English language.  And of those six people, I thank you all and will buy each and everyone of you a beer.  But I feel this blog has almost run its course.
Anyway, away from me moaning about people not bothering to read this crap, back to Henry on the road.  According to my sat nav, the drive from Kings Lynn to Old Catton School in Norwich should take about an hour and a quarter, so I gave myself and hour and a half, just to be on the safe side.  I should have given myself longer.  The traffic was bad all round, but by the time I reached the outskirts of Norwich it was horrendous and the journey ended up taking me over two hours and made me a bit late.  But there were fun moments.  Whilst driving along the A47 to the west of Norwich I drove past the Canary and Linnet Pub where many years ago a whole group of us had spent a mad New Years Eve, with a miserable landlord with a round pool table (yes, round).  It was a space saving pool table where you could turn the table round for your shots, but we soon discovered in our drunken states that if you racked all the balls up in the middle, removed the frame and then spun the table round all of the balls would immediately shoot straight into the pockets.  Very life affirming.
Old Catton School was a sight for sore eyes when I arrived and I was doubly lucky that they were having a morning assembly before the school day began so I had a bit of spare time to get my stuff in and get changed into my frock.  We had a fine morning with a lovely group of children.  They were lively knowledgeable and fun to work with.  The afternoon joust was incredibly loud and threatened to blow out the windows of the hall.  It ended with much needed victory for the gents, who now cut the useful lead the ladies had.  Our score after the Old Catton show:
And so I was on my way, heading first of all to Essex for an evening with Amanda and my lovely James.  We had a fun evening watching a bit of Night at the Museum 2 and eating a very welcome curry.  But when they went to bed early it was time for me to hit the road again and head down to Maidstone and see my lovely Shelley again.  I had the Thursday at leisure and was taken for a nice shopping trip round Maidstone by Shelley before she bought me lunch at Mexxa Mexxa, a marvellous Mexican restaurant near the Haslitt Theatre.
Friday was Children in Need day - and I was a King in Need.  It was too early!  And I was driving on the M25 (ARGH!), heading for London (ARGH!) and a return visit to St Matthew's School in West Wimbledon (ARGH!.... no actually, hang on, this is a lovely school).  It was lovely to be back and I was very warmly welcomed by one and all, especially the lovely Katie Barnham who booked me there, or "Dear Madam Barnham" as I deliberately miss-spelt her after the XTC song.  It was a funny little group today, just 20 children and of them, only five boys.  They were quiet to begin with, but soon perked up and we had a great day all round.  The afternoon session, including the jousting was very exciting but due to the lack of boys at the school made scoring this tournament an impossibility.  As it was a mixed team of boys and girls raced to victory.  So no change in the overall score.
So it was back to Maidstone for a long weekend with Shelley, but it wasn't terribly restful as poor Sir Owen was a bit poorly and Shelley didn't get to sleep much.  But we had a nice time anyway.  It was back to Somerset and a couple of days visiting old friends, and to keep that whole simile going I am off to Southampton today to see old friends at Skandia Life for a bit of lunch.  This weekend is the Mistletoe Fayre at Barrington Court, so hopefully I should see you all there briefly.  The King will not be staying long!

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Nottingham and Knackered Bogs

A gratuitous pussy shot for the start of this latest blog entry.  How shocking.

After a week of not moving around very much down in the west country.... Oh OK, Isle of Wight, Chandlers Ford AND Taunton in one week?  Not much moving around?  It was a lot of moving around for a normal person but nothing for Henry to be honest.  So this week we are back on the usual insane treadmill.  For my first trick I will drive from Maidstone in Kent to Nottingham, blindfolded, carrying a cement mixer and whistling the more difficult parts of a Stockhausen symphony.  The weather was a bit lousy, but then I was blindfolded so what the hell did I care?  I was on my way to the luxurious august portals of the Travelodge at Trowell services on the M1.  I have stayed at many different Travelodge's over the past few years, but this was not one of the great ones.  The welcome from the lady behind the reception desk was very warm and genuine, but that was as good as it got.  The room was grotty, there were some rather worrying stains on the carpet and everything had a sort of down at heel feel to it.  The toilet was decidedly dodgy and didn't flush particularly well early on.  The water deluge into the pan was less of a deluge and more of a subtle trickle.  This was going to prove tricky if I was a big boy later.
The bed was comfortable it must be said but appeared to have been tucked in by the Incredible Hulk in a strop.  The sheets appear to have been welded under the mattress.  The added fun for the room was that there was only five working channels on the TV.  Now I know back in the early 70's we'd have given our eye teeth to have that many channels to choose from, but in 2012 it seemed a bit meagre.  I had bought food with me so I didn't have to go out and sample the delights of the local Burger King for my dinner, and that was a real plus point.
After a good nights sleep, I woke up bright and early for a trip to Southglade Junior in Nottingham.  I decided to finally test out the toilet's ability to handle a really big....er.... job.  Well it was the morning.  Right, slipway greased, bomb bay doors open, target selected and AWAY we go.  Message delivered.  Now was the time to see if the poor flushing capacity of this toilet could handle it.  I gripped the flush handle tightly, pulled it up to a big height, and keeping the fingers of my other hand crossed for good luck, plunged it down with a reasonable amount of manly force....  The handle promptly fell off in my hand.  Shit.  In fact, quite a lot of it to be honest.  Oh dear.  What does one do?  Well, when you're English and almost terminally embarrassed about anything to do with bodily functions you do what I did.  You take the toilet cistern apart with your bare hands and begin to re-assemble it, even though you are to plumbing what Abu Qatada is to Jordanian tourism promotion.  But, I am very proud to say I fixed the damn thing, and got it working again and flushing better than ever.  What a clever chap.  It did bring to mind an embarrassing moment from my past that I am here to reveal to the rest of the world for the first time ever.  Back in about 1993 I was living in Essex (that is not the embarrassing bit, before you say anything) and one evening I was invited to dinner at some friend's house in Billericay.  I really liked this couple and found them great company, but always looked up to them as a very sophisticated duo.  I was looking forward to the visit on the Saturday, but on the Wednesday evening during the week before, I was struck down with what Peter Tinniswood used to call a savage attack of the Nawab of Pataudis.  I had eaten something that violently disagreed with being eaten and was hell bent on escaping from me via whichever was the quickest route.  I was feeling extremely ropey even up to the morning of the Saturday, but by the early afternoon I had perked up enough to feel confident to take on a dinner party at my friend's house.  So the early part of the evening went well, but about halfway through the main course I could feel some turbulence building up and decided that I would be better off making a quick to journey to the toilet to ease my discomfort.  Sure enough once in the small downstairs toilet all hell broke loose and I was somewhat alike to Jeff Daniels in the toilet scene from "Dumb and Dumber".  It was not a pretty site and before I did anything else like cleaning myself up I decided to flush away what was in the loo.  I pulled the chain and expected a mighty deluge.  Wrong.  I got a pathetic trickle that didn't really flush much away, just sort of stirred it up a bit.  But that wasn't the worst of it, oh no.  The worst of it was the sound of the cistern re-filling.  Where you normally here a nice healthy sluice of water topping up the flush for another go, all I got was a gentle drip drip sound.  This was going to take hours.  I tried to pull the top of the cistern off to refill it manually with water from the sink, but it was screwed on.  So I waited and waited,  and waited and waited, and waited some more.  Eventually my friends started knocking on the toilet door.  Was I alright in there?  I assured them I was, but I couldn't leave the bog looking like it did.  Eventually the cistern was just about ready for another trickle flush, which made a slight improvement.  But I couldn't wait for it to re-fill again as my friends would be past the main course and the pudding and would be almost at the end of cheese, coffee and cigars.  I walked back into the dining room and thought I'd make a little joke.  "I'd give it five minutes if I was you!" I chuckled as I sat down.  There was a painful silence.  The evening never really recovered and as I recall I don't think I ever got a return invite.  Funny that....
And so to the school.  It was lovely to be back at this wonderful school in Nottingham, what with their properly flushing toilets and everything.  The kids were great - almost too excited to be honest, but hugely enthusiastic in the extreme.  The morning passed in a flash and I was soon sitting in the very comfortable staff room ploughing my way through a very tasty plate of home made lasagna and garlic bread.  Fantastic.  That set me up for the afternoon thrash and what turned out to be a fantastic jousting tournament.  The final with the ladies and gents ebbed and flowed with who was winning and who was losing, but finally a really good ladies team again stormed to another victory.  This brought the score to:
I packed my stuff away and then hit the road.  I am in Norwich tomorrow for a return visit for the first time in many years to Old Catton School.  I have driven about half the way from Nottingham to Norwich and am currently in ANOTHER Travelodge, this time near Kings Lynn at a place called Long Sutton.  And you will be pleased to hear that their bogs flush a treat!  Good night!

Friday, November 09, 2012

Big Blog No Looky

Good King Hal asking King Charles II of Spain in drag, to spare him a couple of hundred groats for a cup of Reformation.... TEA!  He meant tea.

Honestly, loyal folks out there, the spirit is willing, but the flesh is failing fast.  I am slowly losing the will to write this blog to be honest.  The worst thing I could do was to publish it on Facebook, as now they send you a weekly update as to how your page and posts are doing.  The caption competition?  Regularly garners somewhere in the region of 200-300 hits.  My little one line updates?  Anything from about 80 up to 200.  My blog entries?  Er.... well, not as many.  In fact a recent one which I had written and taken a long time over getting it right managed to only get 19 hits.  Now that is not the sort of results you are looking for after pouring your guts out on the page.  So despite doing three shows this week I have struggled to find the enthusiasm for writing the damn thing up.  Perhaps I should just make it all up, and see if anyone notices.  OK, lets do that for a bit.
Ahem, OK, so I was at the "Skyfall" premiere the other night in my full Tudor gear.  I had been asked to go along by Cubby Brocolli's ghost and a small bowl of petunias.  I was accompanied to the soiree by Cardinal Richeleu, Max Jaffa, The Dagenham Girl Pipers and Dog the Bounty Hunter.  We arrived in a stretch limo made out of two off cuts of a Bond Bug and a US Military Hummer.  I waved at the crowd and shouted "God kväll mina underbara brittiska vänner! Denna Bygel-BH dödar mig, men tack och lov kan jag skaffa mig en Pimms och saft kort. Toodle pip!"  It's amazing where a bit of fluent Swedish can get you - Ulrika Jonsson's house for a start.  Just ask Sven.  Anyway, I tripped up the red carpet, but didn't spill a drop.  Sir Alex Ferguson came to greet me with a big smile on his ravaged red face.  I felled him with a swinging left hook.  As he struggled back to his feet I once more pole-axed the puce faced thistle arsed Scottish whinge bag with two short upper cuts and a lethal rabbit punch.  The crowd cheered tossing marmite vol-au-vonts in the air.  Just at that moment I felt a weak pathetic tap on my shoulder.  It was Daniel Craig in an I-Zingari romper suit with matching bonnet.  He mumbled something in that weak girly voice of his.  "WHAT?" I roared back at him, in my finest Brian Blessed.  So startled was he that he didn't need Movicol that night.  He finally managed to mumble something about leaving his wife alone.  I reached past him and grabbed Rachel Weisz, pulled her to me for a vacuum like snog and then said "Don't let's cheapen this, it was fun while it lasted, but you'll get over me..."  She fell to her knees, begging me to have her back, but it was too late.  I was already halfway up the Shard skyscraper with Fay Wray in my hands, and trying to stop bi-planes shooting me up the arse.  But then, all of a sudden, I couldn't have been more surprised when who should open a window on the 126th floor but... (continued on page 96).
There, that should confuse some of my foreign fans on Facebook.  Or perhaps I should have shouted in Czech?  A teď něco úplně jiného. Zde je Good King Hal obvykle blog.  See?  I told you.
Well for those who really do read this far, this is how the week has gone.  Sunday saw me driving back to the Isle of Wight, one year on from that awful journey (please see former entry about that!).  This time around my voyage to deepest darkest Ventnor was most pleasant, and apart from missing the 3.45pm boat I was booked on at Lymington, hassle free.  On the boat however, the personal choice Fascists have got to work.  No longer can you just kip in your car for the 20 minute crossing - oh no.  No, you are not allowed to enjoy that little pleasure.  You are forced, virtually at gun point up to the passenger lounge where you are assailed by piped music, advertising video screens and over priced coffee and sandwiches.  And if you complain you get keel hauled, which in the Solent is not much fun.  I arrived at Hannah Larkin's place (the teacher who books me at St Francis' School in Ventnor) just after 6pm and we went straight out, with a friend of hers to a nice pub called The Dairyman's Daughter at Arreton. 
The following day at the school was fun, hard work,  but ultimately very rewarding.  The jousting session in the afternoon was deafening and culminated in another win for the gents.  They have been doing a lot better of late and have managed to claw the score back to:
I left Ventnor and drove across the island in beautfiul early winter sunshine, taking in the magnificent views from the old Military Road down to Freshwater Bay.  Lovely. I managed to get an earlier ferry than expected and was soon being forced at gun point back up to the passenger lounge.  I drove back through Christchurch (for my sins) and eventually found myself at home munching through a very welcome Chinese meal.
I spent Tuesday visiting my old friend Pete Flanagan over at Tatworth where he lives, and it is nice to see him back on his feet again after such an awful injury he suffered in a road accident just over a year ago.  Again for details, search this blog.  On the Wednesday I was up bright and early for a trip back down to Knightwood School in Chandler's Ford near Southampton.  I was warmly welcomed as ever by Lee, the caretaker, who made me a bucket of tea and then told me his latest health problems, which was a bit of an eye opener.  Knightwood is such a brilliant school and we had a great day in their brilliantly architectured hall.  Even a disappointing lunch wasn't too bad - the dinner staff hadn't been told I was coming so hadn't cooked enough, but they let me have some home made pizza.  Now normally cheese at a primary school is as mild as Rowan Williams, but today the cheese on the pizza was more like being shouted at by Rev Ian Paisley.  It was CHEEEEEEEEESE, with a capital ouch.  But it filled a hole!  Everyone seemed to enjoy themselves on the Tudor Day and once more the joust went down a storm and we finished with another victory for the ladies team.  They now poke their noses back in front again, just holding off the gents.  Our score moves on to:
It was surprisingly cold down in Chandler's Ford that day and I was grateful for my big coat and heating in the car.  The drive home back through Salisbury was just like my old days going back from Skandia Life in Southampton.  I also might be startling some other old Skandia chums as the local rag for Southampton came along and did a load of photos of me for publication.  It will interesting to see if anyone in that neck of the woods notices.
Thursday was another show day, but a lot closer to home this time.  I was off back to the lovely Parkfield School in Taunton and another meet up with the legendary Head Teacher there, the deliciously named Mr Wynford Sides.  Parkfield is a delight, and it didn't disappoint one jot this time round.  Great fun day, lovely to see all my old friends there, including Christine - Bonjour, mon petit ami français!   A group of 60+ children, all very enthusiastic and all dressed in great costumes was the recipe for a perfect Henry VIII day. Even lunch was great - each year the staff at Parkfield insist on nipping out and buying me lunch, which makes me feel very grateful, but embarrassed.  So this year, on the way in I had stopped at a Spar store in Ilminster and had grabbed some sarnies and a drink.  I told EVERYONE at the school I had done this - everyone that was, except one.  And she trudged off to the local Tescos and returned with a lunch for me, only to discover me chewing my way through my own sandwiches when she returned to the school.  Bless her, she let me keep the lunch she'd bought, so I had it as a light dinner in the evening when I got home.  The final joust was another nail biter and finished with another victory for the ladies.  So our week finishes with the score at:
I drove home, ate my second lunch and then went out for a drink with Matthew Applegate at the Rose and Crown at East Lambrook.  Luckily the landlady wasn't there, so we had a lovely evening.
(cont from page 96)....with thick bleach and an oven glove.  But it wasn't enough.  Sure enough rivulets of molten magma began seeping under the door of the crofters cottage.  I turned quickly to see if anyone had any bright ideas.  Bryan Ferry was simply rocking back and forth on a stool in the corner saying "go to a happy place go to a happy place" over and over.  Douglas Bader was worried he'd be burnt to the ground (ba-doom-tish!) and Lily Cole STILL hadn't replied to my message on Facebook.  Call yourself a cousin???  With a final surge of energy and adrenaline, I leapt out of the window in a shower of glass and landed on the former speaker of the House of Commons, Bernard Weatherall.  I said "I thought you were dead."  He said "You can talk, dressed as Henry VIII".  I cuffed him playfully round the ear with my speaking trumpet and was soon on my Honda Fireblade roaring through the countryside on my way for a date with destiny.  But would you believe it, but who should come round the corner on a traction engine, with the Somerset T20 squad, Schnorbitz the dog and Dorothy Squires, but none other than old....(cont. next week).