Sunday, February 24, 2013

So, Did I Miss Anything?

And then Kate Winslet turned into an anteater... as you do.

So where has naughty old Good King Hal been this last week or so?  No blog?  Surely not!  Well despite not much Henry-ing going on, I have been a busy boy.  My final Henry appearance before the week of half term was an evening appearance down at Saunton Golf Club near Braunton in Devon.  I had been booked to appear for a Rotary Club.  Now they were a very nice group, especially the chap who had booked me, however he dropped something of a bombshell the week before the show.  It was a black tie event and they expected me to turn up for the dinner in full DJ and bow tie.  Now I don't even own a normal tie, let alone and bow tie and DJ. When I explained this over the phone to the nice man he said "well don't worry, just wear a normal suit".  A suit?  Me?  I used to wear suits and ties when I was working down at Skandia in Southampton, but since I left the "ranks of shuffling graveyard people", to quote early Marillion, I needed a suit and tie about as much as a vegetarian needs a George Foreman Grill.  I considered looking at buying or renting a suit, but most circus tents were unavailable and to be honest there just wasn't enough material in the world to make one.  In the end it was decided (by me) that I would turn up in my usual Worzel Gummidge gear and then slip into my Henry costume for the meal, do my show, then get changed and clear off.  Which is what I did.
The drive down was much further than I expected, but was relatively easy.  I was warmly welcomed by all the Rotarians, got changed and then came out for the meal.  The food itself was lovely and then after several speeches it was me.  Not wishing to blow my own trumpet but I tore them up and went down a storm.  Loads of laughs and even a round of applause for one new gag I threw in about the recent discovery of Richard III's remains in a Leicester car park.  The gag was basically, if someone came into my office and said they'd found a Richard III in the car park I'd say, what do you expect, we are in Leicester after all.  Ba-doom-tish!  A big round of applause at the end and I was off, but with more than twice my agreed fee as they had enjoyed my show so much.  How very nice of them.
On the Saturday I drove to Tidworth in Wiltshire and the Royal Tank Regiment Family day.  I met up with my lovely Shelley, Sir Owen of Leeds Castle, Shelley's mum and my lovely son James who they'd picked up in Kent when Amanda brought him down.  Shelley's eldest son, Jamie is currently serving in the Royal Tank Regiment.  It was a fun day for all the family - tanks to clamber over, weapons to look at, soldiers to chat to and with the added fun for the kids of a roller coaster, dodgem cars, and various side stalls including shooting range and candy floss.  The food plus all this entertainment was completely free and James and Owen had a right old time of it, checking out the impressive vehicles and leaping all over them, then driving the dodgems until I imagine the national grid began to run out of electricity.  At the end of an exhausting day Shelley, Owen and Shelley's Mum headed back to Kent, while James and I struck out down to Somerset.
The following day James and I headed off to Newcastle Emlyn and a visit to my parents.  The weather was nice and my folks were pleased to see us, however for the first day James wasn't too well with a bad stomach, but he soon recovered.  We had some nice days out, including a visit to Aberaeron which is an absolutely delightful little seaside town.  Then on another day we went into Carmarthen and took James to see the movie "Wreck It Ralph" which he absolutely loved.  I then drove James back to Essex, then had a brief stop at Kent to see Shelley before shooting back to Somerset.
I was back on the 23rd for a visit to Bridport to see Justin Currie in concert at the Electric Palace Theatre.  I had bought two tickets in the hope of going along with Shelley, but she couldn't get a baby sitter for Sir Owen and sadly was stuck in Kent.  I had a spare ticket so I offered it to a few friends and ended up visiting the show with my friend Jill Beed who luckily lives about 20 yards from the front door of the Electric Palace. Her husband Mark cooked us a lovely meal before we went, so I was spoilt rotten.  As for the show?  Stunning.  If you ever get a chance to see Justin Currie live - go for it.  His song writing skills are such that he makes it look sickeningly easy and anyone who has ever had a bash at writing songs (myself included) will know just what a tortured experience it can be.  He kept the entire audience spell bound for nearly two hours, just himself and his guitar (and occasionally on piano) and I am already in the queue for the next tour.  Please check out this link: for a clip from Saturday night of Justin performing "Always the Last to Know" which was brilliant and even brought a tear to the old King's eye.
Back to being Henry now that half term has gone.  Tuesday (my birthday) sees me back at St Mary's School at South Woodham Ferrers in Essex.  Watch this space for more.

Thursday, February 14, 2013


Captain Robert Falcon Scott (left) pondering on whether the antarctic frock he has chosen for "Birdy" Bowers (right) is up to the rigours of a south polar winter and a diet of pemmican...

My world record attempt to drive the furthest distance to as many shows as possible in the space of three weeks continued.  And to choose to do it during the depths of winter?  Surely I want locking up...  By the end of my first journey on Monday morning, I would whole heartedly have agreed.  Monday morning saw me getting up at 5am in Maidstone for a shortish drive to Dulwich College Junior School in South East London.  Now as you know, I hate driving in London and would much rather drive to a school there in the wee small hours, park outside the school and sleep in the car until the place opens, then go in and introduce myself.  That was the plan for Monday.  But the best laid plans of mice and Tudor despots can go a bit Pete Tong if the weather is against you, and this morning, it was.  It had snowed on the Sunday night, but hadn't settled too badly.  As I made my way up the M20 towards London I made very good progress, but then we got onto the South Circular and things began to slow down.  First of all, a heavily over ladened flat bed truck, piloted by some pikey looking types tried to squeeze through a too narrow space next to a Romanian lorry - the pikey promptly loses his side rear view mirror - and his temper.  He chases the Romanian lorry, then carves him up before slamming on his brakes in front of him forcing him to stop, before jumping out of the van to confront the driver.  I drove round them before any "unpleasantness" ensued.  The snowfall got heavier and the traffic got thicker and slower.  The final three miles of the journey took me about an hour.  However, I was warmly welcomed by Leiba Sabon the lady who had booked me, and the day began. 
It was great fun, an all boys private school and a group of about 45 pupils, nearly all of whom were ready to laugh and join in.  It was a delightful day all round and helped me forget about my appalling drive in.  The snow seemed to continue falling most of the day and I began worrying about my journey home, but come the time to leave I was delighted to find most of the snow had melted away.  It was a great day at the school, but I can't add the jousting result to our overall score as it is a single sex school - shame really as the boys need all the points they can get!  My drive home was much quicker and less painful than the drive up.
I had dinner with my lovely Shelley that evening, before hitting the road again and heading down to Southampton and a room I had booked at a Travelodge in the town.  I found the hotel quite easily, I had stayed there once before, many years ago when I worked for Skandia - it was the last time we had the fuel strikes when everyone ballistic because petrol went over £1 per litre - £1?  Ah, the good old days...  I couldn't get fuel to get to work at Skandia and so for two nights I booked into the Travelodge until it all blew over.  I went into reception dragging my very heavy suitcase with me (it's because I had two weeks worth of clothes with me - yes, I was still away in a trip that began in the last blog entry).  I booked in, was handed a key for a room on the 4th floor, and was then told the lift was out of service.  Out of service?  Why?  Apparently it had been trashed by disgruntled Manchester City fans the previous weekend after we got thrashed by Southampton.  I promptly decided not to mention that I was a City fan.  The trogs in Southampton seem a bit touchy about the whole "Man City are rich these days" thing, if most of the idiotic comments I regularly have to read on Facebook are anything to go by.
My drive to the school was only about two miles the following morning.  The school was called St Mary's and was right next door to the big gleaming brand spanking new stadium of the same name that Southampton play in.  For such a big school it was a small group - just 20 children, something which usually makes the day quite difficult with a lack of atmosphere.  But this was a lively small group and they all seemed to enjoy themselves.  The whole day went swimmingly and culminated in a very enthusiastic joust, but unfortunately, although a Gents team won, they cheated so horrendously on the final leg that I had no option other than to disqualify them - so that leads to yet another win for the Ladies.  Our score inevitably goes on to:
Some very kind lads helped me load my stuff back into the car at the end of the day, and then I was on my way - but not before I almost drove off without packing my big case of props in the boot first - oops.  It was also nice to see Jen Frost, formerly of Skandia Life, now working at the school as the main receptionist.  I chatted with her about my recent visits to Skandia to see old friends.  I mentioned how on my last visit it was the middle of "Mo-Vember" and I was horrified to see NAME REMOVED ON LEGAL ADVICE with a big droopy moustache.  Jen said seeing NAME REMOVED ON LEGAL ADVICE at any time was bad enough.  I said NAME REMOVED ON LEGAL ADVICE with a moustache gave an even bigger impression of being like Blakey from "On the Buses".  "I hate you, Butler/Charlie!"  Make your own mind up former Skandia colleagues.
I drove back to Somerset and finally got home after 10 days away.  My throat was hurting, my head was pounding and I couldn't stop coughing.  I was coming down with a stinking cold.  What I needed was a long day in bed taking it easy.  Was I going to get it?  No.  I was back up at the crack of dawn for a long drive up to Hereford and a return visit to the lovely Riverside School there.  Now from Crewkerne to Hereford is normally about 2 hours at most by road, but being a tight fisted penny pinching type I decided not to follow the sat navs directions over the ludicrously expensive Severn Bridge toll and press on up to the M50 and cut across country.  OK, it put about 20 minutes on my journey, but it would be worth it, wouldn't it?  WRONG!  The M50 was virtually one solid set of roadworks from start to finish and I got stuck behind a doddery old fart in an elderly Honda Civic who obviously regarded driving faster than 40MPH anywhere was likely to lead to a complete breakdown of the human nervous system.  By the time I reached the A49 up into Hereford itself the morning rush hour was in full flow and I was going to be late.  I finally arrived at the school just before 9am.  But it was worth it, we had a fantastic day.  I suffered a lot with my coughing and dry throat, but we got through it and everyone seemed to have a really good time.  And guess what?  The ladies won the jousting AGAIN.  Can you believe this?  The score goes to:
Amazing stuff.  I followed the instructions of the sat nav to the letter on the way home and was back in my flat in about 2 hours as expected.  I will never argue with it again.  I have now had a lovely day off, a lay in this morning and then a short trip into town, where it was lovely to feel sunshine on my face - and, most amazing of all, warmth.  Could this herald the start of spring?  God I hope so.  I am so sick and fed up with snow.  In the words of Harry Enfield, "OI! SNOW!  NO!!!!"  Friday night I am off down to deepest darkest Devon for an appearance at Saunton Golf Club for a Rotary Club Dinner.  Then it is half term - time for some real quality time with my lovely son, James.  I can't wait!

Friday, February 08, 2013

A Tudor King Doing a Very Passable Impression of a Yo-Yo

And to be honest, this was a major sticking point.  Geddit?

Another week, and another seven days of travel, travails, excitement, ups, downs and lots of miming to appalling records.  But enough about that for now. More later!  We spin the clock back a full week though, to the previous Friday when I was due to make an appearance at a brand new school for me - St Mark's Junior School in Salisbury in Wiltshire.  The weather was a bit rough on the journey down, but the arrival and welcome was warm and genuine.  The motif for St Mark's School is the Venetian lion, hence the name St Mark's I guess, but it gives the whole place a slightly cosmopolitan air.  Well it was a great day with the kids in a lovely school, with much fun had by all.  The day finished with the inevitable joust and the inevitable win for the ladies.  Our score slowly clicks over to:
The drive back was OK but unmemorable.
Saturday morning had me up bright and relatively early and heading up to Kent to see my lovely Shelley.  I spent a lovely day with her and Sir Owen of Leeds Castle before I headed over to my sister's place at Stockbury near Sittingbourne for my brother-in-law Julian's birthday party.  Shelley sadly couldn't attend as she couldn't get a baby sitter for Owen, however she did insist that I went anyway.  Well, who was I to argue?  The evening was great fun with lots of laughs with Dave and Anne Turner-Maynard, John and Viv Rich, Cath and Julian (of course) and Michelle Coda.  I drank too much and stayed up too late, but by God it was worth it, even the hangover in the morning.
I spent Sunday with Shelley and Owen, and we ended the day by re-visiting the new restaurant in Maidstone: Buddha-Belly.  Sadly, it was a little bit of a disappointment this time around, but Owen got very excited by being able to actually see the chefs hard at work cooking your food on the big flaming stoves.  We wandered back to the car each of us with our own Buddha Belly by this time, but for me there was only a little bit of sitting around, before climbing into the car and driving to Essex.  I spent the evening with my lovely son James, before heading for an early night.
Up at an ungodly hour on the Monday and on the road north up towards East Anglia.  I was heading back to Gorleton near Great Yarmouth and a once in every three years visit to Herman Junior.  I just love the name of this school - Herman Junior.  As I said in my previous blog entry about this place, it sounds like a character from The Munsters.  Again it was a fun day with everyone being welcoming and friendly, and wouldn't you just know it, the Ladies strolled to another easy victory in the Jousting.  So while I was trundling back down the A12 towards Essex, our score slowly changes to:
On the Tuesday I was down to Leeds Castle where I had to video a clip of me addressing the camera to advertise the forthcoming Jester Factor - a search for a new jester for Leeds Castle.  So I was all dolled up in my finest Henry gear, lurking in the King's bedchamber in the castle, when in walked a Japanese tourist, he had his back to me.  He slowly turned round and promptly nearly lost his sushi in his pants - so surprised was he to see the King standing in front of him.  Well if you wish to see the results of my video work then please go to You Tube and look at: and you might be pleasantly surprised. Or not of course.  That evening it was back up to Essex as yet again the following morning I was up at the crack of you know what for a return drive to Norfolk.
It it's Wednesday it must be Norfolk?  True, here I was up the A14 and A147 heading back to Norwich and this time an eighth annual visit to White Woman Lane School in that lovely city.  This is a cracking school and always a delight to visit, and this year was no different.  Warm welcomes, much laughter about Mr Richmond the teacher wearing a Tudor pantaloons outfit in the same colours that Norwich City wear, so he did have a passing resemblance to a post medieval canary.  And apart from nearly falling asleep during the "Grand Tudor Quiz" everything went swimmingly and by the numbers.  And wouldn't you just know it, the ladies only went and triumphed again in the jousting.  The gents don't stand a chance at the moment and they now fall even further behind with a score of:
Sometimes it seems like there is absolutely no stopping them.  The drive back to Essex was fairly awful with sudden unexpected snow falling on the A147 in Norfolk and then a big smash on the A12 south which managed to close the road for a while, which was a bit of a pain.  But I managed to get past it.
Thursday was a day of relative relaxation.  I met up with an old friend of mine and had lunch, and picked up a big load of old cricket books, which pleased me!  All that and the weather was nice, which was splendid.  After another evening with dear James, Friday was due to be something a bit special, and it was.
I was due on this Friday to appear at James' school for a special appearance to kick off their History Week. James and I drove to the school through sunny but very icy lanes and arrived to a warm welcome from all of his teacher's and staff at St Anne Line School.  I was quite nervous about doing this show for James and his mates - it's OK to do shows time after time to anonymous children that you don't know, but suddenly to appear in front of a group of children you know, especially when one of them is your own flesh and blood.  That was a bit different, slightly scary and all the more rewarding when it went well - and it did.  It was a great day with very friendly help from Mrs Slee and Mrs Mulreaney, James' class teacher and his one to one worker, in that order.  Well James thoroughly enjoyed the day, even after I put him in the stocks during the afternoon session.  The only bit he couldn't stand was the noise in the hall during the joust and therefore sat quietly in the office when that was on.  As for the joust it was won - AGAIN, by the ladies.  How are they doing it?
What a lead!  Can they possibly be caught?  Keep watching.  The King is delighted to announce that he now has a couple of days off before Monday will involve him getting up very early for a first visit to Dulwich College Junior School in South East London.  Should be fun, then it is on to Southampton, then Hereford, the Devon and then.... Oh God.  It is back to being a yo-yo again, isn't it?