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:
GENTLEMEN 11 - 18 LADIES
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:
GENTLEMEN 11 - 19 LADIES
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!