Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Newberries, please!

Good King Hal suddenly noticed Victoria Pendleton had finally found her way into the shower block.  Grabbing his loofah and a soap on a rope, he was arrested shortly afterwards.

Last year I made my first appearance at Newberries School in Radlett in Hertfordshire and from my recollections I can see that I had an appalling journey to the school mainly because of the dear old M25.  I'd already experienced the joys of this road on Saturday morning when I drove up from Somerset to Essex and got stuck in God-awful traffic in the road works at Clackett Lane in beautiful sunny Kent.  As ever when it finally cleared and you were on your way there was nothing to see, so I have no idea what caused the problem.  But back to Newberries - I was determined not to have a 45 minute journey turn into a 2 hour marathon like last year, so I set out bravely early at just before 6am.  I arrived at the front door of the school at 6.45am.  I think the word is "bugger".  So with approximately an hour and 15 minutes to kill sitting on my jacksy in a Mazda in a quiet suburban back road in Radlett, I would need to be at my most creative to keep my mind active in this predicament.  So I went to sleep.  Genius!
Luckily I woke up in time and as I went in I was greeted by the caretaker.  I couldn't remember him from last year, but he was bound to remember me.  "Who are you?  What do you want?" he said.  Smashing.  Er... Henry VIII?  Tudor Day?  Big fat unlovable ginger psychopath to entertain and educate your pupils?    Yes, he knew who Henry VIII was but he didn't know me - this was because he was a new caretaker, the previous one having obviously taken one look at me last year and realised that his life was now complete and had retired.  Ah, bless...  The teachers remembered me, thank goodness and I was treated like Royalty for the day.  It was only about 30 children from year 4 today, but they had all made strenuous efforts with their costumes and were very enthusiastic about the day which was brilliant.  The morning went by with few hold ups and much laughter.
Lunch was fish goujons followed by some delicious fresh fruit.  Back to Tudor times and laughs aplenty with the stocks/pillory before we went into the jousting.  First up was a ladies race... well, words fail me.  I have been travelling round as Henry VIII for nearly 10 years now and done close to 1,000 shows, each one with a jousting tournament at the end.  In all that time, I have never seen two such utterly incompetent ladies teams.  Quintaines were knocked over,  quoits went flying and hysterics were had.  At first the teacher (Sue Rolfe) and I, laughed openly, but it went on and on and on and on, until our laughter ceased and we just looked on in silent amazement.  Eventually one of the teams staggered over the winning line and qualified for the final.  The two gents teams were brilliant and fought tooth and nail through to a tense finish.  It was obvious this final was going to be quite spectacularly one sided.  But I was wrong, not entirely, just mostly.  The Gents still won, but not by the cricket score most people had expected.  It was a lot closer than you could possibly have predicted.  So another gents win.  The score goes to:
The drive back round the M25 was relatively easy as well and I was soon back with Amanda and my lovely son James at their house in Basildon.  Today has been a day off which has been nice, but I am back in Tudor times tomorrow for a return visit to Lee Chapel Primary School in Basildon, so at least I don't have to be up desperately early.

Friday, April 26, 2013

I'm Too Sexey (and Warwickshire)

The Hinge and Brackett reunion tour looked like being a big success all round.  Book early folks to avoid disappointment.

After a very pleasant St George's Day doing just short of bu99er all, it was back to work with avengence on Wednesday.  I was up at just before 5am to get ready and then drive up to Warwickshire for a first visit to a new school for me - Ilmington Junior.  I had no idea what to expect - Warwickshire is one of those counties in the country that I know very little of, and I tend to just mentally sort of lump it all in with the West Midlands.  So at the start of my journey up the M5 I was picturing dark satanic mills, whining Brummie accents and more Staffordshire Bull Terriers on leads than you could shake a stick at.  How wrong I was!  My sat nav brought me off the M5 as the same exit that I usually use when driving to Sudeley Castle.  I then had a pleasant dawdle through some very picturesque Cotswold-like villages and found myself boundary hopping between Gloucestershire, Worcestershire, back to Gloucestershire and then suddenly in Warwickshire.  Finally I turned off on some very pretty little b-roads and was then in the village of Ilmington.  It is absolutely delightful!  A church spire dominates in the middle, but all around is rolling hills, chocolate box cute cottages and all seems like a very rustic idyll.  I had to park outside the school as any car parking has gone as there are builders in extending the school out the back.  I had only been sat there for about two minutes when a car pulled up in front of me, a very lovely lady jumped out and immediately beamed a dazzling smile at me and shouted "You must be Mike!" through the windscreen.  Indeed I was.  This was Claire, the lady who had booked me for the day.  She warmly welcomed me, showed me some of the Tudor work the children had already done, and even made me a nice cup of tea. What a nice lady.
Well this was a fantastic school.  It was only about 30 children, but they were so full of fun, enthusiasm, laughter and a desire to get involved, that it just made my life so much easier.  Great fun was had during the whole of the morning with lots of very silly laughs and the children joining in the banter to a great effect.  Lunch was basically a sort of healthy version of sausage and chips, but it was very warming and filling.  Back in the hall we ripped through the afternoon and ended with another great jousting tournament.  This one was incredibly close and the gents really should have won, but their final rider on the last leg got his lance caught on the quintaine and quoit (always an eye waterer that one, folks) and the ladies nicked in for an improbable victory.  Another win!  My goodness.  The score goes to:
There is surely no way back for them now.  I packed my items back in the car in bright spring sunshine and 18 degrees of warmth, lovely.  The journey home was luckily free of any hold ups and I got back to Crewkerne at just before 6pm.  There was no sitting on my laurels that evening.  Good heavens no!  Now my social life these days is usually about as exciting as Morrissey's stag night, but I was out for a drink with the very wonderful Matthew Applegate, and we went to the Rose and Crown at East Lambrook, now with it's new owners and full of welcoming charm again.  The Palmers 200 beer was like nectar and we had a lovely relaxed laughter filled evening.  Wonderful, just what I needed.  Thank you, Matthew!
I was back on more familiar ground on Thursday with my eighth annual visit to the deliciously named Hugh Sexey Middle School at Blackford near Wedmore.  What a brilliant name.  Can you imagine being called that?  The amount of times you would have to bite your lip when a lady would come up to you and say "Are Hugh Sexey?"  Well, it has been mentioned a few times...  I love this school.  It is always a massive great group of children, all in brilliant Tudor costumes and to add to my delight I am surrounded by gorgeous looking female teachers.  What is not to like?  It was about 170 children today and all bar roughly four of them had put in an effort with their costumes.  One little girl had a very big phobia about people dressing up in costumes, so before my visit I'd had to send in photos of me in my Henry gear and me in my civvies, just to put her at ease.  I then met her before the show just to show her I was a normal person... (normal???  HA!), but she was really good, and was fine throughout the day and even took part in the jousting tournament in the afternoon.  Well all I can say is it was a blinding day - fun all the way through, some brilliant costumes from the kids and a lovely visit back to one of my favourite schools.  And then, just when you thought you were getting into a rut - the gents only go and storm to a brilliant victory in the jousting.  Well done lads.  Our score goes to:
And with two more shows to come next  week let's see what happens.  I drove into Glastonbury after the show to try and pay some money into my business account.  It was horrific in town.  Glastonbury always seemed to attract a varied group of eccentrics down the years, but now they are bloody everywhere!  Everyone has brightly coloured trousers on, or mad hats, or dreadlocks, or lumps of metal hammered through their noses.  I even saw one bloke who looked like a middle aged company director, with his face painted to make him look like a frog, happily walking down the High Street hand in hand with his equally straight looking wife with what appeared to be an Earthing rod nailed through her nostrils. It reminded me very much of Tony Hancock's disgracefully underrated movie "The Rebel" where he meets all the Jean-Paul Sartre fans in Paris who are appalled at his tales of conformity in commuter London (everyone in suits with bowler hats and umbrellas), and when you see them, every single one is dressed the same.  It was the sort of street scene that if you did see a bloke in a bowler hat, suit and carrying an umbrella you'd scream "look at that freak!"  Anyway, it was packed with the added fun of an enormous either funeral or memorial service for someone very popular taking place in the central church.  Parking was at a premium, but I managed to find a space right opposite my bank.  Hoorah!  I fought my way through the loonies in grass skirts being "alternative" (yeah, right) and got to the bank to discover it had closed ten minutes earlier.  Now THAT was alternative.  So I drove home, stopping only at Long Sutton and the wonderful little shop there to buy some scrumpy cider - I think I had earned it.
In the next week I am off to Newberries School in Hertfordshire for a return visit, then to Lee Chapel in Basildon for a similar repeat, and then the following weekend I am hooking up again with the Knights of Royal England for three days jousting at Blenheim Palace in Oxfordshire.  I can't wait.  It can't be any more miserable and cold than last time.

Monday, April 22, 2013

Walking and Talking

Good King Hal, wondering who the hell has photo-shopped Barrington Court out of existence.

Here is a look at the first photo from last week's photo shoot at Barrington Court with the supremely talented Simon Plant.  I think this picture looks stunning and would like to take this opportunity to thank Simon for his talent and skill.  What a guy!
I was back at Barrington Court on the Sunday for the first of my summer afternoon walkabouts at this lovely NT property near Ilminster.  I was delighted to be joined by Emma from the Tudor Roses, dressed as a lovely Katherine Parr, her son's Jonny and Matty as two young princes and the wonderful Darren Wilkins, armed to the teeth as ever with his trusty camera, who followed us around snapping away.  It was a quiet afternoon at the Court but it was nice to meet a greet people from all over the country.  I was so moved that Darren and Emma had chosen to drive all the way from Kent to spend the afternoon with us over at Barrington.  We weren't the only "attractions" there for the day, there was also a choir who were stationed in the main ball room in the house and warbled their way through various numbers including "Pass Time With Good Company" (another PRS cheque in the post for Henry!) and "Swing Low Sweet Chariot".  Their singing was very good and sounded lovely in the court house surroundings.  The sainted Mattew Applegate, long suffering Visitor Services Manager at Barrington Court looked after us superbly and organised some tea and biscuits for everyone in the afternoon.  Well we went down to join the choir for the drinks and were welcomed by them very much the way a North Atlantic Convoy during the second world war would have greeted the sight of a U-Boat.  Noses were looked down, we were at first ignored and then, comments were made about us.  While I was fixing some tea for Emma, Darren and myself, the main conductor was standing behind me with two of her warblers and I quite clearly heard her comment "His costume, do you think he made it out of a sofa?" and they guffawed happily together.  I can honestly say they were one of the unfriendliest coldest bunch of fish seen outside of a north sea trawlers net.  Obviously for reasons of me being a polite and lovely bloke, I would never name which choir this group were.  However they are a choir, they often perform in chambers and they come from a town in south Somerset.  That begins with Y.  And ends in L.  Anyway, after a few turns around the gardens and buildings, we changed back into our civvies and treated ourselves to a drink and some cakes in the fine cafe at the reception area of Barrington.  And then I was on my way back home to Crewkerne while Emma, Darren and the boys faced up to the much longer trek back to Kent.
I was up early this morning for a drive back to Downend just to the north east of Bristol for a return visit to Christ Church Junior School.  I had last appeared here back in 2011, and this time I was booked by a new teacher called Marie Harrison.  It was to be a big group for the day - approximately 150 children from years three and four combined.  Marie was lovely and made me very welcome, but then so did the whole staff and children.  They were a big group, but just a delight to work with!  The morning got off to a slightly delayed start, but it was worth the wait.  The whole morning was great fun and some of the children's costumes were just magnificent.  After a nice lunch break it was back to the hall for a fun session with the stocks before finishing with a deafening joust.  This was finally won by several lengths by a very entertaining and confident Gents team - and about time too!  They romped to a worthy victory.  Finally they can peg the ladies back slightly.  Our score goes to:
I had a little fun on the drive back when my sat nav decided to go a bit wibble on me, and I ended up driving up and down the Keynsham by-pass a couple of times for no adequately explained reason.  Still I am sure it gave the locals something to talk about.
Back home I said "HELLO" to a bottle of Merlot and some dinner and then settled down to watch the final episode of Broadchurch.  Not the best of the series by a long way, but it did at least manage to tie up the loose ends of the story in a fairly agreeable way.  Oh and Man Ure won the Premiership.  Now that IS depressing.  A day off tomorrow and then I am off up to Ilmington in Warwickshire for a Henry day at their local school.  So another early start.

Friday, April 19, 2013

Model Citizen

Insert your own hilarious bonne motte here. I simply can't be arsed.

People find it hard to believe I am a model.  I find it hard to believe as well, especially when I look in the mirror and see the R101 with a beard staring back at me.  But I have done a few modelling photo shoots over the years as Henry.  And today I had another assignation.  And where would this photo shoot be taking place?  Which exotic distant sun kissed shore would my delicate little size 12's be plodding around on?  San Tropez, perchance?  Rio de Janeiro, maybe?  Close, but no cigar folks.  I had to be at Barrington Court near Ilminster by 8am this morning.  Hey, who said showbiz wasn't glamorous?
I was to meet up with local professional photographer Simon Plant.   I arrived just after 8am, and then attempted to find somewhere to get changed.  Most of the Court House was still locked up and alarmed, so I headed for Strode House next door and eventually found myself in the big disabled loo, using that as my luxury dressing room.  Well it was lovely to be out in the sun for the photos.  The early morning sun across the sculpted manicured lawns at Barrington looked lovely, and Simon happily snapped away.  He mostly wanted me to look mean and slightly intimidating.  I've been very good at that lately it seems, and I carried on by scowling merrily at the camera whilst clutching a big stick.  We got a few puzzled looks by passing early morning gardeners, but after only half an hour we were done.  Simon was very pleased with the results and has promised to email me the final proofs when done.  I shall post a load on here when they are done and your comments would be most welcome folks.
I got changed and then bumped into the sainted Matthew Applegate, and then the equally sainted Rachel Brewer.  I hadn't seen Rachel since the Mistletoe Fayre last year, so it was great to catch up.  And still my meetings weren't over - just after this Rachel took me to see Sarah Kennedy, another NT lady, not some ex-BBC Radio 2 lush.  I hadn't seen Sarah for ages either so it was nice to see so many old friends.  I stopped off at Ilminster on the way home for a cup of tea at Bilby's and a natter with Tris Pinkney.  After all of this I got home and it was still only just 11am.  What a day!
The afternoon was bound to be a let down and was.  The highlight of the afternoon was a visit to my Doctor who took my blood pressure again, grunted at me and invited me back for more excitement in the same vein in 30 days time.  I can hardly wait.
I am back at Barrington Court on Sunday for a Henry walkabout, and will be accompanied by Emma and Darren from Tudor Roses for their debut at the Court house.  I hope the weather holds up for us.  And now back to sitting on the sofa by myself and sighing.  What a wild way to spend a Friday evening!

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Song of a Baker

There was something large, ugly and unpleasant lurking in the gardens.  Good King Hal being devoured by a Triffid.

Croseo i Cymru!  Or something like that.  Your latest missive, hot off Caxton's press begins with your King in West Wales, trying to convert the natives unto the sheer delight of wearing tights.  The working part of my sanctuary at my parents involved me giving a talk to a Probus Group at the Cliff Top Hotel in Gwber (pronounced GOOBER - I love it!).  The only people who knew the King was going to appear, aside from my parents and my lovely Sister Sue who came along for moral support, were the President of the local Probus group and her treasurer.  Well not wishing to deafen you with self trumpet blasting, I went down a storm.  The lovely group seemed to really like me, which was fantastic and I even got some old boy in the front row, who bore a more than striking resemblance to former Polish President Lech Walesa, to laugh so much he had to take a break halfway through.  He was a God's gift to a comic as his laugh came out as a loud grunted snort, very much like someone doing a loud pig impression.  When he first did it I urged him to give it a bit more choke and it would have started.  And no, before any smart ass says it, he wasn't asleep and snoring.  I had a lovely lunch in the hotel with the group after the show and then went back to my folks for one more night.
The following day I was on my way back to Somerset, but the journey took a lot longer than expected as the east bound M4 was shut due to a big smash up and we were diverted off through various tiny villages, most of which seemed to be experiencing road works.  Well, I say works.  What you mostly saw was miles of traffic cones, an occasional parked up lorry with three navvies either asleep or reading The Sun in the cab, or if you were really lucky, one of them outside, listlessly swinging a pick at the tarmac before pausing to scratch his arse or light a cigarette.  It was a stirring sight.
Back home at Somerset I found myself on the Saturday listening to Danny Baker's Show on BBC Radio 5 Live. He has been doing an ongoing feature about people's experiences of lower league Scottish football.  This seemed too good an opportunity to recount him my journey to Stranraer with my father a couple of years back, and a shameless opportunity to plug Good King Hal on national radio.  Well, I got on air and had a chat with the sainted Mr Baker, and what a lovely chap he is.  He even laughed at some of my appalling old Henry VIII jokes.  What a gent.
My dear old friend Ali Bessell came over on Saturday night and we drank wine, put the world to rights and watched the old Tim Burton movie "Ed Wood" with Johnny Depp.  What the hell was Johnny Depp doing in my flat???  But it was lovely to see Ali again - why is it when you have such a dear friend you only get to see them once in a blue moon?  Life can be cruel like that.
On the Sunday I went over to Barrington Court to see Matthew Applegate and thrash out the final dates for my Henry appearances at the court house this summer.  My first walkabout is this weekend on the Sunday, so come and say hello if you're in the area.  I drove home and watched my beloved Manchester City thrash Chelsea 2-1 in the FA Cup Semi Final.  Knowing us we'll lose to Wigan in the final now...  Just my luck at the moment.
Back to being Henry on the Tuesday morning with a first visit to Walliscote Primary School in beautiful downtown Weston super Mare.  I had been booked by a lovely lady teacher who had originally seen me when she had brought her class from Ilton School to come and see my open day at Barrington Court with Shepton Beauchamp and Barrington School, all those years ago.  She had remembered me and recommended me to her new school.  It was only a morning, but a great one.  One of the friendliest nicest schools I have visited for a long time, charming lovely teachers and some great kids.  Really a wonderful, wonderful morning.  We finished just after midday with a ear bending jousting tournament that, surprise surprise, the ladies won - again!  Our score goes to:
This is now getting embarrassing.  The poor old gents just don't stand a chance these days.  The rest of the week is quite Barrington oriented.  I am possibly going over to the Court House on Friday for a photo shoot with a local photographer from Ilminster, and then as I mentioned earlier it is my first official Henry walkabout of the season at Barrington on Sunday.  Please come along anyone who reads this - the King would be delighted to see you.  And now a quick quiz for anyone who reads this blog this far - the blog title for this entry - which British rock group had a famous song of this title?  Song of a Baker?  Let me know if you know the answer.

Tuesday, April 09, 2013

Epsom, Mudford, Newcastle Emlyn - now THAT'S cosmopolitan.

Mum and Dad Farley have really started blending in with the natives.  My father is on the right.

Following on from the horrors of Knebworth, my next sojourn into the delights of dressing up as a big Tudor jessie saw me driving round the M25 for a return appearance at Bourne Hall Museum in the leafy suburbs of Epsom and Ewell.  You may remember my visit I spoke about last year, and how Bourne Hall itself resembles a BBC Sci Fi special effect alien space ship from the 1970's - well it still does.  And much as I was hoping the entire cast of Blake's 7 were going to turn up and start teleporting me about, they didn't.  Not even Sally Knyvette, and she was seriously gorgeous back in the years before Margaret Thatcher, but more about her later.
I was greeted at the museum by it's two main men - David and Jeremy, both of whom have a touch of the Womble about them.  You tend to get the feeling that they actually live in the ramshackle store room they use as an office, and both of them have the look of people who don't see daylight very often.  You can imagine them walking out the front door and pausing in the sun to blink slowly and rub their eyes at the sparkling wonder of it all.  They are both lovely and greeted me with a welcoming cup of tea and various anecdotes they had just acquired about the local Home Guard from the second World War.  Once more my show was on down in the theatre in the bowels of the building, and once more we were packed out for both shows.  When I finished my first show I headed back up to their warren.... I mean office, for a spot of lunch which turned out to be an out of date jam doughnut with the consistency of a cannon ball, followed by a slice of lemon drizzle cake which was delicious.  So swings and roundabouts.  The second show was equally fun and we ended with a grand Tudor Foot Wrestling competition.  How do you describe Foot Wrestling?  Well I don't, just imagine trying to push someone over, without using your hands, standing on one leg and not being allowed to kick or stamp on your opponent.  Yeah, like that.
I drove back to Somerset from Epsom and got home about 6.30pm.  Cooking seemed like an incredibly stupid idea at this time and after such a long drive, so off to the Chinese I went for a delicious plate of MSG's floating in grease.  You could hear your arteries hardening and you chewed.
My next Henry show was on the Friday night at Mudford.  Mudford is a funny little village just to the north of Yeovil and on the way to the delightfully named Queen Camel.  They obviouly have a strong community spirit in Mudford and each Friday night at their delighful village hall they have an "event" where the guests arrive and get stuck into a nice buffet, drink some wine and are then entertained by some speech, singer or other entertainer.  This was their first Friday night event of the summer of 2013 and they had invited me along to be the "turn".  We had a lovely evening, an absolutely wonderful audience, about 50 people in total and lots of laughs.  I was well fed and watered (Shepherd and Neame Spitfire to quench my thirst) and a splendid evening seemed to be had by all.
And so to the weekend, and I was off to Wales to see my folks.  It is my father's birthday this week (today actually - the 9th) and originally there was supposed to be a whole phalanx of us trotting down the M4 to the land of song, rugby and worried sheep, but as life has unfolded this week with it's ups, but to be honest mostly downs, the car got emptier until in the end it was just me trolling down the road.  But I have had a lovely time in the kind welcoming embrace of my family - a lovely meal over at the Daffodil Pub, a visit to the National Wool Museum (believe it or not) and lots of bargains at all the fantastic antiques shops in Newcastle Emlyn.  I am off to the delightfully named Gwber tomorrow for a Henry show with the local Probus club.  Should be fun.
Oh and Margaret Thatcher kicked the bucket.  Even as we speak she is trying to privatise hell.

Wednesday, April 03, 2013

Meanwhile at Scott Base, Antarctica...

The cheery sign that greeted us as we arrived at Baldock Hinxworth Travelodge.

Back to jousting for the weekend, and what a weekend it was.  Freezing cold, a howling wind and misery personified. Myself, James, Shelley and Owen travelled up from the South East round to Knebworth House, praying with each mile that we clicked off that temperatures would rise and the fluttering flakes of snow on the windscreen would abate.  Would they heck.
On arrival at Knebworth we were followed in by Sir William of Antioch, much to Owen's delight and wound our way through the deer rich grounds to where the Knights of Royal England had parked their horse box.  On our first greeting we were informed that lots of them were struck down with the old dreaded "Nawab of Pataudis", after a particularly virulent chicken korma the night before.  Several of them were still back in their hotel happily barfing their way through the morning.
We did both shows on the Easter Sunday - and by heck it was cold, but we all agreed that by the end of the second show there was a definite rise in the overall temperature.  Shelley, Owen, James and I then drove up the A1(M) towards our overnight stop at Baldock Hinxworth Travelodge.  I had booked this several months in advance and was quite sure I had got a bargain.  I was wrong.  This was quite possibly one of the filthiest, grimiest hotel experiences I have ever encountered.  James and I  in our room were quite lucky - it was just the usual frugal room with the odd spot of mould in the bathroom.  Shelley's room was quite different - it appeared to have been cleaned on a regular basis by a group of people with the norovirus and amnesia.  There was quite literally crap everywhere - smeared walls, mould in the bathroom, splatter marks in the bathroom, large embarrassing stains in the bedroom, a broken leg on the bed that made the whole thing creak and even suspicious large brown splat stains on the net curtains.  Really, in retrospect I should have offered to swap rooms with her, but I didn't and I bitterly regret that.  I wasn't much of a gentleman.
We cheered ourselves up with a really genuinely nice dinner at a Beefeater in Stevenage, where the staff could not have been more helpful if they tried.  So nice were they that after our awful night at the Travelodge we went back to the Beefeater for breakfast - and James and Owen both got eggs from the Easter Bunny there, so everyone was happy.
Amazingly, the Monday at Knebworth was even colder.  My weekend was also marred with awful tights that kept making a break for the border (i.e. heading south) and caused me to be almost late for the second show on the Sunday.  By the end of the final show on the Monday I was in the Royal Box commentating with the owner of Knebworth, Lord Cobbold, and my hands were so cold I could barely feel the microphone in my fingers.  But we got through it.
I am off to Bourne Hall Museum in Epsom today for a couple of Henry's Horrid History Shows, then it is back down to Somerset for an appearance on Friday night at Mudford Village Hall (All together now: "HOORAY FOR HOLLYWOOD!") and then a few days in Wales with James visiting my parents.