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:
GENTLEMEN 13 - 22 LADIES
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:
GENTLEMEN 14 - 22 LADIES
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.