Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Auditions, Falcons and Hedingham

To be honest, the Five Star reunion was not a raging success as one member of the group at least had really let himself go...

Some while ago, I had spent a great deal of my spare time trying to get on to the ITV quiz show "Who Wants To Be A Millionaire?"  Well I clearly did, certainly considering the amount of time and effort I put into getting a longed for audition, but whatever the reason it was never to be and I was never called up to the studio and let things happen.  Roll on to modern times and there is a game show on daytime ITV at the moment called "Tipping Point", which revolves around this enormous version of one of the old coin waterfall games so splendidly popular in British seaside resorts down the years.  However, instead of a few pence or some crappy novelty toy that might occasionally fall out, for every coin you knock down on this programme, they give you £50 - and it soon adds up!  Answer a few not very challenging general knowledge questions and you can gain control of the machine and can, if luck is on your side, win up to £10,000.  I was watching an episode the other day and one of the questions a lady had was "which island is linked to the Welsh mainland by the Menai Straits Bridge?"  She thought long and hard before replying "The Isle of Man?"  Now that would be one hell of a length bridge.  Anyway, I made enquiries about getting on this show as I fancied winning some cash, found the production teams details and applied.  And LO!  It came to be that I was asked to come and audition for said "Tipping Point".  The time and date for this was on the Tuesday morning at 11am, and I had to get to West Kensington Village for this audition.  I caught the 7.30am train from Crewkerne and as I had booked the tickets on line and in advance I got cheap ones that meant I could bump myself up to 1st class for there and back and still pay less than the normal ticket price!  1st class was nice but I was amazed by the lack of leg room, Thai masseuse, chateu neuf de pap and beef wellington.
I caught a taxi from Waterloo to West Kensington Village and was soon at the production office for the audition.  I was greeted by several very blonde, perma tanned young men called "Tarquin" or some such, who I would imagine were fans of hi-energy disco and had an extensive knowledge of where to go to dance to it in north London.  I was with about 16 other people - first we had to take part in a general knowledge quiz which seemed relatively easy, then we had to stand in front of a camera and be interviewed and talk about ourselves, which as you know is not something that I struggle with.  And that was it!  I was soon back at Waterloo and then on the train back to Crewkerne.  It was a lot of travelling for a very short audition, but who knows.   Now I had to wait and see.
Wednesday I drove up to Essex to see my lovely son James and his Mummy, and all in readiness for a trip on the Thursday up to Norfolk and a visit to Falcon Junior.  I had horrendously double booked myself a couple of weeks ago, and the day I was at Bathampton I should have been at Falcon.  What a twit I was.  I apologised profusely and Falcon were kind enough to invite me back a few days later.  As you can imagine I got a lot of ribbing on my arrival with comments such as "decided to turn up today, have you?" or "remembered us this time, did you?"  But it was a lovely day with all the kids and the teachers.  Much fun was had by all. The final joust was astonishing - the boys were so far in front but somehow got stuck on the final quoit and could not collect it, allowing the ladies to toddle past and clinch an unlikely victory.  Our score then goes to:
I had a day or two at leisure before on the Sunday and Monday of the bank holiday heading up to Castle Hedingham in Essex for two days jousting with the Knights of Royal England and also with the lovely Tudor Roses in attendance as well.  We were blessed with the weather and had two lovely days with much laughter and fun.  It was nice to have my lovely son James at my side as my squire for the two days and he really seemed to get into the swing of things again.  This morning we are heading down to Kent to Leeds Castle for some more jousting.  I am only there for the Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, so if anyone is trying to avoid me, go and see the jousters on the Friday, Saturday or Sunday.  You can't say I don't give you good advance warning.  Alas this morning the weather has broken and it looks like we'll be jousting in the shallow end again.

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Walking With MP's...

Lovingly, the King blew an enormous raspberry on the back of Anne Boleyn's hand.  How the long winter evening's at Hever must have just flown by.

Summer has taken a long time to come along.  As I might have mentioned once or twice in this blog before, the winter just gone seemed almost limitless, but I am really enjoying the springtime we are now enjoying.  And with springtime comes more walkabouts for the King.  Last Sunday I was back at Barrington Court near Ilminster for a few hours of strolling the grounds and leaping out of hedges startling old ladies.  The weather started off alright, but unfortunately eventually closed in, and visitor numbers dwindled.  Towards the end of the day I was sitting in the large Kitchen of the court house, where I normally do my one man shows, and I was playing my recorder.  I love playing music in the kitchen at Barrington as the acoustics are so wonderful.  Sounds like you are hooked up to an enormous reverb unit with the settings going all the way up to 11.  Well I was happily tootling away to a couple of tourists, when I saw a woman walk past the doorway in the corridor.  She suddenly reappeared in the door and stalked towards me.  I wondered what she was going to say, it could have been anything, but when she did open her mouth I was dumbstruck.
"What are you going to do about the next Queen?" She shrieked, almost shaking with anger.  I stopped playing and looked at her with some puzzlement.
"Next Queen?"  I wasn't really sure what she was on about.  "Which next Queen?"  I imagined she was mucking about and was going to say how angry she was about Katherine Howard, or Anne Boleyn or any one of Henry's Queens. I was way wide of the mark.
"Yes!  The next Queen!"  She bellowed.  "Camilla!"  Now I really was struggling.
"What about her?" I eventually managed.
"WHAT ABOUT HER!?" She was doing a very good impression of the Alien Queen that Sigourney Weaver beat the crap out of in the movie "Aliens", and was scaring me.  "If Camilla becomes Queen there will be REVOLUTION in this country.... REVOLUTION! The people just won't accept her!"  I really had no idea some people's lives were so empty that they'd waste that much time getting this angry about something as pointless as this.  "Diana's blood is on their hands!  Charles and Camilla MUST make way for William..."  I made the fatal mistake of mentioning something about William being more approved than Charles simply because he was prettier, and that Diana was no angel when it came to manipulating the press, but that was it, she was off again.  More frothing at the mouth, shaking with anger, a final finger wagging at me and then she stomped off.  I sat in stunned silence before glancing at the other tourists in the room.
"How do you follow that?" I asked them.  One silently shook his head, so I picked up the recorder and began playing again.  Wonderful.
My next Henry appearance of the week wasn't until the Friday evening when I was to give a talk in Crewkerne at St Bartholomew's Hall for the local Liberal Democrat group, with local MP and Cabinet Minister David Laws in attendance.  Well they all seemed to enjoy my silly jokes, particularly one about David Cameron and George Osborne going off on a tour together.  I'll explain it all to you next time I see you.  Please remind me.  After my "turn" I was invited to stay for the supper afterwards and ended up sitting next to Mr Laws.  I had met David at various previous events I had visited and he is a nice affable chap and easy to talk to.  As he works in education now I did make a couple of requests - (a) could he ensure that Henry VIII and the Tudors stay on the national curriculum for as long as possible, and (b) next time he was alone with Michael Gove could he kick him in the bollocks as hard as he could.  He said he would look into a feasibility study in both my requests.  You heard it here first folks.
Sunday (today) saw me up and about bright and early for a drive up to Sudeley Castle in Winchcombe near Cheltenham in the Cotswolds for a walk about with Tudor Gowns and the Tudor Roses.  With the remnants of my cold hanging about, particularly my awful chesty cough, I had a dreadful night's sleep on Saturday and had coughed so much I had very sore stomach muscles.  Luckily the weather was bright and warm for the drive up the M5 towards Sudeley.  We had a good day wandering round the grounds meeting and greeting  the tourists, but by the afternoon numbers had slowed down and my cough addled sore muscles were really giving me merry hell.  So just before 4pm I surrendered and wandered off to get changed.  I said goodbye to Emma and Rachel of the Tudor Roses, and then also to Zarrina and Diane of Tudor Gowns before trundling off home.  I am quite sure I will sleep well tonight, my ribs still hurt, but perhaps my cough feels a bit better.  Or is that just wishful thinking?  I'll let you know tomorrow after I have tried to sleep tonight.

Friday, May 10, 2013

Sent to Coventry and then a quick Bath...

Good King Hal and Natalie Dormer.  Good King Hal is the one on the right, just in case you were having problems telling them apart...

Ah, the jet set lifestyle of the rich and famous mock Tudor monarch.  One minute you're at a book launch, rubbing shoulders (and sadly no other anatomical parts) with Natalie Dormer, then you're prancing around at Blenheim Palace with a fine jousting team, next thing you know you're in Coventry.  Huh?  Coventry?  Yes, Coventry, that jewel of the West Midlands.  While the rest of the Knights of Royal England were going off to silly boring old Sweden, here I was in the ex-industrial heart land of Britain.  I drove up on the Tuesday, and it was horrendous.  There was something of a bank holiday weekend hangover, with lots of ****ing caravans plodding along in various lanes they shouldn't be in on the M5, then just north of Bristol, towards Cribbs Causeway, there had been a God-awful smash up and the traffic decelerated down to walking pace and then non-movement.
When finally through this impasse the rest of the journey passed without much incident.  It was still blisteringly hot as the weekend had been.  I was looking forward to getting to my hotel and unwinding.  I was actually at a Travelodge (yeah, I know, I know) in Nuneaton (yeah, I know, I know) and soon my sat nav was telling me I was nearly there.  I followed it's instructions and soon found myself driving into a very deserted looking industrial estate.  Could this be right?  I turned from bigger roads onto smaller roads and smaller roads, then my sat nav bonged happily and announced I had arrived at my destination.  I was in a dusty side road by a deserted former tyre fitting unit.  I got out of the car for a nose round, and sure enough, behind the deserted former tyre fitting unit and, more importantly, behind an impassable solid looking brick wall, was my Travelodge.  So I drove back to the main roads, which with it now being 5pm were absolutely chocka block and attempted to get to my hotel.  I eventually found it, more by luck than design.  It was just off the A444, hiding behind a grotty looking petrol station.  I shouldn't complain really as the petrol station was going to be my version of Claridge's restaurant for the evening.  So I bought some grub from the petrol station,  went back to my stiflingly hot room and tried to pretend that I had actually enjoyed freezing my b******s off back at Knebworth House.
The next morning dawned cooler, and a lot damper.  Rain had fallen heavily in the night and was continuing to do that for an encore in the morning.  I soon found the school - Whitmore Junior, and as I was there ahead of the teacher who had booked me, I brought all my stuff in and set it up in the main hall.  Anita, the lovely lady who booked me then arrived and told me I was in the wrong hall, as they had two halls for this school.  But with some help from two other teachers and use of a big trolley we moved all my props down to the correct hall.  The teachers at this school were really lovely all day and could not do enough for me.  It was very kind of them.  We had a fantastic day with a group of children just setting out on the subject of the Tudors, but they already had some pretty good knowledge.  We had a fantastic morning and an even more fun and silly afternoon.  The afternoon joust was a really good one and ended with that rarest of things - a win for the gents!  So thanks to Whitmore Junior our score goes to:
The journey home was back through some horrendous weather - driving rain and increasingly strong winds.  And there was me complaining about the heat less than two paragraphs ago.  I got home, had a Chinese takeaway and contemplated an early night, but this plan was scuppered by me, as I managed to fall asleep on the sofa and wake up at just after midnight.  And then when I got into bed properly, I couldn't get off to sleep.  Typical.
Thursday found me back at Bathampton School in the delightful canal-side village of Bathampton, near Bath, naturally enough.  It was a morning only with a combined year 2 & 3 group.  It was lovely to be back.  Last time I had visited was in 2011 and I had helped open a new set of classrooms for them, by cutting the ribbon in front of the assembled press.  It is a lovely school, and I am particularly fond of it as they have one of the most stunningly attractive finance officers I have ever seen.  He's called Bernard... No, he isn't.  He is a she and I shall keep it to that to spare her blushes, but she is just "goyjus".  (GKH blushes enormously).  Anyway, the morning was fun.  I did my opening Henry talk for the kiddywinkies, then they did a Tudor dance for me.  We then did my Tudor quiz, then they sang me a song or two, and finally after I had played my instruments back to them, we had a jousting tournament, just before lunch.  It was loud and fun, and once again, much to everyone's complete amazement, we had another win for the gents.  This must be the first back to back win for a long time.  Anyway, our score goes on to:
This could get very interesting.  I loaded all the stuff back into my car, then stopped briefly for petrol on the way home.  As I was driving out of the forecourt of the petrol station I happened to glance up and noticed the most revolting huge hairy moth parked not two inches from my eyes, just looking at me.  I leaped on the brakes and screeched to a halt.  Now some people have phobias about spiders - for me, nothing. Some people have phobias about snakes - ha!  I laugh in the face of a King Cobra!  But show me a big hairy arsed moth, with those horrible grippy clawed feet they have and I tend to turn into a loose bowelled screaming shivering wuss.  As I did here.  I clambered out of the car, trying desperately to look more like Chuck Connors than Charles Hawtrey, and on leaving the door open shoo-ed at the moth with a large piece of paper.  It dutifully flew off with wings making a similar sound to a Chinook helicopter power lifting a tank across Salisbury Plain and I managed to stifle an further girly screams.
And when I got home my voice started giving out, so at this moment I can confirm my manly testosterone fuelled roughtie-tuffty-ness as I currently sound like Barry White when I speak.  However show me a moth and Charles Hawtrey will come leaping back onto centre stage.  Good King Hal is back on parade at Barrington Court this weekend for another summer wander round the gardens.  I hope to see you all there.

Tuesday, May 07, 2013

From Basildon to Blenheim.

A big fat ugly single ginger bloke, in a dress.  Try and spot the enamoured lady, hugely attracted to the man in this picture...*

Hello sensation seekers.  Last time you read this pulse stopping blog (pulse stopping, in much the same way a massive dose of beater blocker drugs would be pulse stopping) I had just finished a desperately exciting trip to Radlett in Hertfordshire for an appearance at Newberries School.  Now, contain your excitement folks - weak bladders should be emptied before reading further.  Such extracts of this Earth moving and heart warming blog might be enough to cause some ructions in certain places.
Being Henry in a school is what I do most often, and my second port of call this week was to Lee Chapel Primary School in Basildon in sunny downtown Essex.  This was a return visit to this lovely school after my visit the previous year - I remember it being a very friendly open and fun school with some great children, and this year was frankly no different.  My arrival was not my finest moment - the car park at the rear is tiny and space is at a premium.  As I parked a lady in a large silver car which had just parked in a space behind me should out that I couldn't park where I was.  When I exasperatedly gestured round the full tiny space she yelled aggressively "well, we have to work here you know!"  At this point I was ready to chew the head off a recalcitrant Great White Shark, but I walked into the school to announce myself and let the office staff know I had double parked in the tiny car park and if anyone wanted me to move the car I would be happy to shift it.  Apparently the space left in the car park was for the accounts lady who bore a stunning resemblance to "Mad" Frankie Fraser if her parking space was in the slightest bit compromised. Not wishing to witness this for myself, I surrendered and just parked badly out of the way.  I was now warmly welcomed by Hayley McCechnie (I think you spell it something vaguely like that) and got ready for the Tudor Day ahead of us.  It was a superb day as ever at this brilliant school.  Piles of laughs and contributions from these smart sassy kids!  Everybody but everybody seemed to have a good time, which is fine by me, and after a lovely lunch we soon found ourselves in the midst of the jousting tournament.  It was loud, it was frenetic and it was good fun.  And of course the inevitable happened!  Yet another win for the ladies!  They simply annihilated the lads in the final.  Our score goes to:
It was time to get back to Somerset, catch my breath for a couple of minutes before on the Saturday morning, heading up to Blenheim Palace in Oxfordshire for three days of jousting on the Saturday, Sunday and Bank Holiday Monday.  As you may recall, on our previous jousting jaunt to Knebworth House in Hertfordshire over Easter weekend, we had all frozen half to death and some of us even vaguely beyond it, but thankfully this weekend the weather was gorgeous.  I even got a sunburned nose on the Saturday.  It was so nice to be back with the Knights of Royal England team again, and all the usual fun and larks ensued.  The first night with them was too much for a tired and shagged out me - we finished the shows and I made my pathetic excuses and made my way to my luxury Travelodge near Bicester.  I went to bed and slept soundly for nearly 10 hours, which was exactly what I needed, and I found myself the following morning up, bright, rested, alert and ready for action.  Which I am sure was a ghastly site for most sane normal people. Well all three days were fun, packed and very warm, particularly the Monday where the staff of Blenheim assured us this was their biggest ever turn out for a jousting event at the Palace. I do wish some of the punters who come and see these shows could think of some more original questions to ask you as you pose for photos after the show.  Virtually every other question was "are you hot?"  Hot?  Me?  This towering lump of lard, in three layers of heavy satin with about 2 cwt of fur draped round my shoulders on what is the hottest day of the year so far, with my bright red face with several gallons of sweat pouring down it?  Hot?  Whatever gives you that idea?  Tish, it's nothing!
During the weekend it was the birthday of Lucy (Jeremy and Kim, who run the Knights of Royal England - well, their daughter) aka "Bob" and on the Sunday evening we all went out for a meal at the White House Pub at Bladon near Woodstock.  It was so nice to be amongst close friends and have such a laugh.  It was also nice to meet Frank, an old friend of Jeremy's who looks like being one of our regular riders this summer.  He is a tall striking looking Frenchman.  I asked him where he lived - and he is now in Birmingham, having surrendered to the brummie charm enough to re-locate from the Burgundy region.  He wants locking up.  But a very nice chap indeed and fun to work with.  And so we finished and headed off our different ways.  The jousters off to Sweden to do some shows, and me to head today off to Coventry for a visit to a new school tomorrow.  After that I am back at Bathampton on Thursday and then leaning against a sideboard and gasping for breath on Friday.

* There isn't one.