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:
GENTLEMEN 16 - 23 LADIES
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:
GENTLEMEN 17 - 23 LADIES
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.