Monday, August 26, 2013

I'm Ready For My Close Up, Mr DeMille...

The King finally discovers the reason why men wear cod pieces.  This was a mere 37 seconds before someone invented the hat stand.
I'd only just finished another weekend at Hever Castle, so guess where I was on the Wednesday and Thursday?  Yes!  Lerwick in the Shetland Islands.  I jest.  Of course I was back at Hever Castle, but this time to film the long awaited and promised comedy short "The Six Wives of Henry VIII in 2 Minutes and 19 Seconds".  I had put together a script and Hever had sorted out some ladies to play some of my wives, but it was down to me to sort out the final few.  I called in the lovely Zarrina and Louise from Tudor Gowns, naturally I had the wonderful Michelle Coda and her other half Matt on hand, plus there was the lovely Katherine Miller who only lived up in Greenwich with easy access to Hever.  My final choice for a wife was a bit surprising.  It was my old mate Ian Weston from Portals to the Past - he was to play Anne of Cleves, and he did it marvellously.  Vivien from the Hever Marketing Department was on hand to help out with any problems we might encounter, plus of course we had Doug Bolton from Maveryk TV as our camerman/lighting engineer and soon to be editor and sound effects wrangler.  Well we had two fantastic days to film our little epic and it was such a fun time.  I can honestly say I have never had more fun or been more knackered at the end of a Tudor related event.  It was lovely to work with a group of people where there was no egos, no delicate personalities and no squabbles or back biting.  We just got on with it and had a terrific laugh in the process.  The photo above shows the lovely Helen Reeves from Hever Castle with her friend Charlotte (also from Hever staff) with Matt Rentell as the Priest and yours truly as Henry VIII in a scene we shot early on the second morning, of Arthur and Catherine of Aragon's wedding, followed very swiftly by the marriage of Henry to Catherine of Aragon just after Arthur pops his clogs.  Even Ian Weston, a veteran of numerous film shoots for cinema and TV said that the two days had been the most fun he'd ever had on a shoot, and this from a man who has worked with Ridley Scott!  Take THAT Ridley!  So thank you Hever, thank you Vivien, and a massive thanks to Zarrina, Louise, Katherine, Michelle, Matt, Ian, Helen, Charlotte, all the staff who work at Hever and helped us out so much, and most of all, to Doug Bolton for his genius with a camera and his help and advice in making this dream a reality.  Watch out for when we post the finished item here.  And anyone I have forgotten to thank here - SORRY!
I was back at Hever for Friday and Saturday for two more days jousting.  It was two pleasant days, aside from the near biblical flood we had on the Saturday.  Our costumes were drenched and poor old James, my lovely son, fell over twice on the rain sodden walk back to the Castle and promptly announced on our arrival back in our dressing room: "I WANT TOMORROW OFF!"  And so he did.
Sunday and Monday found me driving back up to Castle Hedingham in Essex for the final two days of jousting for this summer with the Knights of Royal England.  We had two lovely days in near perfect weather, but by now most of the jousters were running on empty and even the young ones seemed to be flagging.  But we put on two good shows on each day and got some tremendous feedback from all those that watched.  So another summer of jousting comes to an end and I have about four days to myself before the schools all start again and it's back to rushing round like a Tudor blue arsed fly!

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Two Hever Weekends

Ronseal.  Just don't try this at home.
If it's a weekend in August then it must be time for some jousting at Hever Castle in Kent.  As usual a fun weekend was had with the Knights of Royal England, and it was as ever a delight to have Michelle Coda with me as Anne Boleyn.  We love doing the shows and despite moaning about how long it takes, we really enjoy our walk back from the jousting arena to the Castle.  We get stopped virtually ever two or three paces for photos with groups ranging from family groups with loads of children, to hen parties and bewildered looking Chinese tourists.  We also tot up how many times we get asked if we are hot in our costumes.  To save you time, everyone who might come to see us joust, yes we are hot.  Very very very hot.
James, my lovely son, is always at my side as the King's herald, but on the first of the two weekends, on the Sunday, his Mum Mandy came along and accompanied us after the show back to Somerset for a few days.  Somerset was where James was born back in 2002 and I always enjoy taking him for visits to his old haunts, keeping the memories alive for him.  We had a lovely time over the three days they were down, none more so than when we took James down to West Bay in Dorset, where the TV series "Broadchurch" with David Tennant was filmed and he enjoyed himself immensely catching crabs (steady) down at the harbour.  His patience, not good at the best of times, was tested severely.  We recommended that he should put his net in, leave it for at least five minutes before checking it.  His net was barely in the water for more than 30 seconds before he was hauling it out and cursing his bad luck without a crab in sight.  We finally persuaded him to leave the net in slightly longer and he promptly pulled out a crab of Brobdingnagian proportions, much to the chagrin of the other children similarly fishing around him.  The rest of his catches didn't really live up to that opening promise, but he thoroughly enjoyed himself.  We crowned a fine morning with fish and chips from the wrapper while sitting on the front.  Lovely.
We met up with Sue English and Ian Weston from Portals to the Past who were having a little holiday in Somerset.  We had a fine dinner with them at the Duke of York Pub in Shepton Beauchamp, which was just like the old days.  The next day we headed back to the south east so we could prepare for yet more jousting at Hever Castle.  We were lucky with the weather again and the shows seemed to be getting better and better.
And so this week I am down at (you guessed it) Hever Castle filming a quick promo video for them, then on the Friday and Saturday I am back at H***r C****e (fill in the blanks yourself) for more jousting before then heading up to Essex to visit Castle Hedingham for the Sunday and Bank Holiday Monday for the final two jousting days of the season.  It has been terrific fun, hard work and I can't wait till next season.

Wednesday, August 07, 2013

Accidents Will Happen

Good King Hal attempting to keep his tights in the standing load position.
So with only a few hours to catch our breath after finishing at Hever, the jolly old Knights of Royal England, plus a rotund Tudor King and his young Squire rolled into Blenheim Palace in Oxfordshire for three more days of jousting mayhem.  Blenheim is situated in the delightful little town of Woodstock just to the north of Oxford.  It's a place that had corpses being discovered at embarrassingly regular intervals in the whole world of Inspector Morse, but is as genteel and backwater a place as you can possibly find.  James and I drove up after a couple of days R&R in Somerset and I had promised James a breakfast at one of his favourite haute cuisine outlets - Little Chef to you and me.  But do you think I could find one once we got on the A34 north?  Not a chance.  I even resorted to typing it into my sat nav, which promised that there was one just two miles further up the road.  We drove there only to discover it had morphed into a Costa Coffee house.  We had two sausage baps, a cup of coffee and an orange juice and it really did Costa bloody fortune.  What rip offs these places are.
We arrived at Blenheim Palace and were warmly greeted by Jeremy, Kim and everyone else from the group.  The weather forecast for the first day was not brilliant, but we were treated to blazing sunshine and sun burn all round.  The first two shows on the first day passed with little or no big problems, and after a lovely meal at the Woodstock Arms hotel in the evening, James and I left the young jousters to their usual revels and headed off to our luxurious hotel.  (OK, OK, it was a Travelodge).  We arrived back at the Palace on the Saturday morning expecting to see the usual collection of hangovers, jousters slumped in chairs and not much movement.  But there was little or no sign of anyone around the horse box, most of the jousters were working like smoke over in the arena, getting everything ready for the show, and there was no sign of Jeremy, Kim or their Land Rover.  Sam's girlfriend, Vanessa then appeared at the door of the horse box.  We said good morning and I asked her if J and K were off in town doing some shopping.  No, apparently they were off at A&E at the local hospital with Mungo.  What had happened?  During some "hi-jinx" on the Friday night, whilst highly intoxicated (i.e. pissed out of their brains) an incident occurred that had somehow culminated in Mungo falling heavily against a parked car and breaking his shoulder.  Blimey.  I was glad we had left early.  Jeremy and Kim then returned with faces like thunder and it suddenly became apparent why all the younger jousters were beetling around desperately working their socks off getting everything ready for the two shows that day.  Just before the show Mungo himself returned to the site via a taxi with his arm in a sling and slightly sheepish expression on his face.  After all that the two shows had to be good, and they were.  We were hit with a little bit of rain during both shows, but nothing like the deluge of last year.  The apres show dinner at a local Chinese restaurant was very nice and also highly restrained after the previous nights shenanigans.
Sunday was the final two days of Blenheim this year.  Two more good shows went by, with all the incidents saved for our final tournament.  At the beginning of the second show, we do a gag where I address the audience about what qualities a person needs to become a great Knight - and all the while I am saying this, someone (usually Sir William of Antioch) mimes them behind me, with the final pay off being something they very obviously can't have.  In Sir William's case it is always a head of luxurious hair.  As Sir William was away, Dan was filling in, and his pay off was to be totally terrified of swords.  For this he was to leap onto the centre tilt, look at his sword, scream like a girl and then jump off the tilt.  Not exactly Emmy Award winning stuff, but a bit of fun.  On this day we had had a bit of a shower just before the show, and as Dan leapt onto the tilt, he didn't realise how slippery it was, and as I was about to deliver my line "but what a Knight needs most of all..." his legs shot away from under him and he fell down, completely cross-barring himself right in the old Niagara's.  Therefore I quickly changed my pay off line to: "What a Knight really needs is... (CRUNCH).... a pair of fully functioning cobblers.  So that's you out, Dan", which got the biggest laugh of the day.  And still our accidents weren't over.  Right at the very end of the tournament, during a skill exhibition by both teams, my son James who was sitting in the Royal Box to my right, was getting very excited and was jumping up and down in his seat.  I looked away to commentate on some action to my left, at which point there was an enormous crash to my right, which at first I assumed was a horse bouncing off the Royal Box, such was it's score on the Richter Scale, and the fact that it caused all of the flags around the Royal Box to collapse and fall apart.  What it was was James' chair falling backwards off the Royal Box and bringing all the standards with him.  It was a big fall and he could easily have been hurt, but thankfully he was fine, just with a very bruised ego.  We finally finished the show and made our way back to the car.  It had been a fine weekend at Blenheim, memorable for a lot of different reasons, but it was good to be on our way home. 
This weekend we are back at Hever for another three days of fun jousting.  It will be nice to see Michelle and Vix again, but sadly Mungo is now out for the rest of the year.  Alcohol sales in the Edenbridge area are going to suffer, BIG TIME.