|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.