Friday, September 13, 2013

Back on the Road Again. And Again. And Again.

Good King Hal, inflating a new author by blowing in her ear in front of the Houses of Parliament.  And why not.
And so we knew summer was over as it started chucking it down with rain, the winds started howling, central heating got turned on again, and all the people who had been moaning about it being too hot during the summer immediately started moaning that it was too cold.  What a joy the people of England are some time.  Another sure fire sign that summer was over was the imminent re-opening of the schools and my endless trips round to the to be King Henry VIII.
My first port of call for this academic year was to West Leigh Junior School near Southend-on-Sea in Essex. I had visited this school several times previously and it was a delight to be back with Bella Garrett and her lovely pupils.  It seemed a little strange being back in schools after a long summer of jousting, but it felt good as well.  Admittedly I was a little rusty having not done a full day since about mid July, but after having done this show well over 700 times it soon came back to me.  It was a big group for the first day back - about 135 year three children, but a very rewarding group none-the-less.  The morning did seem to zip past as I performed in the small inner hall.  After lunch we hiked over to the dining hall - much bigger - and got ready for the jousting.  It was a fine old tournament, amazing noise from all of the pupils and a really closely fought contest.  Amazingly, our first winners of the new scholastic year was..... THE BOYS!  I know!  Will wonders never cease?  So, like the first Premier League table of the season, this may not mean very much in the long run, but our score is:
Would it last?  Well, you will find out very shortly...  Also at this time we were all waiting for the results of our filming efforts at Hever Castle to go "live" on line.  Doug Bolton, the sainted Darlene Cavill's son, had done a marvellous job with the filming, rendering and editing and I was dying for our efforts to be unleashed on an unsuspecting world.  But we would have to wait for just a little bit longer.
On Monday the 9th, I was back in Somerset for a return visit for the first time since 2009 to Long Sutton Primary near Langport.  Lizzie Reynolds, late of Manor Court School in Chard, is still the head at this lovely little school and it was so nice to see her again.  We had a fabulous day - Long Sutton is a brilliant school and very welcoming and friendly, and we had a superb morning with plenty of laughs from the children and some great joining in.  The jousting was, like West Leigh, very hard fought, incredibly noisy and a close run thing.  But getting things back to normal, the ladies simply walked off with the win in the final.  It seemed almost too easy for them.
So, normal service resumed?  Read on dear intrepid Tudor nonsense fan, read on... I had about 12 hours to gather my thoughts and some clean underwear and hit the road for the long trek up to Cumbria and an appointment at Ashfield Junior in Workington.
I had asked my lovely friends Andy and Kate Blundell of the Phoenix Antiques Barn in Temple Sowerby near Penrith if I could stay with them, and they very kindly agreed.  So I headed out onto the M5 and pointed my car at the North Pole and began...  It was actually a very pleasant drive up - when you get to North Lancashire and Cumbria some of the scenery alongside the M6 is possibly the most dramatic you will find by any motorway in Britain, unless of course the big wind turbine near the Madjewski Stadium in Reading next to the M4 is the kind of thing that floats your boat.  I was blessed with brilliant sunshine as well, which as it began to slowly fade at about 4pm, looked stunning against the rugged hills and peaks of the Cumbrian landscape.  I got to the Phoenix Barn to find Andy holding his bank manager in a head lock, so I joined in with a couple of rabbit punches and a kick to the goolies and sent him on his way.  It was great to see Andy and he took me on a tour of the latest acquisitions in the Barn.  As ever some lovely stuff and definitely worth a visit if you are ever in the area.  We headed back to their house where I got a big bone crushing hug from Kate, and it was good to see their lovely kids Daisy and Dylan again.  We went out to dinner at a local pub, and then headed back to their place to drink far too much wine and sit in the garden watching the satellites silently gliding above us in the black inky night sky.  Lovely.  I headed off early the next morning after demolishing some croissants Andy cooked and drove over to Workington.  The drive over itself was lovely - past stunning countryside and more dramatic peaks and lakes.  Workington itself is...ahem... a little on the plain side, but Ashfield School was lovely - hugely welcoming and roughly the same size as the TARDIS inside.  I got lost on numerous occasions, even when just trying to find the loo.  We had to begin the day with the jousting as we only had access to the main hall for the early morning.  It was a long loud tournament but very bravely fought by both sides.  Predictably enough, the ladies romped to a victory so normal service IS resumed.
On finishing the show I headed back towards the M6 and the 340 miles back to Somerset.  The weather was no longer my friend, and it poured with rain, the wind howled and the traffic was dreadful.  But I made it back and walked into my flat at about 9.45pm.  I was tired out of my brain, but any thoughts of a rest and a long lie-in would just have to wait...
The alarm went off at "WHAT?" o'clock and I stumbled out of a bed that I didn't want to leave.  Back on the road again, this time in cold foggy conditions, back up the A303 to the A34 and another return trip, this time to the lovely Kingsclere School in Berkshire.  This is such a lovely school with some of the nicest teachers you would ever want to meet or work with.  Loads of laughs throughout the day, plus plenty of offers of wedding cake and other goodies from various just missed festivities.  And I bet you can't guess what happened in the jousting???  Yes, the ladies won - AGAIN.  History is repeating itself quite obviously and the same pattern emerges year after year.  I feel sure some research scientist somewhere could look into this and discover something very deep and meaningful about the entire human condition.  But to be honest I am too bleedin' knackered to bother asking him, so it will just have to wait.  Along with those other all consuming questions we should be striving to find an answer for - such as, how does the snow plough driver get to work in the morning?  Or if you unscrew your belly button does your bum fall off?  Or who on Earth actually finds Miranda Hart funny other than about three BBC executives?  All this and much more will NOT be answered in the next blog.
Oh, and after all that - yes, the video we made IS "live" now on both the Hever Castle website and on You Tube.  Have a look, enjoy and share it with as many people as you know.  Let's go viral folks.

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