|Good King Hal treating yet another child with the same respect he always does.|
Tights. Don't you just hate tights? They are the bane of my life sometimes. For instance, on Monday just gone, I was at a school in Taunton during the day, and then at a small village just outside Yeovil in the evening for a visit to a WI group. I wore the same tights for both shows, but they might as well have been completely different items of clothing. During the day, they were a delight, fitting perfectly and staying in place. In the evening they took on a totally different persona and were hell bent on heading south as fast as they possibly could. Ladies, I know exactly what you go through. Sometimes the damn things are so keen on falling off that you almost feel like you want to nail the bloody things in place to keep them there. Perhaps stockings and suspenders are the way forward for me. I'd better not. I might have a heart attack half way through a show and die one day and then.... oh, the shame of what they discover when they get me to the hospital.
Anyway, the week opened last week with an early start on the Monday and a drive up to Bromsgrove in Worcestershire and two days at the lovely Aston Fields Middle School. I was very warmly welcomed on both days and had a lovely time. I had also managed to find a Travelodge to stay in that was (a) very nice, (amazing, I know) and (b) closer to the school I was appearing at than any other I have ever been to. It was less than half a mile from the school gates. Marvellous! On the first day the children were a little restless and lacked a little bit of focus early on, but they came along wonderfully as the day went on. By the end they were ready for a jousting tournament, and they were great! Loud and frantic, it was a great tournament which a gents team just managed to win by the shortest of heads. Our score for the academic year shifts on to:
GENTLEMEN 4.5 - 5.5 LADIES
Close. The closest our tournaments have been for years. I went back to the very nice Travelodge and settled in for an early night (and a glass of wine or two...). Well, you have to...
Wednesday and my second day back at Aston Fields. It was a different group of children and teachers today, but the welcome was as warm and inviting as the day before. The children were a bit more attuned to the day from the word go on this morning and the day really moved along with a comfortable swagger. Plenty of laughs all round, and one of the most bizarre answers I have ever received during my years on the road. I asked the group if they knew the name of Henry VIII's second wife - and a young lad put up his hand like a rocket and blurted out "STEVE!" There was a stunned silence for a couple of seconds, then a huge explosion of laughter. It was akin to the old Monty Python sketch about where do Penguins come from. BURMA! Why did you shout Burma? I panicked. Perhaps this young lad did as well. Anyway, after a fine lunch the joust proved to be every bit as competitive as the previous day, only this time the ladies just managed to snatch victory. So the score goes to:
GENTLEMEN 4.5 - 6.5 LADIES
Has normal service been resumed? We shall see... I was not to be heading home, it was back onto the motorway system for a drive up to the outskirts of Preston in Lancashire as my next Tudor day was at St Mary's Catholic School in Leyland. It was supposed to be about a two hour drive from Bromsgrove to the Travelodge I was next staying in, but with heavy rain and rush hour traffic, it took me closer to four hours. As I climbed out of the car a chill wind howled round me. Blimey, where did that come from? It has been so warm for so long I had almost forgotten what cold weather felt like. Well, that was one hell of a reminder I can tell you folks. As I walked up to the main door into the Travelodge, an elderly lady sat outside in the cold smoking a fag and coughing in a desperately unhealthy rasping way. Nice. As I walked into reception she followed me in spluttering and wheezing. She walked straight round behind reception and immediately said: "Good evening, (choke hawk wheeze) can I 'elp yer?" That's what I call a welcome! This was a proper Travelodge with spattered carpets, gruesome looking smears in the bathroom and a stunning view out of your bedroom window of the side of a hill approximately 15 feet away. I fully expected to find the Gideon Bible chained to the bedside drawer.
Great day at St Mary's School in Leyland. Absolutely lovely teachers - friendly, gorgeous and great fun. The kids were a lovely group to work with as well and it turned out to be a truly memorable day. I was also inundated with requests for photos from the teachers during the lunch break! I was more than happy to pose with all these lovely ladies! The jousting was another belter, closely fought up to the final leg, when the gents team simply strolled away to a great victory.
GENTLEMEN 5.5 - 6.5 LADIES
This year is certainly proving to be a lot closer between the two teams than has come to be expected. I packed up my stuff and then hit the road to head back down to Somerset. I was dreading the journey, but it was actually OK. I was going to use the word "a delight" but that is an epithet I could never hang on the M5 of an evening. It was so good to be home.
Monday morning found me heading up to Taunton for a first visit to Norton Fitzwarren, which is a state primary school and not some long forgotten Victorian tragic actor. I was there for the morning only with a group mixed up of years 3, 4, 5 & 6, which was fabulous, but means I won't be visiting them again for at least 5 years! It was one of the most fun mornings I have ever had, loads off laughs, a great group of kids and some more delightful teachers. A fantastic school. The ladies won a pulsating joust that produced so much noise it damn near blew the roof off the school hall! And so:
GENTLEMEN 5.5 - 7.5 LADIES
When I got home in the early afternoon it wasn't the end of my day. In the evening I was booked to appear for Marston Magna (again, not a Victorian actor) WI group as their evening guest speaker. I love doing WI groups as the ladies are all delightful and usually love a nice saucy laugh. Well there was plenty of those! I didn't get on until after 8pm, but the talk went really well and the ladies seemed to really enjoy themselves. After I was changed I was asked to judge a competition of ancient relics (not the members of the WI before you all say it) but a collection of heirlooms and old items that members of the club had brought in, and I had to choose my three favourites. Third place I went for a coachman's truncheon, carried by a coachman on the London to Plymouth stage coach in the early 1800's. Second place I gave to an early almanack type of book dated from 1764. But for first place I chose a certificate of teaching competence awarded to a lady who had worked at Highbridge School, and then at Barrington School! Wonderful stuff. Next it was time for a cup of tea and a chin wag with some of the club members and then I was on my way home. It had been a long day and a long week, but very satisfying.