Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Hampton Court? No I just sat down too quickly...

Good King Hal having a quick pas de deux.  The filthy beast.
I had waited a long time to do a gig at Hampton Court Palace.  It was one of those venues that just never seemed possible.  OK it is a closed shop to re-enactors.  You have to be top top chums with the company Past Pleasures and be prepared to work for their starvation wages most of the time.  I speak with some experience on this matter as I had auditioned for Past Pleasures some years back and was horrified by the paltry sum they offered me to work for them.  "Think of the kudos of working at Hampton Court!" Their boss had said.  Yes, think of my bank balance, I replied.  And so it seemed it would never happen.  But then the most unlikely of white-charger-riding-heroes swept out of the sunset.  BP are probably better known for crashing oil tankers on to rocks in Alaska or making obscene amounts of profit every year, but their Indirect Procurement Department (no, me neither.  Not a scooby.) had booked me to attend their "Town Hall" meeting day, which just happened to be at Hampton Court Palace.  I had asked along Sarah Morris, lovely Tudor Lady and top author on the subject, to join me as Queen for the day.  She was happy to oblige.  
I had booked at hotel right next to Hampton Court and drove up on the Sunday night as I thought it might be nice and quiet.  WRONG.  WRONG WRONG WRONG.  This was the Sunday night after a half term holiday.  The A303 was packed tighter than Robert Plant's spandex pants at an early 70's Led Zepp concert.  I spent a good hour sitting in the darkness that should have been Stonehenge, surrounded by huge 4x4 vehicles packed full of sour faced little school age f*ckers with i-Pads, playing Minecraft, or Candy Crush Saga, or watching Miley Cyrus do something really outrageous like write a decent song by herself and leave her pants on for once.  That would be nice.
I got to the King's Arms Hotel and met up with Sarah.  I nearly managed to embarrass myself early on by using the loo in my room, then deciding to wash my hands, I turned on the tap and was hammered in the crotch with a tsunami-like explosion of water which made me look like I had lost complete control of my bodily functions.  The next five minutes were spent in my room with the hair dryer trying to remove the offending stain marks.  We had a lovely dinner - I had  a wild mushroom and truffle risotto, with Parmesan shavings, and a pint of Hall and Woodhouse Badger ale.  Smashing.  I slept like a baby on a small bed that made alarming farting noises every time I moved.
Sarah and I had breakfast and then made our way round to Hampton Court.  We were in the Garden Room round the back of the Palace and were warmly reminded not to wander round the front should we upset any of the Past Pleasures slaves.... I mean actors.  It was generally a fun day - mostly me introducing the speakers, some of whom were funny and inspiring and others, such as their IT bod who needed beheading after only two minutes but insisted on giving his full.....well, I don't know how long.  It honestly felt like a lifetime.  Wonderful.  We'd had to get changed into our clobber in the cafe next door to where we were, so that involved us both going into the small gents and ladies to get our gear on properly.  I had finished when I got the call from the ladies that Sarah needed me in there to lace her in.  Now any top student of doubles entendres or any just voyeuristic tendencies, should have had a look in at that point.  We had Sarah, semi robed in her Tudor gowns, leaning on her hands bent over the sink in the ladies, as I stood close up behind her, two cords of cloth in hand, with her shouting out:  "DO ME UP MIKE!  AND DO IT HARD!"  Ooh er!  People don't realise how much I suffer in this job - here I was with Sarah Morris, who lets face it folks, is drop dead gorgeous, half undressed in Tudor undies, while I have to physically and forcefully lace her into her body hugging bodice.  What I did, I did in the name of Tudor Historical accuracy.  But I did have to have a cigarette afterwards.
Well BP treated us like Royalty, how else?  They fed and watered us splendidly, we took part in the whole day, helping out with the team quizzes and with me introducing all the speakers and posing for photos with most of the delegates.  We finished at about 4.30pm and Sarah and I were away just after 5pm.  The roads down to the M25 were horrendous, but the actual London orbital generally quiet.  I was soon at Amanda's house to see her and James, but they were out rehearsing their new play, but more of that later!
On the Wednesday I was up in Norfolk, in Norwich for a first appearance at Lionwood School.  I had been recommended by one of the teachers who had previously witnessed me doing my "thing" at Falcon Junior some years ago.  Lionwood was a brilliant school - great fun, some really cool teachers and cracking kids.  They had no idea I was coming, the children that is!  And their surprise on my first appearance was very edifying.  The joust came down to a very closely fought final, which was finally won by a very good Ladies team.  Our score goes to:
Once more daylight appears between them, what can the gents do?  It is funny how the ladies just keep on winning.  That's life I suppose.
On the Thursday evening I was at the Mirren Studio in the Towngate Theatre in Basildon to watch The Thalians Theatre Group and their production of Charles Dickens' "A Christmas Carol".  My lovely son James was in it as a street urchin, and also the little lad who Scrooge gets to go and get the turkey at the end of the play.  And Amanda was cast as one of the old crones who strips Scrooge's flat after his death.  They were both absolutely brilliant, the whole cast was.  You had to keep reminding yourself it was an amateur production.  But it was truly wonderful, great sets, lovely costumes, great actors and a genuinely creepy Ghost of Christmas Yet To Come.  Amanda and James are truly bitten by the bug and have both put their names forward for the next production - a version of Terry Pratchett's "Going Postal".  I'm ordering my tickets already.

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