Wednesday, January 15, 2014

One Month - No Blog.

Good King Hal showing utter contrition for his lack of blog for the last month.
A month?  Are you sure?  Strewth.  What have I been doing?  Oh I know, Christmas and Tudor stuff, as any normal despotic post medieval ruler should do.  I really have to cast my mind back to try and remember what the hell I have been doing for the past month.  Some afternoons I have trouble remembering what I did in the morning, so this could be hard work.  So where to begin?  At the very beginning, as Julie Andrews would have warbled, it's a very good place to start...
14th December I had been booked to appear at Chester Town Hall for a corporate evening bash for a company called Kingspan who make wall cladding, apparently.  Well my King's span is pretty big, but I am not sure how much wall I can actually cover without it being a bit painful. I drove up to Chester at lunchtime on the Saturday and booked into a hotel.... oh alright, a Days Inn, on the outskirts of the city.  This plastic hotel was a bit different to most of the others I have used recently as it was really nice!  It had recently been renovated, was very cosy, nicely equipped and had a lovely king size bed that was incredibly comfortable.  The weather was revolting and a pre-cursor of what to expect over Christmas and the new year - a cold howling wind and heavy squally rain showers.  As I didn't know Chester at all and wasn't sure what the parking would be like at the venue I had decided instead to book a taxi to get me there and back.  I had visited Chester once before, but that was in 1981 and I kind of guessed the town might have changed a bit since I was last there.  My taxi arrived bang on time and I was soon being whisked off into the night for my appointment at the Town Hall. My driver was a lovely bloke, a scouser with a lovely thick Liverpudlian accent.  We got to chatting about football and he asked me what team I supported.  When I said Manchester City he briefly took a fierce intake of breath.
"You're lucky you said that, mate" he said.  "If you'd said Manchester United I'd have made you get out and f***ing walk."  Really?  "Oh yeah, if I ever get any of those b***ards in my cab I charge them double."  Ah bless him!  
Chester Town Hall is a marvellous Victorian edifice - a celebration of Gothic architecture and full of grand high ceilings, sweeping staircases, imposing busts (ooh er!) and mock medieval touches here and there.  I was sharing a changing room with all the other artists booked that evening including three jesters, a group of medieval musicians and a fire breather.  They were all lovely and very welcoming and I was soon stationed at the front door ready to welcome the guests as they arrived.  There was a whole load of gorgeous young wenches in elegant dresses, there to be waitresses and staff for the event.  I chatted to them and they were all students working at the University of Liverpool, one of whom was studying ancient music and medieval plainsong.  The guests who first arrived were greeted by two of the jesters on the stairs who were juggling and fire breathing, until they were told to stop fire breathing by a jobs worth from the City Council who claimed the heat and smoke from their activity might set off the fire alarms and sprinklers in the building.  Inside, I was there at the top of the stairs with four of the wenches, and yet another jester who was showing amazing juggling skills with a variety of objects, even heavy glass globes - and all of this over solid stone floors.  A brave man.  The guests began arriving in drips and drabs, but it soon turned into a torrent.  As with most British works bashes, all of the women were dressed amazingly in beautiful fine dresses and gowns, and the men were in a general uniform of fancy shirt, jeans and boots.  One lady who turned up on this cold evening was wearing an outfit that resembled a large, black see-through handkerchief.  She had nothing on underneath and was VERY cold, if you know what I mean.  They were sticking out like chapel hat pegs and you could have struck matches on them.  But at least I had somewhere to hang my hat.  The musicians started and sounded wonderful.  Some medieval music groups I have heard can be very quiet - this lot were like the historical version of The Who - especially their drummer who had what appeared to be a Tudor samba drum and it made an incredibly wonderful booming sound that resounded through the building.  I then had to go upstairs to where the guests drinks reception was being held and process them down to the main hall for their dinner.  The main hall in the building is magnificent with a colossally high ceiling with an impressive hammer beam style roof.  I had a large golden throne to park my Royal derriere on and receive guests as they came in.  I posed for numerous photos, had lots of lovely ladies come and want to sit on my lap - who was I to argue? - and then a few navigation's of the room to see how all the guests were.  I had a quick break to snaffle down some dinner, which was delicious, then it was back into the hall for a grand draw with various prizes for the guests, one last patrol of the hall, and then I was released.  I got changed, wandered outside, found a taxi and began my journey back to my hotel.  This driver was a bit different from my earlier one as he explained in great details about his chronic heart problems that meant he could kick the bucket at any second.  I just prayed he got me back to my hotel first, which he did.  I had a lovely comfortable night in my hotel and then drove back to Somerset early on the Sunday morning.
Tuesday found me at Evercreech in Somerset for my final school appearance of 2013.  Evercreech school was lovely and I was very warmly welcomed by staff and pupils alike, all of whom were a bit end of term crazy and ready for a good time, so who was I to say no?  We had a simply splendid day, so many laughs, great fun with the kids and a truly memorable day.  For the jousting we brought the rest of the school in to watch and this of course increased the sound volume immensely.  As has been the case throughout the year, nothing changed and the ladies romped to a very impressive win.  The score at the end of the year goes to:
It pains me to say it, but the boys look clueless at present.  And so my final professional engagement of the year ended and I looked forward to my Christmas break.
For Christmas I first drove back to Essex to pick up Amanda and James from Basildon, then on the 23rd we drove down to Wales and a visit to my parents in Newcastle Emlyn.  The weather down was frighteningly horrible - the wind, almost hurricane like in it's ferocity buffeted the car and made driving very difficult.  When we stopped for lunch at Membury Services on the M4, it was almost impossible to walk from the car to the services without being blown over. Finally, as we got down to near the Severn crossing the wind began to abate, the rain stopped, and by the time we reached our turn off at Carmarthen, we even had a clear sky above us.  The fields around Newcastle Emlyn were heavily flooded and the rivers were so submerged you could not make out their true course.  Christmas was a delight, James thoroughly enjoyed himself and everyone had a good time.  I had to have my car looked at because of possible brake problems.  I booked it into Emlyn Motors who promised me it was brake pad problems and wouldn't be too expensive.  Well that obviously means something completely different in Welsh than it does in English as the "not too expensive" brakes cost me nearly £500 with all the new callipers and the work they had to do.   I had felt tremendously smug just before Christmas as I had come through it all with money to spare in my account.  Well that was that p***ed up the wall in 10 seconds flat.  Arse. I drove James and Amanda back to Essex, spent a couple more days with them and then headed back to Somerset.  I spent New Years Eve with my lovely old friend Ali Bessell, and we had a smashing evening watching the movie "World's End", nibbling canapes and sipping proseco.  The evening ended with us watching Jools Holland's Hootenanny on BBC2, which was good fun, apart from groovy new girl guitar band Haim, who sounded like a third rate amateur band bashing out cover versions in your local boozer.  How the hell they have garnered such a reputation so early in their career God alone knows.  Truly awful. 
I had a week's grace to get myself attuned to being back in the real world, but then my first 2014 bookings appeared.  My first show was at the deliciously named Gothic Mede Academy in the town of Arlesy in Bedfordshire.  With a name like that I imagined copious amounts of dry ice, all the teachers with black hair and white painted faces and Bauhaus blaring out of all available speakers (Yes, Corinna, I know, I know...) but it was a fairly normal ordinary school.  The lady who had booked me was incredibly pregnant and looked tremendously uncomfortable throughout the day, poor love, but they were very welcoming and we had a lovely mixed group of years three and four, just under 100 children.  Loads of laughs and fun, and the children all enjoyed watching the film I had made at Hever Castle during the summer.  The jousting was incredibly close, really a tight tight finish, probably closer than anything I had seen in 2013.  But inevitably the ladies stormed through to nick victory.
This is getting embarrassing.  Much as I would have liked to have leapt in the car and head for home, I had to head north instead to Northampton for my next appointment on the following day.  I was back to dear old Travelodge for the night and was delighted to find the hotel I was in was just as lovely as the Days Inn at Chester had been.  Warm, welcoming, comfortable and the all new big king size bed.  Brilliant!  I had a lovely lovely evening and slept like a log.
If I thought the Gothic Mede Academy was a good name yesterday, today I was at the equally wonderfully named Hopping Hill Primary School in Duston, in Northampton.  Today was a fabulous day - a year six group, a rare thing, but they were brilliant. We started off in their classroom for the morning as the hall was out of commission, but we had a fabulous time.  Chris Barnes, the gentleman who had booked me was lovely, but looked about 12 years old - you know you're getting old when teachers could realistically be your children.  A lovely lady went out of her way to look after me at lunchtime, going out to the local shops to get me a sandwich and drink, and she refused any money for them.  What a nice lady. The stocks and the jousting in the hall were a delight and we finished on that rarest of things - a win for the Gentlemen!  But, boy was it close again. We had to go to a jousting penalty shoot out to get a result.
Wow, did the boys team need that.  They were getting left behind again.  I began the long slog back home to Somerset and finally arrived in Crewkerne just after 6pm.  I was hungry and knew there wasn't much at home, so I decided to get fish and chips.  Not from my usual miserable bastards in West Street, but instead I decided to try Tucker's, the new chip shop in East Street, and they were lovely.  Welcoming, chatty, friendly, clean and pleasant - pretty much everything the other place isn't.  So, that's my new chip shop sorted out.  I got back home, stuck on the TV, ate my dinner and promptly fell asleep on the sofa.  Oh, the wild and exciting life of a Henry VIII look-a-like!
My next Henry appearance is next Monday with a return visit to one of my longest standing bookings, at Blundell's Prep School in Tiverton in Devon.  Should be a fun one like it always is.

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