Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Floody Hell.

Just popping into Chard for some baked beans.
I had a strange experience the other day on Facebook.  No, it wasn't abuse, it was instead a series of messages from friends of mine around the country and the World enquiring as to whether I was alright or not.  I wondered why they were suddenly all so concerned about my welfare, but then the dreaded word that they were all focusing on became apparent.... Somerset.  Somerset, it seems, is now considered the most dangerous place to live on Planet Earth.  Soweto?  Hah!  Beirut?  Piffle!  Syria?  For girls!  Chatham?  Well, that is pretty f***ing ropey, but apparently Somerset is now considered more of a threat to humanity than Medway towns full of arse-faced chavs with the mental capacity of a burrito.  And it was all down to the flooding everyone was seeing on their TV sets every night.  Hour after hour you'd see welly wearing Londoners who work in "meeee-ja" and who had not even the vaguest idea of where Somerset was except they'd heard from their old University pal Briony that it was something to do with the Glastonbury Festival.  These bland news reporters were plonked in front of cameras showing angry damp people shaking their fists at various politicians, each of which was trying to be more contrite than the last one, as huge dodgy looking pipes pumped prodigious quantities of water away from the flooded plains.  If my house was to be flooded I would have to be quite spectacularly unlucky and there would have to be one heck of a lot more rain.  Crewkerne, where I live, is built on some hills, I live halfway up one of these hills on the third floor of an old converted Victorian dairy.  If I do happen to pull back the curtains one morning and see fish swimming past the window, then, and only then, would I panic.  So to all my friends who have phoned, texted and sent me Facebook messages desperate to know if I was dry, safe and un-drowned, the answer is yes, to all three of your questions.  You really don't have to go far from where I live to see the land turned into a sea, but I am pretty sure I'll survive where I am.
I was up in Norfolk the other day for a return visit to White Woman Lane School in Norwich.  This is a great place to visit, fun kids and some of the grooviest teachers you could ever wish to meet.  There is also a very high preponderance of Americans teaching in this school.  But then, they are all gorgeous and friendly so I personally encourage this special relationship.  It was a biggish group of kids, in fine form and some terrific costumes and we had a splendid day all round.  The joust was loud in the extreme and guess what??  The ladies won AGAIN.
The journey back wasn't so bad, but just south of Long Stratton there had just been what appeared to be a horrendous crash involving two lorries and two cars.  One of the cars and one of the lorries had piled through the large expensive looking brick wall of a posh house next to the road.  Paramedics were working on one of the cars with screens placed around it, which didn't look good.  I only hope anyone involved with this accident are all now OK.
I had some time with my lovely James, before heading down to Kent to see Michelle Coda and Matt Rentell, and of course the lovely Elaine!  Smashing!  After this brief pleasurable interlude I was back on the road back down to Somerset (with my water wings pre-inflated, just in case).  I saw a lot of my old mate Pete Flanagan and even attempted an evening out with Matthew Applegate at the Rose and Crown in East Lambrook. We met over there on the Wednesday evening, only to discover the place was closed for no apparent reason.  Rather stumped at what to do next we headed back to Barrington to try out the new re-vamped local pub "The Barrington Boar", formerly for many hundreds of years known as the Barrington Oak, or the Royal Oak at Barrington. Why do people have to change things like this for no apparent reason? Anyway, the pub is very nicely turned out, the beer is perfectly adequate and the restaurant was pleasingly packed out for a midweek evening.  So I will be trying it again.
I am now in Essex again as it is half term and I am spending some lovely times with my gorgeous son James.  We went bowling yesterday, where predictably enough he thrashed me.  Then today we have been to see the "Lego Movie" which was tremendous fun and so inventive, and then had a most pleasing "Ruby Murray" for lunch.  James is my pride and joy and we are having such a fun half term, and there is much more to do!
Also during this period I had a great meeting with Doug Bolton and Sarah Morris about future film and TV projects, and speaking of such things - our movie from Hever Castle is now on the Internet movie database (IMDB.com) - I am officially a director, actor and writer.  Never been so proud of myself.  So if you want to see our entry on IMDB, then just click on this link:  http://www.imdb.com/title/tt3541544/?ref_=nm_flmg_dr_1  You know you want to.

Wednesday, February 05, 2014

Once More Unto the Travelodge...

You wouldn't believe that two days of this drove a couple of people in a Medway town almost psychotically angry.  But it did!
I was at my parents in Wales from the Tuesday evening until just after lunch on the Sunday.  It sounded like ages when I first arrived.  A near whole week of being spoilt by my lovely parents - how wonderful.  And suddenly... WHOOSH, it was gone.  Where did that go?  In what felt like a blink of an eye my time had gone and I was back on the road again.  I'd had a lovely time with my folks, had dinner with them again up at the wonderful Flat Rock Cafe in the delightfully named Gwber, I'd wandered round various antiques shops to my utmost delight and even gawped at a few Estate Agents windows and some of the lovely houses in the area.  While I was in Wales my sister, down at Cynwyl Elfed, had a nasty surprise when BOTH of her kittens, now a few months old, went missing at the same time.  Not a sign of them was to be found.  My sister was absolutely devastated and there were many tears shed for these poor cats.  But then, on the Sunday, just as I was about to leave Wales, a call came through to my parents from my sister saying one of the cats had turned up, safe and sound.  At least they got one back.  Funnily enough, I have just got off the phone to my sister who has let me have the joyous news that the second kitten has turned up safe and sound - hungry and dusty, so obviously been locked in somewhere, but none the worse for his ordeal.  God, I love a happy ending.
So back to Sunday afternoon and my drive away from my folks.  My next two days were going to be in Hereford and Coleford, neither of them a million miles apart.  I was booked into the inevitable Travelodge, this time just south of Hereford City centre on the A49.  The drive over to there took me through the infamous "Heads of the Valleys" road, usually only ever mentioned on BBC travel news when there has been some horrendous multi-vehicle pile up, with resulting soiled underpants, or when it has been closed due to inclement weather conditions, and more soiled underpants.  The weather wasn't too awful on Sunday afternoon, just sort of bloody miserable - glowering skies, constant though not heavy rain and everything appeared grey damp and horrible.  Finally, snaking up towards Hereford, the countryside opened up into pleasant rolling hills and quaint villages.  I found my Travelodge, this time in the form of a converted barn, would you believe.  I was booked in by a very nervous looking young lady (who only appeared to be about 12 years old) and settled myself in my cell.
The drive to Riverside School in Hereford the next morning wasn't exactly taxing.  I hadn't realised just how close I was to the school - 1.6 miles it turned out in the end!  Riverside is a fabulous school, a really lovely ultra modern site, with some very artistic murals painted for the children throughout the building, showing various fantasy characters from popular children's fiction.  It was a nice group of three year 4 classes today, some of who were a bit more... erm... taxing than others.  But they were sparky, fun, excitable and ready to laugh.  We had a fine morning, but I was starving!  I forgot to get any breakfast in the morning and by midday when we broke for lunch I could have eaten a scabby donkey and chips.  I went to see the dinner ladies and was told in no uncertain terms to come back at 12.45 pm when they'd finished serving the children.  So I sat in the staff room, surrounded by teachers scoffing away on sandwiches, salads, curry's and tried desperately to stop my stomach from sounding too much like Mount Etna just before eruption.  It finally got to 12.45 and I wandered back to the kitchens.  They were washing up and putting everything away.  Any food left?  I asked.  No, was the answer.  Great.  But she could rattle me up a cheese roll.  She could have handed me a dog turd on a stick by this point and I would have eaten it.  The cheese roll was duly scoffed, and I was back to being Henry and still hungry.  The afternoon was great fun and finished with a wonderful jousting tournament in which an incredibly cocky gents team got smashed to smithereens in the final by a very good ladies team.
Too easy!  I loaded up the car and made the short jaunt back to the Travelodge.  Now, next door to the hotel, cheek by jowl so to speak, was a pub/restaurant called the Grafton Inn.  I was still haunted by the cheese roll at lunch and complete lack of breakfast, and so decided to do something about it.  And, boy did I.  I had a lovely meal of calamari and King Prawns with a sweet chili dip, followed by a delicious gammon steak, served with two exquisitely poached eggs.  I washed this down with a very agreeable bottle of Merlot.  It was a very merry, slightly sloshed King Hal who staggered the 50 feet back to his hotel room after that.  I slept very well...
Tuesday found me on my way back to Coleford in the Forest of Dean and a ninth appearance at Coalway Junior School.  Such a lovely school again, it was a delight to be back.   I was warmly welcomed by all the usual faces and the exquisitely named Rhiannon Bunn, teacher of one of the Year 4 groups today.  We had a really fun day all round, I was treated Royally and didn't even have to beg for a cheese roll.  I was given a fantastic tuna baguette with a massive side salad, which went down a treat.  The afternoon galloped past at a rapid rate and finished with another damn fine joust, but this time, just for a change the Gents finally won a race.  Thank God for that.
It is still very one-sided but that does help a little.
I am off to Essex tomorrow to see my lovely little boy, then on Friday I am back at White Woman Lane School in Norwich for another visit there - again probably about my ninth!  Really looking forward to seeing my old friends. I then have a couple of meetings with film maker Doug Boulton and the writer Sarah Morris on Sunday, before heading back to Somerset on the Monday for a get together with the talented Judy Picton, my costume maker in Martock.  I might also fit in some time to see the beautiful Elaine - I can't wait!  Life is pretty good at the moment.  Just wish the weather would improve.