|Good King Hal, blowing a raspberry on Sarah Morris' face in front of the Houses of Parliament while sipping proseco. A novel way of protesting.|
February 26th - my birthday. My 47th birthday this time around. 47? There must be some mistake! I can't be that old... When my dear late lamented grandfather, the near legendary Charles Mee, was 93 years old, I was having lunch with him one day, and I asked him a question I was dying to know. As we sat in Tomassi's, the Italian restaurant in Southend in Essex, I asked him how old he felt inside - without thinking, how old did you actually feel. He thought for briefest of moments and then said "about 45". However, he did say he felt that young until he was walking down the street, and paused to look in the shop window, and wondered who the doddery old fool was staring at him, until he realised it was his own reflection. I know exactly where you're coming from Grandad. I am very handsome until I look in a mirror. Mind you, at the age of 93 I soon realised why my Grandfather had cantered down to this Italian restaurant so quickly - it was all the tall leggy brunette waitresses. I did tease him about this, and my Grandfather, being one of the last great Edwardian gentlemen (i.e. sex or anything regarding women was not spoken about in public) blushed a little and then said: "Well, the day you stop looking you might as well give up." Wise words indeed.
For my 47th Birthday I took a near last minute decision to head to Southampton and meet up with two old friends from my years working at Skandia Life, now some 11 years in my past. Therefore I was at the Tavernetta restaurant and meeting up with Ruth Le Mesurier and Sue Marsh, and we had a lovely time. The years just rolled away and it as almost like we had never been apart from each other. The meal was lovely, as was the large glass of Merlot. All too soon it was time to part, and before I headed back to the NCP to take out a mortgage and pay for my parking, I popped into Skandia House and saw the lovely Sue Plumb on reception, and saw old chums from security Ian Fitzpatrick and Trevor Allery. Very little had changed, Trevor had slightly fewer teeth and marbles, but not much else. I also saw a young lady called Fern (your surname - I regret Madam, I have forgotten, forgive an old fart) who's telephone I used to repair on a regular basis on my days at Skandia. This happy stroll down amnesia lane over, I was soon in the car and on my way home.
Thursday 27th February, it's time to go back to being Henry. I drove up to the village of Cheddar and a first visit to Fairlands School. It was a big group, of about 180 year six children, but such a lovely group, it was a delight to work with them. This was one of the finest schools I have visited for a long time. I had got the job through a contact at the school who knew people at Hugh Sexey School at Wedmore. We had a truly memorable day, great fun all the way through, and culminated in one of the most memorable jousts in a long time. The final was incredibly close, it was down to the last rider on both teams, the boys seemed to just about hold the whip hand, when the last lady knocked the final quintaine she was at very badly - her final quoit catapulted up into the air and all looked lost. But this girl was good and coolly skewered the quoit in mid air with her lance and galloped home for a remarkable victory. Astounding.
GENTLEMEN 12.5 - 21.5 LADIES
That could be it already lads. Surely no way back from there. The drive back home took me south past Glastonbury and Somerton, and on one last high patch of ground I looked west across the levels of Somerset and saw.... a sea. It was like looking out across some vast inland sea. The floods were still out in force, that was for sure.
I went to see my mate Pete Flanagan in Tatworth on the Friday. He asked me a small favour... could I drive off and collect some more music memorabilia for him. No problem Pete, where do you want me to go? Oh... Southampton, again. So two days after driving down to Southampton to see everyone at Skandia, I was in Pete's BMW driving back to Southampton to meet his mate and collect some signed Jimmy Page posters. Boy, I lead an exciting life sometimes.
Friday night was a special night as it was Matthew Applegate's official farewell bash at Barrington Court. It started at 6.30pm and I arrived about five minutes late to find the whole place heaving with people. This just went to see how popular Matthew was, and also at how deep the anger is felt by all the people at Barrington for the way the complete tossers in the National Trust management have treated him. First Matthew made a fine, sweet, amusing speech. It was touching, not maudlin and was just right. Then Matt's lovely wife Sue stood up to make a speech. Barely holding back her tears and anger she delivered a stunner. One of the most moving speeches I have ever heard. There was barely a dry eye in the house. I was delighted to be recounted a story by one of the volunteers who told me the previous week they had been summoned to the Court House for the pre-season briefing. The man mainly responsible for Matthew's demise, a loathsome creature by the moniker Turner, delivered his attempt at a rousing gee up speech for the masses - and sat down to a deafening silence. One of the other managers was making their address when they happened to mention Matthew's name - this caused a spontaneous and sustained round of applause to burst out among the people in the room. Wonderful.
We had a lovely time, laughing and joking with Matthew and all his wonderful staff. It was great to see Rachel Brewer again for the first time since her baby Oscar was born. Old deputy Visitor Services Managers to Matthew, Tamsin and Toria turned up - one from Cornwall and one all the way from York, just to see Matthew. That is the respect in which this man is held. NT management will find out one day.
I've had a lovely relaxing weekend watching Manchester City win the League Cup for the first time since 1976, which was great fun. And now it's back to the daily grind. And all I've got to look forward to now is my 48th birthday. Oh, and ogling women of course. As my Grandfather said - once you stop looking, you might as well give up. Good work, that fellow!