Saturday, 27 November 2010

Why I'm having more fun than anyone else

This post is long overdue. Long, long overdue. Every now and then it occurs to me that I should really knuckle down and get it finished. But something else always seems to get in the way. Just lately it's been yet more building work in the house. We've had a couple of walls knocked out in the kitchen, the ceiling re-plastered, and the bricked-up fireplace in the dining room opened up. Oh, and we've had new windows and doors put in and a shiny new fire escape installed. That's about it really. And in amongst all this I've managed to find myself a part time job, five mornings a week. Quite a lot to be going on with. And I'm still morris dancing.

Apparently, some years ago, someone said, 'Try everything once except incest and morris dancing'. Now, I had always thought that it was conductor Sir Thomas Beecham, until I discovered that he had said 'folk dancing'. After a wander through the halls of cyberspace, it appears that this phrase, or something like it, has (allegedly)been uttered by a good many people over the years. Politicians (Sir Winston Churchill); Writers (Oscar Wilde, George Bernard Shaw); Renaissance men (Stephen Fry); actors (Woody Allen); philosophers (Bertrand Russell); composers (Sir Arnold Bax); all seem to have got in on the act. And even the 'model' Linzi Drew used the phrase as the title of her autobiography. You'll probably be pleased to hear that I've only ignored half of the advice given me by this positive gallimaufry of personalities.

Little did I realise, when I retired from my job back in August 2008, that two years later I'd be kitted out in knee breeches, bells, baldric and rop (that's what they call the spotted neckerchief, apparently), stepping out with Long Man Morris at various venues throughout East Sussex and beyond. And I have to admit, dear bloggy friend, that I find morris dancing curiously addictive. Only yesterday I was dancing Much Wilmington in a freezing car park in Polegate, and next week we'll be in Eastbourne and Alfriston (a pretty little village, and in Hailsham a week after that. So, why, when others are sprawled in front of their TVs, drinking wine and eating chocolate, do I put myself through what is to all intents and purposes a special forces style workout every week? Apart from the sheer enjoyment of the dancing (frustrating though it can be when I can't get the steps right), the motivation is acquisition of The Hat.

The Hat. Many morris sides wear hats. Some have bowlers. Others have bucolic straw numbers, with or without flowers attached. Ours has a black top hat, beribboned in the sides's colours of yellow and two kinds of green. And I'm not allowed to have one. Not yet, at least. Because I have to satisfy the Squire and the Foreman of the side that I am sufficiently proficient a dancer to merit the award of my badges. These badges, worn upon the baldric, are leather, and bear upon them our motif - the chalk hill figure (not to be confused with Tommy Hilfiger, which is something else entirely) known as The Long Man of Wilmington, from which the side takes its name. And until I have earned my badges, I may not acquire The Hat. Every now and then I will glance wistfully at an elderly top hat, sitting forlornly in an antique shop in Lewes or Brighton, and thinking how well it would sit atop my head. Or I might come across one upon the excellent website of the Vintage Shirt Company and think, 'if only...'

But I shall not tempt Providence by purchasing The Hat too soon. So, dear bloggy friend, it shall remain upon that antique shop shelf, gently gathering dust until, wavers (hankies to you) in my hands, I shall Bledington-step it up to the counter, impatient to exchange hard cash for a top hat that has (like me) seen better days.