Yateley were awakened for an early start by a combination of extreme cold, the dawn chorus from resident fowl and the chattering of insomniac Morris men. Fortunately, the arousal process was sufficiently spread out for there to be little queuing for the 4 “porta-showers”.
After some grappling with the inconsistent temperature control, we begged a coffee, got dressed, sorted our flowers and went back into the hall for breakfast. This was typically continental with a great range of cold meats and cheeses, plus bread jam, coffee/tea and juice. Parsimonious punters made lunch….a boiled egg was passed around for the rest of the trip.
Helmond had arranged for a florist van to arrive and sell fresh flowers, mainly for the benefit of Saddleworth Morris. Most of us had brought our own supermarket industrial flora with us but some profligate men purchased a few individual blooms. We were to find out too late that the town market stall was much, much cheaper.
The sides were divided into 2 groups and set off to walk to the town. Yateley were blessed to be with with Exeter Morris Men (or Essex MM as our Fool billed them) and Utrecht Morris Team. Our first stop, at 9:15, was billed as outside the library. Sadly (and predictably), this was closed so we danced in a vast empty square with no audience. Fool and beast started the ‘interaction’ with other sides, which paid off later. Who needs sleep anyway? Although the square was bleak the surrounding apartments were very distinctive. Damn fool found that the stage was VERY noisy when stomped on…. The sky was to remain mostly overcast but that kept temperatures to a comfortable level for dancing – no “scorchio” over here.
Having started and finished this session early, we walked through to the bandstand in the market place where the other tour was still dancing. This allowed us 30 minutes to adjourn to a nearby bar for the first of many “what % is that beer?” experiences, too late we realised this was 0900 UK time! The kitty was born.
A much more satisfying set ensued on the spacious bandstand to the delight of a large crowd of market shoppers with the three sides happily mingling aided and abetted by Fool and rompy beast. Andrew Armitage translated the Fool’s gibber exceptionally well to much amusement from the crowd. Graham Wood, in Exeter kit, needed no persuasion to join us in a number of dances. Great to share time with the sprightly Graham. Danced ‘Weavers March’ with Utrecht from whom we had ‘borrowed’ the dance – very satisfying.
At the end of the set we were lead off to the castle. We were still running early so were “kettled” in a pedestrian street for 10 minutes. A fine opportunity for the Beast to run amok with passing shoppers. The sound of running water from the adjacent fountain delighted the men who now realised that they needed a comfort break… Everyone then processed (Winster) to join a massed dance in the courtyard in front of the impressive brick castle. It was a relief to find that Helmond did have an historic area after all. Saddleworth kicked off with a procession out of the castle and a typically vigorous dance.
Bringing together all 7 sides so soon in the day meant there was only time for one show dance plus a couple of massed. Squire of the Ring, Eddie Worrall, was surprised to find that he was expected to organise and MC all the weekend massed sessions. Time then to squeeze in another beer at the hostelry across the moat before being phoned from a distance to return for another dance.
All the sides then processed for quite a distance to the “Old Chocolate Factory”. Winster was starting to pale, especially across the railway line, so we mostly walked until the final approach. A buffet lunch (more soup! and endless excellent rolls) was laid out in the large lobby of what is now an arts centre. The more traditional dancers naturally headed straight to the bar, much to the surprise of the staff who made us wait in a very long line while they dealt with the restaurant clientele first. Being near the front and ordering 9 glasses of the same draft beer at least got us all refreshed. Perhaps Helmond only drink coffee and juice? Drums and heavy kit was shifted by a sort of semi-powered tricycle, a wonder!
After dining and drinking heartily we were invited outside for another massed show. The audience was not large, but some residents of the nearby apartments had strolled over to see the fun. As the session petered out sides sat around in the sunshine (yes!) then drifted back to the Museum for an early feast.
This got off to a slow start as the fierce catering ladies rationed us to small dollops of mash, sauerkraut and choice of sausage (just one!) or a thin slice of belly pork (just one!). Fortunately, the abundance of seconds, and even thirds, turned this rather unassuming snack into a tasty, gut bursting feast. Just when we thought it was all over they brought out delicious warm cherries with ice cream. Formalities were kept to the minimum with no speeches or singing as, by now, we were in danger of being late for the final show. Eddie’s patience was now wearing thinner so we were told that if we didn’t tell him what our show dance would be “he’d tell us”!
Any fear that this would be a bog-standard Ring Meeting were dispelled as we filed into the “Galviolizaal”. Our already nervous mummer debutantes went pale as they saw the stage and a large crowd of Helmonders…. This turned out to be a large shed lined with enormous theatrical organs. Ian Young proved to be very knowledgeable about such items and was able to go ‘backstage’ and arranged for Star Wars theme and God Save the Queen to be played later! An already capacity audience was being warmed up by a young, local singer/guitarist.
Sides then took it in turns to perform a show dance on the low stage. Yateley opened with a good “Myrtle Tree” and Saddleworth took off their clogs to dance Longsword. Helmond took advantage of the facilities to dance “Idbury Hill” to a rather too fast fairground organ. At least we can ask Rod to slow down! While each side took its turn, the Yateley Mummers retired to the “green room” to change. The effects of a day of gassy beer or sheer nerves made us realise that this did not refer to the colour of the décor but to the haze of our own making..
Having a proper stage seemed to bring out the true thespian spirit as we gave the performance of a lifetime (put that on the poster). Ryan debuted as narrator with the aid of placards labelled “hooray” and “boo” in English and Dutch. The initially bemused audience soon got into the swing of things. Greg stood in as RMK, wisely reading his lines rather than relying on memory and a very cursory rehearsal. Among the highlights were Beelzebub’s slipping moustache (looked like a facial leech) and the Scottish Knight’s flash of “what’s worn under the kilt” (whatever it was it was Dutch Orange). Some of us then retired gracefully to bed while the more spirited went off to Bar 42, already crowded with Saddleworth men and trundled back noisily after assorted exploits (bodybuilders..)
And so the day drew to a close with us wondering if we’d done too little dancing or just enough for the size of our contingent. Thanks Tim.