Although New Year’s Day had started with blue skies, it started clouding over as the Yateley men gathered at the Cricketers, Hartley Wintney, so we all hoped the weather would hold: this has, after all, been the venue for some of our more torrential performances.
There was a fine crowd gathered to take advantage of the clement conditions and to watch this traditional kick-off to the year; to add to the welcome, jugs of ale had already been laid on by the landlord – another fine tradition, sadly more ignored than honoured in these times. Lots of our lovely family members in the audience, lots of YOBs (Yateley Old Boys – Gareth K, Rob A and Dave B were spotted) and members of lots of other morris sides – all very welcome!
At 1 pm (give or take) the Fool mounted a table to announce the imminent event, and eight men formed up and commenced a rousing chorus “Some talk of Alexander, and some of Hercules” (British Grenadiers) as the introit to Skirmish (Adderbury). Then it was sticks away and hankies out for six for a seasonal dance, Highland Mary (Bampton) to the tune of “The Holly and the Ivy”.
Short sticks superseded the hankies for Jubilee (Ilmington), and then swap back to long sticks and Max led us in Vandals of Hammerwich (Lichfield), which I think we performed to his satisfaction, which just shows that miracles do still happen.
A change of pace followed with Myrtle Tree (Bampton), and then another song led into Happy Man (Adderbury, left-right-right) – and given that a jug of ale was still available the words of the song (“he likes to make merry with a glass of good beer”) were particularly apposite. Then it was joiny-inny time as the Fool led the dancers and quite a few audience members, adults and children, in Shepherd’s Hey (in the Adderbury style).
After an appropriate risk assessment for running water and steps, the World Famous Yateley Horse had provided alternative amusement for the crowds at intervals during and between dances throughout the performance. Various Men had passed among the crowd with hats inverted in that other ancient tradition (begging), while Ian S distributed portions of sword-impaled cake.
While Baz and Max kept the hordes amused with an increasingly energetic double jig the cast crept off to change into their array of exotic costumes. Then the characters formed up and it was “Room, room, brave gallants, room” as the story of the triumph of life over death was played out, with its peculiar quirk of King George being the baddie, who eventually got his comeuppance from Father Christmas. The Doctor, it transpires, not only knows a suspicious amount about the drone activity at Gatwick but has contracted with HM Government for emergency no-deal Brexit ferry services, despite having no ships – which is just too implausible, who would do that?
Thunderous applause (OK, maybe a trace hyperbole for literary purposes) greeted the mummers’ closing song wishing everyone a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year, references to pockets full of money having already been dealt with, those to cellars full of beer having already been satisfied.
The Treasurer having departed with a glint in his eye and a heavy bag in his hand, we thank the people of Hartley Wintney for their warm welcome and generosity. And, bar a few spots, the weather had held.
Performers: Andy A, Andy P, Andy Y, Baz, Chris B, Chris C, Elliott, David, Ian S, Ian Y, Max, Paul, Peter, Phil, Ross, Rod, Steve, Tim, and the World Famous Yateley Horse.