YMM were kindly invited to join Windsor Morris Dancers on their annual Day of Dance. This turned out to be a rather select affair with only 2 other sides, both it seems invited for their own particular style of Morris.
The Yateley contingent arrived by train and car to converge on the first venue adjacent to Waitrose and the central station. The early birds had already popped into a nearby café for a breakfast. When the bill arrived, they regretted that the last-minute preparations had not included a call to breakfast at one of two possible Wetherspoons.
Windsor Morris opened the dancing with a typical display of precise, athletic and very measured dancing. They fielded an impressively large mix of young and older dancers, numbers slightly swollen by “country” members returned for the event.
Next up were the Seven Champions Molly dancers from Kent. As their fool remarked later on, they have taken a simplified form of Morris and made it complicated! Very precise and heavy choreography was accompanied by stern expressions, no bells and no calling. Even their Betty (fool) was quite restrained. Perhaps the most unusual feature was the “music” provided by a trio of unaccompanied singers. Mostly they seemed to be singing classic pop numbers, defying the old adage that “the music will tell you”. Later on, they did field a melodeon and suddenly the mood lightened somewhat.
They were followed by Mr Hemmings Traditional Abingdon Morris Dancers, a Cotswold side that split with Abingdon 40 years ago and do not bear (much of) a grudge. They are a large mixed side who all live within 5 miles of each other and are often related. It was lovely to see three generations dancing together. They have their own style of dancing, but all the tunes were familiar to a knowledgeable audience.
Talking of audience, we were graced by large crowds throughout the day. Starting in the shopping precinct, they were at first local shoppers intermingled with a few stray tourists. Later on, the tourist quotient increased to nearly 100% and with it the photo opportunities. Somehow it always seems more important to be photographed with a Morris man than to actually watch them dance!
Finally, the alphabetical order brought Yateley to the arena where we opened with a rousing rendition of “Skirmish”. We maintained a high standard of dancing throughout the day, much to the Squire’s delight. Lots of smiles, tidy lines and only the occasional “senior” moment gave the crowd a series of varied and entertaining dances. Long may that continue…
The next dance spot was another dry one in Peascod Street, again with large crowds. The Fool and his ritual staff of office (aka the tickling stick) became separated – if you look carefully at the photo of Windsor Morris you can see that it has appeared in a very unusual place ….. A three-line whip kept YMM from slipping up the road to fill their tankards so by the time we finally rounded the corner to the Windelsora (Weatherspoons) we were fair gasping. There was time to eat here and down a couple of pints despite a new and very slow barman.
After lunch the tour moved up to dance outside the Guildhall and historic Windsor at last became more than a distant vision. The Town Crier was in attendance, proving that you don’t have to be a Morris dancer (or royalty) to dress in strange historic garments. The aforementioned tourists descended for selfies and many a sweaty hat was placed on an unsuspecting oriental head. Fortunately, we had all finished by the time a limo pulled up with a wedding party, so we headed off to the last spot.
The Two Brewers is conveniently located at the traffic free end of an historic road leading to the entrance to the Great Park. Restrictions on how far a drink could be taken from the pub were not noticed (honestly officer) by the thirsty performers as they made way for another large audience. These were mostly on their way to gaze in the general direction of the 7th in line to the throne’s future playpen. The castle backdrop around the corner was too good to miss and a massed photo session rounded off the day
Our dancing done, and with no tea or feast to keep us from our homes, we set off on our separate ways. Only the Squire and a couple of delinquents dragged out the day to quaff a final pint in the lovely Carpenters Arms. It was only then that a short sharp shower fulfilled the negative threats of the weather forecasters. A fine day and some fine dancing for good crowds in a lovely location. What more could we want?!
Tim, Andy, Baz, Rod, Chris, Steve, Chris, Phil, Andy A, Ian Y, Peter, Ross. Sweaty brute.