Pulled lots women while mor­ris danc­ing

Loughborough Echo - - MIKE LOCKLEY -

WHILE wit­ness­ing the bizarre New Year’s Day spec­ta­cle that was Alvechurch Mor­ris Men’s an­nual per­for­mance at the Crown Inn, I was struck by a eu­reka mo­ment.

Wouldn’t Strictly Come Danc­ing be far more en­ter­tain­ing if the an­cient art – a proud, quintessen­tially British tra­di­tion that’s up there with chas­ing cheese down steep hills, conkers and queu­ing – was in­cluded in its for­mat?

I’d ac­tu­ally watch the pre­pos­ter­ous show if some­one from Em­merdale rolled their trousers up, wore bells and flailed a han­kie at the judges. I’d en­joy wit­ness­ing them be­ing re­peat­edly blud­geoned by a pig’s blad­der.

I can hear Bruno To­nioli now: “Dar­ling, your wrist’s too weak. It’s a fer­til­ity dance, for heaven’s sake, so I want to see you ooze sen­su­al­ity as you squeeze that ac­cor­dion.”

The Crown Inn per­for­mance was bizarre even by Mor­ris danc­ing stan­dards.

The Alvechurch troupe slayed a dragon and per­formed such cen­turies-old dances as the White Ladies As­ton, the Dil­wyn, The Eve­sham Stick Dance and the Broms­ber­row Heath.

I am not aware of the above rou­tines, but would bet they in­volve an in­or­di­nate amount of skip­ping, twirling and han­kie-wav­ing. They all do.

To add to the weird and won­der­ful gath­er­ing, Don­ald Trump and Boris John­son looka­likes at­tended. The or­ange-hued Amer­i­can pres­i­dent has a face that begs to be bat­tered by a pig’s blad­der.

The his­toric event be­gan with one of the troupe an­nounc­ing: “We will start the pro­ceed­ings with some danc­ing.”

That was un­nec­es­sary. Those present knew that. They started pro­ceed­ings with some danc­ing, ended it with some danc­ing and there was plenty of danc­ing in be­tween.

I en­joyed it, but the ac­cor­dion play­ing be­came tire­some.

Next year, I hope the Alvechurch Mor­ris Men “rock up” with a Moog syn­the­sizer.

In my mind, there is only one dif­fer­ence be­tween an ac­cor­dion and an onion. Only some peo­ple cry when you chop up an onion.

The dancers have courted con­tro­versy in some quar­ters for black­ing their faces. The crit­i­cism is un­fair. The troupe pro­vide a por­tal into a time free from the shack­les of po­lit­i­cal cor­rect­ness, an an­cient, in­no­cent slice of our past.

The Alvechurch Mor­ris Men were formed in 1989. Love Thy Neigh­bour and Mind Your Lan­guage were still be­ing re­peated on TV.

I have no wish to den­i­grate those who gain en­joy­ment from mor­ris danc­ing but Mor­ris, who­ever he was, has a lot to an­swer for.

We per­se­vere with this ru­ral tra­di­tion be­cause it is a part of British his­tory. Cock-fight­ing and the Black Death were also a part of British his­tory and no one’s in a rush to pre­serve them.

I’m not even sure how his­tor­i­cal num­bers such as the Dil­wyn and Broms­ber­row Heath re­ally are.

It’s hard to be­lieve, even in the 1600s, that one landowner de­cided the spud har­vest would ben­e­fit from hit­ting fel­low farm­ers around the head with a hog blad­der while wear­ing bells.

I fear the whole thing may be a Vic­to­rian folly: some­thing dressed up to be much older than it ac­tu­ally is. Like Clive Dunn, who played Lance Cor­po­ral Jones in Dad’s Army.

I speak as some­one who has tried mor­ris danc­ing. Af­ter jig­gling my way through a sham­bolic rou­tine, one chap sport­ing a shaggy beard pulled me aside and whis­pered: “Bit of a tip. Next time, give your han­kie a good boil­ing be­fore whip­ping it out.”

Statis­tics show that mor­ris danc­ing may have had its day, how­ever, with troupes strug­gling to at­tract new, young blood. Sadly, it’s a sign of the times. For what­ever rea­son, the youths of to­day pre­fer drink­ing and il­licit sex to skip­ping on a pub car park with bells strapped to their shins. Their loss. Mor­ris danc­ing gives kids a sense of di­rec­tion. The di­rec­tion be­ing four steps for­ward, skip, bang sticks to­gether, then four steps back­wards.

Then two steps to the side, three back and dis­play that han­kie with pride.

Sadly, the steady stream of young­sters once ea­ger to mor­ris dance, like their fa­ther and his fa­ther, has slowed to a trickle.

They would rather play com­puter games such as Blad­der Beaters – The Pig’s Re­venge III.

I’ve asked my own son, a strap­ping, 6ft 6ins man moun­tain, to strap on the bells with pride, to flour­ish his han­kie pub­licly. He wants to prac­tise on his Nin­tendo Wii first.

“Come on,” I pleaded “You’ll be sur­prised. I ‘pulled’ no end of women while mor­ris danc­ing.”

“Come off it!” he sneered. “If mor­ris danc­ing was a pop­u­lar way of meet­ing women it’d have its own on­line dat­ing site.”

The de­scrip­tions would be in­ter­est­ing: “Pro­fes­sional male, gsoh, clean han­kie, en­joys be­ing struck with pig’s blad­der...”

The ra­tio­nale be­hind mor­ris danc­ing has re­cently been ex­plained to me.

The stomp­ing of boots drive moles – the bane of veg­etable grow­ers – to the sur­face ap­par­ently. The sticks are to strike them with. The han­kies are there to clean up the mess.

Not a sin­gle mole made an ap­pear­ance dur­ing the Alvechurch rou­tine, prob­a­bly be­cause they were danc­ing on tar­mac.

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