Pulled lots women while morris dancing
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.