Monthly reports from the
So, the 2001 season is off and running (even if Berkshire Bedlam aren't) with 2
events in April and several more in May.
The first event of the season, as is traditional, was the dance out at the
Queens Oak, Finchampstead, on Thurs 26 April, which featured flawless debuts
from Sue and Tim (but really, if you want to fit better with the rest of the side,
you'll have to make more mistakes).
2 days after this, on Sat 28, was Lee and Linda's wedding, a fabulous affair in the lavish setting
of Easthampstead Park, Wokingham. They proved more than generous hosts for the day, laying on copious quantities of food and drink, and entertainment
including the Old Rope String Band and an evening ceilidh featuring Token Women.
Berkshire Bedlam's main contribution to the day was to get through as much of
the food and drink as possible, but also to perform a dance set in the afternoon
along with Jackstraws and Seven Champions. A particular highlight was Lee and
best man Jerry in full regalia (i.e. frock coats) performing a 2 man jig 'Arse
about Face' (that's the name of the jig, not how they finished up). Later on, in
the ceilidh interval, BB performed the Cockney dance, and with a bit more
practice may get that Cockney reel of death right one day.....
After our very different start to the season
at Lee and Linda's Day
of Dance in April, May was down to business.
First was a day at Hastings Jack-in-the-Green on Sat 5th, which started with
Shooting at Winkle Island (well, not literally you understand). This was our
second appearance at Hastings, and once again we enjoyed the informality of the
day, even if Hammersmith did make it difficult to do our Mazurka, normally done
without sticks or hankies, by continually feeding us things to hold (made the
hand clapping sequences very tricky). Later on in the day we went up to the
newly renovated and reopened pier where Schroedingers Hat/Cat, our new
metaphysical dance, got its first proper public airing. And left everyone
suitably baffled. Finally a cracking ceilidh with the Bismarcks, where Gareth
and Eddie glistened all night long.
Next up was a simply wonderful weekend in North Yorkshire at the Betty Luptons
Weekend of Dance, hosted by Betty Luptons, with guests
on Saturday Ripon City and Short Circuit, and on Sunday the Flag and Bone Gang,
though we couldn't help noticing Betty's, Ripon and Flag and Bone members kept
looking suspiciously alike.
Anyway they were great hosts for the weekend, laid on some excellent
dance spots in Harrogate on Saturday and Knaresborough on Sunday, and
gave us the surreal experience of a 'Sound of Music' party evening on
the Saturday night with Nazi officers, cross dressed nuns, the entire
costumed cast of do-ray-me-fah-so-la-tee, most of BB in Alpine-y type
costume with appalling suitable green Tyrolean hats with white feathers,
and featuring the unique sing-a-longa-Sounda-Music karaoke experience,
once they got the subtitles working on the DVD. There were also a range
of guest spots, into which our own offerings of the Von Krapp family and
Schwarzkopf blended suitably tastelessly.
von Krapps, which those on the inside would say looked suspiciously like
our Cockney dance but with less 'gertchas' and more 'sieg heiling',
introduced the roguish Colonel Lee von Krapp, with his delightful Krapp
children including Lotza, Schlipon, Mustafa, and the boy-named-Sue, plus
of course the lovely Paula, mother of all Krapps (and didn't she just
revel in the role).
Schwarzkopf also went down a storm, despite the problems of the CD
player jumping at critical moments when bouncing up and down on the
wooden floor (first time round, Rob's triumphant final somersault just
before the end caused the music to go back to the start). There were
also some games laid on including 'guess the caption' competitions for
stills from the Sound of Music DVD (our favourite : caption for a line
of serious looking nuns standing high up on a balcony : "and if one
black nun should accidentally fall...").
Anyway, well done B.Ls, thanks for looking after your soft southerner
guests so well, and thanks for all the sandwiches and chips which
appeared every time we stood still. And thanks for the glorious sunshine
throughout the weekend - a welcome bonus!
The following Saturday saw us at the Rogue Day of Dance in Oxford, with
Rogue, Jabberwocky, Loose Women, and Mabel Gubbins. After dancing in
central Oxford in the morning, we took a boat trip down the Thames to
the Kings Arms at Sandford Lock, where Simon endeared himself to Jameson
with a particularly brotherly knee in the thigh during the fighting
sequence in Albemarle's Hop. Another excellent day, even if Jameson has
a limp for the rest of the summer.
final May event was an evening at the Cricketers, Hartley Wintney, with
Jackstraws. One of the reasons for choosing the location was its
location, 300 yards away from our the house of Jane, our fiddle player -
who was unfortunately in Australia for this particular evening. Anyway
the evening was fine, Jackstraws provided good dancing and good company,
and Jameson and Simon performed a spirited 'As the Tide was Flowing' without
managing to damage each other this time....
first gig was a reappearance at one of the true Morris occasions of the
year, the Kirtlington Lamb Ale. This was a chance to do possibly our only procession of 2001, an
opportunity eagerly seized by .. er, well, no-one actually, though Paul
had the audience gasping as he dropped out half way round ("its all
right lads, its just me leg / knee / thigh / hairdo").
Dancing at the Village Hall with Isis, we were happy to help out when
they asked for "3 men with hats for the next dance - well actually
all we want is the hats" - though they were less keen when for our
next dance we asked for "3 ladies in skirts - well actually
At the Oxford Arms, Jane had the chance to play for 'Fairies' while
Chris Leslie, the renowned Fairport Convention fiddler, was in the
audience ("nicely played" he observed to her afterwards,
thereby causing her to swoon sycophantically for the rest of the day).
our show spot, we chose to do 'Shooting' again, hoping no-one would
remember we had done this as a Kirtlington show spot a mere 4 years
earlier, the occasion of Gareth's famous mumbled introduction, totally
unintelligible apart from the words 'Michael Portillo', after which he
was barred from further introductions for the team. This time it went
fine again, Rob's stick cleared the telephone wires, and everyone went
home happy, particularly Jane who had persuaded Chris Leslie to pose
with us for a photo on some pretext.
Next stop was a fairly surreal evening at the Red Lion at Avebury, to
celebrate the summer solstice, with our guests for the evening Holt
Morris. We had done a similar evening some 5 years earlier, when we had
invited Old Spot to join us and they had pulled out at the last minute,
leaving us to entertain a suitably solsticey audience of nutters,
headcases, and King Arthur. This time much the same audience was
present, but we finished up having a great evening, partly because the
real headbangers had all gone off to the stones to celebrate something,
(perhaps the world being in total harmony man), leaving some reasonably
normal people to watch, but also because Holt Morris were great company
for the evening, with some excellent dances, friendly banter between the
sides, and a lively music session in the pub until closing time. Apart
from having several good musicians, Holt also have a repertoire of
acappella classics including such gems as 'The Young Ones'. Jameson kept
up the honour of BB with the first outing for 18 months of 'When Father
Painted the Parlour', but overall we had to concede their vocal
repertoire was wider and better sung than ours. Our dancing though
generally went well though we had a small taste of excitement during
Shooting (quite rightly known as 'our most dangerous dance') when Lee
could only get his fingers to one of Rob's more energetic stick throws,
off which they bounced onto a small girl sitting on the bonnet of her
dad's van. Fortunately, neither the van nor the small girl seemed too
dented, and we nonchalantly carried on as if such an occurrence is a
regular part of our dances ...
Our last June event was
the annual Dorset tour, this year excellently organised by Jerry, especially as
it coincided with what turned out to be the hottest weekend of the year. The
tour proper started on Saturday morning with a steam train ride from Norden into
Swanage, followed by dancing in Swanage on the seafront, in the fishy square,
and at the end of the otherwise deserted pier, where Shooting resonated nicely
on the wooden slats though the wind interfered a bit with the stick catching
(shouldn't have had the beans earlier). On the train on the way back we managed
to do the Mazurka in the guards van (shame we had to chuck off the guard and all
the luggage first) before stopping off at Corfe Castle where outside the castle
entrance we got our most receptive audience of the day, with the music and stick
clashing reverberating powerfully around the enclosed space we were dancing in.
Saturday evening as usual saw us dancing outside the Red Lion at Cerne Abbas,
preceded by the annual walk down the hill from the camp site for those hardy
souls camping this year at the Giants Head camp site (the wimps in B+B don't
know what they're missing). After the evening dancing and eating, Jerry retired
early due to overheating, Jameson and guest Jenny disappeared off to a French
dance on the other side of Dorchester, and only a few were left to undertake the
long trek back up the hill to the campsite - in the dark - through the cows -
through the cowpats (hmmm, maybe next year we'll join the wimps in B+B).
On Sunday, a
gloriously hot day, we met up at the Square and Compass at Worth Matravers for
our final dancing of the tour. Purely by chance we finished up sharing spots
with a 4 piece folksy type band from Worcester who played a great variety of
tunes ranging from Irish to American via several other influences, including one
particularly well played number introduced as 'A rebel song' though this turned
out to be Cockney Rebel's song, Mr. Soft. Our dancing was once again generally
OK, despite the sloping and potholed surface, though this time in Shooting,
Rob's stick eluded Simon's outstretched fingers, bounced off the ground, and hit
an innocent looking dog who had been lying stretched out in the sun with its
eyes closed - well, until the moment of impact anyway after which it hastily
wandered off. Still, at least it got the audience's attention. Overall an
excellent Dorset tour, good dancing, great weather, really nice venues, and the
dog looked alright again later on - so, a great success!
7th and 8th of July saw us in Bristol for Pigsty's annual weekend of
dance, along with their other guests Harberton Navy, Glory of the West,
and Liddington Hall. After starting 'under the sails' near the town centre,
we moved to a nearby pub where a shaven headed, less than appreciative
young local threw a custard slice at Jameson from a passing car. Now,
the question occurred to us all - how come this probably otherwise
fair-minded citizen had a
custard slice ready to throw at exactly that moment? Could it be he
makes a habit of visiting his local patisserie every Saturday morning
and stocking up for the day ready for whatever traditional British sights he may choose to
take offence at? Perhaps he has a range of cake shop delicacies to hand
and chooses his particular weapon according to how much he feels his
senses have been assaulted? Had he deemed Jameson, our twinkle toed superstar, to
be even more offensive to his vision, could a whole cream cake broadside have been
delivered, perhaps with a particularly tough rock cake for afters? Anyway, while
we were pondering these and deeper issues, a seagull swooped down and
made off with the aforementioned custard slice, thereby making it hard
for us to test it for fingerprints or DNA. So our culprit escaped scot
free for now - but if anyone reading this knows of a young offender in
the Bristol area with a weakness for the cakes and fancies shelves at
the local bakers, let us know. Meanwhile, please don't have nightmares.
After this, we moved to the covered Market Place for a dance and lunch,
and in the afternoon to the @Bristol exhibition area near the former
docks. Just outside one of the exhibition halls was a shallow paddling
pool - so cue Soaking the Monkey, BB style. Bit damp, but had to be
In the evening there was a ceilidh with the Bismarcks, as usual
featuring Gareth ( Mr. Plinky-Plonky himself) on keyboards. We had been asked to
do a spot, so we reprised Jake the Peg, our spot from the 2000 Bunfight
featuring a 3 legged version of Albemarle's Hop, with the tune being
picked out by Jane on stylophone, accompanied by Sue and Bob on
wobbleboard and claves. The dancers featured a range of dodgy long
coats and grimy macs, with Rolf glasses and drawn on beards (where
needed) while the musicians went all Australian too (we'd never realised
how good Sue looks in a beard before now). The spot appeared to go down
well with the audience, even though they seemed disappointed it hadn't
involved taking our clothes off as they had been led to believe BB spots
Sunday saw a slightly depleted team at the Boars Head at Aust, but those
present carried on regardless with an improvised repertoire of
less-than-6-person dances. Overall a very enjoyable weekend.
The next event
was the following Saturday when we joined part of Redbornstoke's 25th
anniversary weekend. There were altogether 22 fine teams attending,
necessitating 6 different bus tours. The day started off with all the
teams going to Bedford on our respective buses for a mass photo - in the
drizzle, unfortunately, followed by splitting into our various groups to do one
dance in the slightly heavier drizzle, after which we decided to cut our losses
and head to the nearest pub. It was by then 10.50 a.m. - but the pub didn't open
till 11.00 a.m. However, imagine the landlady's look of sheer delight as she
opened up on the dot of 11 to find a group of 30 bedraggled morris men and women
on her doorstep, especially when she was on her own. After this it was back on
the bus to a countryish pub for lunch, where the weather eventually cleared and
allowed one dance from each side (us, Bedfordshire Lace, Mad Jacks Men and Mad
Jacks Women), followed by another bus trip to that Mecca of the Home Counties,
the Hat Capital of the World, Luton. There we danced in the town centre, near a
visiting French Market, where we could swap each other's culture before
returning to Ampthill on the bus. The evening featured cocktails, for which
those of us left dressed accordingly, followed by a ceilidh from the RBB band.
Overall a good day despite the weather - though just not quite enough bus for
The last event of July
was a night out on 18th July at the Cricketers, Littlewick Green, as guests of
Windsor Morris. Once again we severely tested the rule that 'it never rains on
Berkshire Bedlam', but the rule just about held on the basis that we didn't
dance until the rain stopped. For the first and last time of the year BB had a
full side present in all its glory, and it was interesting to see just how well
everyone was remembering the dances at this stage of the season. Still, it
proved we can all ad lib with the best of them. We had a good evening with
Windsor, our hostesses with the mostesses, and only interfered with one or two
of their dances this time. Our standards must be slipping.
Although there were no
events involving the whole side in August, there was one memorable event which
took place for some of them. Here is a (fairly straight) account of it !
On 5 Aug 2001, dancers
Simon and Jameson, with musician Gareth on melodeon, were well deserved winners of the inaugural Sidmouth
double jig competition, held in front of a full house at the Manor Pavilion
Theatre at the world renowned Sidmouth International Festival.
Dancing a traditional Fieldtown jig, to the tune of 'Blue Eyed Stranger', they
put on a spirited performance which thoroughly entertained the audience and
distinguished panel of judges. Apart from the technical ability they both
displayed, and the quality of the melodeon playing from Gareth, an important feature
of their dance was their interaction throughout with each other, and also with
the audience, for which they received a long and warm ovation at the end.
This is the second time Jameson has been a Sidmouth winner,
having won the solo jig competition in 1996 with Jane as musician, but for
brother Simon it was the first time he had taken part in such an event. The overall quality of the competition was very high, and there were also
excellent performances from Sue Graham & Brian Mander (musician Mark Rogers)
who finished 3rd, and from Simon Pipe and Mikey Radford (musician Cat Radford)
who came 2nd. However the judges were unanimous in awarding the trophy to Simon,
Jameson and Gareth for their combination of technical ability, musicianship, and
Having won the competition in 2001, Simon and Jameson are not allowed to enter
the following year's competition. However they will be returning in 2002 to
perform, as the previous year's winners traditionally perform their
winning jig at the start of the following year's competition. If you missed it
this year, make sure you are there to see it again on Sunday 4 August 2002 !
Following a quiet month for the side in August, except for Jameson and Simon's
notable Sidmouth Double Jig success, the side were next in action on a Tuesday
night for a change, on the 4th Sept at the Plough, Little London. On a pleasant
late summer evening we were guests of Basingclog, along with Hook Eagle, for a
North West Border Cotswoldy sort of evening. Sue couldn't make it, so we had
invited Gareth along to play for us, and he soon showed us that his memory for
the tunes had not changed ("errr .... Simon - how does this one
go??"). One of Basingclog was about to leave for University, so we invited
her into our set for Coconuts where she proceeded to show us how it should be
done. The evening ended for us with a reprise of the Sidmouth jig, after which
platefuls of sandwiches appeared from nowhere and disappeared swiftly.
Our other engagement in September came at the end of the month when we were
invited to Halifax for 'Traditions 2001', a day long festival of street
entertainment, organised by Pete Coe, and sponsored by Halifax Town Council and
other local organisations, and featuring other high quality Morris and street
theatre performers. After some unpromising weather at the start of the day the
skies cleared, the sun emerged, and it finished being an excellent day. Much of
the activity was centred around the Piece Hall, fine old buildings on 3 levels
arranged around a huge open quadrangle, where merchants used to bring their
pieces of cloth or whatever to trade. Today in the quadrangle is a covered stage
area (featured in the film 'Brassed Off' amongst others) where we performed a 4
dance spot in the morning, and a 2 dance spot as part of the afternoon showcase.
The 4 dance spot finished with our worst rendition for some time of Shooting
(and that's saying something) during which 4 sticks got dropped, 3 on the last
chorus as we performed our big finish. Still, at least we didn't maim any dogs
this time. During the day we also performed in the Southgate, and at the Eureka!
childrens exhibition area where we had to wait for the Sambangra drummers to
finish (they were good, of course, but perhaps not quite enough drum .... ).
The day ended with an excellent communal meal at the lively 'Incognito' restaurant,
sponsors for the day of the Iclognito clog dancers, who were exiting as we
entered, having Inclognitoed the chef. The chef had been at the Piece Hall
during the day and had seen our performances, enabling him to do a good version
of Fairies with large pepper grinders. However he spent much of evening
extracting the mickey from us for offences like dropping our sticks in Shooting
and not being able to dance very well. Harsh words, but probably justified on
the day, we felt. Still, at least we can cook.
Following the evening the team retired to their various sleeping quarters around
the Halifax area. For Jameson and Lee it was the culmination of thier years of
togetherness as at last they were able to share a double bed in the exotic
surroundings of the Halifax Travelodge, while Tim and Sue looked on. Well, what
a night that was, culminating in a fire alarm and evacuation at 9.00 a.m., way
before Lee's getting up time. And of course he was very tired after the previous
night's activities. Sadly the BB website is unable to bring you any pictures of
the big night due to grounds of decency, taste, and the fact no one had a
camera. Shame .........
brought its usual lowspot in the BB calendar on Sat 24th with the 21st annual
bunfight, to the theme of 'Mysteries of the East'.
Due to a little
local difficulty the venue moved this year to St. Crispins School, where
we last were in 1998 for our infamous Latin evening. This time we were
further East for our theme, and we were pleased to see many people had
made the effort to dress in line with the theme, some more successfully
than other. Yes I know if you keep going east you will eventually end up
west but that wasn't quite the idea.
We particularly liked our gangster from the East (End) (was that a real
knife Derek?) and an assorted collection of belly dancers, geisha girls,
the wicked witch from the East, and any number of dodgy looking blokes
in a nightshirt and fez - oh sorry, that was BB.
And a whole lot more imaginative and over the top costumes. Meanwhile Phungus provided excellent musical accompaniment as always, and this
time had Andy Stafford as caller, who hammed it up nicely for the BB
spots - thanks Andy.
The first spot featured some Arab musicians (Rob made his snake dance
very nicely), an Egyptian mummy, a real camel dressed to look like there
were 2 people inside, and after our Eastern princesses has sprinkled
onto the floor some sand that was so magic it was invisible, Lee and
Jameson performed an excellent sand dance that really looked like they
knew what they were doing, with tap breaks and everything. Just like the
old Headington Sand Quarrymen used to do it on Christmas Day over 100
years ago in front of the watching Cecil Sharp of the Desert.
The second spot was inspired by the famous film of the 1980's 'Flashdance'
starring Jennifer Beales. Well actually it was the title of the film
that inspired us as we proceeded to do a flash(ers) dance, with the BB
boys dressed only in macs and negligible undergarments flashing at each
other while performing loosely choreographed shuffling movements to the
tune of 'Eye Level' by the Simon Park Orchestra, better known as the Van
der Valk theme. Amazingly after performing it once we were asked to do
it again, at the end of which we opened our macs to a somewhat
unimpressed audience to reveal black posing pouches, adorned with a
small sequinned dolphin (where did you manage to get them Jerry, and
why?) and with a strategically pinned on BB rosette. Sadly some
photographs of this event have been preserved for posterity (or
posteriority) and more can be seen on the Bunfights
But another good
evening with a good attendance, and another challenge to live down to
next year .....
December contained its usual couple of events - the Wokingham Winter
Carnival and St. Thomas Day dance out in Wokingham Market Place. There
was no Carnival procession this year, and without this spur it proved
somewhat difficult to extract some members of the side from a local
tavern after lunch ("right - just coming" ... "with you
in a minute" ... "we'll be right behind you" ... etc).
The St. Thomas Day dance out also always suffers similar problems, since
it involves meeting on a bitterly cold day in a nice warm pub, going
outside and dancing to a small audience which doesn't stay, it being a
Saturday just before Xmas and bitterly cold, then going back into the
nice warm pub, and then going out in the bitter cold again to an even
smaller audience which stays even less time, mainly on account of the
bitter cold. And did I mention the temperature? Still, its got to be
done, hasn't it, it being traditional and all that.... At times like
this its easy to understand why some of the old traditions died out.
Still, never let it be said BB are not playing their part in keeping
some of the old traditions going, such as overeating and overdrinking in
December, thereby rendering Morris activity in the New Year highly
problematical. As no doubt we shall see in the early months of 2002. And
the middle months. And the later months.
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