Just about a week ago, I decided to go shopping at our local equivalent of a closed mall-
multiple electronic stores on one end,
a rather large food store on the other,
shoes, keys, teller machine, optics, flowers,
and three small take-aways in the middle-
Which, here in Gutenberg land,
makes it the center of cultural life,
especially on days when the local soccer team’s fans flood the area,
or when we all do the Saturday shopping “hi how are you” -“are you backing out or parking?” bit
when holidays are looming close.
And since this is definitely a grip-and-grin oasis,
it is also a place where I get a lot of work offers.
Of various kinds, both serious, and of the more than unusual type,
for often event managers, pastors and priests,
and even caterers and members of the singers union
are also wandering the malls at that time.
Looking for car wiper fluid, tapas, exotic spices, coffee, and musicians.
Approximately in that order.
Which was why I wasn’t particularly surprised
when I was suddenly stopped by someone I sometimes work for,
and asked if I Morris Dance.
I have been asked stranger things by the mall crowd.
Like if I would sing at a fashion show with a catwalk that was a raised bridge over a swimming pool.
Or if I knew any ancient Latin songs for a Roman cooking evening someone was doing for a large birthday.
Still and all, the Morris thing was new.
Especially as I am not a Morris Dancer.
Not that I don’t think it would be a lot of fun.
my first live contact with Morris dancers,
was, atypically, with a women’s group-
since most Morris dancers,
as far as I can tell from my reading,
are usually men,
who wear straw boaters with flowers, white pants, long shinbone pads with bells,
and gambol exceedingly,
while waving hankies,
or wooden sticks,
as they provide the local color for crowds of tourist,
or for someone to be done in well and properly
in places like Badgers’ Drift,
in the fine old county of Midsomer.
trace their dancers’ ancestry back to ancient celtic fertility dances,
“moorish influences” in Roman times,
or fifteen century church passion plays that also often contained the recreation of the violent martyrdom of saints.
Depending, of course, on who you are talking to,
or which history book you find in your local library.
as far as I can tell,
after extensive perusal of my only tool for modern Morris dancing scholarship,
the only murder being carried out in connection with the modern dances,
is of several bottles of passion-tide ales,
large amounts of picnic dinner,
and a lot of historic accuracy,
since, apparently, no one really knows what went on back then at the dances.
And sort of invents things as they go.
Often, which I find a great idea, in weekend workshops,
followed by a contest,
or open performances.
as I can attest from a visit Harald and I made,
(strictly in the interest of historical research for something I was writing at the time, of course)
many many years ago to a quaint little crossroads coaching inn,
covered in witches signs and feminist slogans,
on “our” Atlantic island,
whose name shall not be mentioned to keep all the crazy, ie non-Morris-dancing tourists out-
when it comes to creating a modern legend,
shrouded in time,
linked to saints, King Arthur Pendragon, Diagon Alley,
and lots of guys getting free food and beer to jump about and entertain tourists,
the feminist women’s groups, dancing with brooms,
called by the men, the “O times, O Morris,”
the youth groups- the Morris minors,
and, of course, the infant-groups,
to quote the James Bond song,
“Nobody Does It Better”
than the Brits.
Or Welsh, Scotts, Irish, Germans, Canadians, New Zealanders, Australians…
I wonder what Harald would think of dancing in a boater with a flower behind his ear?
Be still my heart.
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