And Gutenberg Lived Here: The Morris Dancer- Is That A Car?

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.

Believe me,

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.

In fact,

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,

clashing swords,

clanking cups,

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,

or Causton,

in the fine old county of Midsomer.

And, incidentally,

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.

Today, though,

as far as I can tell,

after extensive perusal of my only tool for modern Morris dancing scholarship,

the internet,

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.

But still,

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,

the Morris-minis,

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.

copyright 2016

8 thoughts on “And Gutenberg Lived Here: The Morris Dancer- Is That A Car?

  1. Actually, I’ve sung Erda, the, for my taste, far too low voiced earth mother, dressed in a very heavy cotton robe reminiscent of a green bed cover and lots of flowers and twigs it took me hours to comb out in my hair.
    As for the Valkyrie bit, I gladly leave the Brunhilda garb to Madonna.


  2. now see…
    I think it was a high honor for you just to be asked!
    i’m going to apologize in advance… to all the historical buffs reading this … and who might feel they have to defend their beloved morris dancers’ skill …
    but every example I have ever seen of it … or them.. or they…
    it just seems like they’re mainly skipping and frolicking and waving their arms and
    that NO particular skill is needed.
    I propose you join in. in your white pants with the leg thingys and the bells and the hat.
    and just as it’s getting going… you break into a GORGEOUS aria!!! and BLOW THEIR BOWLERS OFF!!!

    Liked by 1 person

      1. how kind of you to disregard my faux pas of calling their straw boaters … bowlers!
        and I best not. they couldn’t handle the two of us! 🙂 she smiled sweetly and ever so wickedly.
        have you ever sung and played that lady with the metal bosoms and the horns on her head?
        I always thought she’d be fun to be!


  3. I’ve never tried Morris dancing, but I’ve seen it in videos and things. It looks fairly harmless and probably good exercise for someone like me who is not interested in taking up squash or running marathons. It’s funny to think that most of ye olde historical steps were probably decided in the back of a pub somewhere by enthusiasts. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

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