Log Book for 2011

What actually happened, before time takes its toll and surrounds everything with a rosy glow

Hampton Hill Parade - Friday 26th November
It was to be the coldest winter in London since 1910, so an ideal evening to take a summer dance out at the invitation of people we used to call friends. By all reports it was a successful but bitterly cold evening dancing with Thames Valley Morris Men and London Pride Morris Men. There were an estimated 5,000 audience in attendance applauding our performance.
Colin (who wasn't there, but heard how cold it was)
Rosemary Care Home - Saturday 4th December
With Steve as an unexpected and very welcome bonus there were four of us to dance and three to play plus Jenny. We managed our Christmas dances plus Young Collins, Banbury Bill and Vandals (all adapted for 4) with varying degrees of success, chaos and confusion - but all entertaining. Plus Headington and Fieldtown jigs, ditto. I'm so grateful to everyone who came; the residents really loved it. One lady told Jenny about the country dancing she'd done in the past and said "We could learn this!" I'll follow that up...
The Spring Grove - Monday 20th December
What a great turnout on Monday evening in spite of the poor weather. Everyone seemed to enjoy the dancing and singing especially those nervous new members dancing out for the first time. You all performed very well which bodes well for the upcoming 2011 season, I did enjoy the evening even though I could not dance (apart from shuffling round in Bonny Green Garters). My ribs are giving me less pain today so hopefully all is on the mend and I will be able to catch up with practise sessions soon. Many thanks to Sue for organising the Spring Grove event and to you all for turning out. I wish you all a very merry Christmas and look forward to seeing you again in the new year.
Boxing Day Tour - Claygate with Thames Valley - Sunday 26th December
On a bright icy morning I joined Thames Valley Morris in dancing around Claygate village. Thames Valley were very welcoming and ensured I danced at least one dance outside each venue. I was delighted that 'Vandals' which I both suggested and danced, was given the loudest cheer of the day! It was great to see Andrea perform 'Bonny Green Garters' outside The Foley and Christine joined us at The Fox and Hounds and supported us for the rest of the tour, with Claire joining the throng at The Griffin. It was really good fun and I would recommend everyone to come next year if we are invited.
A Very English Sports Day - Kempton Park - Saturday 26th March
A good turn out for so early in the year. While the sun was out and the temperature stayed up we put on a series of crowd pleasing shows, but once the sun had gone in, temperatures plummeted and the crowds disappeared we agreed the day was too long and brought it to an early close.
Race horses were led from the Pre-Parade Ring and saddling enclosure along The Walk to the Pre-Parade Ring, then off to the course for the race. After the race the winners were led to the winner’s enclosure. We were asked to dance next to the Pre-Parade Ring and The Walk, and this surprisingly intimate relationship with the horses meant that we were asked to stop dancing every time a horse came anywhere near us leaving us with time for almost three dances between the winners leaving and the runners for the next race arriving.
We have started some of you on the betting slippery slope but you should take your lead from Gerry who as the expression says "did his money". How anyone could manage so many last places is beyond me. On the positive side, the room was comfortable, the food vouchers helpful and the hen party delightful.
Steve and Colin
1st Hinchly Wood Beavers - Wednesday 30th March
A message of thanks from the Beavers who were lovely little kiddies and very enthusiastic as were their lovely leaders. They provided tea and biscuits and a significant donation to our charities. The thanks of course goes to Steve for organising it and for fronting the presentation and to Ben and Glenis as skillful henchpersons (wonder what a hench is?), they built an unbelievable rapport with their own beaver sides and trained them to competition pitch for the final dance off, it was a bit like herding cats but I felt that my side (the red devil morris men) maybe just edged it. I believe only one little lad suffered a stick related injury and it was the lad that hit him who cried not the injured (aaaah). Slightly worrying though that they enjoyed it so much they may recommend us to other 'colonies', maybe should have held back a bit, but all in all a thoroughly relaxed and happy visit and maybe seeds were sown for morris dancers of the future.
Arbrook Home, Esher - Saturday 16th April
Well done everyone for a good turn out and entertaining show on the first outing of the year. Congratulations are due to Andrea for her first dance out and commiserations to Laurie who missed the event through injury. Best wishes for a speedy recovery. This was a useful workout to blow away any winter cobwebs and to view progress after the practise season. Tony and Jacob rose to the challenge of providing music and at least one new dance was seamlessly fitted into our stock repertoire. The rather select audience seemed to enjoy our entertainment and I enjoyed taking tea with some of them after the dance. The grounds of this home are very pleasant with a lovely view across the lake on this sunny afternoon. Sorry there are no photos of this event but I will get some at the St George's day event next week.
St George's Day at the George and Dragon, Thames Ditton - Saturday 23th April
The first drops of the April shower started to fall as we gathered at the George and Dragon. We had intended to start dancing at 7 o'clock, but an all consuming football match was being played and it seemed better to wait until the end of the game. As the evening progressed the shower became rain and the rain became a downpour. For the dancers the warm weather made the rain tolerable, and for the musicians a wooden redoubt provided shelter. This was the first outing for the Manx Sword, and a great success it was. Laurie did excellent work selling badges, Andrea and Jacob were awarded baldrics and as the rain lifted Ben danced into the side with a fine display of Headington - Shepherds' Hey to Tony's fiddle. The evening ended with an ample supply of chips and sausages provided by <insert name here>, the landlord of the G&D, and time for a final pint inside.
Spring Grove Royal Wedding Street Party, Kingston - Friday 29th April
The start of a full long weekend's dancing with the forecast omnipresent threat of thunderstorms started in our home patch of Spring Grove. While at St John's the arrangements for the street party where in full swing, at the Spring Grove a packed pub was watching the wedding on large television screens. We gathered outside in the warm sun and as the wedding finished and the audience filtered out we danced on to Bonny Green Garters. A gentle set was appreciated by the audience with the greatest applause for Robert finally kicking free his perennially loose bell pad. We then retired to the back of the Spring Grove for a music session while Colin entertained the crowd calling a few dances to the Plan B Barn Dance Band. I saw a number of people wearing Spring Grove badges, evidence of Laurie's efforts. It felt very special to be part of the community and I was immensely pleased to have taken part in the day's events.
Dancing the Sun Up on Box Hill, Dorking - Sunday 1st May
The light was lifting as we assembled in the car park at the top of Box Hill, and the threatened rain was nowhere in view. Over 15 minutes the quiet dawn was slowly woken by sound of bell pads being tied on and welcoming old friends. Near the time to start we gathered with Ewell St Mary, Rampant Rooster, Thames Valley (Steve Tovey and Dick Keens) and led by Sue sang Hal-an-Tow before Winstering on. Spring Grove Morris Men danced for the 31st time at dawn on Box Hill with Fieldtown Signposts and Laurie was awarded his baldrics for demonstrating competence in 5 dances. Off-Spring, Ewell dancing their own tradition and Roosters dancing boarder took turns about as a beautiful sun rise came up though a cloudless sky over the Mole Valley. After the dancing, the now obligatory photographs were taken at Salomond's Monument, aka the lookout point, and we returned to the car park were Alan and Kate had set up camping cookers for bacon, black pudding and sausages. Then it was home and preparing for the next event of the day.
Riverhouse Gardens May Day Festival, Walton on Thames - Sunday 1st May
Morris the Pig had lain unloved and unwanted in St John's until two years ago when Leo Ellmers took on his refurbishment, and a quite magnificent Pig he now is. This was to be the first outing of the Pig and with an audience of children from Walton schools was a perfect audience to amuse and terrify. After a coffee in the arts centre cafe and a look around the art exhibition Steve formed us up to lead a procession in the sun through the gardens, along the towpath, a dance outside The Swan and then back to the Arts Centre with the Pig in constant attendance. Steve drew lots for the Lord of Misrule and May Queen, and we had time for a couple of dances during which Laurie's amateur dramatics background came to the fore. A one hour break at the Swan and we danced final set before heading off to Kingston. It was a pleasure to meet up with a couple of St Albans Morris Men, Mike Ruff who joined in on accordion with Tony's fiddle and Jon Peett who danced Jockey to the Fair with us. Mike and Jon were there to play for the afternoon barn dance and Mike had been involved through Tradamis working with the Walton schools on May Day customs.
Centenary Procession over Kingston Bridge - Sunday 1st May
The initial idea was to re-create the 1911 Coronation procession of 5,000 children from the Fair Field to Home Park at Hampton Court and there to dance. However that didn't include any pubs, so we included the Bishop not in Residence and The King's Head. However it's quite a long way from the Fair Field to the Bishop, and quite a long way from the King's Head to dance in Home Park, so we planned to meet and dance at the Bishop, process over the bridge and dance at the King's Head. However the car park at the King's Head was unavailable due to ground work, so we danced at the Bishop, processed over the bridge, rested and processed back, and finally danced again at the Bishop. We were joined by Dick Keens and John Walsh of Thames Valley Morris Men who added a touch of class to our performances. The heavy showers never materialised and third day of sunny skies brought out the crowds.
May Merrie, Kingston - Monday 2nd May
The May Merrie holiday pleasure fair is the link with the 1507 origins of Morris in Kingston. 504 years on the Morris stood up well against the other entertainments on offer (a man in an orange condom on stilts, free-style dance and some slow T'ai Chi like paired combat moves) and we danced to a good standard throughout the day. The Recruiting Sergeant – Bidford has settled in well and like all the Bidford looks to be our strongest dances. Most pleasing for me was the gasp from the crowd in the Market Square when the 8-sword lock went up. The pig made occasional appearances thanks to Laurie and Colin, and I wait with baited breath to hear how badge sales have progressed. The schedule that had three stands with the Market Square after lunch was the best arrangements we've had in 6 years, but a last minute shuffle of the schedule had our day compressed to a tiring afternoon with only 30 minutes to move between stands. I was grateful that it was only at lunchtime that David spotted the change to the schedule so we only had two stands close together. A final stand in Clarence Street almost finished us off for good. The end to an exhausting but very satisfying weekend's dancing, and all to sunny Skies with not a drop of rain in sight. Well done all.
Richmond May Fair - Saturday 14th May
A very big well done everyone for successfully performing on the Richmond Fair stage. We had to follow a banging session of Bolliwood dancing by a local school but kept to Steve's sensible dance programme suggestions and filled our spot to enthusiastic applause. We are obviously a popular item on the programme and the Bonny Green Garter for all to join in went down very well again this year. After the crowning of the May Queen we processed behind her cortège to the edge of the Little Green and then danced back to the stage area. Then on to the Prince's Head for a well earned refreshment before performing a few more dances including a vigorous Upton upon Seven stick dance. A special well done to Tony, our solo musician for the day,(supported by Alan on the one occasion that he was not required to dance) and to Andrea and Laurie our new recruits.
Teddington, The Anglers and Tide End Cottages - Monday 23rd May
An unfortunate dip in weather conditions on Monday meant that we danced in the ample grounds of the Anglers, Teddington for an audience of three. Most sensible people stayed indoors on this blustery and distinctly chilly evening. Despite the chill we did dance a lively programme including a Shepherds Hey jig performed by Andrea to earn her rosettes and a Vandals in which Laurie finally cracked the Lichfield Hey. It was also good to see Ian dancing with us again.  Having entertained ourselves and thoroughly warmed up we moved next door to the Tide End Cottages. Local complaints here have apparently put a stop to any music outside the pub so we set up in the back bar for a good old music session. The ever expanding number of musicians is one of our developing features and I really look forward to these informal get togethers. An extremely varied session even included a birthday tribute to Bob Dylan (70 today). Alan treated us to several short ribald ditties and a splendid longer ballad. Sue and Chris led in a number of favourites and contributions from Jacob, Tony, Kate, Gerry and Jenny added to a most successful evening. Well done everyone and thanks to Jacob and Tony for organising this tour.
The Plough at Leigh with Ewell St Mary Morris Men - Tuesday 26th May
It did not look very promising last Friday as we drove south to the Plough, at Leigh, through a heavy rainstorm. However the rain eased off and then stopped just long enough for our hosts Ewell St. Mary's Morris Men and our Spring Grove Morris Men side to perform a vigorous programme of Cotswold Morris dances. Ewell entertained with a number of eight men Adderbury dances with increasingly complex sticking and SGMM responded with our Bidford Recruiting Sergent with its distinctive skirmish sticking. Both sides had a strong turn out of musicians who mixed in and played with any familiar tunes. This raised anticipation of a good music session to follow the dancing. After a pause for refreshment both sides gathered in the bar and a lively session of songs and tunes ensued. Jacob described some of the fare as raucous and it was at times unrestrained, earthy, even raw but lots of fun. It has been quite some time since I last joined in a rousing chorus of My Old Man's a Dustman. After last week's Dylan tribute we also celebrated Martin Carthy's 70th birthday with a traditional song that Sue was sure that Martin had arranged at some time in his extraordinary musical career. The orchestra entertained us all with a wide variety of tunes which on a couple of occasions turned into speed contests of amazing dexterity. So a good night was had by all. Thanks to our squire, Steve for leading us. We thank our hosts, Ewell St. Mary for an excellent evening
London Green Fair, Reagent's Park - Sunday 5th Jun
We received a late invitation from James Denny of Thames Valley Morris Men for any one to help form a Motley Morris the Green Fair, an informal and fun event; only Sue was able to go. The following was freely adapted by the editor from an email of the event. The place seemed quite deserted as weather was overcast, a lot cooler after Saturday's heat and rain imminent. Every time we or EFDSS got something going: maypole dancing, Morris, storytelling, it drew an enthusiastic crowd. As Jeremy (Monson, from London Pride Morris Men) said, you couldn't imagine a more sympathetic group (who weren't already folkies) than families at a green fair. I danced Fieldtown - Nutting Girl jig alongside a London Pride man (Peter I think) which went OK with that excellent musician James Denny playing. Then we mixed in - four of LP, me and a large young man who's just started the Cecil Sharp Morris classes led by John Russell, a Gentleman of the Beaux of London City Morris Men. The very dry grass had huge cracks in it, not a beautiful sight - but there were plenty of cheers and enthusiastic joining in from children and adults. We were also joined by Steve Ashcroft from Greensleeves Morris Men who fooled.
Sue (Edited by Colin)
Wimbledon with Greensleeves Morris Men - Friday 10th June
Yet again, we managed to find a couple of hours free of rain on another dreadful evening last week, to dance at the Dog and Fox and the Green Man in Wimbledon, together with our hosts Greensleeves Morris Men. In true Greensleeves tradition we started promptly at eight and danced turn and turn about including a mass Balance the Straw (Fieldtown) until the gathering dark clouds began to shower down. We moved on to the Green Man and after a short delay to allow the rain to stop and to clear the courtyard of standing water, we continued with a varied programme of dance that included a two handed jig by Sue and Andrea and a very slick sword dance from Greensleeves. With good ale and tasty snacks, I feel that we all had a good evening's entertainment. Thanks to Greensleeves Morris Men
Twickenham Festival - Saturday 11th June
What a contrast to the weather we have been battling with for the last few gigs. Saturday started out fair and just improved all afternoon. We started our day at the Farmers' Market with our usual repertoire of Bidford, Bampton and Adderbury dances. Steve insisted that we practise our handkerchief show dance, Signposts (Fieldtown), at every session throughout the day so hopefully it will be perfect for the midsummer evening gig next week. Our second spot was outside the Fox with time for a pint and then on to St Mary's Church for a lunch time spot with a ploughman's and Pimms. There was just time for a pint at Barmy Arms where we were pressed into a few dances, and then we moved onto Eel Pie Island where we entertained those taking tea at the Richmond Yacht Club. By this time the sun was warming up and we enjoyed a delightful afternoon by the river closing with a Lichfield, Ring O' Bells. Dancers and musicians were grateful for the tea and cake at this lovely spot before moving back to the church end of the precinct for a fifth and final session ending with a very vigorous Upton upon Seven stick dance. What a marvellous day!
Rob (Edited by Colin)
Centenary Midsummer Morris - Wednesday 22th June
Two years ago I thought the Midsummer Morris couldn't get any better, and I'm pleased to say I was wrong. We had more guest sides, each with more members, the Ring Area rep came over from Kent to see us, two simultaneous stands in Richmond and each with a Spring Grove side and musician and Laurie in the Pig.

Guests: Datchet Border Morris, Ewell St Mary's Morris Men, Greensleeves Morris Men, Thames Valley Morris Men, Yateley Morris Men and Fred Hands of Wadard Morris Men (Morris Ring area rep)

At the end of the evening a count-up came to 20 Spring Grovers past and present some of whom had a driven a long way to be there. I wouldn't usually list those present at an event, but on this most unusual circumstance here goes in order of joining the side:

Peter Mason, Steve Nash, Robin Aitken, Luis Castillo, Colin Sawyer, Paul Leyland, Ian Kirkpatrick, David Seager, Alan Bull, Robert Muller, Roger Green, Gerry McCann, Colin Messer, John Curwood, Jim Beard, Ben Izard, Simon Connor, Tony Bryan, Jacob Dalby and Laurie South.
Richmond experienced a deluge during the afternoon, but by the evening the sun was out and a warm summer evening followed. Spring Grove kicked off the proceedings at the White Cross with the show stick dance, a double headed Bidford - Young Collins of twelve dancers and band. Then we separated the six sides into two groups one at the White Cross and one on the other side of the slipway at the Slug and Lettuce, with Spring Grove fielding a side at both. A good sized crowd was entertained and after 45 minutes dancing we moved on to the Barmy Arms. initially almost deserted, a small crowd gathered as we danced with each of the sides taking their turn. We danced the show hankie dance dance, Fieldtown - Signposts, to rapt attention and applause and finished the stand to a very large Bonny Green Garters. Food followed and a music session outside the pub that was still going strong at 11 o'clock as I departed. Thanks to Jenny and David for collecting, Laurie and Ben for selling badges and Robert for looking after the sticks. We look forward to seeing the group photo from Robert's camera.
Steve and Colin
Datchet Border Morris - Saturday 25th June
This is what summer days in England should be all about. Glorious weather, lots of people enjoying a leisure day, friendly companions with a common interest, lots of beer and good food.
Datchet Border Morris's 50th anniversary day of dance kicked off with a warm up outside their meeting place in the village of Datchet, opposite The Stag pub. Other invited sides were:
- Taeppa's Tump, a ladies clog dance side from Maidenhead who specialised in North West style of Morris with complex formation movements often involving nine dancers,
- Thames Valley Morris Men from Claygate, a Cotswold side entertaining us with such esoteric traditions as Oddington and Sherbourne,
- Hodderston Crownsmen who specialised in Rapper Sword Dance,
- Greensleeves Morris Men from Wimbledon, who mixed their North Skelton Longsword Dance with Cotswold Morris,
- we danced Cotswold Morris from Bampton, Bidford, Fieldtown, Adderbury and Lichfield.
Datchet changed their name from Datchet Morris Men to Datchet Border Morris in 1991 to reflect the change from Cotswold traditions to dancing in the Border style from the English - Welsh border.
Having blown away the cobwebs the entourage made its way to the railway station for the short journey to Windsor, overwhelming local commuters who embraced these many strangely costumed travellers and their baggage of musical instruments and props. In Windsor the sides split into two tours which swapped sides after lunch so everyone, more or less, got to dance with everyone else. We danced in the streets, in the Royal shopping centre and underneath the giant Ferris Wheel in Alexandra Gardens. At six o'clock it was time to board the train back to Datchet for tea before a well attended massed show in the village. This included the younger dancers of Datchet showing off with their infamous pie dance (see You Tube, extreme Morris dancing, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nyC0SIXIyZU). Then it was time for the feast, musical party pieces that included Chris and Sue singing a tribute to our hosts, and to conclude yet more dancing. Then it was time for us to slip away and make our way back to Kingston.
My thanks to all who, though few in number, kept going all day. Special thanks to Alan who danced with us as well as with Thames Valley MM. Finally our thanks to Datchet Border Morris who hosted this splendid day of dance. We all, I'm sure, had a great time and came away with a nice memento/goody bag with a CD of photos "surfing the scrapbook", 50 years of Datchet Morris and a celebratory special labelled bottle of Windsor beer.
The Bell, Walton-on-the-Hill with Phoenix Clog - Wednesday 29th June
We were guests of Phoenix Clog at The Bell in Walton-on-the-Hill, and a rather cool, overcast evening it turned out to be.  Fortunately, the rain only threatened to spoil the proceedings and both sides packed in an entertaining session of dance for the small but loyal local clientele. Jim Illingworth, Spring Grove dancer and musician and a local), supplemented our numbers in a couple of dances showing that he has forgotten none of the moves (but not necessarily made in the right order). The Bell is one of the most out of the way pubs that I know about being located at the end of a long unmade road at the Eastern end of the village and snuggled up next to a couple of charming cottages. The pub is known by the locals as The Rat and there are several picture references to this rodent on view but no-one could tell me the origin of this alternative name. The dancing concluded with Phoenix teaching all that were willing one of their clog dances in what turned out to be a very popular mass dance. The rain had passed us by and it was warm enough to conclude the evening with a music session and jig from Phoenix in front of this attractive venue before we made our way back to Kingston.
The Prince of Wales - Monday 4th July
There was a really good turn out on Monday at the Prince of Wales, Twickenham. In fact the whole of the active membership was there with the exception of Theresa who has just given birth to a daughter (Eliza), many congratulations to her, Jim who was probably doing his grandfather duties and Jenny.
With the luxury of so many dancers we were able to fill the small (but perfectly formed) garden of this welcoming pub with two sets for a couple of dances including Signposts. We danced two sessions for the appreciative, though few in number, audience in fine early evening sunshine. We dusted off a couple of dances from our wider repertoire including Jockey to the Fair (Brackley) and Step-Back (a long Fieldtown dance much loved by our Foreman Colin). There was room to fit in a Shepherds' Hey jig by Sue and Andrea (photo shows senior members of the side paying close attention) and the Manx sword dance that is showing much improvement. After we were stood-down, most of the members retired to a back room in the pub for a music session. There was some attempt to play and sing something to fit in with the July 4th Independence Day celebration (Tony played some appropriate tunes on his fiddle) but most of the fare was traditional British. Colin gave us some Irish tunes on the whistle and Alan sang a sad/sweet ballad by Cyril Tawney, Sue and Colin led us in some chorus songs and the band played traditional tunes in between. It was while tapping along to Sweet Jenny Jones that I realised that I had missed an opportunity earlier, with so many dancers turning out, to call other dances that are too infrequently danced out, Sweet Jenny Jones being a good example. Oh well, next time.
Long Ditton Village Fair - Sunday 10th July
It's always a bit difficult engaging an audience from the centre of a grass arena, especially if this audience is rather thinly spread around the perimeter. This was the position we found ourselves in last weekend at the Long Ditton Village Fair. Colin did his best with announcement from the PA tent introducing the side after we had danced on to Bonny Green Garters. We danced two 20 minute sets, attempting to get proceedings back on time after the local dance school had over-extended their time considerably. Though the sets were short we did get attention, and there was a healthy take up of an offer to join us for the last dance (including two potential new members who will join us in the Autumn). Despite some attempts at sabotage from the PA announcements (not Colin this time) we instructed those enthusiasts in the finer points of Bampton dance and everyone enjoyed the experience. The organisers seemed pleased with our efforts and invites for next year were extended.
Ben and Toni Izard were running a carrot javelin and wellie throwing stall at the fair. How did the morris do? we should be told!(the editor)
Polesden Lacey - Sunday 17th July
Well done all dancers and musicians who braved the fierce summer storm weather to entertain visitors to Polesden Lacey's open air theatre performance of Twelfth Night. The rain beat down more fitting to the latter scenes in King Lear or the opening of The Tempest than to this mild romantic comedy. I really felt sorry for the actors bravely struggling on through act one as we sat under a small canopy unable to hear the dialogue over the sound of the rain beating down. The Morris luck held for a dry-ish period as the audience assembled before the play and we danced, initially at the top of the bank near the entrance, and on the stage for the last two dances. It was also relatively dry for a short interval when we performed more Morris for an audience taking refreshment that was more tea and coffee than wine and champagne. Once again our efforts were much appreciated and there was talk of an invitation for next year.
The Keystone Cider Festival - Thursday 21st July
Eight Morris sides gathered at the Keystone pub in Guildford on an overcast but thankfully mostly dry evening. Ewell St Mary's Morris Men were the only all male side, Mad Hatter Morris represented mixed sides and there were all female sides Fleet Morris, Fleur de Lys, Mayflower Morris, Jackstraws Morris and New Esperance Morris. Dancing finally got underway about eight o' clock, split between a rather small enclosed space at the front of the pub and a more expansive space in the lane at the back. Most sides danced some dances in both spaces. One or two sides also tried dancing round the corner on the bridge but attracted no audience there. Most sides danced Cotswold, with Mayflower dancing North-West and Fleur de Lys their Stave dances; it was interesting to see familiar dances interpreted differently by each side. Mad Hatter set a very leisurely pace to Adderbury and Bledington stick dances and were very keen to maintain a formal walk on which became a rather extended walk round on one occasion. Fleet showed an interesting diagonal hey in what seemed to be a Bampton dance for eight dancers. Jackstraws offered a beautifully flowing (Fieldtown) Signposts and a lovely Sweet Jenny Jones (Adderbury). New Esperance had their own distinctive style and cut a bit of a swashbuckling dash with their sashes and coloured hankies. Fleur de Lys danced with a jester clad infant and Ewell showed off their complex sticking in eight man Adderbury dances. Mayflower's mass formations were too expansive to fit into the space at the front of the venue and nine abreast the filled the lane at the back. Despite the poor weather it was a most successful evening and our new recruits got to see a good variety of contemporary Morris.
School House Lane Orchard Fair - Saturday 23rd July
Another Saturday, another local fair, and we were on hand again to delight and entertain both young and old (I am delighted to say that this last phrase also applies to a Morris side that has recruited one or two new members recently that are not yet Freedom Pass owners). We met in this little orchard in Hampton Wick to dance two mid-afternoon sets in a more intimate roped-off arena than that at Long Ditton. The band was in fine form and the dancing was well up to scratch, shame about the Squire's calling. With my mind on 'what shall we dance next' I missed a call and the side stood about for a whole music phrase until resuming with a rounds - chorus and out to end the dance.  Tony called it my Murdoch moment when we took a refreshment break. The second set went well with dances called by various members and concluded with a BGG for all that included lots of five year olds who skipped and waved to parents with much obvious glee.
Painshill Park - Sunday 14th August
An invitation from Thames Valley Morris Men for which Tony was the only representative. What went on remains a closely guarded secret until a report turns up. (The Editor)
Croydon Night of Dance - Tuesday 16th August
A doughty band of three Off-Springers struck out bravely into the wilds of Croydon on Tuesday evening (really it wasn't so difficult getting there on the tram from Wimbledon, and back on the fast train). It was a good evening - very friendly bunch and so interesting as always to see (and dance with) different styles etc. We were the only mixed gender side on this occasion. There were two London Pride Morris Men, two or three Northwood Morris Men and four Thames Valley Morris Men plus musician, so we mixed in with them in several massed dances: Lads-a-Bunchum, Highland Mary, Vandals of Hammerwich, Upton upon Severn stick dance, Balance the Straw and Bonny Green Garters. Blackheath Morris Men and Ravensbourne Morris Men mustered full sides, as did Old Palace Clog and (a mini-side) Marlings Morris, and the 'Insert Name Here Mummers' play was brilliant. It's good to feel part of the bigger local Morris scene - I do hope we can manage a full side next year (it's always the third Tuesday in August).
Woodies Beer Festival - Saturday 20th August
I set off for this gig at Woodies Freehouse on the occasion of the 7th annual beer festival in blazing sunshine. By the time we had assembled at the sports ground the clouds had filled in and right on cue for our first dance spot it began to rain. We soldiered on with our set getting more and more damp and performed spirited versions of Vandals and Bidford Shepherds Hey amongst other dances from our "safe" repertoire. The Bidford Recruiting Sargent eventually got under way after some difficulties with tempo. We broke for refreshment, beer and sandwiches kindly supplied our host, and collectively willed the rain to stop. However we had to abandon our second spot as it continued to pour down and the musicians who were engaged to follow us set up in the tent ready for a three o'clock start. As we left the clouds began to thin out and as I arrived home the sun broke out to produce a splendid late afternoon.
The Castle Ottershaw - Tuesday 23rd August
The Castle is a delightful pub with range of real ales, and John the publican had roped off the car park which made a great arena for dancing. Although it was warm and dry, only a few hours earlier the rain had been pouring down and as a consequence the audience was thin on the ground. Thames Valley Morris Men alternated with Spring Grove and we danced non-stop from 8:00pm to 9:30 which seemed to work just fine. We danced a fine Signposts and achieved a creditable massed Stepback while Thames Valley's Oddington was its usual excellent standard. Selecting Balance the Straw in the fading light turned out to be a curious decision as sticks clattered down with increasing frequency. The most noteworthy element of the evening was the massed Spring Grove band of 6 musicians aided by an occasional Thames Valley man; wonderful music to dance to. After all that non-stop dancing it was great to settle down afterwards and play some tunes in the back. Did I mention the free beer? A great evening, long may they continue.Colin
St Andrew's Hog-Roast - Saturday 3rd September
In strict contrast to the last couple of gigs, the weather for St Andrews, Ham's summer event was glorious. The vicarage garden was bathed in bright sunlight and we danced and sweated through two sets. We lunched on hogroast swilled down with real ale swatting away persistant wasps and generally had a really good time. In the first set Colin set up an instuctional with a number of enthusiastic members of the public. Ambitiously taking them through some of the movements of the Upton upon Severn stick dance, he succeeded in entertaining all with no casualties. The second set included a splendid gig (Bonets So Blue) by John who officially earned his rosettes and a fine sword dance which raised a good cheer when the sword lock was raised. Jenny arrived early at the event with her growing collection of shakers, clappers and circus stuff (diabloes, juggling balls, plate spinners etc) and entertained the many children at this event. So successful was her contibution that she was still in demand after the rest of us were making our way home. I do hope that she managed to collect back all her toys and I know that a number of parents were most greatful for her efforts on the day.
My congratulations to John, my thanks to the dancers, Laurie in the Pig, the musicians, Colin for the instructional and to Jenny for adding an extra dimention to our entertainment value on such an occation.
Chiswick House Walled Garden - Sunday 11th September
A little bit of fair weather blew in on Sunday to brighten up our display and instruction of Morris dancing in the walled gardens of Chiswick House.  The theme of this event was posted as "Good Health, Good Harvest" and you can make you own mental links to the activities of Off-Spring who turned out on this day with some of our younger dancers all present and correct.  We danced on to Bonny Green Garters in good form and started with a Bampton dance. We then collected a number of interested spectators and began a teaching session.  Using the Bampton single stepping and the Bonny Green Garters tune we took the enthusiastic volunteers through the half gyp, whole gyp, rounds movements in one double line configuration before separating them into two sides to perform these movements in sequence to the music.
We gave the volunteers a bit of rest and demonstrated short and long stick dances (Bidford Young Collins and Fieldtown Balance the Straw). Colin then repeated the instruction of a truncated Upton Stick Dance that he had so successfully achieved at St. Andrews last week.  Again we had enough volunteers to form two sides of novices and established dancers and we all had fun clashing long sticks in this lively dance. We finished our allocated spot with a performance of the Lichfield eight man dance, Vandals of Hammerwich complete with a very creditable Lichfield Hey before a final call for all to join in a massed Bonny Green Garters.
Yateley Morris Men's Day of Dance - Saturday 17th September
This report should start at 6pm on Thursday, but more of that later, instead let me mention diversions. Arriving at 9 o'clock was it was a dream journey, clear roads and good weather. David, Ian and I started to worry as 9:30 and the coach departure approached, and we were still the only team members present. It turned out that five minutes after I headed up towards Yateley the road had been closed and diversions sent everyone behind me on a 30 minute tour of Hampshire, with the exception of Ben who as 10 o'clock approached was still following diversion signs now extending into the neighbouring counties. So we left short of Graham, who never left Sidmouth, Ben, who was by now at the Welsh border, and of course Steve which takes us back to 6pm Thursday when Steve had mashed his finger in a door and was still at St Georges Tooting awaiting plastic surgery.

On route to the first pub in Bagshot, David made contact with Ben, and much to our surprise Ben's big red van turned up as we were getting off the coach. On to Windsor and there's a message that Steve's finger is sorted, but will we see him? Tourists in Windsor are funny, you would think they had never seen a morris men before. Every short walk was interrupted by a continuous stream of young women who wanted to hug a morris man while having their photo taken (what's a man to do?). An excellent lunch of sausage, mash, onions and gravy, two more dance spots and at our last moment in Windsor Steve joined us with a completely anesthetised finger.

When we got to Englefield Green Steve led an excellent Valentine to a delightful young lady chosen by Alan. Back at Yateley the rain poured down as we were about to process, until as we arrived for an hour's dancing at the Dog and Partridge when it swapped freely between spitting and drizzle. We danced to a select but appreciative audience a Signposts much praised by members of the other sides then headed back for the Feast. Over the day we danced a broad selection from our repertoire and acquitted ourselves well. Monkseaston Morrismen, who had entertained us with rapper, sword and Cotswold danced one last rapper for the ladies who had cooked and served us the feast, then the room was cleared and the sides took turned to entertain. For Spring Grove, Robert read Stanley Holloway's "The Return of Albert" and Colin danced Bonnets so Blue.
As ever Yateley proved to be one of the top events in the year, roll on 2012.
Surbiton Grand Parade and Street Fair - Saturday 24th September
Greensleeves Morris Men Winstered with us all the way down St Mark's Hill and along Victoria Road in glorious sunshine on Saturday as part of Surbiton Festival's Grand Parade. This potentially exhausting effort was sandwiched between two dancing spots in the forecourt of Surbiton train station. The immediate neighbourhood of Surbiton's retail area was transformed by many varied stalls which had attracted a good crowd eager for entertainment. Both sides performed well and did not disappoint the assembled people of Surbiton. Greensleeves performed an ever accelerating version of the Upton upon Seven stick dance as one of their dances while we in our turn offered a very slick skirmish version of the Recruiting Sergent and an accomplished Manx Sword dance as part of their display.
Spring Grove Morris,
30 May 2015, 14:44