Saturday, 12 May 2012

Saturday 12th May - Macho Morris Maids

It's been a Morrissy sort of day today in the town - everywhere you go there is a gentle, rhythmic tinkling noise as troupes of Morris dancers make their way from the square to the other square to the market to The Bear to The Stout House to the square and back to The Bear and to the market and then back to The Stout House. They clump along, pausing to shake out their hankies and and rattle their cudgels complicated patterns to the accompaniment of and assortment of squeeze boxes, penny whistles, fiddles, bodruans, and whatever else seems to make a suitably rustic sound.

While making my own way from the square to the other square to the market to the bank to the post office to the shop which sold me the roasting tin which has prematurely succumbed to rust, my attention was caught by a very different Morris team.

The accompaniment was provided by a man beating a drum, and another man clipping two substantial staves together in a simple, but compelling rhythm. There were no other sounds. Three men, dressed in tattered black, with blackened faces, and black hats decorated with pheasant feathers, stood impassively in a row, while several women, also dressed in black (but maybe less tattered), and also wielding cudgels, danced round them as though they were tracing a labyrinth, or a Celtic knot. dancers and statues had no expression on their faces, apart from a fierce, inward concentration. The whole effect was weirdly mesmerising, as though they were enacting some kind of ancient spell.

I should have taken a photograph - sorry - I was bewitched - spell bound - by the strange sense of powerful and ancient magic at work.

The dance came to an end, the women standing in front of the men, almost as a challenge. The watchers clapped and the dancers left, to be replaced by a team of "normal" Morris men with flowers in their hats, and,  jingling bells and clean white hankies.

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