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Guardian of honour...

The Guardian newspaper reports (April 26) that a group of morris dancers formed the guard of honour at a wedding in Colchester, Essex, of a Morris Minor car restorer... named Morris.

Carry on Kemping

I fear the organisers of this month's re-enactment of Will Kemp's famous morris dance from London to Norwich, 400 years ago, may have missed out on the ideal person to perform the central role.

Who better to play Will Kemp than.... Will Kemp?

Those who keep up with professional dance in the UK will know that the present-day Kemp is known as the James Dean of the ballet world. Ironic, as his Shakespearian namesake was something of a causeless rebel.

He probably could have supplied his own tights, too.

Goodness - more cultural stereotyping?

Damn - I missed the March 30 edition of Goodness Gracious Me, the Asian comedy programme on UK television.

Reading the listings after the event, perhaps it's just as well: "There's more from Asian Children's BBC, with an episode of Brown Peter, and superhero Bhangraman does battle with a band of lethal morris dancers."

I suppose it's good they recognise just how deadly we are.

Rapper slapper slips through flip

Seeing two men do the backflip in a rapper dance is impressive enough, but it's nothing to the showpiece stunt pulled off by the Thrale's Rapper Betty.

While Andrew Kennedy goes throws himself upside down in the flip, the Betty - a very tall Jeff Lawson - dives underneath him from the rear, emerging just as Andrew's feet hit the floor behind him. That sort of thing normally takes, oh, minutes of practice and worry. Not in the case of London-based Thrale's. It just happened, one evening at the Cheltenham Folk Festival in 1999.

"It was about seven in the evening," Andrew tells me. "We'd been dancing and drinking all day and we were fairly relaxed, and he suddenly had this notion.

"I've never seen it - I just feel it.

"He also once took a punter through, a lady not that tall who was holding a gin and tonic and a cigarette. He just said, 'Go', and he put her hand on top of her head and followed her through.

"I don't think I would have agreed to it if he'd told me he was going to do it. It contributed to the excitement…"

The buttons marked 'English'

A piece in The Independent comments on the simple Englishness of George, a new bar created by Sir Terence Conran within London's Great Eastern Hotel. "George prides itself on having no music," says the article. "Unless it's an accordion. Anything to attract the morris dancers."

Clash tips for the lads…

Lionel Bacon wrote in his Big Black Book of Morris Dances that Fieldtown was, in many ways, the "best" Cotswold tradition. Possibly it depends who's dancing it.

But which is the best dance? An impossible question, you may say. But the other day I watched a video of morris teams on the seafront at Sidmouth Festival and was struck that the majority happened to be filmed while dancing Adderbury. Naturally, the high turned-out sticking of Lads a-Bunchum featured prominently.

The same dance seems to be a favourite among television directors. If you see a morris dance in a TV programme, there's a fair chance it'll be Lads.

And by the way, have you noticed how many times the morris has featured in the UK detective series, Midsummer Murders? This would be great, if it weren't for the fact that the programme takes such a pride in presenting an absurd pastiche of rural English life.

There's nothing absurd, of course, about The Generation Game on BBC 1. Hammersmith Morris have appeared on this almost as often as Jim Davidson (he's the presenter). And here is the definitive proof of the special quality of Lads a-Bunchum: The Smiffs have been given to announcing it as "Jim Davidson's favourite morris dance."

I rest my case.

Mystery of TV star

I don't watch Heartbeat, the UK television series filmed in the Yorkshire village of Goathland, so I don't know whether the famous Goathland Ploughstots sword dancers have ever been featured in it.

Dancers from across Europe and the States will descend on the village during the Whitby sword spectacular over the Whitsun bank holiday weekend.

When I went (on the steam train) a few years ago, I was unable to visit the Ploughstots display in a hut on the village green. Yorkshire Television was filming the Christmas Special and the hut had become Santa's grotto. This was in September: the snow was fake.

Those who know the series will have spotted the six swords woven together in the usual fashion, on the wall of the Adensfield Arms.

I once telephoned the publicity office at Yorkshire to ask about this, without letting on that I knew what it was. "I can't help you," said the lady on the phone. "I've always wondered why a village pub in Yorkshire had a Star of David on the wall."

Last thing at night, Shepherd's delight

This story will make The Smiffs throw up, but here goes.

I should be ashamed, I know, but I've taken to singing the Adderbury version of Shepherd's Hey (or Shepherd's Away, as it's known in the village) to my small children at bedtime, in lieu of a lullaby.

For those who don't know, these are the words:

Shepherd's hay, clover too, Rye-grass seeds and turnips too I can whistle, I can play I can dance the Shepherd's Away

My youngest, aged two and a half, can manage the second two lines only (over and over again). The diction's a problem, however, and what actually comes out is:

I can widdle…

On that note… good night.


©2000 Simon Pipe, Mark Rogers, The Outside Capering Crew

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