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Diary of a Kemp follower

JULIE McKENZIE of Golden Star Morris in Norwich has sent the Donkey the first "official" account of this year's Nine Daies Morris - re-enacting Will Kemp's famous dance from London to Norwich 400 years ago. And yes, now she comes to mention it, it didn't take nine days....

This is a brief account of the Year 2000 Morris Eight Days Wonder recorded during the event and scribed for the delight, bewilderment and amazement of those who wish to join us in our dazed and blistered recovery and memories. I hope to publish the diary in its entirety very soon with illustrations.

Firstly I should like to state that the six merry morris dancers who undertook this great challenge and honour of preserving Will Kemp's memory DID dance the entire 132 miles from London to Norwich. The two musicians DID play and walk the entire route. Disbelieve all those gossips that say otherwise. The group did not stroll gaily along chatting or hitch lifts from the support vehicles to rest aching limbs, but earned the right to be remembered in morris history as having truly completed the distance with a merry heart and much suffering.

I join them in their hearty thanks for the splendid support and encouragement of the marshals, drivers, caterers and superb morris sides from throughout the country who saw fair play and joined in the fun.

Mark from Golden Star Morris nominates himself official pub critic and yes, he did visit every available pub on route; and Bethan of Golden Star Morris elects herself official ladies' loo guide.

On the first day we meet the elusive Yateley Highway Horse who keeps popping up in the most unexpected places throughout the journey. We mingle with muslims marching and lamenting and also pay our respects to a wedding party.

The Golden Lion - "The beer is OK. Drinking Old Peculiar and I asked the bar maid for an Old Peculiar and she asked me for my phone number".

Tea time at Gidea Park and a definite whiff of curry in the air from the Indian takeaways.

Day two, and dance into the country and away from the London Marathon. Peter Salt and Colin Sleath from Kemp's Men are doing a fine job controlling the traffic as Sunday drivers head towards the garden centres and we negotiate shopping trolleys at the 24-hour supermarkets.

Into Oakland Park for an ice cream and a polka around the tulip beds.

At Chelmsford we dance with a fair maid. John Tarling, of Rumford Morris, reads from Will Kemp's diary and we have our first accident. A passer-by is so absorbed in watching us he falls over a tub of flowers. When we dance out of Chelmsford he is seen filling in an accident form and having a cup of coffee inside the shop.

At The Angel, Bromesfield, the sign says, "No working clothes or boots", so we take our boots off and steam.

Quote: "Next time we do this on the Internet."

Day three, we arrive in Braintree. Howard, Golden Star Morris, spots the lid off a litter bin and plonks it on his head. His eyes stare out of the slits and his hands waggle out the bottom. He looks like a mobile salt pot.

At The Swan Inn, Hedingham, we meet Sally Stevens, a direct descendant of Will Kemp, with her family. She later tells me her family history.

On the fourth day, Dave Steward is up bright and early doctoring his feet. They were so painful last night and raw, they looked like they should be hanging in a butcher's window.

We are met in Long Melford by buxom wenches dressed in Tudor garb who run out to greet us. They dance arm-in-arm with John Tarling, Rumford Morris, and sway their hips and are very saucy.

A visit to Nethergate Brewery and as much liquid refreshment as we can partake of before being dragged away for an impromptu visit to dance at Colts Hall and drink the host's beer. Will Kemp stayed here on his journey 400 years ago.

On days five and six Steve Conneely from Kemp's Men shows us an interesting side of his character. He appears to be a very good skiffle tea chest bass player at The Plumbers Arms, and later looks very fetching as we dance into Norfolk and Good, dressed in a Molly floral frock and headscarf (he said he had decided to leave the balloons and pigtails behind as they were too hot).

In Castle Hedingham, Mark falls out of bed twice (from the top bunk), and Bethan visits the most impressive loos of the journey.

"Those loos - I would move into them."

On a wet and miserable day we gather around green wheelie bins with pots of tea and home-made cake supplied by the villagers of Croxton. Dave sings the "Hot Tea" song and we all join in with the rousing chorus. It is raining so hard that Roddy's squeezebox is shrouded in a black plastic bag to stop it disintegrating and Howard's drum has gone soggy and out of tune. He decides it would be of more use to wear it on his head instead.

Quote " Will Kemp - I hate the man."

Paul Campbell, Rumford Morris, shows us his "Little Willy" (if you ever meet Paul on your morris travels do ask him to get his Little Willy out and you will have a treat in store).

Coming into Wymondham the dancers turn into Mr Blobby.

The Norwich Whifflers in their flamboyant costume greet us and escort us into Norwich. Here the atmosphere is wonderful. The noise, music, colour and excitement surrounds us. Have you any idea how high the church yard wall is that Kemp jumped over? Not for the faint-hearted morris person.

Would we do it all again? Of course not - next year we are dancing over the Alps.

Julie McKenzie (Scribe - Golden Star Morris)

2000 Julie McKenzie, Simon Pipe, Mark Rogers, The Outside Capering Crew

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