The International Steam Pages
The Lassington Oak Morris Men, 2012
For convenience I have now grouped lifestyle illustrated features by topic:
This page is just one of several describing aspects of our '2012 new life', for earlier and later pages use the West Gloucestershire link above.
Coming back from a cycle trip to Bromsash, my eye was caught by this sign outside our local hostelry, the White Horse.
No one would describe the pub as a tourist trap, it has a nucleus of villagers who keep it going and by and large we visit only when there is a rugby international (we don't have a TV), but this was to be another piece in Yuehong's British education although I don't think it will feature in the test she has to take to prove she is equipped to live here. Morris dancers tend to need lubrication to function well and so it was well after eight thirty when things got going, although at this time of year there was still plenty of daylight left. Their particular genre is 'Cotswold', the Lassington Oak Morris Men are based at Highnam 2 miles west of Gloucester and take their name from a famous large oak just outside the village, the remains of which are now as horizontal as the dancers at the end of a session. Its condition is no surprise given that it needed propping up 100 years ago - http://www.francisfrith.com/gloucester/photos/lassington-oak-1907_59455/.
The sticks are traditionally made from coppiced Hazel (in this case from Wickwar near Bristol) and were described as 'well beaten' - just like a good woman as I immediately added. Morris dancers have the same kind of reputation as trainspotters, maybe even worse as it has been frequently been said that one should try everything in life once, 'except incest and Morris Dancing'. After a while the sticks were put away and out came the white handkerchiefs, note the melodeon (squeeze box) which traditionally accompanies.
As exhaustion quickly set in, the audience was roped in for one dance. In the interests of 'Health and Safety', this turned out to involve standing still. Yuehong watched in barely concealed amazement; while there is a long established side in Hong Kong, they don't seem to have got to Beijing to perform, at least when we were in town..
As darkness set in, everyone retired to the bar. I have to say that they were better folk musicians and singers than they were dancers...
And the locals were better drinkers than they were dancers.
One of their annual events is to dance at the top of May Hill at dawn (05.30) on 1st May; in 2012 that would have meant getting soaked to the skin but, who knows, maybe another year we'll join them?
Rob and Yuehong Dickinson