Monday, 2 May 2011

Life with bells on

Today I spent the morning at the British Schools Museum for a May Day celebration. What a celebration it was! May day marks the traditional day where Briton's celebrate the first day of summer. I know--the real first day of summer in not until June, but in this cold and dreary land May is when the sun begins to warm us and life feels renewed. It was a glorious day--the bluest sky--the warmest sun with a breeze--and lots of traditional dancing!

There was Maypole dancing for a start. If you've never seen it it is a beautiful sight--a large phallic pole tied with multicoloured ribbons that dancers weave in and out of each other to music plaiting up the ribbon onto the pole then the other direction to unplait it. It was indeed often used in pre-Christian rites as a fertility symbol. Many village greens still have a permanent Maypole in place--Cromwell chopped them all down saying they would lead to "licentious" behaviour but after he was deposed they were all built back up again.

It was wonderful because they let the children do the Maypole dance. The older children on their own then the younger ones each with an adult helper to guide them (like a sheepdog) in the correct direction. I was there with my friend who has a set of 2 year old twins (what a handful!) and we managed to dance with a baby on each hip whilst the child held the ribbon. Whew! Packing around a wiggly toddler counts as exercise, right?

Next were my favourite--Morris Dancers! The art of Morris Dancing dates back to 1448. These traditional dancers--always men--wear coloured sashes and knee britches with bells and straw hats with flowers and dance waving white hankies or banging sticks together. it is a sight to behold! the music is usually on a small accordion or fiddle and the dances are merry and fun as they jingle with every move. This particular troop have come to recognise me because I turn up at all their local gigs. They say I am their best looking groupie! Ha ha!  Spiderman says it is sad to derive joy from being flirted with by old men waving hankies, but I disagree. At the end they let everyone who wanted to Morris Dance come up and have a go. I was so enthusiastic I was approached by a woman who does a traditional Women's Folk Group! I'm hoping to hear from her because I would *love* to join. Here was me thinking I'd have to grow testicles to be able to fulfil my ambitions as a Morris dancer.

Here is a link to the the website of our local Morris Men-- 

It was a lovely May day to celebrate the warm weather--so welcome after such a long period of grey. Since I am now a British citizen it is a legal requirement to talk about the weather.

Happy (almost) summer!


  1. This made me smile several times over........what a joyous and fun entry!

  2. looked at the link and think those old guys are so cute........I can just see them in action! No wonder you love them!

  3. Heather! I just want you to know how much I am enjoying reading your blog. Great stories! I look forward to each post.