I went to the Middlewich Folk and Boat Festival on Saturday 16 June 2007. Some of the team had gone down on the Friday and bagsied a decent pitch. I went down early on Saturday morning and got there quite early because, to be frank, I had been pretty excited and was too hyper to sleep or wait around. I arrived at about 8.45 after a brief detour via Tesco to get some toothpaste because we didn’t have any spare at home. I rang my contact, Carol and her husband John answered the phone and said he’d come and find me. I didn’t want to drive my car across the field because it looked so muddy at the entrance and my car is only small and it doesn’t even have any wellington boots. I was terrified it would get stuck.
I’m going to have to keep this brief so:
1) I drove up to the tents and the car did not get stuck.
2) John and Ann of Stone the Crows put up my borrowed tent with a little help from me.
3) I got changed and blacked up ready for the procession and got my photo taken with Lizzie. Here it is:
The batteries in my camera then gave up the ghost so I didn’t get to take any more photos until Sunday. We walked down to Somerfield for the procession and we discovered that we were to bring up the rear. It was a bit stop and start but I loved dancing in it. You get the chance to rush at the crowd and scare children. Well, that’s what Border Morris is all about isn’t it? During a couple of the stops, we danced a short Tinners Rabbit, which allowed the teams in front to move on a bit and give us room to go back to our procession dance. At the end, we danced through an honour guard of other teams, which was a wonderful experience and made me feel like John Terry when Chelsea won the Premiership in 2006.
After that, we went to the bullring for our first dance. It was one of my favourites, Ragged Crow. What am I on about? I don’t have a favourite dance – I love them all equally. I do like Ragged Crow though, because it looks so good. I sat on the sidelines and watched because I didn’t know it… yet! Other teams were dancing on the bullring too so we got plenty of rest between dances. Now, I’m not absolutely sure but I think we danced White Ladies next and I know I danced. At the end of the “show”, Murray persuaded some other teams to join in a massed Tinners Rabbit. With all the dancers and all the musicians together, it was a wonderful sight and sound and somebody has put a video on YouTube which features it. Not sure about the music though but here it is:
Then I went off with a couple of young Crows, Rachel and Lizzie and a Crow’s daughter (sorry, I don’t remember your name!) to look round the festival and get some food. I was told off by a man who had a birds of prey stall because of my hat. Evidently, the birds would have got excited by the sight of the feathers in it. I took it off shamefacedly. I bought some souvenirs for friends and family from some of the stalls – a couple of friendship bracelets for my daughters and a fridge magnet for Sammy the Shark.
We then got some dinner – I got a sausage barm which tasted fine, amazingly – and then we went onto the next pitch, the Boars Head pub. Unfortunately, it had just started to rain, so we did what any sensible Morris side would do and went in. There are a number of rooms in the Boars head and all contained dancers and musicians. We went in a room containing a pool table and I witnessed possibly the longest game of pool I have ever seen.
Now, I don’t like to cast aspersions on my fellow Morris dancers and I do not pretend to be a good pool player but I can hit the white. This was the most amazing display of pool playing I have ever seen! It was “two shots!” all round as the white failed to connect with a colour or the white went in the pocket. The only thing not done was to pot the black before time. I took two goes (it was a team effort in every sense of both words) and the first time, I actually managed to pot two balls and of the right colour. I did say I’m not a good pool player. The last shot was down the table and I missed the pocket (but not the ball). I blamed it on not wearing my glasses. This was a deception because I am long sighted.
Anyway, one team won, the rained cleared up and we went out to dance. It was Ragged Crow again and this time I learned the dance. Ragged Crow is danced in sets of four. Usually 2 sets but 3 other Crows made up a third set with me and took me through the dance. We did another dance (I really should have taken notes because I’ve forgotten everything) and then another Tinners.
After that, more mooching around until we were to dance at the Festival Ground. At the Festival Ground, I danced Ragged Crow properly for the first time. It was great!
The rest of Saturday is a bit of a blur really. I had a couple of beers from the beer tent and I bought a leather Morris Dancer badge from the clog maker. I also went to look at didgeridoos with Brent and Fiona and I had a look at some other weird and wonderful musical instruments. Later I went to look at rings with Lizzie and I got myself a ring for my little finger (so I now wear 8).
We went back to the campsite at the end of the day and Brent and the lovely Fiona went to get a curry (I still owe them a fiver for mine). I was getting colder and colder and I was beginning to feel sick and I was really tired (I had done loads of dances during the day – I’m really not used to the exercise). Somebody noticed that something was wrong – especially when I didn’t eat my curry – and took action. I was put in John and Gill’s motorhome and wrapped up in blankets and a quilt. John put on the heater and people kept looking in and asking if I was okay. I think my embarrassment slightly outweighed the cold and tiredness.
Eventually, most of the Crows went off to the evening shows and ceilidhs and Ann brought me a hot chocolate. I was really tired and once I felt properly warm again, I ventured out to the campsite toilets, returned Ann’s cup to her and went to bed. I did not get cold again but I didn’t sleep too well either but what the heck! This was the first time I’d camped in 24 years so what did I expect?
To be continued…