BB Monthly Reports 2004


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Monthly reports from the year 2004

FEB 2004 - Here we go again

Yes, as the daffodils start waving their yellow heads around, the blossom appears magically on the trees, the lambs start gambolling, (should never have taken them into Ladbrokes in the first place though), and the manufacturers of hay fever potions start tingling with anticipation, its time for the talking (b******s) down the pub to finish and the Morris season to start again.

For BB its always a busy time, and particularly for our team organisers who have to count how many of the team are fit enough to once again pull on the whites, a number which gets smaller every year.

Nevertheless the side has so far been able to do one event on Sat 28th Feb, the annual IVFDF (Inter Varsity Folk Dance Festival). This is essentially a weekend Folk Festival, held at a different University each year, and this year based at the splendid University of Exeter. As with other Festivals there are a series of concerts, displays and workshops, this year based on the main university campus, a short walk from the centre of Exeter where the Saturday Morris tours took place. Although a bitterly cold day, with snow in some parts of the country, the weather was fine and clear when we arrived at the first spot in time for the days dancing, organised by Exeter's own Great Western Morris. In fact the day's organisation was rather hit and miss, with our second spot involving a longish walk to what turned out to be a closed and deserted pub, after which we decided to retreat to a better looking venue we had passed on the way.

However we had an enjoyable day's dancing, once we had got over the rather poor start of one of the team members having his car clamped while he stopped for a minute to look for the rest of us at the first dance spot at the waterside at Exeter Quayside. To add to the irony, Rob was chatting away to the clamper while he was doing it, unaware that the unfamiliar looking car being clamped was one of ours, having been borrowed for the day by our unfortunate member while his was being serviced. It was even more unfortunate that the aforementioned unfortunate was unable to dance, having unfortunately pulled a calf muscle at the preceding evening's stonking ceilidh with the stonking Bismarcks. 

At our second spot, we were able to work something of a flanker on our morning tour leader James, of the curly purple hair, from Newton Bushell. Although we had not been to a pub at this stage, James had managed to get a tankard of beer from somewhere, which he made the mistake of putting down in large open space next to the set he was dancing in. A posse of Bedlams, arranged in the style of a Rugby rolling maul, was despatched to advance slowly onto and over the tankard, swap it for a collecting tin, and retreat to the edge of the crowd in order to down the contents defore advancing again in similar fashion, swapping it back but leaving it empty and upside down before retreating again. Amazingly this was witnessed by the entire audience, and all of the other dancers, but not James. Still, he took it in good heart, especially when we promised to buy him another pint later, a promise which I'm afraid to say I'm not sure we kept.

Later spots included an excellent Dance of the Big Goblins outside the cathedral, after which those of the side who had imbibed some weak lager at lunchtime wanted to do the rather dangerous (especially after weak lager) Jolly Jockey Sticks, but were persuaded to do something safer by the more cautious members of the team, including Malcolm who then proceeded to go somewhat astray in our 'safe' Lucky Pierre. But we finished the day with a cracking spot including 'Fairies' in the Town Centre, and although the day's organisation meant we didn't get to dance with most of the other teams we had a good time overall. Those who stayed for the evening enjoyed a very pleasant and relaxed supper in the Prospect Inn where Lee received a new hairdo courtesy of Malcolm's daughter Stephanie and her friends before going back to the campus for an excellent ceilidh with the Committee Band and Nick 'marvellous' Walden calling. Marvellous.

APR 2004 - Memory lapses

Sunday 25th April was a momentous days for our 2 Roberts - the most important one, young Berrisford-Smith, got himself christened at St. Johns Church, Hartley Wintney, while the older one, after acting as godfather, showed a fine example to his new godson by forgetting parts of his kit for the post christening dance with BB outside the church. Never mind (old) Rob, with those great legs I think you got away with it. Meanwhile Jane and Mark had organised a splendid post christening lunch with entertainment, which everyone present very much appreciated, and Mark made an excellent speech during which he pointed out that it was ironic that young Robert would remember nothing of the day organised in his honour. Don't worry Mark, we've noticed old Robert's memory is going a bit too actually, in particular halfway through dances.

On Thursday the 29th we officially started the season with the traditional 'Bob's Fish and Chip Shop Tour', which as usual only involved dancing at the Queens Oak at Finchampstead rather than Bob's Fish and Chip shop like the old team used to do (eh Paul?), though confusingly tour organiser (real) Bob had fooled some of the side the previous week into thinking it was actually going to be a tour of Fish and Chip shops by producing a fairly credible looking itinerary. Should have known better lads, the clue's not in the name. Anyway we had a traditionally small but appreciative crowd, with the evening enlivened by an interesting Health and Safety discussion (you had to be there to appreciate it ....).

MAY / JUNE 2004 - Yorkshire to Dorset via corporate-ness....

On the 8th and 9th of May we were off to the Holmfirth Festival, a splendidly Northern affair in this traditional old Yorkshire town on the edge of the Peak District. Despite some incredibly unpromising weather leading up to the weekend, the weather stayed remarkably kind throughout, except for a torrential downpour just as the Saturday afternoon procession got going. We did get rather soaked during it despite trying our 'umbrella shuffle' procession, and had to stop to shelter at one point, but then the deluge stopped and we caught up with the back of the procession where we were able to conga along the rest of the way just behind the very loud and lively percussion ensemble who were supposed to be ending the procession with style. Instead we ended it without, but we did seem to get well appreciated nevertheless. Apart from this, we had various spots around the town over the 2 days, and a 10 minute spot during the Saturday evening ceilidh with Bedlam, which also seemed to go down well. The in joke of the weekend seemed to be Lee's alleged lack of height ("stand up when you're talking to us, Lee .. oh, you are standing up") which you would have thought correctly would wear rather thin after a short (sorry Lee) while. Still, never let it be said that Berkshire Bedlam let accuracy or taste get in the way of milking a not very amusing in the first place proposition. So I hope that'll be an end to it Lee. Its simply not fair picking on small people like you, not a tall - sorry, that should say not at all. 

The 12th May saw us at the Golden Pot at Eversley, dancing outside where we were surrounded by May flowers and Mayflowers, whose invite it was. And a splendid time was had by all.

After that there were no events until the Whitsun weekend, 29th - 31st, where we were one of the featured teams at the Chippenham Folk Festival, which despite the gloomy forecasts featured pretty good weather until almost the end. Although several of the team had been before in other guises, this was the first invite for BB. Our weekend commitment started on the Saturday with a morning workshop, where Jameson taught Sucking the Monkey and Old Woman to several interested attendees and some of the current team. After that it was a posey procession through town, followed by various dancing spots and then the obligatory BB team-pizza-before-our-evening-ceilidh-spot, never with hindsight one of our better plans. The spot was actually during a dance evening at the Town Hall, and it must be said that we got a surprisingly warm reception for the whole spot, with some of the audience even appreciating Malcolm's introductory nonsense, the first time any of the team can remember this happening since he set fire to his breeches in a desperate but ill fated attempt to get the audience's attention.
The Sunday saw us do more spots around town, and then in the afternoon a successful session on the Arena stage, which also seemed to go down well, and Monday featured another workshop (Highland Mary and Mazurka), another procession, and then more spots around town and at the Rose and Crown. By late afternoon a light rain was starting to appear, and the audience was starting to disappear, leaving just ourselves and Witchmen at the Rose and Crown to entertain each other, and us to finish proceedings with an up and down Fairies and walk off.

The first Sunday in June (6th) it was off to the Kirtlington Lamb Ale, where a small but perfectly formed BB team performed creditably at the various venues around the village. Or at least, it did when we got Jameson and Simon back from the clutches (and the floral arrangements) of Rumworth, with whom they had performed on Saturday, and Sue and Bob from Windsor, with whom they still performed intermittently on Sunday. Our highlight though came towards the end of the day in the show spot in the school playground. We were the last of the guest teams to do a show dance before Kirtlington came back on to wrap up proceedings, and while we waited to come on, doing our little running on the spot thing as you do, the m/c (Kirtlington's Nigel) caught sight of us and proceeded to stretch out his intro for us for as long as he could until we got fed up and ran on anyway. We had chosen to do The Dance of the Big Goblins, for which we got very good feedback afterwards, despite Nigel who together with another Kirtlington colleague kept up a mumbled conversation over the P.A. throughout, audible to all the audience, mainly consisting of somewhat derogatory comments such as 'haven't they finished yet..?'. Ah well, it all added to the occasion. And we couldn't exactly complain to Nigel since once again he and Katie put on a terrific spread afterwards at their home nearby. In fact it was such a good spread we felt a bit guilty about the bagfuls of sugar we emptied into his car's petrol tank afterwards. Only a bit, though.

Next up was a somewhat different evening on Tuesday 8th June when we had a paid corporate event, performing for UIB Ltd insurance brokers at a gala evening they had organised for overseas clients at the Royal Berkshire Hotel in Ascot. The idea was to have some very English pre-dinner entertainment (i.e. us), and fortunately it was a pleasant summery evening so the visitors were able to mill around on a large outdoor terrace while we performed on nearby on grass. The audience, although perhaps slightly bemused by the idea of English traditional dance, nevertheless seemed to enjoy something rather different, particularly a couple of them who we roped in for 'Coconuts'. Our hosts had also kindly arranged a room and refreshments for us, where afterwards we were able to enjoy the sandwiches which John hadn't scoffed and Lee hadn't licked the toppings off (if you are going to do it, Lee, please don't put them back on the plate afterwards, there's a good chap, or we'll have to keep going on about your height again and frankly we're all bored of that, little feller). However after enjoying the hospitality all too briefly, we shot off to the Fox and Hounds at Farley Hill to fulfil a long standing engagement with Fleet for the rest of the evening. With hindsight this may have been rather ambitious on our part, as when we turned up our dancing was not very good, although we were doing it on some rather dodgy grass. However Fleet were very forgiving, and at least we were able to enjoy their dancing which as ever included some interesting features in several of their dances.

Then Monday 14th Jun saw us back at The Queens Oak, where Jackstraws and ourselves had invited each other for what turned out to be a very pleasant evening of Cotswold, with Jackstraws hankies flowing as gracefully and effortlessly as ever. And we even had a small audience. Alas, though, the days of foaming jugs of ale brought out after the performance seem to be long gone, possibly because several teams use the Queens Oak as a dance venue these days. But no one else with Berkshire in the name .....

On Thursday 25th we were once again at the Red Lion at Avebury for our annual Thursday dance out around the summer solstice time. This year our friends from Holt Morris were unable to join us, but instead we enjoyed an excellent evening's dancing with Thames Valley International, a fine long established Cotswold team based in London, Ontario, but with members drawn from all over Canada, North America - and Cornwall. They were in the middle of a week's (morris) touring of Southern England, dancing with many other good teams, and we were able to enjoy a good evening's dancing on the newly resurfaced car park (not quite the same without the added pothole hazards of old). The weather had been somewhat dubious during the week and the evening was blustery, so the solstice druids had long gone and we had almost no audience except the ones we brought, but nevertheless between the 2 teams the car park was soon filled with a hubbub of noise - mostly the agonised cries of the TVI team undergoing necessary physiotherapy on the sidelines after a week's non stop dancing. This was also mixed with the anguished cries of some of BB, since this was the evening of England's agonising Euro 2004 quarter final against Portugal. In fact once the dancing had finished we repaired to the New Inn at Winterbourne Monkton, just up the road, and half of us watched the unsuccessful penalty shoot out on the TV in the packed main bar while everyone else enjoyed an excellent music and singing session in the back room, all in a very convivial international atmosphere, especially when the landlord showed no strong inclination to close the pub.

This event was immediately followed at the weekend by the 312th annual Dorset Tour, once again centred around Cerne Abbas and the Giants Head camp site where the tough boys and girls camped, while the less tough but more sensible people stayed in a variety of B&Bs nearby. The tour started as so often before at the Smith's Arms in Godmanstone, where normally we are able to dance outside in the attractive (though small) garden area, but this year the rain was persistently persistent on arrival, obliging one of the tallest teams in England to dance inside one of the smallest pubs in England. But it was an enjoyable start to the weekend, followed by a trip across the rainswept valleys of Wiltshire to the Shave Cross Inn at Shave Cross for lunch. Those who ignored Rob's directions and worked out for themselves the optimum route arrived in reasonable time, while those who didn't, didn't. Never mind, the pub was excellent, and run by one of Wessex Morris Men and therefore morris friendly. As the rain was still doing its stuff we danced this time inside the skittle alley set aside for us, which even at its highest point had a low ceiling, which sloped away alarmingly on either side, as we found out when doing a hasty or ill timed galley, as most of the team's galleys are come to think of it. But a good lunch and bit of dancing later we were ready for the next bit of the afternoon, an appearance at the Beaminster Festival, with Wessex Morris and the Fabulous Fezheads. However I may have mentioned the rain, which continued during the afternoon, and kept Wessex in the pub (not sure they would have come out even if it had been 30 C degrees), leaving the Fezheads to gather a slightly bedraggled crowd with their inspired routines and us to continue to try not to let it disperse. After that some of us returned to the campsite, which had almost disappeared in the aforementioned mist and rain, where we enjoyed Jerry's cocktail hour with a Committee Band CD playing through a car window, and all of a sudden life wasn't too bad. In a break with tradition though, and with safety in mind, we skipped the walk down from the campsite across the ridge into Cerne Abbas and opted for cars.

Once in Cerne Abbas, the rain had just about lifted enough for us to perform outside the Royal Oak, where our own blast from the past Mike Lyth was able to join in one or two dances. Wisely though he stayed clear of Glorisher where due to a mix of weather conditions, sloping surface, and ineptitude Malcolm only managed to get halfway up Lee's back during the leapfrogs before bringing the pair of them crashing down onto the damp tarmac quite spectacularly, with the unfortunate Lee coming off rather worse, though it did get him out of having to attempt a reciprocal leap. After staggering through more bits of the repertoire we dined most pleasantly at the New Inn before retiring to our first class accommodation or leaky tents .......

The next day however, Sunday, by complete contrast was bright and sunny. Rob had arranged a spot at Highcliffe Castle, Christchurch, and this proved a big success, dancing on the lawns in front of a large outdoor tearoom and restaurant with a ready made crowd who weren't in any hurry and were quite happy to appreciate a bit of free entertainment thrown in. We put together 2 decent spots for them and from a dance point of view this was definitely the highlight of the weekend. After the dancing finished we had some photograph posing, armed with our new swords which Lee particularly wanted to have photographed before they were first clashed in anger, so to speak. And very bright and shiny they were too. Following this surfeit of posing, several of the team descended down to the beach or undertook cliffside walks in the somewhat blustery though bright and sunny conditions, before dispersing in a Berkshire-wards direction. We had set ourselves the target for the weekend of doing every dance in the repertoire, and in the end despite the restrictions due to the weather on Saturday we managed 28 of the 32 with only 1 repetition, so not bad at all. And overall another great weekend, very ably organised by Rob for whom the usual big thanks, and making it difficult to live up to next year. but he always succeeds somehow ....... 

JULY 2004 - Another Chance to Flash in Public ....

Only 2 events in July, but it was a month of quality not quantity ...

On the evening of 20 July we were at the Black Horse in Checkendon, with Eynsham Morris. This was the first time we had danced out with Eynsham for 9 years, and many of the team remember the rather disastrous evening we had last time with them, just before Sidmouth 1995, when we acquitted ourselves very poorly and subsequently wondered whether we ought to skip the Sidmouth appearance and stay at home with a good book, like 'The Beginners Guide to Morris Dancing'. This time round however we had a much better evening, and it was also a pleasure to watch Eynsham go through their own fine repertoire of dances, all done with great energy and not a little gusto.

The Black Horse is also an excellent venue, on a very quiet country road but with a good outdoor dancing area with plenty of seating for the decent sized audience to watch. However, just after both teams had finished, a visiting party of Americans arrived, necessitating us both kitting up again and performing a suitable party piece ('Coconuts' for us, aided and abetted by one of their party in a kilt. As you do).

Then on the weekend of 24th / 25th July we were at the Warwick Festival, where we last were 2 years ago. For the first time this season we had a full complement of dancers and musicians, and the combination of this together with the good weather, the quality and friendliness of the other teams we were with, and the general excellence of the Festival overall, made for a great weekend. During the day on Saturday we performed at various spots around the main site (once again based at the Warwick School) and in town, and also took part in the procession using our recently developed posing skills to the full wherever possible. After this it was back to the campsite and BB's camping enclave for a (now traditional) BB campsite takeaway pizza - very good, but perhaps just a tad too much hot n'spicy. And with hindsight, stuffing ourselves full of pizza is probably not the best preparation for our subsequent ceilidh spot during the excellent Whapweasel ceilidh in the Guy Nelson Hall - however, our spot did seem to be extremely well received. We opened with Wheel of Fortune (dressed in normal kit), and then did the Big Goblins stick dance, followed by Go and Enlist from Jameson and Simon, and then the Matachins sword dance, by which time we had all changed into sword kit i.e. flouncy shirt, white breeches, dark blue socks and black shoes. This was also the kit Jameson and Simon did their double jig in, which got them several whoos before they started (helped, it must be said, by a completely disproportionate amount of over the top, posey swaggering when they appeared). Anyway, this was the first time this year we had performed our sword dance in public, and also the first time out for our new swords, which it must be said glinted and flashed beautifully throughout (we do love flashing in public). During practice the previous Thursday we had noted how there was a tendency for the blades to work loose during the dance, and had all tightened our nuts accordingly. However on the final 'Cavalier' chorus, almost at the end of the dance, Lee's nuts finally gave way and his blade flew off rather alarmingly towards the audience. For a fleeting moment there was a question of whether our 5 million public liability insurance would be adequate for decapitation but fortunately the blade slid along the floor harmlessly, though it certainly got a nice oooh from the audience. Anyway, overall the spot went very well, benefiting also from great musical accompaniment from Sue, Jane and Bob, and we got some excellent feedback afterwards, not just for the sword dance but for the way the whole set had worked.

Sunday saw us back in town in the Market Square and at the Zetland Arms before a final set back at the main site where we trotted out Little Fairies to finish what had been another excellent weekend. Roll on our next Warwick invitation!

LATE SUMMER 2004 - More gin, anyone?......

BB made only token appearances at the wonderful 50th Sidmouth International Festival in the first week of August, although several of the team were there in other guises, notably Jameson who cemented his well deserved reputation as King Tart by dancing with Rumworth, Seven Champions, and the Rose Moresk, as well as displaying last years winning double jig with Simon at the start of this year's jig competition - nominally as Berkshire Bedlam, but wearing our sword dance kit with frilly shirts so they could strut around quite a lot after coming on. Strictly speaking the full BB kit only appeared once during the week when Malcolm carried the leading banner in the final night's torchlight procession wearing it - alongside young Bob, cunningly disguised as a girl in Windsor kit.

The only team event in August came on Sat 21st when we were invited by Millers Gin to take part in a promotional event in the form of a village fete, on the village green in Lurgashall, West Sussex. The event was aimed at their trade partners and customers, but was also freely available to locals to join in. Apart from a number of village fete type stalls, they had a jazz band and (of course) morris dancers. The weather was perfect, and it was a very pleasant afternoon, improved steadily as the afternoon wore on by the free availability of copious quantities of Miller's (London Dry) gin, served stylishly with ice and a slice of lime, or even more stylishly with other mixers, or just more gin. Many of the stalls featured either full sized or miniature gin bottles as prizes, including the huge lucky dip box into which Jerry was later seen disappearing head first in search of even more gin, though why he needed any more at that stage is open to question. Despite the gin we did manage to perform and also do a demonstration version of Coconuts which 4 teams of volunteers had to repeat for an internal competition. At the end of the afternoon Jerry persuaded the organisers to let the team have a case of gin to sample in the privacy of our own homes, and let me assure anyone reading this that Miller's is a truly excellent gin, and we're not just saying this because we want to be invited again next year, though that's certainly a factor (isn't it Jerry and Lee).

Two weeks later, on Sat 4 September, we were at the Wallingford Bunkfest, a weekend festival now in its third year and getting bigger and better each year. Another beautiful day of weather (did we mention elsewhere on this website it never rains on Berkshire Bedlam?) and an excellent Morris programme, well organised around the town, and with a good mix of teams taking part, as well as all the features you might expect to see at bigger festivals. We enjoyed some good spots, culminating in an upbeat performance in the covered concert / display area on the main site. And then later in the afternoon at Jameson's insistence we got to go on a train ride on the Cholsey and Wallingford railway, aptly named as the journey was from Wallingford to Cholsey - and back. Sadly the train was not pulled by a true revival (steam) engine, which was off elsewhere being revived again, and it was also notable for its lack of speed and lack of ventilation. But it was actually a jolly good little outing, and we got to perform Mazurka at Cholsey, inches away from the platform edge where proper trains were passing through. Lee and Jameson also got to perform Rosa on the train on the way home, and then Jameson got a few engine numbers to add to his collection. Later still in the afternoon a few Bedlams repaired to Sue's abode a couple of miles away near Shillingford for tea and an astonishing amount of tinned pineapple chunks with evap milk in her peaceful garden, as you do. A perfect day out really.....

And then to the last summer event, our by now traditional evening out on Tues 7 Sept with Basingclog and Hook Eagle at the Plough, Little London. This pub has the distinction of always being a good 15 minutes further away than you think it is going to be, no matter where you start from, but when we eventually assembled a bare 6, they put on some kit and performed some of the highlights of the repertoire for the last time of the 2004 summer season. At this time of the year, most of the evening dancing is in the dark, as are most of the team throughout. Still we kept going until the traditional sandwiches appeared at the end of the evening, perhaps marking the point at which the team can relax their strict athletes summer diet and get stuck into the body bulk building autumnal lard and chips butties. Yummy.

But as always the team has its landmark Bunfight ceilidh evening to come at the end of November, and they are sure that this year's spot, when they think of it, will be on a par with previous efforts. Will it be? - the only way to find out is to be there.... 

YEAR END 2004 - The men in white show their opposite side ......

The Autumn brought our usual beginners & improvers course, and we were pleased to welcome some new and old faces for the 4 sessions. Ably led by Jerry, the course covered several dances in the repertoire and finished up teaching the Sword Dance although on Health and Safety grounds this was done with sticks, which did somewhat belie the dance's name come to think about it. But when the course had finished, the usual annual question was on everyone's mind - what (spot) shall we do at the Bunfight? 
After a false start down a gymnastic track, inspiration was duly provided when Jameson discovered a video clip of a short routine stuffed away behind the pantomime camel he keeps in his bedroom (don't ask) which we proceeded to use as the basis for the dance we eventually did at the Bunfight.

Ah!...the Bunfight. For many years this has been a highlight of the Berkshire Bedlam calendar, although a drop in numbers attending in 2003 had made us question its future - however the 2004 event on Sat 27 November was very well attended and was one of the best ever. The overall theme was 'Schooldays', a simple and relatively unambiguous theme this year, though we liked lots of the various interpretations which turned up on the night. 'Phungus' as usual were the band for the evening, and played exceptionally well all night; our normal caller Hugh Crabtree couldn't make it but his replacement for the evening Nikki Hampson also did a great job, and between them the band and caller (also suitably schoolishly attired) had the dance floor filled throughout. It was great to see so many people up and dancing, including this year a good contingent of younger people who we hope will want to go to other ceilidhs having seen how much fun they can be with a good band and caller. But the spots are also an important part of the Bunfight and this year we had 3. First up was BB pretending they were schoolboys who had forgotten their P.E. kit and so had to do their dance (the Mazurka) in 'vest and pants' - basically an excuse for the boys to get their kit off as usual, though the vest and pants attire was actually relatively tasteful. The second spot had Windsor Morris's 'Sisters of Murphy' Irish Dance, introduced by Cherry in full nun's attire, and with musical accompaniment from Andy Richards ('Sister Andrea') on pipe and tabor. The 'girls' doing it (including our own Bob, confusingly cross dressing again) certainly looked the part with green attire, black tights, and long wigs (they were wigs, weren't they girls?) and the dance was going very well, arms clenched tightly at their sides, until the 'Michael Flatley' type character, which turned out to be a rather hermaphrodite Jerry in fetching skirt and ginger wig, came on towards the end and attempted, not terribly successfully, to do the same stepping. But anyway, great fun, and the spot went down very well. This was immediately followed by the Irish bingo raffle, splendidly MC'd by Paul with no apparent traces of self-consciousness in his Britney schoolgirl outfit - reasonably convincing except for the hairy bare midriff Paul. The third spot of the evening was BB again, with a carefully choreographed 'Men in Black' routine to a fast moving backing track. Despite the odd slip (it had definitely gone better in final practice!) this also went down very well with the enthusiastic audience, who had been helped no doubt at this stage of the evening by some visits to the free bar. And surprise, surprise, we were asked to do it again - which we reluctantly (not) did.  After this it was Phungus getting everyone on to the dance floor until the end of another very successful and memorable Bunfight. Now, what shall we do next year.....?

As has become customary, the Bunfight was followed the next day (Sun 28th) by the Wokingham Winter Carnival, where the centre of Wokingham is closed off to traffic, there is a Victorian style street market, various other stalls, fairground attractions - and a number of local Morris teams. Although it is always hard to get going the morning after the night before, BB managed to acquit themselves reasonably well, and even managed to get 6 dancers into the late afternoon procession despite the damp and chill in the air. This year the Morris teams joined the procession halfway round, which was a much better idea, although the marshal assigned to us thought we were called 'Berkshire Bedroom', which sounds more like a second rate furniture store than a team of top-notch Morris entertainers (that's what it says on our CV anyway). The day finished with a music session in the Broad Street Tavern, followed by going home to collapse in a big heap of assorted kit, costumes and other clothes from the previous 2 days. But another fabulous weekend!.... 

December 16th featured the by now traditional BB Xmas dinner at the Thai House restaurant, notable this year for an unexpected gift to the team halfway through the meal from "Santa Claus" - a box containing some oversized red, white and blue garters made out of what looked and felt like oily bin liners, and also containing a suitably seasonal poem which Malcolm was asked to read out to everyone. The poem had rhymes about everyone in the side except, suspiciously, John - could there possibly be a link between "Santa" and everyone's favourite old goat?? (Decide for yourself - read the poem here). Then after a speech from Malcolm looking back at his 10 years with BB it was time for everyone's favourite part of the evening - trying to match the bill and everyone's contributions. Remarkably close this year.

Saturday 18th featured the also traditional St. Thomas day 'tour' of Wokingham, the tour as usual actually consisting of only 2 venues, the Market Place and the back bar of the Red Lion. This year the weather was particularly kind and at various times we had a reasonable sized audience watching. Because of this we ran through a fair amount of the repertoire, and were also pleased to have Andy make his first appearance with us in full BB kit, which he did in fine style once the safety pins were in place. And then on to the last performance of the year, at Nettlebed Folk Club on Monday 20th Dec, as a part repayment for Nettlebed's contribution to our sword purchase earlier in the year. We appeared during the interval of the evening's concert, by the excellent Arizona Smoke Review, and did a short set consisting of Sucking the Monkey, Coconuts and the Sword Dance. It was a different audience from our normal one, and the conditions were a bit tricky with a very slippery floor and somewhat confined space, both of which contributed to some difficulties in the Sword Dance. However the dance recovered well by the final figure and we seemed to get a good response from the audience, none of whom we came too close to decapitating this time.

And then that was it for 2004 ....... More next year, anyone? 

Read here a feature on the side in the October 2004 edition of 'Best of British' magazine written by Yvonne Baker!


 For full reports from 2003 go to the BB 2003 Monthly Diary 

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