BB 2008 Summary


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Reports from the year 2008  

SPRING 2008 - Another year, another set of venues, another set of injuries ....

Well, the injuries first - perhaps nature is telling us to slow down (even more) but so far 2008 has brought us a few injury challenges, including amongst other things dodgy knees, ankles, backs, and other locomotory things. Obviously we've been overdoing the intensive training throughout the winter - can't think of any other reason?! Despite this the side has once more been undertaking a varied programme in 2008, which started on 8th March as last year with a performance at the Folk for Berkshire schools folk day in Twyford, a very worthwhile day of folk music and dance activities for primary school children across Berkshire. As previously, we were the lunchtime diversion while the children recovered their energy for the afternoon and the instructors steeled themselves for the children's energy recovery. And afterwards several of the side had the pleasure of releiving Tim of some of his ten teas and cakes.

April 19th saw Andy and Mayumi celebrate their first 'semiversary' (6 months of marriage) with a fabulous evening event near to their home in West Molesey. The evening reflected their many and diverse interests, with several different styles of music and dance on show including tango (with a very instructive workshop), flamenco, Japanese dance, some Morris with us and Kirtlington, and the Geckoes playing for some ceilidh dances - plus a great array of food and drink. BB's contribution to the evening was a short Morris spot, with Andy Turner playing splendidly for us on concertina in Sue's absence, and later another performance of our Men in Black spot. While these all went well, the real scene stealer was Andy and Mayumi's tango at the start of the evening, full of dramatic pauses, smouldering looks, flamboyant gestures, and sensuous leg movements. Just what we need to brighten up Mrs. Casey, actually.

St George's Day on 23rd April saw us appropriately at the St George and Dragon in Wargrave, where with sponsorship from their brewery, the pub had laid on a celebration of the venerable English saint. On a pleasant evening, the pub and its grounds leading down to the Thames were packed, possibly partially due to the free champagne and nibbles on offer throughout. With Sue still away, Gareth joined us for the evening on melodeon, and despite only one practice session with us the previous week, heroically managed all the right notes throughout the evening, with an extremely high percentage in the right order.

Mayday this year conveniently fell on a Thursday, our normal practice and dance out night, so we started our evening with a short performance at Suffolk Lodge residential care home in Wokingham, where we were well received and enjoyed being able to entertain the residents. We then moved on to the Stag and Hounds at Binfield, where we joined Jackstraws and HuMP and amongst other things were able to help Chris (Taylor) enjoy her birthday celebrations. The evening was also a warm up for the Oyster May Weekend in Canterbury, which we joined for the Sunday. This was an excellent day of dancing round various spots in Canterbury, very well organised by the Oysters, followed by an evening 'Chinese Olympics' event, where they had organised a fun evening of less than serious competitive games. One of the many highlights of this was Jameson performing rhythmic gymnastics in his unitard, an eye catching (and retaining) outfit it has to be said. Bob being a jockey on Oyster's 6'7" James, and hanging on for dear life during the show jumping jump-off, was also wincingly entertaining.   

The weekend of 16th - 18th saw a small team go North again to the Shepley Festival, an excellent Festival set in the small village of Shepley, near to Holmfirth, and capably organised by the previous committee of the Holmfirth Festival. It has to be said that the Saturday's weather was somewhat inclement for the time of the year, being chilly and shower laden, but despite some earlier concerns Jerry's various body parts all held out well and we had a good day with performances at the village pubs and on the main site. Our lunchtime was also considerably improved by happening to be outside the Shepley Co-Op as it closed for the weekend and they needed someone to give their unsold pork pies to - best not to ask what was in them but they were fab. Later in the afternoon we had an appreciative reception for Coconuts at the massed stand held in one of the marquees, and we also did a well received late evening ceilidh spot during the Hekety ceilidh (outwardly untroubled by our earlier group curry), though most of the audience had understandably disappeared to the concert tent to see Bellowhead make their audience forget how cold it was. The Festival continued on the Sunday, when the weather perked up, and again our dances went well, including a final Fairies on the Festival site with many of the audience feeling the Magic In The Air at the end and dutifully lining up to go through the Magic Arch. Perhaps there really is something in it - so many people can't all be wrong, can they?

SUMMER 2008 - Solstice bells and a trip to Dorset ....

29th May saw us at the Fox Inn, Steventon, as guests of Old Speckled Hen, along with a new Border team Borderline making their first appearance. The Fox Inn is one of the few pubs left with an outdoor Aunt Sally (a sort of coconut shy with a single wooden Aunt Sally at which sticks are skimmed) which proved too much of a temptation for some of BB. It's all right though Tim, they found the stick a couple of weeks later in the next field.

Then 19th June saw the start of the Dorset Tour weekend, the first time for 3 years the team had managed to arrange what used to be an annual pilgrimage to Dorset. As had occasionally happened previously, the weekend was preceded by a Thursday evening at the Red Lion, Avebury, with Holt Morris - the day before the summer solstice so not too many of the druids were yet out and about. As usual a good evening's dancing at the Red Lion was followed by a music and singing session at The Bell, West Overton, where BB held their own against a fine effort from the Holt massed choir - BB helped this year by a couple of new songs from Jameson which didn't this time involve his father painting the parlour.

The following day it was down to Dorset for the tour proper. Most of the previous weekends have been based at the Giants Head campsite at Cerne Abbas, but Rob and Miriam had planned this weekend around a campsite near to Corfe Castle. The Friday evening involved a get together at The Greyhound in Corfe, and then following a night of fairly torrential rain (especially, we found, for those with tents under trees), Saturday morning saw us dance in Corfe Castle outside the entrance to the Castle remains and then head off to Swanage on a steam train. At Swanage we danced firstly in The Square, where some of the audience donated their unwanted chips to us at the end of the performance - well, you've got to take your rewards however you can, haven't you? We then moved to the seafront for more dancing before retiring to the Red Lion for lunch and a play on the life size fibreglass pig, bought in a shop near the seafront as its the sort of thing every Berkshire garden needs - really, Bob, though you still have yet to be totally convinced. Later on, the pig accompanied us on the train back to Corfe Castle and on the trek back to the campsite, to the amusement of passers by though not to those carrying it.

At the campsite, it was time for Pimms and a barbeque, and in particular a celebration of Sue's big birthday. Later on we headed back to the Greyhound for the evening, where despite some heavy showers we managed a couple of dance spots in the rear garden in front of a small but enthusiastic audience, before returning to the campsite for a windy night in the tents (caused by nature rather than the barbeque and beer). Next day though was bright and sunny, and Jane had arranged for us to dance at the RNLI college in Poole, a modern training facility for lifeboatmen and women right on Poole Harbour with commanding views over the estuary. We performed in a large outdoor area (with great views) to a mainly indoor audience who we couldn't see through the tinted windows, though we found later they had enjoyed the performance. We then completed the weekend with a Sunday lunch in their splendid restaurant, during which the possibility of any further dancing became more and more hypothetical......

July brought some good evening dance outs, starting with an evening at the White Hart at Sherfield on Loddon with Mayflower on Jul 3, followed by an evening with Kintbury Morris at the Rising Sun, Stockcross on Jul 9, and an evening with Eynsham at the Black Horse, Checkendon on Jul 15 - a pub which it's almost impossible to find even with sat nav, GRP, a local map, and a bloke who's lived in the area for 50 years, but is great when you get there. And Eynsham were as unique as ever - so much energy in so many different sock colour combinations. Finally in July, a very pleasant weekend as guests of Ouse Washes at another of their legendary Rookery Farm weekends in mid Norfolk, with visits to Walsingham and Massingham for some dancing on the Saturday, and to Castle Acre on the Sunday. The venue, Gordon Phillips laid back farm in Great Dunham, provided a perfect setting with ample room for camping, a large barn for Saturday's ceilidh, and plenty of outdoor space for Saturday evening's hog roast. You just had to watch the odd hidden nettle and thistle as you skipped gaily barefooted around the campsite, but we soon persuaded John to stop doing it - perhaps he was just celebrating having finally put his borrowed tent up the right way round after 15 unsuccessful attempts?

AUTUMN 2008 - and an unusual birthday party .....

The first of our late season events saw us on 30th August at the Wallingford Bunkfest, a revitalised event this year following resolution of the funding problems which blighted it in 2007. The Kinecroft was back in full use for the weekend, with 2 dance stages and many other stalls and attractions, and on the Saturday when we were there the sunshine (following a largely gloomy August) brought out large crowds and created an excellent atmosphere (though it was to chuck it down on the Sunday when we weren't there...). Our dance spots during the day included appearances on the 2 stages, and outside the Dolphin, plus a cameo appearance during the Capering Crew's 'Knees Up'. However these were all the appetizers to the main course of the day, our annual pilgrimage to Sue's for tea and cake, and in particular copious amounts of pineapple chunks and evaporated milk. Just for a moment we were all taken back to the time when we were small children, the world was in black and white, and we thought the Morris was a kind of car rather than a lifestyle. Ah, happy days.

Now, over recent years Berkshire Bedlam have enjoyed several surreal events and happenings, but on Sunday 5th October we enjoyed one of the most surreal ever. We had been booked to appear at a 'high profile' birthday party in Wiltshire, but until 2 days beforehand we didn't know who for or what would be involved. It turned out though the party was for Sting, at his Georgian mansion near Salisbury, and our appearance on the Sunday was part of his 'Highland Fling' weekend, with a range of Scottish and other traditional entertainment for his family and friends. We arrived at lunchtime, and initially stayed out of sight in the stable / studio area of the grounds (though we were well looked after and catered for there). Eventually in mid afternoon we were asked to join the guests during their late lunch in a grand marquee attached to the main house. We engineered our appearance in suitably fine style with an improvised processional dance in 2 lines through part of the grounds and into the marquee, ably led by Sue and Bob, where we processed around the tables and through the somewhat startled guests. Once there, we just about had enough space to do a quick Mazurka, desperately trying not to upset the tables, the buffet, the elaborate decorations, or any of the guests, before we exited back out into the grounds to, it must be said, generous applause. Outside, we were joined by Sting and his wife Trudi, and spread out around his large turf maze while we danced the Wheel of Fortune on our respective spots, with Sue and Bob playing the tune (The British Grenadier) at the centre of the maze, and with Sting and Trudi at their feet singing along. It got even more surreal though, as we then did a short dance set in the gardens to all the guests, heroically ignoring the temptation to kick the small dog yapping at our heels throughout much of it on the basis we couldn't be sure whose it was, and then finished off with our Coconuts dance with some of the guests joining in. This involved Jameson dancing opposite Sting at the top of the set, Rob dancing opposite David Walliams, Jerry dancing opposite Kevin Spacey, and Andy dancing opposite Robert Downey Junior. Under the circumstances it went fine, though Lee had to shove David Walliams round a bit as he had missed the first part of the dance. Throughout all of this we continued to be very well received, but since it would have been hard to top the Coconuts dance we exited smartly stage left (or more accurately hedge left). Once out of sight of the guests we were left shaking our heads and saying "did we really just dance with those people?". No doubt back in the marquee the same people would be saying "did we really just dance with Berkshire Bedlam?".

On Saturday 11 October we were back to the relative sanity of the morris and folk world, with an appearance at the Banbury Canalside Festival. Once again we were fortunate with the weather, with the warmest day for some time, and we were able to enjoy a walking tour of Banbury with the 6 sides, ourselves, Bloxham, Adderbury, Ducklington, The Outside Capering Crew, and Step on Board. Then in the evening, after unwisely wrapping ourselves around several large pizzas, we and the Capering Crew put in another 'Big Caper' appearance, this time as the interval act during the Hekety ceilidh in a large social club hall. The performance went well, but suffered somewhat from being in a relatively big room with a relatively small audience, and although the audience seemed appreciative there was something of a flat atmosphere, unlike other Big Caper shows we have done, no doubt affected by the fact the audience had come to dance rather than watch us. However, overall the whole day was well organised and an extremely enjoyable occasion, if somewhat shorter on the celebrities than we had become accustomed to ..... 

YEAR END 2008 - some debuts, a retirement, and Paul misses Santa again ....

Saturday 29th November was our annual Bunfight ceilidh, once again at the California Ratepayers Hall in Finchampstead, with a theme of 'Myths and Legends', featuring Random as the band, and Mr Marvellous himself, Nick Walden, as caller. The Bunfights page has more detail but suffice it to say it was another excellent evening, with a lovely collection of green tighted BBs in a 'Men in Tights' show dance later on, preceded by four of our newer younger recruits showing the older members how to do Devil's Highway. And as usual there were plenty of interesting costumes on show, one or two of which revealed a little more flesh than was altogether wise. The Bunfight was followed the next day by the Wokingham Winter Carnival, once again held on a day when the weather was not being particularly kind i.e. cold and drizzly. But our slightly reduced numbers were swelled by old young Will in plain clothes, and for one dance by a strangely attired though attractive female stallholder, who Jameson cunningly contrived to dance opposite, though he claimed unconvincingly afterwards it was accidental.

The following Saturday we were at the Haddenham one day Festival for a couple of Big Caper performances, consisting of one 40 minute spot of our own, and one 15 minute spot during the excellent Steamchicken ceilidh. Both of these went well, although there were a few instances where the smooth changeovers we had carefully rehearsed three weeks previously got overlooked in the heat of the moment. Overall though these and a few other minor hiccups (flying sticks in Jolly Jockey - blame the spotlights ...) got brushed over reasonably successfully. For both of the shows BB had only 7 regular dancers, so in the earlier main show Bob was roped in as the 8th dancer for the sword dance, and a fine job he made of it too. In fact the sword dance went particularly well until just before the end, when a muscle in Jerry's leg went ping just at the blood curdling shrieking cross over bit. So Jerry completed the cross over and kept going, in a hobbling sort of stumble, out of the set for a nice sit down. This left the rest of us, who hadn't all seen him go, wonder why every now and again there was a big person sized space in the next clashing figure. Fortunately the dance came towards the end of the show, so a bit of hasty rearrangement of who was doing what after that combined with a bit of winging it saw us through to the end, leaving us time to rearrange the now Jerry-less later spot, while Jerry enjoyed a pint and some peas. This spot marked the last performance of Sue Graham with both the Capering Crew and the Big Caper, but she went out in style with her usual elegant and effortless dancing, as graceful to watch as ever.

December the 18th saw us once again at the Thai House restaurant in Finchampstead for our customary Xmas dinner, with the usual bewildering array of Secret Santa presents, the local pound shops clearly having been given a good pounding beforehand judging by some of the merchandise being given. And once again this year Santa himself appeared at just the right time to dish out the goodies, immediately after Paul had mysteriously disappeared, coincidentally just like last year. When he came back we didn't really like to tell him what his missus had been up to with Santa....

And then on Saturday 20th came the St. Thomas's day dance out in Wokingham town centre - our traditional end of the season performance, usually done on the last Saturday before Xmas for reasons lost in the mists of time. Traditionally it's bitterly cold and often damp too, but this year we had an exceptionally mild and pleasant day, which meant we had a few more spectators than usual. And a treat it was for them too, with no less than 3 new young debutants in kit, with Alun, brother Mark, and Will B. Each of them did exceptionally well, not looking in the slightest out of place, except when they annoyingly jumped higher than some of the more mature members. The day's repertoire included several of the dances which had been learned during the preceding few weeks, and they were all performed without mishap and with some style, apart perhaps from the odd minor wardrobe malfunction. So as 2008 ended, the team was able to look forward with real anticipation to the new season, and further opportunities for these 3 plus Will M in 2009. Bring it on!!  

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