Look, all that I’m saying is that the Maori have the Haka, the Polynesians the Hula, and England, well, we have Morris Dance.

Yesterday was an “Open Day” at Venetian Marina (Middlewich Branch, Shropshire Union, Cheshire), and there were many fine experiences to be had.

I had a pootle on and a steer of Venetian Hire Boat’s new baby “Day” and “Weekender” boat, Barcarolle. More of that in a post soon. Most splendid, most splendid indeed.

Narrowboat Glass were there (they are based in the marina, so it would be peculiar had they not been there). More of that in a post soon, too.

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The bunting was out, the weather played nicely – a surprise in itself, after the previous day’s wind and rain and coolth. The Doggie boat was there, the Rag boat was there, the Pirate boat was there. There were wood-carvers, jewellery-makers, canvas cover repairers, River & Canal Rescue, local radio and all sorts of weirdos, myself included.

The day was punctuated by live performances of various sorts.

Cheshire is not New Zealand, so we made do without the Haka.

Cheshire isn’t Polynesia, so we made do without the Hula.

Cheshire is, though, in England (which is quite near to Scotland, is still affiliated to Europe and is now wholly-owned by the U.S.A.), so we did get the Morris.

This ought to tell foreigners all that they need to know about England.

The Morris form of dance has been performed here for at least six hundred years (not continuously, that would just be silly). This is the Kinnerton Morris group (side?) and they dance in the Cotswold style.

There are several different styles, and this website will explain all of them to anyone who remains curious. The Morris Ring.

There is little so terrifying and conquest-enabling as an Englishman waving a white handkerchief at you. If the white handkerchief doesn’t do the trick then we can also tap sticks together. Morris is our official National dance.

There are some slightly more butch styles of Morris than the one we were treated to yesterday. Border Morris is more to my tastes. Did I just say that out loud? Mind you, like all kinds of everything (Dana reference – the original Dana, not the more recent one, naturally), it has been politically correctified into a different form from the original.

Whichever style you choose though as your absolute favourite, the Morris is awfully English, and it’s absolutely rotten to the core with history.

I just wish, well… no, I’d better not say it.

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I suppose that it could be worse, I mean – consider the Welsh clog-dance, the Scots’ Hghland Fling and poor bloody Ireland’s The Riverdance-esque nonsense.

Mind you, it must be said that at least in England we learn our lessons. After centuries of lousy dance we came up with Pan’s People to substitute on Top of The Pops where either there was no accompanying music video or the BBC wouldn’t cough up the royalties required to show it…

This sort of thing used to be my cue to turn up the volume on the telly and nip out to the kitchen to make a pot of tea, sometimes to bake some biscuits or a cake or something.

Philosophical, existential, navel-gazing note: is it possible that “things” are getting both better and worse at one and the same time, as the years go by? I have no idea, I lost my grip on reality years ago – and I don’t think that I’d pick it up again even if I tripped over reality now.

I think that I’ll just eat Fig Rolls, drink sherry and wait for it all to end.

Ever have one of those days when even if the secret to Life, The Universe, and Everything were to be laid at your feet you couldn’t work up enough “meh” to poke it with a stick?

Nanny, my mojo is missing.

On a domestic note, these moorings are now filthy with boats and boaters. Oh how I love each and every one of them. There’s nothing that I love more than being cheek by jowl with my (putatively) fellow humans.

The (seriously lovely) “shag-pile-hearth-rug/mop-head” hound from – one of the nice traders boats – was kind enough to take time out while his owner/keeper was otherwise distracted to leave me a steaming pile of sh*it just to one side of my step-off this morning. Personal social commentary from a dog, who would have thought it, eh? Must be a reader of this blog. I used to be quite popular with dogs, but something’s obviously changed.

At least though the batteries have run down in the smoke/CO alarm of the boat that some kind twonk abandoned inches away from the Cardinal’s stern yesterday (when there was oodles of room to choose from). Mind you, it did take all of last night before the damned thing fell, finally, blessedly, silent.

Chuffing heck, I’m channelling Grumpy Hector again, aren’t I. No question mark; that was a purely rhetorical spoon, I am well aware of the answer.

There were, it must be said, millions of fantastic hounds to be fussed over at the Open Day. I am seriously considering some sort of “Dogs of the Canal” website. No grumpy, moaning text from me, just photos of the dog population of the canals.

Here’s a couple to be going on with.

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Here’s a photo of a shag-pile-hearth-rug/mop-head hound who does steaming social commentary. I’ve blanked out enough detail so that he can’t be identified… 😉

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You can see that the little bugger is just sitting there, churning his guts and cooking up a steaming great one, can’t you?

😉

Chin-chin for the mo, Muskies.

Ian H.

25 Comments

  1. I don’t know how I missed this one when you posted it. Really picked up my mood today and just what I needed to get me out of the doldrums. I don’t mind admitting my love of Morris men – not in the biblical sense – and especially loved the Border one! Now they are top notch as Morris men go. Excellent piece!

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    1. I have to agree with you, my favourite is the sort of daw/dusk firebrand bearing summery wintery solstice festival style – it has a bit more “oomph” to it. That said, the more mainstream stuff is splendid, and long may it all go on! 😉

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    1. I do like the tradition of Morris dance, but it does make me squirm with reverse-schadenfreude! It is very English indeed, but oh gosh good golly, I do wish it were some other form… 😉

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      1. I suspect that in it’s original form those sticks were a lot sharper and the blokes were a tad more serious about wacking each other. 😀

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  2. How long has Middlewich had a carnival? Come to think of it, how long has it had a marina? I used to live in Davenham many, many moons ago (I’m not saying how many. It’s too depressing) and I don’t remember a Middlewich marina.
    I did like the Morris men greeting the rising sun, though. That seems more like it should be rather than pouncing about with white hankies and bells on your knees.

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    1. There is a canal festival at Middlewich (don’t know the details – I avoid it the way I avoid the plague) but this is a few miles up towards Barbridge, at Cholmondeston lock. They had an open day to draw in a bit o’business for the under-new-management chandlery and boat hire place, and for the marina (Venetian). I hope that the visiting trader boats did some good business too.

      Total agreement with you on the Morris – I love it because it’s tradition and it’s “England” in a nutshell, but it makes me squirm with some sort of reverse-schadenfreude effect. I much prefer the more openly-aggressive and darker stuff of the other group shown.

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  3. I used to like doing country dancing in junior school and when you got to top year you were allowed to do maypole at the school fete. I have to boast that when I was in top year it was also the school’s centenary; the girls dressed up as milk maids or shepherdesses, can’t remember what the boys were – maybe chimney sweeps. Anyway, we did it perfectly without getting our ribbons tangled!

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    1. Ah, the Maypole – what memories. I spent most of my teens in the village stocks but you could see the maypole from there. It brightened up many a day in May, as did the village ducking stool. Happy days, we’ll not see their like again. Well, actually, on second thoughts, perhaps we shall.

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  4. I love a bit of Morris Dancing! I was unaware of Border Morris but am fully cognisant of Border Biscuits, especially the dark chocolate gingers…

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    1. Hmm, biscuits. When I was knee-high to the family dog my tastes were for those pink and yellow wafers, but now that I am of the age where I have begun to take long diversions around cemeteries it’s more your gen-yoo-ine Rich Tea or Digestive, although the occasional Ginger Nut is appreciated. They’ve changed the recipe for Ginger Nuts, I know this because it’s virtually impossible to dunk them now without inadvertently creating hot coffee & ginger nut soup… 😉

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      1. Changed the recipe for Ginger Nuts?! How very dare they? That is sacrilege, complete, total and utter! Who was it who did that?

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    1. It was all disco in my day. I didn’t take sports gear to school, I took a white polyester outfit and cuban heels… seriously though, I barely even went to school, although at discos I did do a mean “wallflower”…

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      1. I later learned the intricacies of ‘wallflower’, but at school I was in the dance display team … which meant what was termed as *Country Dances” and I’ve since discovered where those which were danced at the Assembly Rooms around the country (Jane Austin, here I am), though it also included the reels and flings beloved of fellas in kilts. But as I said, no Morris Dance. Humph.

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  5. I don’t think I’ve laughed this hard in a long time.
    Dance analysis. Right in step.
    “On a domestic note, these moorings are now filthy with boats and boaters. Oh how I love each and every one of them. There’s nothing that I love more than being cheek by jowl with my (putatively-)fellow human.” Well, that’s the whole point of getting a boat, isn’t it. – so you can be part of a annoying waterlogged mob – just like in commuter auto traffic.(Sadly I actually know a few people who think the way “It’s not just a boat, it’s a lifestyle” Insert individual screaming and running as far away as possible.
    “Dogs of the canals” – you’d get lots of views – and have fun snarking. But how satisfying would it be with comments like “so cute!”?
    Onward.

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    1. I do worry about the element of social self-selection in deciding to live on the canals… do I fit in, or do I stick out like a sore thumb? Like all of modern society, the canals are fractured into widely – and wildly – separated groups, and ne’er the twain shall speak much to one another! I don’t know which group, if any, to claim as kin! 😉

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    1. It’s not often that you see all of the people (as well as the dogs) with their heads on one side, wondering what the heck… Morris Dancing is a puzzling self-expression medium. 😉

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