Welcome to my blog, where I take pleasure in words and pictures, be they my own or those of others. I'm a creative individual, and the crafty side I explore on my 'other blog', Picking Up The Threads, which I hope you'll visit too. I'm sure you understand that I have sole copyright of my original work and any of my contributions, so please ask if you want to use them. A polite request is rarely refused. So, as they used to say on the BBC's 'Listen With Mother' radio programme, many years ago: "Are you sitting comfortably? Then we'll begin."

Thursday, 17 July 2014

A Great Tradition


I remember this picture very well as it was an occasion for dressing up and being silly, but with a purpose. New Year’s Eve 1976 and we young marrieds were part of this ‘Eng. Wing’ team for what used to be known as a ‘fancy dress’ competition. It was RAF Waddington’s Officer’s Mess tradition for different sections or ‘wings’ to dress up in a competition that was all part of the New Year’s Eve fun.

We didn’t just dress up though - oh no - we danced! By Christmas 1976 Mike Oldfield’s ‘Portsmouth’ had been released just four week’s earlier and charted quickly at number three. It was a traditional folk tune and perfect for the Engineers and their ladies to perform a non-too-serious  Morris Dance for the delight of the party-goers. Morris dancing is a great English cultural tradition and modern participants take it very seriously, even though the end result is usually a great deal of fun and enjoyment for both dancers and audience. Go to any English Summer Fair or Celebration Day and there will be a Morris Dancing team providing a spectacle of colour and tradition for the crowds. Looking at the You Tube Video of the single now, I see where we got the idea from!

Well, we weren’t part of any club and the serious 'Morris Men’ would no doubt have been horrified at our attempts at mimicry of their fine craft; however, it was New Year’s Eve and we were out to get the prize. We didn’t just arrive and make it up as we went along though; this having fun and being silly is a serious business, especially if it involves dancing! Anyone who has watched the Morris Dancers in action knows that there is precision and rhythm involved. Therefore we had to practise the routine a couple of times. On the day, fortified by whatever we had in our glasses, we seemed to succeed in making it all come together.

The costumes were whatever we could lay our hands on to make them look authentic. The addition of crepe paper to white blouses, shirts, and (in my case) tennis dresses, plus a few jingle bells  and streamers gave us the look we were after. What a motley crew we were! The giant ‘spanner' (cardboard and a few rolls of tin foil) was all part of the act. The officer waving it aloft was playing the part of The Fool, whose job it is to dance around and, through the dance, without appearing to be part of it. Why the spanner? Remember we were representing Eng.Wing! Well the whole thing was hilarious and of course we went down well with the crowd. It was touch and go at one point and we were up against the ‘I Claudius’ team; in the end though we were victorious. A crate of beer was the prize I believe, but that was just the icing on the cake.

We lost touch with most of those people in the picture, well it was nearly forty years ago; at least two have passed on, and one retired as a three-star Air Marshall. We two are still going strong though these days it’s not dancing but climbing mountains that we aspire to.

Our Sepia Saturday prompt this week is a group of young male students dressed up as female ballet dancers. It’s from the Folk Museum of Norway and filed under ‘humour’. They were obviously dressing up and being silly for some purpose or other, but whatever it was, it was fun (judging by the expressions on their faces).


There was no cross-dressing in our little team, and as far as I’m aware it’s not part of the Morris Dancing tradition, though these pictures below show Pete the ‘Fool’ of The Royal Liberty Morris Dancers dressed in a pink dress and rigged out as a baby, complete with dummy. As I said, dressing up and acting silly - all part of the fun. Now shed your inhibitions and join the Sepia Saturday team- it’s a great tradition.


16 comments:

  1. The best thing was the fact that for the rest of the night we were effectively just wearing casual clothes, so could relax with the food drink and dancing. The Vulcan squadrons that came as I Claudius characters had the same thought, but didn't have a show to put on One of the other Vulcan squadrons' had turned up as a deck of cards - effectively billboard men and women. They looked great but had a less good time afterwards because they had difficulty dancing, and their drinking arms were hampered! The worst time was had by was the station dentist, who had come as a tortoise, and stayed in character, spending the evening prone on the floor being tripped over.

    ReplyDelete
  2. When I saw the prompt picture, I thought the "women" weren't very pretty, but I didn't realize they were men!

    ReplyDelete
  3. sounds like a fun time was had by all. Time passes so quickly.

    ReplyDelete
  4. What a fun time. Amazing what a few rolls of crepe paper and ribbon, and good friends having fun, can do. Thanks.

    ReplyDelete
  5. It all looks like good fun. But in the prompt picture i just felt sorry for for the very tall girl. Perhpas my glasses need changing ! Very entertaning,

    ReplyDelete
  6. You certainly caught the costume part of the theme photo.I don't think Morris Dancing has ever been taken seriously, even by Mr. Morris the originator.

    ReplyDelete
  7. I think you did a fine job and I love the spanner!

    ReplyDelete
  8. Ah, Morris dancing, you either love it or you hate it! I think it is taken seriously by the many participants that you see dancing in practised teams at folk festivals, but not by the onlookers who just see it as amusing entertainment.

    ReplyDelete
  9. Well done winning the Morris dancing, the evil Romans are always hard to defeat.

    ReplyDelete
  10. I had never heard of Morris dancing. I learn something from you almost every Saturday. The improvised costumes look great - I can imagine you had a wonderful time putting the act together. I love the way you referred to a crate of beer as the icing on the cake.

    ReplyDelete
  11. Lovely costumes, obviously you were the superior team. Not just in looks, but performance. I enjoy watching much folk dancing, and Morris is certainly fun to watch, though the dancers can look oh so serious. Great post...thanks. Barb Rogers

    ReplyDelete
  12. I love the home made costumes of your 'motley crew"!

    ReplyDelete
  13. What wonderfully fun memories! I had never heard of Morris Dancing and the link to the YouTube video you directed us to is not released for viewing in my country (USA) so I had to find my own YouTube videos. I watch Morris Dances with batons, with handkerchiefs, all men, all women, and mixed. I even saw a couple that teach you how to Morris Dance. But I didn't see a single Fool in any of them. Great post.

    ReplyDelete
  14. A fine picture indeed. After reading "The Cloggers" in Private Eye I was never quite able to take Morris Dancing in any way seriously.

    ReplyDelete
  15. I love the Morris Dancing. I had not heard of it before. Thank you for including the video.

    Hoping that we can experience Morris dancing when we are in UK in 2016.

    ReplyDelete
  16. I found my own You Tube video of Morris dancing, and your costumes were a good match. Sounds like a fun party.

    ReplyDelete