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.