but only because people are so kind and thoughtful. Oh and the weather was fine on Monday for the dancers which helped.
I can’t remember how many times people took the wheelchair from me to give me a break. (It must be said, a wheelchair is a big advantage when crowds gather in small areas. And whenever Barney went to the loo, I was in there like a shot – very comfy indeed. And the grandchildren loved pushing him : ) Memorably, last night, when we said goodbye to everyone and set off for home, with Barney on crutches to make wheelchair manouvering easier, suddenly we were surrounded by cheerful, merry people, carrying bags and bits of chair, pushing the chair, helping each other and giving lots of advice to all and sundry. The wheelchair and the bags and the detachable bits of chair and the dog (hang on – dog? What dog???), the dog basket (???) and very nearly, Barney himself, were lifted into the car and stowed very helpfully and we set off into the night with ears ringing from farewells and general merriment. The dog (???) immediately unpacked herself and leapt in among the sausages and raincoats – to be fair, she was more interested in getting closer to us than in food but we still had to stop and repack everything to accommodate her.
Oh yes. The dog. And lots of sausages and enough eggs to start a chicken farm. Well, what with one thing and another, the number of campers dwindled over the weekend and yesterday afternoon, Youngest and Mr Youngest had delivered their children to one of the other parents to take part in a different set of Jubilee celebrations, today. They then decided to take down all their camping gear and spend the night in a B&B in the village since they had no children to consider but the dog was a bit of a problem so we agreed to take her home with us and hopefully, any minute now, they’ll turn up to take her home with them.
Since there weren’t in fact five thousand to feed and the last two breakfasts had been completely abandoned for lack of mouths, there was a considerable sausage and egg surplus and somehow we seem to have ended up with that too. (Can’t help thinking that if we’d ignored the dog last night we could have ended up with a a single neat package comprising dog, eggs and sausages to be delivered this morning but I suppose it might have resulted in a disaster of epic proportions if the dog had eaten too much.) Oh well, it’ll be omelettes and egg curry this week.
The weekend was a success in spite of rain, regretted absences and the presence of an invited guest who didn’t properly appreciate the honour of being invited* and spent most of the first two days in various states of inebriation and intoxication and gave offence to a number of people who were kind enough to look after him and prevent him from getting beaten up when he was being a complete pain in the village. The rest of the weekend he was mostly absent – who knows where – he refused several offers to be taken to catch the next train home and certainly spent half of one night, having trashed a borrowed tent, sitting, sulking in the middle of the field in the pouring rain.
So it was all a bit disjointed. The general consensus was that it just doesn’t work, not having a full complement of campers. To be fair, the general confusion was compounded by the loss of the key to the shower and wash rooms early in the weekend.
It’s nice to be home though I do have two black and white furry attendants, both regarding me earnestly and both wondering when the canine one’s people will come and take her away. Oh but I’ve just realised, they won’t be setting off for another hour or so – although most of the tents were taken down yesterday, everyone who is still there will be saying goodbye and chatting in the pub till mid-afternoon. Possibly I will need to let the dog out again! Oh oops! the cat has decided to make the most of this opportunity to keep the dog in her place and has settled sneakily into her basket.
I have a lot of washing to do, having poured a good deal of authentic Thai green curry down several clothes during the transportation of it past a crowd of dancers and followers yesterday. Not their fault – I wasn’t watching what I was doing.
One of the brilliant things about the Bampton weekend is that the dancers and their entourages (there are three teams in the village) are invited to dance in many of the gardens of the older houses; beautiful old Cotswold stone cottages and manor houses with stunning gardens. Even if I was totally indifferent to Morris dancing (instead of being mildly interested) I’d still follow, just for the chance to see some of these places.
I say they’re invited – I sometimes wonder how this miracle of co-operation from the landowning classes is achieved. And what happens when a fine old manor house is sold to new people who may not be expecting to have to share their peaceful garden with half the village, and indeed a large number of strangers, once a year. I wonder if outgoing owners make a proviso in the deeds or just chuckle to themselves, knowing the newcomers are in for a May Surprise. However it’s done, it seems to work. At strategic houses with big gardens, the owners stand on their lawns and patios, in front of a table covered with glasses and jugs of refreshments for the Morris dancers and all seems to be cordial and pleasant. Every year I’m hugely impressed by this. Very much a privilege. (For them too, of course : )
Right, washing, tidying and sleep – not necessarily in that order. I may decide to wake up briefly and look for Venus finishing its (her?) transit across the sun which we may be able to see very early in the morning. Last chance in this lifetime so maybe worth getting up for.
Good night. I hope you enjoyed the Jubilee in one way or another.
*Actually I think he did appreciate the honour and stoked himself up, in the only way he knew, to handle it. It’s always deeply distressing to see a needy young person screwing up a chance to be befriended. You don’t have to behave in an exemplary manner to make friends in Bampton on Whit weekend, in fact you have to behave quite extraordinarily badly not to go home feeling hugged and warmed. He’s a poor lost boy. Dammit.
There’s a bit of folklore (possibly apocryphal) that suggests that this song was written about wartime when the men weren’t around to dance for the Whitsun festival. One interpretation of the meaning of Morris is that it was a pagan ritual to ensure fertility in field and family. So quite important and originally only ever danced by men. (No doubt the women had their own rites.) It’s still a lovely song whether or not it’s about Morris, with a number of interesting historical references.
It's fifty long springtimes since she was a bride, But still you may see her at each Whitsuntide In a dress of white linen with ribbons of green, As green as her memories of loving. The feet that were nimble tread carefully now, As gentle a measure as age will allow, Through groves of white blossoms, by fields of young corn, Where once she was pledged to her true-love. The fields they stand empty, the hedges grow (go) free-- No young men to turn them or pastures go see (seed) They are gone where the forest of oak trees before Have gone, to be wasted in battle. Down from the green farmlands and from their loved ones Marched husbands and brothers and fathers and sons. There's a fine roll of honor where the Maypole once stood, And the ladies go dancing at Whitsun. There's a straight row of houses in these latter days All covering the downs where the sheep used to graze. There's a field of red poppies (a gift from the Queen) But the ladies remember at Whitsun, And the ladies go dancing at Whitsun. (John Austin Marshall)
Highlights of this year at Bampton included:
Sunshine when putting up tents and when taking them down.
A thirteen year old girl instructing , first Barney, then Michael in the art of cat’s cradle construction, then dragging her Father out from the pub as a demo dummy, demonstrating how it really can be done, with her brother in between his game of Aunt Sally, and then roping me in as an alternative dummy since it looked as though I might at least understand the rudiments.
Both ours and a friend’s new grandchildren being present and delightful.
Our older grandchildren having a wonderful time and being as good as gold all weekend.
Finding that the coffee shop is still going strong and still serves wonderful coffee and breakfasts. (Remembering the first time we did this 35 years ago and had 1/2 a pork pie and a pint of beer for breakfast)
Having the Sunday afternoon barbeque at the campsite with no rain at all.
Two hefty strangers trying their hand at Aunt Sally for the first time and watching as first they were told to let Grandad show them how it’s done by very small grandson, then when Grandad failed to score out of six shots, having small grandson (eight) score one out of two shots and to top it all, older grandaughter (nine) scoring two out of two shots.
The annual crowd of friends met well again.
Discovering a whole lot of new small alleyways in the back streets of the town.
Watching the spectacularly noisy and black-and-red border morris team, The Iron Men and seeing the Seven Champions team perform their eye-wateringly funny dance around two ‘prisoners’.
Less highly lit moments:
Rain all day on the Monday when the teams dance.
Peter and Ralph not being there.
Um …. probably there were others. I don’t remember.
I’ve posted so many black and white morris dancers – have a change. These are the Seven Gilders – the Iron men’s sister team. The Iron Men come from Coalbrook Dale of pottery and iron work fame and so do the Seven Gilders who painted the gold leaf on the pottery. (I think – I was well into a lengthy pub session when I gleaned these nuggets of information) Anyway, nothing to do with female pigs or Dutch currency.
I tried to upload videos of the dancing – eventually I came across a little note on Flickr which said “videos can be up to 90 seconds long” Ah. So two minutes and forty seconds might be a bit too long. Flickr seems not to be able to tell you it can’t do something until it’s finished trying and failed. I then tried to edit the video, using the little camera’s software. Hmm.
Moving swiftly along, here’s a little of the rest of Oxfordshire.
(Apologies for not doing the rounds yet – four days camping immediately followed by two days grandbaby minding have swallowed a week or more. Playing catch-up slowly)