Okay, so the summer solstice was over three weeks ago. I can still blog about it, can't I?
After our less than peaceful, relaxing stay in Cheltenham we headed out to Evesham on the Sunday. And what a lovely little town Evesham turned out to be. On arrival we were greeted by dozens of Morris Dancers, strutting their stuff and bashing sticks in the market square and on the main street. Nige and I spent a good half an hour at least soaking up one of ye olde pagan traditions and snapping away like paparazzi.
We then enjoyed a lovely walk along the river, which took us in a loop back towards the town. We stopped to take a picture of a dray horse outside a quaint looking pub, which just happened to have a beer festival on. More Morris men, all with blacked out faces, littered the car park, but this time relaxing with a pint and not banging sticks. We sat outside the pub with a pint of Old Hooky and a doorstop sandwich while one of the Morris men regaled us with stories. I learned more about Morris dancers than I ever needed to know.
Here are just some of the things I learned:
A group of Morris dancers is called a 'side' A lot of Morris sides, particularly on the Welsh borders, black their faces as was traditional centuries ago. The reason for this could have been a) as a disguise, as Morris dancing was a form of begging and begging was against the law or b) to ward off evil spirits or c) because Morris dancing comes from 'Moorish' dancing (North Africa) so they blacked their faces to look authentic. The 'hankie waving' Morris dancers are somewhat sneered at by the 'stick hitters' and are called 'Snotters'. There are thousands of Morris sides throughout the country. Morris dancing isn't in danger of dying out, as the media would suggest (we saw some teenage hoodies, sons of some of the Morris dancers, learning one of the dances in the pub car park).
What a wonderful way to celebrate the Summer Solstice. Next time we'll spend the whole weekend in Evesham.....even the beer's better!