In the Winter the Bedford Morris Men retreat to the Welsh Borders.
Not literally, of course. We still practice in Ravensden Village Hall. But the dances we are performing now come from around The Marches - the Badlands of Shropshire, Herefordshire and Worcestershire. Frontier country.
As a newcomer to the side it’s all been a bit of a surprise.
In our Wednesday night practice sessions the measured stepping of the dances from the Cotswolds have given way to what seem like a series of violent altercations.
There is shouting. There is stamping. There is Priapic stick clashing. And that’s just afterwards, in the pub.
These are dances for the Festive season; the costumes are outlandish and colourful, the tempo is fast and furious. They fight against the deathly cold and dark of winter. It’s all a bit different from the white outfits and handkerchief dances you see in the Spring and Summer.
Border Morris has a sinister edge to it. Men in disguise, descending on pubs, brandishing sticks, handing round the hat. Traditionally, this was how seasonal workers, frozen out of their jobs in the depths of Winter tried to make a bit of money. It was always somewhere between busking and demanding money with menaces.
The dances are still joyful, though. They are full of life and energy, part of a tradition that goes back hundreds of years and, ultimately, to our pagan past. And although I am not yet, the Bedford Morris Men are really good at them. They’re skilful, funny and amazing to watch. Which is really the point. On the coldest, darkest nights of the year they’ll appear from nowhere in a blaze of noise and colour and put on a real show for you.
The Bedford Morris Men are always looking for new dancers to join us. If you want to come along and learn Border Morris, we practice every Wednesday at Ravensden Village Hall - just email email@example.com for full details.