Photo Diary

Archive for June, 2007

Royal Cornwall Show

Wednesday, June 13th, 2007

DSC_0004.JPG, originally uploaded by michael_jecks.

The great thing about being a Morris side with some enthusiasm is that you get invited to fantastic events like the Royal Cornwall Show. Boy, was it hot – but fabulous too. The sun was beating down here in this photo, when the man behind me asked why we were all sober still. He reckoned it was the first Morris side he’d seen which was sober. I had to try to point out that this was sort of early – since it wasn’t yet half past ten – but honesty forces me to admit that before eleven, all had started drinking. In the heat here, by God, we needed some sort of liquid inside us. Thank God for white clothing. It kept us a little cooler!

Morris in full flight

Wednesday, June 13th, 2007

DSC_0223.JPG, originally uploaded by michael_jecks.

This is the sight to scare those who think Morris is all about easy little dances with small bells and handkerchiefs. No, what we do is a nice little mixture of Cotswold Morris and daft Border Morris, which means carefully measured violence along with the happy, clappy stuff. And our mob can scare the hell out of any audience, given the chance, the heat and the ale (free to morrismen out the back of the tent).

Dog Day Afternoon

Wednesday, June 13th, 2007

DSC_0200.JPG, originally uploaded by michael_jecks.

Now not everyone enjoys watching even superb Morris sides like Tinners’. Some folks reckon that it’s just too hot to sit back and be eyeing up all these middle-aged fellers drinking free ale and dancing. So they look on contemptuously. And this is one such girl.

Hanging Johnny

Wednesday, June 13th, 2007

DSC_0001.JPG, originally uploaded by michael_jecks.

Well, the last weekend was slightly busy with the dancing and enjoying ourselves, but we were enormously fortunate to see Hanging Johnny again as well. This fabulous group sing old shanties and sailing songs of all types from the days of the sailing ships. You just have to hear them. They are our favourite sing-song group over any journey. Personally, I keep all their songs on my computer while I’m writing, because the tunes and songs are so evocative.

The Birdman of Mortonhampstead

Tuesday, June 5th, 2007

DSC_0077.JPG, originally uploaded by michael_jecks.

Now you may be wondering what on earth this fellow was doing, turning up to a Church Ale. Of course, it could just be that he happened to enjoy a beer or two – but no. That’s not the point.
The thing is, a couple of years ago, he had an expensive owl that went walkabout. This hawker was mortified, and did everything he could to find the darned thing, and in the end, at a loss, he tried one last person. A man who was known as a local dowser.
Don’t know what a dowser is? He’s a man who can find water underground. You know what I mean, one of those lads who marches about the place with a forked piece of wood in his hands, and when the bit of wood goes haywire, that’s where the water is. Now it sounds daft, I know, but people have been using them for years. Centuries in fact, so you can assume that there must be something in it.
Personally I can vouch for it. I had some water problems in my house, and went to this gentleman. He not only told me where the water was under my property, he could tell me roughly how fast it was moving, how deep it was, whether it was pure enough to drink, and even where it moved in a spiral fashion which was, he reckoned, where someone had once had a well.
The birdman didn’t know all that though, so all he had to go on was a recommendation. Which he took. He phoned my friend John and told him the problem. John agreed to try to find the bird. He called the birdman back a short while later and gave him some map co-ordinates. He went there, and found his bird in the spot, in a tree.
Sadly he couldn’t tempt the daft bird back. Next day, the bird had flown off, so he called John again. John called him back with new co-ordinates, and when he went there, he found the bird once more. Again he couldn’t tempt it back, and again next day the bird had moved on. Once more he asked for help and got it. But this time, when he tried to get the owl, and it refused, he gave up. It was enjoying its freedom, so the hawker allowed it to stay wild.
And how had the dowser known where to look? Well, all he did was concentrate on the bird’s name and soon he gained an impression of where it was, and when he looked at a map, he could see exactly where the creature was sitting.
Personally, as a trained mathematician, with a scientific bent, I find this hard to believe. But I’ve seen John in action, and next course he runs, I’ll be joining it.
And why the birdman? John didn’t want paying for finding the bird three times, but both agreed it could be fun to have the birds there for a church ale, so there he was. And you can see from the kids’ faces, it was worth it!

The Cider Tasting

Tuesday, June 5th, 2007

DSC_0027.JPG, originally uploaded by michael_jecks.

Well, the day after my last posted picture, on the Sunday, we followed up the Church Ale with the tasting of the cider. Thing is, down here in Devon, we’ve seen many of the ancient cider orchards ripped up, because the European Union thinks that there were too many in England, and so our farmers were paid to pull up all their apple trees, losing hundreds of old and irreplaceable varieties, while French and other farmers were paid equal subsidies to plant new ones. Sounds mad to you? It is.
Still, down here we have some old orchards still knocking about. And the people who have too many apples need to do something with them all. Only one decent thing to do, naturally.
So once a year everyone brings their windfalls and spares to a special location, and we crush them all before shoving them all through a press. The resultant juice is left in barrels – nothing added, not sugar, not yeast – until we judge the time to be right. And then the cider is checked. That’s what we were doing on Sunday.
It’s a miserable life here in the country. Honest.

The Braslers at the Church Ale

Tuesday, June 5th, 2007

DSC_0143.JPG, originally uploaded by michael_jecks.

There is a long tradition in the country of actually enjoying yourself. It’s a rare thing now, of course. People are expected to conform and only behave in manners which the central government approve of. That means no smoking, no drinking, finger-printing all children, if this government gets its way, also having ID cards and full details of everyone’s DNA stored centrally. Orwell could not have dreamed of such a nightmare.
But thank goodness there are some old habits which do die hard. One is the Church Ale.
In medieval times, it was a way to get money together for the needy or to fund some new investment. The Cobb at Lyme Regis was originally paid for and maintained by an annual “Cobb Ale”. Basically it was a party. The community would brew it, and then buy it and drink it.
Originally such affairs were looked on as disreputable. They were known to encourage dancing, singing, and probably lewd behaviour, which is why Cromwell and his puritans banned them. In later years, Queen Victoria had a similar negative attitude and they fell out of popularity . . . except it takes more than a ban to stop the English from a good party.
Still, since they were known to be bawdy events, with any luck we’ll be able to bring back some of the old fashioned disreputable aspects. As you can see from the picture here, the “braslers” (pronounced “brawlers”) are doing their best to be loud and obnoxious!