On the first Sunday after the fourth of September I was in a taxi from Rugeley station to Lea Hall Farm B&B when the folk accordon riddled euro-pop song that has already haunted me in Venice and South Queensferry came on the radio. I asked the driver if she could listen for the name of the artist. But it wasn’t the radio but a CD that her daughter had made for her and she had no idea who had recorded the song. I felt it was an auspicious sign.
On the Monday morning I made my way to St Nicholas Church in Abbots Bromley where there is a service before the horns are collected. There are twelve men in the group including six guys carrying the reindeer antlers on their shoulders, a Hobby Horse (whose seemed to be channelling Margaret Rutherford in equine form), a Jester, a young boy with a bow and arrow, a cross-dressed Maid Marian, a younger boy playing the triangle and an accordion player. The horns are much bigger, or more obviously heavier, than they appear in photographs. It was soon apparent that this was another massive endurance test to dance in twelve locations along a route of ten miles wearing a set of horns which individually weigh from 16lb to 25lb. I was told that the horns have been carbon dated and are nearly 1000 years old and are from a species of deer that are not native to the British Isles.
I’ve never watched Morris Dancing particularly closely before and definitely never found it to be sexy. But after watching the same six men dance so many times certain dancers start to impinge upon your consciousness. There was one extremely cool guy who moved with a certain sexy panache with a very big set of horns on his shoulders. I think I left with a deeper understanding of how fertility rites can work.
The Blues Brothers of the folklore world…
The Hobby Horse channelling the spirit of Margaret Rutherford playing Agatha Christie’s Miss Marple…
The glorious Margaret herself…a childhood sweetheart of mine (in my dreams that is).
Although I was a tad keen on Alastair Sim in drag too.