When shall we three meet again?
In thunder, lightning or in rain?
We’re now less than a fortnight from the Morris Federation’s 40th Anniversary Day of Dance (and I still haven’t found a better way of saying that). And one of the (many and varied) things near the top of my mind is the weather… We’ve had a rather motley year with the weather, and we’re now heading into autumn so anything could happen. But morris dancers are a hardy bunch, and British, so will dance in all variations of thunder, lightning or in rain (well, maybe not all of that, but you get the drift).
Early in July we danced at a school fete – glorious sunshine, blue skies and hardly a breath of wind. And it was really hard work. I find hot weather difficult to deal with – it got to nearly 30 degrees C that day – so I was struggling. I also burn very easily being a fair-skinned northerner. I drank a lot of water that day, and lay on with the sunscreen, but I was seriously knackered by the end of it with the heat sapping my energy extra-quick. I forgot the sunscreen at Weymouth earlier in the year and ended up with sunburnt arms up to my short sleeves. Took me a week to stop scratching, just in time for another hot day at the Widcombe Street Party. At least at Weymouth there was a nice breeze, so it felt cooler (which is why I got burnt, cause I didn’t notice how hot it really was). I don’t know how you Border sides survive in your rag coats in that kind of weather. I think I’d melt.
On the other hand, those rag coats would come in useful for some of the dance outs we do at the very end of the season, or early in the spring. Cheltenham Folk Festival must be the earliest in February. It’s often gloriously sunny, just freezing cold, especially in the shade. And I’m convinced the town planners there aligned the streets just so they’d catch the wind. Removing three layers before we dance is not unusual, but we’re often very enthusiastic to make sure we stay warm. It’s harder on the musicians who are, relatively, standing still. We also do an annual Christmas dance out for charity in Bath city centre. It’s never been cancelled in ten years due to weather (that I can remember), and in fact we can have some wonderful days with the low sun angle warming up the Bath stone to a gorgeous honey colour. It’s just cold – definitely long sleeve weather, although we haven’t yet succumbed to dancing in our cardigans (well, not often anyway).
So, we’ll dance in the the heat, and in the sun, and in the freezing cold. The wind can cause other problems with hats and hoops and skirts flying around. It’s not often that a dance out is cancelled to the wind, but we did come to that point this year. We were supposed to be dancing at the Somerset Wagon in Chilcompton with Priston Jubilee Morris. It hadn’t been a nice day weather-wise and it just got worse. Very windy with a little bit of rain thrown in to make life interesting. I felt sure someone would cancel, but no phone calls came through or emails or anything to make me stop getting ready, so I set off. I kind of figured that Chilcompton was far enough away and in the Mendips not the Cotswolds, so it might be better weather down there… Who was I kidding! It got worse, and windier. But pretty much all of Mr Wilkins turned up – even if we sat in the pub and drank coffee (most of us were driving, OK?) – before some of Priston came in (they hadn’t had a cancellation either). So, we didn’t dance outside, but some hardy folk danced inside in very cramped conditions and the musicians got an impromptu session in the pub – so they were definitely happy.
That’s the only dance out that has been cancelled (eventually) due to the weather this year. There have been a couple of close calls – drizzle on a dance floor laid on a sloping lawn was probably the diciest. But that was about the dance surface, not the weather really. Rain on some surfaces can make for a very dangerous dancing surface, particularly if lots of turns are needed and our clogs have absolutely no grip on them. One year in Chippenham – the last before they brought the stage under cover – we had to wait until they had finished taking the squeegee to the surface before we could start. We were very careful.
It was tipping it down this morning as I walked to work – and home again – and this is what got me thinking. At what point will Morris dancers call a halt and refuse to dance due to the weather conditions? This morning’s rain would really put a dampner on any dancing – at least until it stopped and the puddles dried up a little. Some sides might dance in wetter weather than others (partially depending on footwear). We have a wet-weather alternative, but that will never be as suitable as dancing outside. So I will be putting out a little word towards Maahes, Thor, the Theoi Meteoroi, Jupiter and Caillech to ask for clement weather for our little shindig. Sunny with a slight breeze would be nice. Anything but today’s downpour. Please?
With apologies to William Shakespeare Esq.