Wild Morris: Final Day

— July 8th, 2008

I stayed in the white hart inn - where Dave and Jan's Disco throbbed into the night for the amusement of 5 people - the disco emptied at 5 minute intevals for the 5 to have a cigarette.  The human body is an amazing thing - it's something i noticed when i did the bath trip - it will adapt to whatever pressure you force on it - this time endurance morris, my ankles, knees, calf muscles etc had all adapted brilliantly to morris - however under no amount of pressure would my body adapt to the strains of shakin' stephens (not even when Dave over ruled Jan and put on 'green door') and Adam (my batman) and I turned in for the night.

Sleep is a very good thing and in the morning i woke early and felt entirely cross that i'd felt so unlikely to finish the night before.  Adam dropped me at the corner of the lane and I set off on the last 17 miles of the journey.  Adam wondered why we started so early, experienced by the bath, I answered 'always allow for a crisis on the last day'.  No crisis came and I covered good ground with my now sometimes hobbly but indefaticable morris double step.  Also to help me the rain only came in showers - none of the comedy bad down pour rain of the day before.  Just three miles short of Norwich - Adam phoned 'the van is broken', 'arse...'

The suspention spring in the front left tyre had snapped, knicking the tyre, wrecking the shocks and lacerating a break cable.  I called the RAC, left Adam with the van and carried on with the wild morris (delay here would have meant being late for the Lord Mayor - unforgivable).  In a mile I was joined by the Squire (leader) of Kemps Men Morris Side (a Norwich side), a man called Peter who had also brought along a squeeze box to play me into the town.  In another mile or so I reached St Giles Church where Kemp actually finished the Nine Days Morris (he comes back later to go into the town when he's organised the feast he thinks worthy of him).  There I was joined by members of Bury Fayre (wich whom I'd danced at Lavenham a few nights before) and formed up, Peter kicked off the tune 'Kemps Jig'.  It's actaully a really good tune and if there had been a top 40 in 1600 would certainly have made it in (perhaps even knocking greensleves off the top slot).  We danced through the ancient streets of Norwich: people's response diveded into three - clapping and cheering, looking baffled or emergency trips to shops they didn't want to go into to avoid getting caught up in the Morris.  Adam had got the van towed to the RAC garage (a new prototype garage that only exsists in Norwich (now that's a real fluke)) and re-joined me by now.  Norwich town centre is splendid - if ever you get a chance - go - i'd only been when i was small (it's not changed much) but it's great.  I was hobbling badly now but realised that i was getting close and would make this spurred me on.

Finally ahead - I could see the Cathedral.  Nearly there.  The there was torrential rain again and I was told I couldn't get through the Cathedral gate ahead of me to the Bishop's Garden.  Pausing only to put the squeeze box under cover we capered round the Cathedral walls to a pub for shelter.  Entering the pub in full formation.  The Squire told the landlord of the Wig & Pen what i'd done and beer was on the house (thirsty after Morris - and in the full tradtion of Morris) it went down in one.

Then a man arrived with a wooden sword 'I'm a Whiffler - I'm here to clear your way to the Lord Mayor'.  The Mayor had arrived - I was on time.  Then one of the most excentric scenes I've ever been involved in started (and it's up against some pretty stiff competition).  The Whiffler (Lord Mayor's Body Gaurd) led the way shouting 'make way for Tim FitzHigham and his Nine Days Wonder' swiping at traffic with his sword, the morris dancers and I following behind entered the bishops garden where the Lord Mayor appeared surrounded by more Whifflers holding banners.  Meeting the Mayor I gave him a copy of In the Bath.  The morris dancers and whifflers assembled and with me, we performed 'old lady tossed up in a blanket' (which Dave had taught me - what seems like a long time ago) before one of the Kemps Men in honour of Norfolk and my maritime connections performed Nelson's Jig.  In the crowd, laughing happily through all of this and shaking her bells was a small girl with lovely curly blonde hair - she's called Daisy-May and has EB but is very bright - as sometimes happens with EB no one else in her family has the condition, but as he told me proudly, her older brother protects her and stop her from getting hurt too much.

After all this excitement I went back for a final ale in the Wig & Pen before off for a lovely supper to celebrate the trip - impluaibly, I had made it to Norwich through the ancient method of Morris Dancing, the van - with all the technological advances of centuries - did not.


FitzHigham e-blether

Subscribe for an occasional email newsletter from Tim on what he's currently getting up to.