16 July 2016 - Portsmouth

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Meeting at The Ship Anson.
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The recent glorious weather continued for our trip down to Portsmouth for a Day of Dance organised by Victory Morrismen.

We had been told to meet at The Ship Anson but it could be hard to find. I made sure I was wearing my sou'wester and life jacket because I get quite nervous on ships. When we arrived, I realised my mistake — The Ship Anson is actually a pub on the road called The Hard. Incidentally, there have been eight Royal Navy ships called HMS Anson, all named after Admiral George Anson.

With everything shipshape, at 11 o'clock we made our way across the road to our first dancing spot. We were accompanied by Wickham Morris (Cotswold / Border), Alton Morris (Border) and the hosts, Victory Morrismen (Cotswold). Thankfully, there were some trees overhanging the dancing area that provided shade to protect us from the increasingly warm sun.

Taking turn-and-turn-about with the other sides, Kettle Bridge performed Prescot, KBC Processional and Saint Helens Gala. As we were near the entrance to the Historic Dockyard, there was quite a crowd to watch and they all seemed to enjoy the dancing.

The nautical theme to the day continued when we had to board the ferry to cross the harbour for our next stand. The ferry company have managed to get sponsorship from a French sports clothing company called Go Sport. In return, they have had to rename the ferry service to reflect their sponsor, hence The Go Sport Ferry.

Prices were very reasonable for the crossing with senior citizens (most of us!) getting a third off. The trip took only a few minutes but I was very pleased to have taken my sailing gear as the swell reached at least six inches at one point. We all safely disembarked at Gosport and made the long trek (all of 50 yards) to Falkland Gardens for our next stand. Incidentally, the garden was renamed in 1984 to mark the role of Gosport in the Falklands Campaign. It was here that many of the town’s service families watched as their loved ones set sail for the South Atlantic from Portsmouth in 1982.

With the sun still beating down, we shared the dancing at this stand with Datchet Border Morris, Men of Wight (Cotswold) and Fleet Morris (Cotswold — and a suitably nautical name). The view of Portsmouth in the distance provided a delightful backdrop to the performances. We had time just to do Milnrow and Aughton before it was lunchtime.

Incidentally, as you will probably guess from the name, Men of Wight come from the Isle of Man. Did you spot my little joke there? They were definitely not here just for the Ryde though, but, Needles to say, danced until the Cowes came home.

Then it was time to take the ferry back to Portsmouth for some shore leave and to find somewhere for a rest and some refreshment. Thankfully there was plenty of choice on The Hard and the nearby Gunwharf Quays.

Our first stand after lunch was just inside the gates of the Historic Dockyard. This involved us all blagging our way past the man at the entrance gate. I think that he must have thought that there was the most bizarre fancy dress party ever taking place. We congregated in a shady spot in College Road but, as there were only two sides at the stand due to a couple of no-shows, and the dancing surface was not entirely suitable, we agreed with our Victory Morrismen guide to transfer to the stand currently underway by the HMS Victory.

This was a wonderful dancing location with the famous ship in the background and an excellent surface to dance on. Knockhundred Shuttles (North West), Kennet (Cotswold), Fleet Morris (Cotswold) and Victory Morrismen (Cotswold) were already dancing in rotation and we slotted in accordingly, performing Saint Helens Gala and Marston 8.

As you probably know, HMS Victory is best known for her role in the Battle of Trafalgar when Lord Horatio Nelson defeated the French but was killed in the process. His signal "England expects that every man will do his duty" has been an inspiration to all Englishmen — except of course the England Euro 2016 football squad.

As well as being the home of the Victory, the Historic Dockyard is a fascinating place full of other interesting exhibits illustrating all aspects of nautical history. There are several large, magnificent but ancient battleships there so the Kettle Bridge dancers fitted in really well. Credit for that remark goes to MRL.

Having finished that stand, next on the ship's manifest was a trip to Old Portsmouth. We made our way back out of the Historic Dockyard to The Hard where the hosts had laid on two double-decker buses to transport us all. We somehow managed to squeeze onto the buses and were dropped off in the old part of town. Kettle Bridge were designated to dance at The Bridge Tavern with Kennet (Cotswold), Fishbourne Mill (Cotswold) and Tatters and Tails (Border). The dancing area at the pub was smaller than ideal but everyone coped admirably. We danced Ealuscerwen and Colne 6 and finished off in grand style with Cossington.

At the end of the stand, an open-top bus took everyone to the final (non-dancing) location, namely the Barley Mow pub. Here there was an opportunity to have our grog ration and to get something to eat off the barbecue. Inevitably, with so many morris folk gathered in one place, singing and playing sessions started up. This marked the end of a glorious day in sunny Portsmouth so we all weighed anchor and sailed off into the sunset.

With any event like this, there are always lots of people to thank.
Firstly, Victory Morrismen did a brilliant job of organising the day, especially scheduling all the dancing locations and the logistics of moving from one to the other.
Secondly, thanks are due to all those musicians who kindly loaned us a melodeon throughout the day — and well done to Ian for adapting to a series of strange instruments.
Next, all the dancers did exceptionally well to cope with the demands of a full day's dancing in searing heat — an excellent job.
Lastly, a special mention for the band who kept going right to the end. It was especially great to see Michael B back playing with us and in such good form.

Footnote 1:

I mentioned "Stately as a galleon" in one of the photo captions. For those of you who are not aware, this refers to a song made famous by the wonderful Joyce Grenfell.
Click here to see her performing the song.
Click here to see the words. Make sure that you click on the bottom right of the page to see the rest of the lyrics.

Footnote 2:

A hard is a section of otherwise muddy shoreline suitable for mooring or hauling out. I assume that is how the road that The Ship Anson is on got its name.

Footnote 3:

To end on a political note, did you know that an anagram of PORTSMOUTH is SHOOT TRUMP?

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