A title that even I wouldn’t have the bare-faced cheek to claim. For me to justify the epithet, the human race would have to face an extinction-level event which would make the plague needed to raise me to the position of king of these isles look like a mild case of the sniffles. Nevertheless, these past few days did raise the faintest glimmer of hope: of my mastering some form of dance rather than of the extinction of the species (the latter task I feel I can safely leave to our leaders – both foolishly elected and otherwise).
Southampton and its environs offers quite the cultural mix to the diligent seeker after divertissement. On Wednesday, feeling exhausted after a night wrestling with the jazz-status of a range of vegetables, I did bestir myself to go see the launch of Huddlehood. This is a new (temporary) public artwork which I will struggle to explain: it involves two ‘shells’ painted in a very cheerful shade of yellow containing a range of hoodies and hats designed to be shared by a number of people from 2-12 (in number, the age range could be somewhat greater). There were also some ‘benches’ decorated in highly magnified images of carpet. I cannot claim to understand it – despite talking to the artist – but I left feeling re-energised with my joie-de-vivre topped-up.
Huddlehood from afar and in amongst it!
Brimming with positivity, on Thursday I went to Bournemouth to see the sea and undergo mild exfoliation as the fine sand of its beaches was hurled against my body by the bracing wind. I rather fear this might have been the last of the summer as since then Southampton has fallen into a rather premature autumn.
Upon my return, I headed to the Guide Dog (a particularly fine public house but a short stroll from my rude shack) to watch the Wickham Morris and Red Stags Morris perform a range of dances involving both sticks and handkerchiefs (not at the same time). I think this was to celebrate a new mural of the Earl of Peterborough (the third of that name) – one time resident of the area – but it was gloriously entertaining. Late in the performance, the audience were invited (even encouraged) to participate and I somehow found myself in formation, clutching two brightly coloured hankies in my nervous hands. I’d been hoping for sticks, but I think the morris-folk were right to go with the less dangerous dance implements in my inexperienced mitts. I will own that my willingness to participate may have been enhanced my my earlier consumption of several pints of the Red Cat brewery’s excellent Kairos.
I have to say that I think I’ve found my terpsichorean métier! I feel I was noticeably less terrible at Morris than at any other style of dance I have previously attempted. I think with the expenditure of very modest effort I could acquire a working mastery of the art!
I had been thinking for a while that a flip-flop wearing serial killer could be a very effective plot device. The sinister flip-flop sound in the dark would be very atmospheric. However, I now think a killer morris man (or woman) would be even better: the sound of the bells emerging from the fog would be truly terrifying!
After the dance, many of the dancers and all of the musicians (plus some extra musicians) retired to the Dog House (the back room of the Guide Dog) for an impromptu folk gig. This was wildly enjoyable and I have never seen so many accordions and melodeons in action in a single room before – plus a flute, several fiddles, a hammer dulcimer and a couple of bodhráns. I am now fighting the urge to buy an accordion: I can play the piano (somewhat), so how hard could it be? I feel the instrument also offers the player a cardiovascular workout, so in many ways it would represent an investment in my future health!
Friday I wandered as far as Winchester to see Jero Ferec and friends (and/or colleagues) staging a masterclass in flamenco. My companions, based wholly on the length of my legs and general lack of excess weight, felt I would make a natural flamenco dancer. Based on my own observations (and some limited self-knowledge), there seem to be rather a lot of skills required for flamenco, beyond vaguely appropriate body shape, all of which I lack. So, I think I shall stick with morris for the time being. Perhaps, if I am cursed with immortality, I may have the time to tackle flamenco, but for now I can’t even click my fingers in the required style.
I finished the evening watching the Sea Slugs and their take on afrobeat in a pub too cramped to permit dancing, which was probably just as well. Still, very enjoyable and my first time in the Cricketers – which was rather a decent pub and even closer to home than the Guide Dog. I choose far better than I knew when I moved to Southampton!