Saturday, 29 May 2010

shirt race

Whitsun weekend is special in Bampton.

Morris dancers, folk singers and musicians come to the village from Friday onwards for the Morris festival on the bank holiday. Bampton has an unbroken tradition of Morris dancing going back to the seventeenth century--or even earlier.

The pubs stay open late and I love listening to the singers and musicians who start up when the mood takes them and often sound like they have just stepped out of a Thomas Hardy novel. One of my favourite memories is of listening to a folk oboist in the Elephant and Castle with James and Nathalie. Sadly the Elephant closed some years ago, although the last landlords Pat and George are up this weekend from the Forest of Dean where they now live.

This evening was the Shirt Race, which has been held annually since the 1940s. There's a children's and an adult version. The competitors push or drag their pram or float from refreshment table to refreshment table round the village, grabbing a glass from each as they pass. Beer for the adults.

We went down to see the start by the Morris Clown. The picture shows the tail enders--at the beginning, that is. When they got back to the pub they looked remarkably relaxed.

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