2014 Scrapbook

OBJ's Annual Wassail - Lands End, Charvil
12th January 2014

The main purpose of Wassailing is to help to secure a good crop in the coming season, and it is traditional to do this on the Sunday before Plough Monday - the day when everyone went back to work on the land after the Christmas festivities.  Our version of this ancient tradition includes a bit of Morris Dancing and a Mummers Play, together with the Wassail ceremony itself.

We held our Wassail at the Lands End Charvil this year. The Lands End, as it's name implies, is a little off the beaten track, being located in the middle of nowhere between Hurst, Twyford and Woodley, near a ford over a tributary of the River Loddon.  The landlord (Steve) was keen, and the pub has plenty of inside and outside space and car parking, so what could possibly go wrong!

It had rained 40 days and 40 nights leading up to the day, and a good deal of Berkshire was under water, so we checked the roads from Twyford and Woodley the day before, knowing that the road from Hurst would be impassable. We were greeted by a watery sight - with 6ft of water, and a lorry, in the ford.  The river had also filled the lane leading to the pubs main car park so "Plan B" was invented so that we could cram all of our expected visitors into the available parking space. 

Ellington Morris, Garston Gallopers, Mayflower Morris, Phoenix Morris, Wickham Morris, Soundblast Sinfonia and our friend Andy (the singer of witty ditties) came along to make it a wonderful day.   The landlords friend Mike (?) also came along to frighten away evil spirits with his shotgun and Pam provided the Wassail Cake.  Tony did an excellent job as Squire, keeping the dancing going, and keeping us more-or-less on time.

OBJ comprised:
Andy W, Ali, Ann, Anna, Chris, Chris D, Clare, Claudia, Colin, Eddie, Ian, Jane, Joe, Karen, Kelly, Lawre, Liz D, Marian, Mike G, Mike S, Pegeen, Philip, Sarah, Tony and Vera

Click the pictures to enlarge them
This was the appraoch to the pub's main car park the day before the wassail - just after the lorry had been dragged out.

The entrance to the car park is by the red sign and it was about 18 inches deep at that point.  The ford is beyond the second yellow sign.

The gods smiled briefly on us, and theeh river dropped by a foot overnight, allowing us to (carefully) use the car park.

We kicked off with a Dilwyn, which got everyone warmed up and hopefully gave a little confidence to our new dancers.

Nearest to us are Ian and Mike G - then on the right are Pegeen and  Sarah, our newest recuits.
More of Dilwyn, with Gill and Andy W nearest to us

Getting ready for a double set of Hay-on-Wye

Clare and Sarah are nearest to us
And the dance gets under way

Sarah seems to be enjoying it

At the other end of the ensemble, Andy W and Liz D are ready to do some sticking
Some of the band - Colin, Chris D and Anna

Just out of the picture are the wonderful Soundblast Sinfonia - brass streetband who have joined us before

Ali, Vera, Lawre and Joe were also in the OBJ band

Mayflower dancing while Colin observes. 

Emma was dancing with Mayflower for the Wassail - it's her main side but she often dances with OBJ
And here are Mayflower dancing off.

Ellington Morris also joined us. Here they are performing the Bear Dance - which explains the unconventional headgear
Later in the same dance

They were followed by our good friends Wickham morris. 

Rob with the wizards hat is the sides Fool - not an insult at all as the Fool is almost always the most accomplished dancer in the side

He is also a very entertaining singer with a repertoire of songs like "Some Stupid Clown Set My Wheely Bin On Fire"
Heres OBJ dancing something else.  I'm not completely sure which dance but it includes a rounds figure.

Liz D and Karen are nearest to us

A double set of Sheepskins.

One side of the sets is Leading Off Right, while Sarah Andy W and Ann work out whats coming next
The Sheepskins Hey, danced by Chris, Liz D and Karen

Our friends Phoenix

Judy and Sue seem to be enjoying it
Later in the same dance

Garston Gallopers doing their bit.

They earned their invite because their musician Alan made us our Wassail Bowl
We finished the dancing with a massed East Acton, accompanied by all of the musicians including Soundblast Sinfonia.

Here Colin is giving the instructions as we were joined by many members of the audience

The sticking figure - Tips and Butts
The Foot-Up

Most of the dancers are heading the right way

The Reel of Three

The instructions are: Dance around each other in a figure of eight.  If you get lost, mill about a bit and dance back to place
The Mummers Play gets started, performed by members of Ellington Morris

Old Father Christmas introduces the players

The Turkish Knight and Saint George are the main protagonists

The Turkish Knight prepares for battle - ironic really as the real Saint George was from Turkey!
Battle commences

But Saint George is slain, and the Doctor is summoned to revive him.

I can cure the Itch, the Stitch.... etc
And Saint George comes back to life, demonstrating that good always prevails over evil. 

I think thats the King Of Egypts Daughter standing by

The Wassail "Ceremony" gets under way. It starts with a little bit of explanation of the custom, and the passing around of the Wassail Cake, which is praised by all "in the manner of Pam Ayres"
Whoever gets the bit with the bean in it becomes the "Lord of Misrule" and selects a consort to preside over theceremony.

In this case Queen Karen the First chose King Daryl the First and they became King and Queen of the Bean

We sing the Kings Toast (Joy, Health, Love and Peace) and toast the new monarchs with our Wassail Bowl, made of the White Maple tree


The rest of the ceremony was a bit of a blur - at least for Marian who was taking most of these pictures.  I quite liked this one, with everyone singing the Gloucester Wassail, accompanied by the band.

The ceremony itself seems to have gone unrecorded, but perhaps some photos wll turn up later.

A wren (The King of the Birds) had been hunted so that it could be buried in the roots of the apple tree, and toast and cider were annointed onto the tree.

We then made a lot of noise (twice), including the shotgun being fired, in order to frighten away evil spirits.

Note: The wren was an RSPB toy one and the shotgun was loaded with blanks
After the Wassail ceremony, we sang to be let into the pub, having arranged to be locked out, and Steve and his team served us food and drink.  They all coped very well with a huge crowd of hungry and thirsty people.

This was accompanied by music, song and dance - the songs being mainly provided by Andy and Rob

Here Colin demonstrates Rosa's Waltz


Eventually we all went home tired and happy.

If you were there and took any photos of the Wassail Ceremony, we'd like to hear from you.

Click the pictures to enlarge them