Saturday, 9 June 2012

Ross Kemp on Morris Men

My name is Ross Kemp. You may know my gruffer-than-a-Rottweiler-chewing-gravel voice from my roles in Eastenders and Ultimate Force, or my hard-as-nails documentaries about gangs and wars and pirates. However, today I went even further, investigating for the first time one of Britain's most infamous cults - the Morris Men.

Over the last 500 years Morris Dancing has grown across Europe, a shadowy tradition of terrorising innocent bystanders by threatening them with weapons such as sticks, musical instruments, and drugged handkerchiefs. Traditions vary from place to place, but I caught up with the elusive Hook Eagle Morris Men, at a rare appearance at a village féte in Hartley Wintney.

In disguise as a teenage boy, I observed their attack from a distance. Their arrival on the scene was noisy - they wanted attention. They stomped around with bells on their feet and played their instruments as they entered, a show of skill and power.

They formed a group, bashing their weapons - large wooden sticks which they later changed for larger ones - against the ground and each others sticks. As the threatening behaviour continued, one of the men walked up to the surrounding crowd, telling them to put their money in the bucket, claiming that it was for charity.

I observed their gang uniform - bright blue and yellow waistcoats to draw attention to their presence. They wore top hats adorned with assorted badges, as well as the tails and feathers of dead animals. They wanted the crowd to know their adeptness at hunting, karate, and 50 metres swimming competitions.

Stunned with fear, locals gave the men money to try and make them go away. Another part of the Morris Men's costume stood out to me - black facepaint and sun glasses. I read this in two ways - firstly, to hide their identities, but also as a racist jaunt towards the locals.

As I ate my hotdog, I saw that now all the men were turning on the crowd, bashing their sticks and demanding money. I saw that things were about to kick off, so I entered a raffle, and got out of there. Next time, I delve into the sinister world of the mysterious Rotary Club.


Sunday, 3 June 2012

Finding the Time

Found it!

When people sit you down early on and talk about growing up, they always cover what seem to be the basics: how you'll get hair in strange places, how you'll grow, at what ages you can buy alcohol, cigarettes and hatchets and how to act in a mature and sensible way way (That last one evidently being lost by the majority of my peer group). However, there seems to be one factor that was never communicated to me before it happened.

Hidden Rule of Growing Up #482:
As soon as you hit 17, everything will instantaneously get ridiculously busy.

Now for those of you who didn't know, the month of May saw pass my 17th birthday, an event that saw comparatively little celebration due to May also being time for exams, and an event that saw the arrival of many varied and often crazy happenings which pretty much put me out of the writing world full stop. Being the busy bee and avid diem capere that I am, I spent the majority of time trying to make the most of these randomly placed and equally strange opportunities and responsibilities. 

So as I sat in the sun, in a Jaguar, after a hard day of smashing up a building with my fists and various tools, I thought back to what had actually happened in May. It transpired, after five minutes of failed mental-list-making, that an awful lot had happened. Whether I was getting rat-arsed in fields, attempting to banter with armed soldiers, or failing to get an interview with a gay-porn salesman, I always seemed to be doing something in May.

In order to illustrate and to excuse myself for not blogging for a whole month, I shall split a selection of these vivid memories into some non-chronological vignettes, for your reading pleasure and to try and exercise my now beaten memory.

The First Memory
A Long Walk

So last year after our GCSE's had finished, me and a selection of friends (Including Tegan, Brownbear, Erin and Mike) decided to grab some drinks, and without any supplies whatsoever, walked deep into the forest to sleep overnight in a shipping container in a derelict army compound, in the way that only no-common-sense 16 year-olds can.

This year, in an apparent attempt to simultaneously reminisce and get plastered, Mike, Erin and I trundled off into the very same woods with a - very frankly - ridiculous amount of alcohol, the sort of swag bags that would get you thrown away and locked up if they were ever considered drinkable by law enforcement agents. Spoiler: We had to buy more.

So we walked, and we walked, and as it got darker we decided to try and walk a bit faster. We got to the compound just as the sky turned grey, and as we approached, I could have sworn I saw the silhouetted shape of a helmeted head in one of the towers.
"Mike... Erin..." I said, thinking the drink was muddling my senses. They carried on walking. The helmet moved. To say the least, it wasn't so derelict - in fact, it was filled with a number of gun-toting silhouettes, my confident communication with whom impressed Erin to no end.

Left on a road in the middle of nowhere, we looked back to the forest and shook our heads, and after failing to bribe our way into the irradiated black-spot mega-factory that is NGTE Pyestock, took to the road, which turned into a motorway, which turned into drinking at a service station, and hitching a lift with Superman-S.A. member Clare Weston, who happened to be rolling past close to midnight.

The Second Memory
World's Weirdest Human Traffic Jam

It's sadly something I've never had the chance to cover on the blog, but I happen to be an avid attendee of MCM London Comic Expo, a safe-haven of nerds, awesome stalls, and plenty of attractive girls and guys cosplaying every pop-culture character under the sun, and there was an awful lot of that this May.

One particular stall, selling yaoi - Japanese comics that focus on homosexual male relationships, to put it lightly - is hosted by Yaoi Guy, a loud American man who waves his rainbow flag around and starts chants such as 'Makes you feel good in your hands and your mouths, makes you feel good when these men go down south' and so on and so forth, you get the idea.

Yaoi Guy is loved by many, and as a result this time round his stall, with its new found legion of paddle-holding assistants, was placed right in front of the entrance. The entrance, around mid-day, becomes crushed full of people, and as I entered the hall again, hot and sweaty, I found myself confronted with a fort of Yaoi, and surrounded by people dressed as monsters, not moving.

"Dommie..." I said. "Do you ever get the feeling you're surrounded by sociopaths?". A pause. Before Dommie could reply, I turned, and a little grey person on a chain-lead turned to a taller grey person and said "Master, may I climb the stairs?".

I turned to Dommie. Laughter.

The Third Memory
Wake Up Call

When I woke up the other day, the first words out of my mouth were 'Oh, sh*t.'. There are a number of things that can make you say that when you wake up, but my particular reason was that I had just been told that the building housing the salon I'm a co-owner of had collapsed

Of course it wasn't as bad as it initially sounded - the ceiling on the ground floor had collapsed after a pipe burst - but it's still put us out of business for weeks, and put me into manual labour for a number of days, breaking bits of wall and ceiling with my bare strength skills

My motto of the moment: if you can find a silver lining on this cloud, rip it off and sell it for scrap, we could do with the money.

The Fourth Memory
Celebrating the Queen's Jubilee

Aha, I'm joking. The extent of my Jubilee celebrations have been eating a Starburst with a Union Jack on it.

Until next time, whenever that pops up.

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