Day Three: further details of our return
Between 31 May and 3 June 2001,
Saturday morning, 2 June
"I will arise and go now…"
The Olympians had decreed, most wisely as it transpired, that Saturday morning would be free of Morris activity, so that we could spend a little time getting to know our immediate surroundings, and recharging batteries for a final assault on the Little Egypt Marathon Guinness Drinking record. As recorded elsewhere, Friday had been long and late, so much so that "Saturday morning" meant entirely different things to different people. To some, it was a bleary-eyed lie in at 9 o'clock; to others it was merely an extension of the night before.
"And go to Ennis, free"
Even in Kelly's Guest House, a relative haven of sobriety and decorum, the signs were not good. Dave Hartley and Gilberta were definitely tired, and Trevor didn't exactly have the appearance of one who could dance "Ring of Bells" until the cows came home. Then again, all things considered, when does he ever? And when do the cows (or chicks) come home (to roost)? Soon after leaving the nightclub, eh, Trevor? But the next question has to be, "How much assistance do they need?"
But I digress. Most of us made an attempt at looking round Ennis, and a jolly nice place it is too. (Some - the Farmers and Ann and Bethany, for instance - even wandered further afield to explore other aspects of the local area.) There's a very nice TIO in Ennis, and some excellent music shops and several good pubs and bars. We visited O'Connell Square, where the Ennis webcam is to be found, and the market, and several bars. Our perambulations led, inevitably, to encounters with other Morris-type searchers. All showed definite signs of that dread ailment
which affects the eyeballs of all who succumb. The test is easy. Wave a five pound note across a victim's face: the eyes will not flicker; if anything they recede further into the skull. Identified as suffering particularly badly from said sad affliction were Messrs. Jukes, Proffitt, Parry and Cleverdon. Serves 'em right, if you ask me. Fancy thinking they could disco until 3 a.m. at their age. Some sufferers, of course, could not face the cold light of day, and preferred to await their fate in the darkened surrounding of May Kearney's. Least, that's what New New and Hazel claimed. There is, of course, only one known cure, to be administered in pint glasses, and drunk while the head remains.
And so we passed our time until the muster was called at 2 p.m., back at May Kearney's, for an afternoon, evening and night of dance and more revelry.
Was Ennis ready for this?
Little Egypt are renowned for their time-keeping. Your scribe has, for several years, been officially appointed timekeeper to the side, and has yet to see a penny for the wear and tear on his watch, and, indeed, has yet to see a single occasion when the side has danced on time. Some would alter that to "in" rather than "on". But I digress, again. People began to drift into May Kearney's at about the appointed time, but there were a few subtle indications that the casual approach of the west of Ireland was beginning to rub off.
Tommo, for instance, appeared in mufti, with an air of insouciance worthy of Eric Cantona (except that Tommo doesn't know anything about football).
Dave Jukes was taking care to cultivate the sultry look of Jason King, an allusion that had been made by one of those ladies who share his mother's name, the night before. Quite why anyone should want to cultivate the look of a 70s TV hero in flares, only DJ can tell us - I suspect it has something to do with the influence of people who share his mother's name and, of course, his age.
Anyway. To the dance. We processed into town across the bridge, past the memorial to the heroes of 1916, past the Priory, and to O'Connell Square. On the way we were hailed with cheery salutes and kindly greetings (I think). Then we found a place to dance. In O'Connell Square. Under the great man's statue. Historians will understand the significance of the County Clare election and Catholic Emancipation. Little Egypt didn't. Prompt at 3 p.m. we gave the gathering crowd "Ring of Bells" and "Bluebells". It would be interesting to know how it appeared on the webcam, but it looked pretty good at ground level, and the crowd seemed to enjoy it.
Was Little Egypt?
You can always tell when Little Egypt have had a good night before a dance out: there are always plenty of volunteers for the big drum. Saturday in Ennis was no exception. Tommo and Proff both volunteered (and both heeded the squire's exhortation for "light and shade"). Tommo had other reasons for being "off dancing", since he was improperly dressed, having conveniently forgotten his hankies. Jukes had too. Probably up all night blubbing his eyes out, I should think.
Enough of his emotional trouble. We progressed further into the town, to the market square, where we rounded off the afternoon with renditions of "Milly's Bequest" and "Vandals", both of which drew rapturous applause. To be serious, our dancing attracted genuine interest and appreciation. Some had seen it elsewhere, but for many, it was their first "in the flesh" experience of the Tradition, and I think we surprised quite a few, for the right reasons.
And so it was back to May Kearney's to prepare for the next journey. Trevor did this by drinking - milk. Others had tea. Some drank Guinness. Now there's a surprise. We had to be very quiet, however, because our return coincided with the Republic's game against Portugal (football, Tommo) and quite a few regulars were there to watch.
Anyway, eventually we gathered outside the pub for a group photo. You may detect that we were joined for this shot, not only by the long-suffering landlady, but also by a long-drinking local who insisted on standing with us and assuring us that there were no hard feelings and that the two nations should learn to live with each other and could we have another drink to cement the relationship?
Ending on a high note
Saturday evening was another highlight of a weekend full of highlights. Pepper's Bar. Feakle. Renowned as a home of Irish tradiitonal music, and venue for our final dances, tour dinner and general going ahead.
But we had to get there first.
Irish road maps are no worse than any others, but it helps if read them, so it was hardly a surprise that, as we set off in what should have been the direction of Tulla, we ended up on the N18 heading for Galway. No names, no pack drill. Isn't that right Neville?
What should have been a 25 minute run took an hour and ten, but we got there, and Gary Pepper was ready for us, along with a reasonable crowd on a lovely early summer evening in idyllic countryside near Lough Derg.
Nor that Jukes tells you.
Despite everything, we danced a full set, including all the old favourites, and ending up with "Swaggering Boney", featuring Mark and Martin.
We had a most enjoyable and relaxing session with the black stuff flowing free. There was ceremony in the formal inspection of kit. Even Tommo nearly got it right.
And so to dinner at half past 7. Excellent trough again, as had been the case throughout our stay. Julie sang a lovely song between courses. Some people had pudding. Neville had bits of crab. Quite how he caught them we daren't ask.
It has to be said that Trevor was not impressed with the cleanliness of the loos. This sort of thing worries him, along with portion size and parking space. Proff was less concerned with such issues than with the need to catch up on his sleep. He felt the need to retire to the minibus at 9.15 for "forty winks". He must wink very slowly because he wasn't seen again for at least an hour.
The evening developed into a right hooley.
See Day 4 for final grizzly details.