|Little Egypt were delighted to take up Mark Mikurenda's invitation to visit his new home country this weekend.|
A group of 19 dancers, musicians and supporters headed west for Wiltshire after work on Friday, 16 June.
|Unfortunately, we all suffered from the effects of an M25 snarl up, so that arrival at Semley was generally later than expected. Nevertheless, we all arrived safely.|
|The arrival of the minibus|
|Pat and Christine took New Martin; New New John Fleming travelled with Hazel; the Clarkes drove themselves; Neville bummed a lift with Jukes, travelling "open top" and in designer sunglasses. Geoff Monk borrowed a minibus, and provided transport for Maggie and New Mark, Julie and Tommo, John Bangs, and Barbara and Martin Barrett.|| Ann was there to greet us as we arrived at our base for the weekend. Surprisingly, this turned out to be a pub.|
|To us, this is a very familiar view of Neville.|
|The Benett Arms proved to be an admirable hostelry, purveying high quality food, and excellent Real Ale, mainly Bombardier and Brakspear's Bitter.|
Mark joined us later, and the (late) evening developed in traditional Little Egypt style, with copious amounts of ale, wit and insults.
| Some of the more delicate souls had booked rooms at the Benett, where Joe, the landlord, proved the soul of hospitality.|
Others decided to take the spirit of a weekend in the country a bit further by camping in Ann and Mark's garden (luckily only a few yards stagger from the pub).
Others took advantage of Ann and Mark's offer of bed and floor space.
|A late night was had by all.|
| Breakfast at the Benett Arms was an interesting affair. The food was, predictably, first class and traditional, but the real interest lay in the range of visible and audible hangovers.|
Jukes, inevitably, displayed his characteristic "withdrawn pupils", which seemed to be receding to the back of his head. New Martin's vocal range had lowered three registers; Nev had a fixed smile, while Tommo just grunted.
|The day, however, promised to be a good one. The weather looked perfect. Bright warm sunshine showed us just how pleasant Semley (and its area) is. Common land covered in wild flowers and newly-mown grass. Travellers in traditional horse-drawn caravans. Vast stretches of woodland. The old London and South Western Railway main line from Waterloo to Exeter passing nearby. |
A part of England that retains much of its beauty and drama: north of Hardy country, but he would recognise it.
| Our purpose was, of course, to dance.|
Mark had created an itinerary for us which was to take us above Blackmore Vale and to the coast.
We hired a coach which meant we could all enjoy the scenery and the art of the various brewers.
|The first leg took about an hour, and took us through a variety of rural scenery to Lulworth Cove where we walked to the top of the spectacular chalk cliffs,|
|and also danced several "spots". We received a warm reception from the early tourists.|
| On our way out of Lulworth we stopped for our first pint of the day. It was very hot, and liquid refreshment was at a premium. The Bass at "The Castle" was excellent.|
John Fleming obviously needed some of it. It had been a good night.
|From Lulworth we headed back towards Wareham, before turning down into the Isle of Purbeck, to Corfe Castle. Here we sampled our second pint of the day, at "The Greyhound", where we were able to sample several local Real Ales, including the worthy Poole Bay Brewery "Dolphin".|
|Corfe Castle is, of course, famous for its setting and its ruined castle, which was systematically destroyed by Cromwell's forces towards the end of the CIvil War.|
We were fortunate to arrive on a day when there was a local "historical" craft fair - wood turning, pottery, withy weaving and so on - and the organisers were kind enough to allow us to dance amonmg the stalls on the Bailey.
|Despite our natural reluctance to dance on grass, the setting proved ideal, and the dancing was proficient, and drew appreciative applause from a large crowd.|
|We included in our repoertoire our newly-learned (thanks, Westrefelda) item, Sweet Jenny Jones, which promises to be one of our favourites.|
|Meanwhile, some of our party struck up relationshipsships with friendly locals - no, not Jukes, this time.|
|One of the many delights of Corfe Castle is the Swanage Steam Railway which passes right below the Keep. While we were dancing, we were able to catch sight of the local train in its natural setting, the whiff of steam among the tree tops, and the emotive sound of cylinders and whistle as the train moved away.|
Distant glimpses are so evocative.
|After dancing, we moved back into the village for lunch.|
|We had lunch at "The Greyhound" - Mark had arranged this, but Neville supervised it, as always in imperious fashion.|
It goes without saying that he tried to chat up the barmaid in The Greyhound.
We all expected the "That's my mother's name..." routine, but we were surprised when he varied it with:
"That's my daughter's name."
Perhaps this is a sign of age.
The rest of us managed to forestall him by assuring the victim of his approach that he actually sells Dinky toys.
|After lunch, we danced to a large and appreciative crowd outside The Greyhound. (Photos will follow)|
|Then we moved down to the traditional seaside resort of Swanage itself.|
|Here we danced on the traffic-free promenade,|
|and at the quayside.|
|To round off the afternoon, Mark had arranged for us to take a cream tea at Wareham Quay; this was very pleasant, and provided a nice break before we headed back to Semley, although Bangs had too much clotted cream and Tommo couldn't face any.|
|Once back at Semley, we had to get ready for our celebratory tour dinner, but before that we had to dance for the locals.|
Part of this included "blessing" Semley's millennium pond on the common opposite the Benett Arms.
We also danced in the road outside the pub.
| This was a central part of the tour.|
It was a grand evening. The food was superb, and the craic was good, too.
Once the meal was over, we adjourned to the bar for a great deal of going ahead.
Everyone was in good voice and tune. The carousing continued long into the night (we were resident, in case the licensing authorities are snooping), and apparently ended at about 2 a.m. with Jukes buying New New a quadruple Oban, but not knowing about it until Sunday morning. Apparently Tommo and Mark also enjoyed themselves.
Brilliant. Why wasn't I there?
Or was I?
|I do remember Joe making a charming speech of welcome, and even inviting us back!|
|...even after we tried to do the bottle dance.|
|If anything, Sunday breakfast was even funnier than Saturday's, as a result of the extent of our enjoyment of the night before.||New Martin reported a damaged back.|
Quite why this prevented his eating all his breakfast, I'm not sure, but he wasn't the only one. Dave remembered the quadruple Oban only very slowly, but was well enough for the Mercedes test drive.
|After breakfast, the Mikurenda contingent arrived, and even Tommo fell into line: - he couldn't do much else.||After bidding Joe and the other locals "farewell", we headed off for Shaftebury, and other local beauty spots.|
|Shaftesbury is the setting, famously, of the old Hovis advert with the boy walking up the very steep Gold Hill, reminiscing, accompanied by Dvorak's New World Symphony. Wonderful place. Wonderful views over Blackmore Vale. We danced there: right at the top.|
|After that we drove up Zig Zag Hill, for incredible views, forever, across Dorset and Wiltshire ...|
|... before heading off, finally, for lunch, more dancing, at The Crown Inn, Alvediston, and then home.|
We'll be back.