For the first time in many years, the Farkham Hall morris side, the Badgernadgers were unable to join in this week's wassail celebrations or follow the Mari Lwyd around the town, owing to many still being in hospital and others in some pain following a practice calamity.
It happened while they were practising the dance "The Huntsman's Heap", which is a complex measure for two and a half pairs. In this dance, the 'hounds' pursue the 'fox', who through cunning footwork and dexterous use of a baton manages to evade them at every turn. The end of the dance comes when the 'hounds' exhausted, fall in a heap, not knowing that the 'fox' is already there, so that all lie down together.
This was a full dress rehearsal outside the Amble Inn, illuminated with burning brand torches the side looked resplendent in their regalia of blacked faces and all black clothing with black and gold tassels.
All was going well with Kaye Keating, our local baker treading an excellent measure, bewildering the 'hounds', Basil Potbound, Jack Dawes, Doug Graves and Ken Ellman before taking up her prone position, hiding in the middle of the hounds while they danced themselves into the ground.
Music was provided by the able trio of Rosemary Notweed on fiddle, Helena Handcart on drum and our local GP, Dr Leitch on accordian. Dr Leitch wasn't very tall, but what he lacked in stature he made up for in enthusiasm. He insisted on standing on a wooden box to play so that he could get a better view of proceedings. That is where the problems began really.
Rosemary Notweed, a lady well into her 60s was getting more and more engrosssed in the music, marching back and forth in time to the beat but went one step too far. The flaming brand behind her caught in the magnificent tassels on her coat, setting them ablaze in an instant. She screamed and ran forward away from the flames, but too late. Especially for Dr Leitch, with whom she collided, sending him flying from his perch. Now, falling off a box is one thing, but falling off a box to land on an accordion across your midriff is entirely another. The jolt of pain left the medical man reeling.
Helena instantly cast her drum aside and went to Rosemary's aid, tearing off her burning black outfit and jumping on its remains to extinguish it. Meanwhile, this kerfuffle had not escaped the attention of the dancers. Kay Keating stood up rather abruptly, accidentally headbutting Basil Potbound on her way up. The sickening crunch and sudden spurt of blood instantly said "broken nose" and he dropped his baton in shock.
Seeing that Doug was about to put his foot on the newly liberated stick, Jack grabbed it. Too late. Doug trod heavily, not only on the stick but also on Jack Dawes' hand, as we found out later, breaking several fingers, before turning his own ankle over in the process and causing a nasty fracture. "You bloody idiot Potbound!", he grimaced. "It's Peabune, you peasant", shouted Basil, who was always a little touchy about his name, advancing toward them, pausing only to pick up another baton that had been thrown loose in the melée.
In the meantime, Ken Ellman had run over to help Helena extinguish the flame engulfed, substantial form of Rosemary, whose trousers had also joined in the conflagration, but couldn't be removed over her Dr Marten's boots, so were being torn from her in a most undignified fashion. She seemed strangely reluctant. It was then that Helena discovered the pothole in the pub car park that had somehow worked its way under Rosemary's jacket. The sickening crunch of her ankle disintegrating as her foot disappeared southwards was clearly heard as far away as the irate Mr Potbound, who stopped in his tracks and turned quite pale.
The reason for Ms Notweed's discomfiture was becoming apparent as more of her Badgersnadgers finery was torn away. Her foundation garments were then exposed to all and sundry, and turned out to be a most revealing and unexpected sight. On somebody about 30 years younger and several kilogrammes lighter, the bright red, fur trimmed basque with ultra low cut balcony may have looked alluring. Sadly, Rosemary looked as though she had been forced into said garment before being somewhat over inflated. Worse still, the heat had melted the plastic whalebone ribs, which had distorted to add an even more grotesque shape to the ensemble. They had also, it seems, welded themselves to her skin in a most painful fashion.
Now screaming in pain, along with the howls of Ms Handcart, the groans of Dr Leitch, more painful groaning from Jack and Doug along with various vile nasal mutterings about ignorami and peasants from Basil, Rosemary spotted the small duck pond in the grounds of the Amble Inn and hurled herself at it to cool the burns that were looking very red and angry on her back. Sadly, she didn't notice the low fence surrounding the pond, so went in face first instead of her target landing zone. The pond, being only 8 inches deep responded by removing her four front teeth.
"Hey Potbound!" Shouted Doug, "Aren't you going to come and help us?" I can't walk here." "It's bloody Peabune you bloody peasant!" retorted Basil. "Get it bloody right!". With his good hand, Jack hurled a baton at Basil, catching him squarely in his right eye. Not bad for a natural right hander, you have to agree. Basil added to the general cacophony with a pained howl fair fit to curdle the blood. Dropping to his knees was a mistake though, especially as the spot he chose was where the majority of the discarded batons were piled. The instant pain in his knee at least took his mind off his eye for a moment, but not for long.
The Far Kingtown Hospital was called but to no avail, there were too many casualties for their ambulance availability. Luckily, Ken Ellman was unscathed and had his tractor plus flat bed trailer with him, so the injured members were all duly loaded up and he drove them to A&E. The triage nurse couldn't believe the carnage, saying that it was worse than the night that a couple of jokers had released a bull in the beer tent at the Farkham Hall Young Farmers Annual Dinner in 1976.
We will leave the last word to Ken Ellman who had this to say. "Welllll, Oi'm juzzz don't know whaaaart aaaaarl the vuss am about! One minet, Oi'm 'aaaarvin' a noize' peezeful daaaaarnze, and the negggs minet, all 'ell breakz looze. Bludi zilly buggerz. Oi'm'll gonna be layte for moi dinner now and Oi'm'n'll ztill 'avvv to getz up urrrrly vor milkin' in the mornin'".
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