Elephant & Castle, Bloxham 19 July 2023

One of our number suggested that, with several young and inexperienced dancers in our troupe, it might be a good idea to have occasional practices during the summer or alternatively to dance out at quiet country pubs as a means of maintaining social contact and improving the standard of our performance. Having decided on the latter approach our Bagman booked us in to dance at that fine ancient coaching inn, The Elephant & Castle in Bloxham. Arriving to perform at the pub despite dire warnings from David about the steep slope in the car park, reminiscent of the notorious sloping pitch of Yeovil Town FC, we were surprised to find the pub heaving and nearly all outdoor seating occupied. It transpired that the local WI were about to enjoy their annual fish and chip supper on the lawn just above our dancing pitch. So much for a quiet country pub with just two men and a dog having a fag break outside!

In the absence of Ryan, I took on the Squiring duties and our ten dancers and musician Donald launched into our traditional repertoire, dancing with hardly more than a brief refreshment break and change of personnel for the next 100 minutes. The crowd were enormously enthusiastic and delighted by the mixture of youth and experience in the side. To avoid possible offence to some of the more ancient members of the Women’s Institute, Donald adapted the introductory poem to one of our dances to ‘Young Woman Tossed Up In A Blanket’. The invitation Shepherd’s Hey Jig was a great success with a wide range of willing volunteers ranging in age from a small boy and his little sister over on holiday from France up to a spritely but very senior WI member who risked letting her chips get cold in favour of experiencing the joys of Adderbury Village Morris. Landlord, Simon ‘Smudge’ Finch, clearly delighted with the evening and pleased to meet up with his former Biology teacher and rugby coach, kindly donated a large jug of his excellent Hooky and made us very welcome.

A joyful dance-out at the Elephant & Castle, Bloxham with Landlord Simon Finch holding a jug of Hooky for the thirsty dancers!

With so many sides struggling to maintain their traditions during these challenging times, I reflected that our ten dancers last night included four members who are still at school, plus another young, compared to me, new recruit and that all of us live in Adderbury (4), Bloxham (3) or adjacent villages viz. Barford, Deddington and Aynho. I suspect that former AVMM Fool, the late Bryan Sheppard, would have approved of the development of the team, which appears to be in robust good health. Following The Beaux of London City, one old lady was commiserating with Dylan, who as Percy the horse’s jockey had been callously shot at the dramatic culmination of the dance, and asking if he was new to the dance. He replied, “Oh no, I am actually quiet experienced. I have been dancing for over six years and have been shot in three different countries.” Youth and experience, an unbeatable combination!

John Ekers