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busy...

 Sorry to be so quite.  I'm not really sure where the time is going, but I rarely have time to read or knit these last few weeks, let alone write.

We're looking after Oswin a lot this week, but that will reset to normal soon.  Lot of time on work for Wimborne Minster Folk Festival.  Sorting out insurance, accommodation for children's dance teams, checking health and safety stuff, chasing up teams who haven't told me how many performer's wristbands they need, already starting to look at a few early things for the festival after this one.

Lots of morris stuff. Just sorting out bookings, making tatter jackets, teaching kids, dancing, practicing music.

Dancing in Winchester today.  Oswin's coming too.

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May madness...

 I'm knackered.  May bank holiday weekend is the top time for morris and maypole bookings, but dancing, playing and calling maypole dancing two days in succession is really exhausting.

Still, the Saturday maypole group were definitely above average. Managed a decent plait (which isn't as easy as it sounds).  Admittedly, I used a simple 'cheat' plait in which the odds and evens move alternately, but if you let everyone move together, then the ones who have internalised the pattern speed up and overtake the slower ones and create a toplogical disaster.

It's only safe to let everyone move if they are ALL experienced dancers and hence move strictly in time with the music, as that synchronises their actions.

If anyone out there has a group of adults (minimum of 8, max 24) who would like to spend half a day to a day learning how to do complex maypole dances as a team, just let me know.  It's something I'd love to teach...

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Lots of longsword

 If anyone would like to see a wide selection of longsword dances, try my Pinterest page -https://uk.pinterest.com/judithproctor/longsword-dances/

Some are picked because they are good examples from other countries, some show details of a move that is almost impossible to understand from a written description, some are old traditional dances and some are excellent modern ones.

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Southern Star Longsword dancing

My fledgling longsword team is slowly gaining people.  We have two figures of one dance and one figure of a second dance at a reasonable level now.   (a 'figure' in longsword is equivalent to a whole dance in any other tradition)

Southern Star Longsword dancing 'Yorkshire Pudding' at Wimborne Model Town.  this was the first public performance for many of the side, and only the second time out for the rest of us.  This is a dance I wrote for the days when we only have four dancers.  (We had six on this occasion, but I didn't keep the video of the six man dance as it had several mistakes in it!)  



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Maypole weekend

 I'm going to be pretty croaky by Sunday evening.

Today I'm teaching maypole and longsword dancing at a local school.  I do this every year on Wednesday afternoons in the run up to Wimborne Minster Folk Festival.  The children will perform on Saturday at the festival and they always do me proud.

Saturday, I'm calling maypole at the Dorset Venison Fair for two half hour sessions.

Sunday, I'm calling maypole at a private event at Rockley Park and teaching a longsword workshop as well.

May bank holiday weekend is always a busy time.  We turned down a request for May 1st as we knew we'd be knackered by then.  (We being Anonymous Morris, who will be dancing at the two weekend events)

The catch is that calling for dances, even using a mike, always leaves me with a rough voice.   Time to get out the glycerine!

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'Thomas the Rhymer' by Ellen Kushner

 Thomas the Rhymer is a character who exists in ballads and folklore. He is taken by the Queen of the Elves to Elfinland and lives there for seven years.
 
Kushner has taken the traditional tale and given it her own twist and it works really well.
 
I loved this novel for many reasons.   Firstly, I love the use of language.  The language is not obviously archaic, nor is in rhyme or anything like that.  Yet, there is a flavour to it that feels slightly apart from everyday English and part of a folk tale - without me being able to put a finger on how the writer has achieved this.
 
Secondly, I love the old couple who give Thomas shelter from the storm at the start of the novel.  They are very much individual characters and very believable.  They have no children of their own, and Thomas develops the habit of dropping by at irregular intervals, using them as a stable point in his wandering life.  They welcome him, give him his share of the work to do, listen to his songs and stories and give him affection that has no conditions set upon it.  (for a travelling harpist/singer, life is lived on the edge - people always want his music, but the rich in no way consider him an equal)  They aren't fooled by his tall stories (Thomas has a habit of exaggerating his importance), nor do they fail to be aware of his womanising habits, but they also see his strengths.
 
Thirdly, Thomas himself is an engaging character.  He has his faults, but like the old couple, you come to see his better side as well.  

Thomas comes to love a girl who lives not far from the old couple, but when offered the chance of sex with an elven queen, Thomas hesitates not.  She takes him back with her and a curious relationship develops.
 
This is Elfinland the way I feel it should be (I was reminded a little of Jonathan Strange and Mr Norell - though, of course, Thomas is the older book).  Time is out of joint and humans can become very tired and drained.  It can be beautiful and yet distorted.  Nothing is as it seems and elven politics are complex and superficial all at once.
 
Kushner weaves another Child ballad into her narrative and it's likely that when you reach the end of the book you will be hitting You Tube to listen to Martin Carthy singing the song that Thomas writes in the book after encountering a human ghost in Elfinland.
 
 Of course, being the teller of tall stories that he is, Thomas has real trouble getting anyone to believe him when he finally returns to human lands.  He also has a gift from the Queen that is a bit of a mixed blessing...
 
This is a book that I will definitely be reading again.
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The Attenbury Emeralds by Jill Paton Walsh

I enjoy Dorothy Sayer's novels about Lord Peter Wimsey and was willing to try out a writer continuing the series, but this one didn't really work for me.
 
I was looking forward to the prequel of how the Attenbury emerald mystery was solved, but the writing style of the first half with it's first person recollection  of events in the past told by Wimsey and Bunter felt clumsy and not like a Sayers novel.  When events moved to the present and later events befalling the emeralds, the style felt more familiar, though I did notice that the characters tended to quote from books that would probably still be familiar to modern readers (eg. Pooh bear and Alice in Wonderland) rather than Sayers wider range.  (you may regard this as a good or bad thing depending on your preference)
 
The solution to the plot relied on a horrendous number of coincidences, which I guess I can't really complain about given that Sayers was almost as guilty in Clouds of Witness....
 
However,  I'm not currently inspired to try any more of Paton Walsh's Wimsey novels.

If anyone wants a free paperback copy, just ask.
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German Easter Wells

 If you share my love of folk traditions, then you'll love this post by Selenak.  Many people are familiar with Russian decorated eggs, and I showed you Czech ones the other day, but the German painted egg tradition is different again.

At  Easter, the wells are decorated with garlands of hand-painted eggs and greenery.  The designs are usually pictorial rather than abstract and cover a wide range of themes.  There's very little repetition and the effect is lovely. This entry was originally posted on Dreamwidth where it has comment count unavailable comments.

PHotos

 It's taken setting up an account on Flickr to do it, but I can now share my decorate egg photos - http://watervole.dreamwidth.org/629427.html

I used to link to my google photo album, but you can only view it from Google+, which is pretty useless.

Even better, Flickr picks up all my tags and comments from Picassa!

Now I've worked out how to do it, here is a gratuitous photo of Southern Star, taken last Sunday.  Our first proper dance out at Wimborne Model Town.

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to close LJ or not to close LJ...

 So many of my friends have moved to DW, that there's a bare handful of people left on LJ that I regularly read.

If  la_avispa, and vjezkova, start posting on DW, then I'll probably kill my LJ account and read everyone on DW.  I'm getting far more comments on the Dreamwatch posts.

I know la_avispa has a  DW account, but I don't know if you're going to start cross-posting or not. I guess the Russian language speakers on LJ may be a plus for you.

vjezkova - do you fancy going on DW and cross-posting (you can set it up automatically)

aunty_gillian,  Graham M and Bill Hay, you may want to swap to reading my DW account, just in case this one does close. I'll warn you if it happens, but you may want to be premptive.

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