Baldricks and Bell-pads, or How I got my Ding-a-ling (Nov 2012)

Part the third – Baldricks and bell-pads, or how I got my ding-a-ling

After four or five weeks they stopped saying in a rather surprised manner, “so you’re here again, then”, and realised that I was serious about this lark.

Now, dear reader, this might be because I was learning a new skill/art, it might have been because of the fun, laughter and camaraderie we have each week, or it might be because during the summer we go to different pubs each Monday night to drink and dance (or should that be dance and drink?) and to various weekends away to dance and drink and dance.

After a couple of weeks Alan, one of the very experienced dancers, had been watching me and gave me a little advice.  He said that when I was single stepping I was doing it the ‘wrong way round’.  Now, dear reader, you will recall that single stepping involves a step and a hop and my problem was I was doing a hop and a step.  Like me you might be wondering why this makes a difference.  Let me explain: if you start with a hop when everyone else starts with a step you are going up when everyone else is going down and down when they were going up.  Think about it (but not for too long), dear reader, and you will see what I mean!  In fact why not come and join us any Monday evening at Thornton Hough village hall and try it for yourself!!

Having received this advice and after a couple more weeks I was learning that while I could normally cope with the single stepping and I was starting to learn different figures and choruses, I was still finding the double stepping very confusing.  I would start off fine and then all of a sudden it would go completely to pot.  I would be hopping instead of stepping, or not hopping at all, or jumping, or anything other than what I should be doing.  I was really starting to doubt my ability to count to three!

To complicate matters further, in some dances you also have to do a caper or a side step or a twisty back step or even a hookleg.  More on these in future musings.  Suffice to say it was far, far, far more difficult than I had first expected it to be.  But it was also still very enjoyable, particularly when I managed to get things right, even small things.

I was, however, reassured when I was told by several of my fellow dancers that I will reach the point when suddenly it ‘clicks’ and I’ll do it without thinking – I look forward to that day.  I was also told not to worry about it because the first 25 years are the hardest!

After about six weeks when I arrived for the evening, the lovely Eve came up to me and said, “I need to measure you for your baldricks.”  Now, dear reader, I didn’t know what a drick was and I certainly wasn’t sure I wanted any for my ba… down there!  However, she soon explained that these are the coloured shoulder sashes that we wear.  I took this as a great compliment that they obviously thought I have the potential as a dancer.  She also explained that I needed to get some black trousers and get the wife to turn them into breaches, a white shirt, long white socks and a straw hat (which Andy the Bagman could provide) which needed to be decorated with flowers.

The following week the lovely Eve brought my baldricks.  Oh, dear reader, I never knew I could get so excited about two lengths of blue and yellow ribbon, a blue and yellow rosette and a small embroidered emblem.  She told me the lengths of ribbon are worn diagonally from shoulder to waist with the rosette at the back and the emblem at the front.  See picture below to see what I’m going on about.  Andy had also brought a straw hat for me and some bells and one of the other dancers, Arthur, had brought his bell-pads to show me how to make them.

Now being a bit of a crafty sort I took myself to a garden centre to buy some artificial flowers and to Abakhan fabric shop to buy some leather and set about the task of putting together my outfit. Doing so I spent several jolly afternoons and perhaps, dear reader, you can judge how successful I was by this picture – but keep your comments to yourself!!

The next few weeks were spent concentrating on the programme for the annual Boxing Day Revels in Willaston (see pictures elsewhere on this site).  I knew I was not of sufficient standard yet to be able to do any of the dances, but I was hoping to be involved somehow.  Imagine my excitement then when one evening Squire Tony told me I would be carrying the cake!  He then added that if I try really hard I would get to dance Greenbanks.  Imagine how I slept that night – no don’t.

Well dear reader, that’s about it for this instalment, don’t miss the next one when all will be revealed about the Boxing Day Revels and the New Year’s Day Smarties!!

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