10 September 2016 - Hop Hoodening

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It was a real pleasure to be involved with the Hop Hoodening celebrations in Canterbury. We have not been for a few years so it was great to meet up with old friends and take part in an event with such a long tradition. The morris aspects are always organised expertly by Wantsum Morris Men.

The day started with dancers and musicians assembling at The Oaks in the cathedral precincts. However, unfortunately Janey phoned to say that she wouldn't be able to make it as Mike was a broken down old man and his injections weren't working. I think that's what she said — my mobile phone signal was not great.

The weather was a bit cloudy with a threat of a shower but it stayed fine for our procession along the path by the cathedral. At the front was the Hop Queen, Eleanor Luckett (resplendent in her hop arch), and her Hop Princesses, Lucy and Charlotte Burring. Next in line was the Lord Mayor of Canterbury, Councillor George Metcalfe, followed by the parade of participating sides.

There was a slight delay at the entrance to the cathedral but the procession eventually filed in, followed by a good crowd of supporters who joined the substantial congregation already inside. After a couple of hymns and a reading by the Lord Mayor, the Vice Dean gave his address. I think he missed his vocation (?) because he should have been a stand-up comedian. He said that he could find only one reference to beer in the Bible. Exodus Chapter 15, Verses 22 to 23 says

Then Moses led Israel from the Red Sea and they went into the Desert of Shur. For three days they travelled in the desert without finding water. When they came to Marah, they could not drink its water because it was bitter.

He went on to point out that the day before had been International Buy A Priest A Beer Day and he was open to late offerings. Finally, during the blessing of the hops with holy water, he made sure that no hops escaped his attention including the Lord Mayor's buttonhole!

As part of the service, it is traditional for one side to perform a dance. This year it was the turn of Oyster Women who did Valentine (Fieldtown). With all the hymns, prayers and blessing complete, it was time to leave the "Cathedral and Metropolitical Church of Christ" (to give it its full name) and assemble outside for a refreshing glass of ale.

As usual, each side then took it in turns to perform a show dance. Kettle Bridge's choice was Milnrow, with its dramatic finale danced at double speed. The other participating sides were:

We then left the cathedral precincts for the short walk to Sun Street for a stand accompanied by Oyster Morris (Men and Women). Taking turn-and-turn-about, we danced Prescot and Marston 8.

Next stop on our tour of the city was The Cricketers pub on the High Street. To everyone's disappointment, it soon became clear that we were expected to be outside the pub rather than at the bar.

While we were at the Cricketers, there was an interesting incident that is worth reporting. A single man called Nick Duckworth-Lewis walked into the pub as having a pint rather appealed to him. The barman, who was a Chinaman of below-average height, said, without batting an eyelid, that there was no beer as there hadn't been a delivery that day. "A dry pub? How's that possible? What's the point of opening? Am I supposed to drink tea?" complained Nick. This angered the barman who said "You're the third man to come in and complain". With that, he jumped over the bar and maiden attempt to strike Nick who just managed to duck and the punch went wide. This caused the barman to spin round, slip, fall over and suffer a leg break. Seeing his opportunity to leave, Nick said "Bye" and tried to run out of the pub but was caught by the waiting bouncer. Nick managed to break free with a direct hit in the googlies. That just about covers everything that went on. The hawk-eyed among you may have noticed a theme running through my story. This can be dismissed as just your wicket imagination.

The road here was a bit narrow for dancing so we did have a few near misses with sticks almost taking out a few passers by. No harm was done and we managed to perform Aughton and Ealuscerwen without mishap.

By now we were in need of a break and some refreshment so the next hour was dedicated to having lunch. A few of us popped into a nearby café as it was so convenient and had a basic but perfectly adequate snack. We then meandered further down the High Street to the West Cornwall Pasty Shop, the assembly point for the afternoon procession through the city.

With all the participating sides lined up, we set off through the streets of Canterbury with the Hop Queen and Princesses leading the way. On reaching Rose Square, the parade finished and the climax of the day came when all sides took turns to perform for the large crowd. For our two spots, we danced Saint Helens Gala and Shawforth. This brought proceedings to a close and we made our way home again after an excellent day's dancing.

Thanks must go to Wantsum, the organisers of the event and all our helpers and supporters, particularly the Boyle family for transporting all the team's gear during the procession and generally making themselves useful. Here's to next year!

As much as we enjoyed Hop Hoodening, I think an alternative traditional celebration might appeal to Kettle Bridge even more. This is the ancient practice of Hot Puddin'ing which is held in Pudding Lane, London, where the Great Fire of London started in 1666. Here dishes of jam roly poly, spotted dick, treacle sponge, sticky toffee pudding and apple crumble are prepared ready to be blessed by the Bishop of Bakewell who anoints them with holy custard. This is a time-honoured ancient ritual that started in ancient Rome and was mentioned by that famous Roman historian Suetonius.

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