It’s a bit of an Oxford tradition to get up far too early on the 1st of May and listen to nine-year olds sing from Magdalen tower, while a few people jump off a bridge (into a river, obviously).
The morning however, followed a night of really shitty weather. Intensely heavy rain had hurled down onto our roof-slates, providing a beautifully conductive tableau for the numerous networks of lightning that darted across the wet sky, strobing through skylights. Most of the Oxford floodplain disappeared underwater, and any Bullingdon boys somersaulting into the Cherwell would have to contend with a river as swollen as their sense of self-entitlement.
As a result, instead of rising at 5am to trek down to Magdalen, we woke at 6 and wandered a hundred yards to Aristotle Bridge in North Oxford. And oh my, was shit going down:
I believe this group were called ‘Ancient Morris’.
On May morning, all the Morris Dancing groups descend on Oxford and prance about amongst the dreaming spires, the streets ringing with the sound of shin-bells, the air fanned by the inaudible flap of handkerchiefs, and the international students confused by terrifying blackface make-up (and that was just the Students LOL!). However, up towards Summertown, they thin out and disappear, so it was a pleasant surprise to find two groups right by our house. They took turns with 2/3-minute dances, finishing and then inviting the other group on, in some sort of Morris Dance-Off, fighting for the hand of the French girl, Estelle, perched atop a papier-mâché bull.
Red Bull gives you wings; White Bulls love shrubbery.
It was a lot of fun watching the groups, more so than the last couple of times in Oxford centre, where the crowds tend to be large, and so a good view isn’t always a given – here, there was a whole bunch of room, as well as Fred Dibnah on accordion.
The climax was an ancient fertility dance, that, the lead Morris-er, Maurice (probably), announced, would impregnate Estelle. She stood in the middle of a circle of men, and just as we expected things to get a little seedy, they pretty much just ran at her shouting, waving hankies. That’s not how you do it, gentlemen.
I doubt this is effective, unless the uterus is impregnated by fear.
It was all hella awesome, and I went back to bed after, so I had the pleasure of nodding off twice. Score.
My friend Urska did some photos of the central May Day celebrations for one of the Student papers last year. You can see them here.