Dancing with Death

swordsmen-01death-on-the-roadsPicture the scene: a real ale pub on the night that a convention/festival of morris dancers was in town. Those of us who thought we had the night off had received frantic phone calls and emergency taxis to get us to work. It was quite busy. Actually, it was insane, but in a cheerily joyous kind of way.

In the midst of the packed bar, a team of sword dancers started doing their thing. "You could have someone’s eye out with that!" muttered the landlord as the swords wove in and out. It did look pretty impressive, though.

Fast forward a couple of decades, I decided it was time to take another look at this Yorkshire tradition, so Mr TLC and I set off to Grenoside, where sword dancing dates back some 150 years, with Boxing Day a long established fixture. We joined the crowd outside the Old Harrow pub and enjoyed the show. A variety of teams young and old, male and female performed. The finale involves the ritual beheading of the captain, who gets to lie in the road and play dead for a bit.

I thought that the idea was to keep death off the roads, but surprisingly, Death was the marshal, directing traffic away from the temporarily blocked road, wearing a costume that was way cooler than the high-vis vests that Mr TLC and I wore when performing similar duties at an event last year.

He was very polite was Death. I asked him if he minded having his photo taken and he replied “Not at all” before apologising and explaining that he had forgotten his scythe and had been forced to borrow a broom.

A brush with Death, how appropriate.

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