Morris Dancers wear ribbons with rosettes and have bells on the legs and wave hankies in the air while they dance. The first thing I had to do in order to have any chance of fitting in with Oxford Morris was to create an outfit a bit like theirs. They call the straps around the body ‘baldricks’. I had to go shopping to buy the materials, and found a shop that sold everything needed in St Nicks Market, Bristol.
I found bias binding for the straps
…and bells for my legs.
The aim was to make something that looks a bit like this (Oxford Morris baldricks that I tried on while visiting a Morris Dancer, though a bit too big for me)
I set to work sewing, Hammering in the shed (I decided to use a stud that I found in the sewing box for the rosette)and I finally ended up with my Oxford University style Morris baldricks.I had a little practice at home before setting off to Oxford to join in with the May Day celebrations.
Then off I went to Oxford strapped into the back of the car wearing all the gear!We arrived at a very nice B & B – Lakeside Guesthouse, where rather conveniently there was a bed just for me in the room. I spent the evening relaxing there as May Day celebrations start very early in Oxford.On May 1st 2016 and I got up very very early. Here I am about to walk across Christchurch meadow…We were on our way to Magdalen Bridge to listen to the choir sing from the top of the tower at 6am. You can see the tower behind me in the distance in this photo….When we arrived at the bridge there were thousands of people there, including lots of Morris dancers and a tree, though I didn’t spot any other bears.At 6am the crowd went quiet and the sound of the choir filled the air. I could just about make out a few figures standing at the top of the tower. After the choir had finished singing, we all started to follow the tree as it walked up Magdalen St…The tree finally stopped at Radcliffe Square, and church bells started to chime. The Morris Dancers started to dance and play music.
I rather liked the round building on one side of the square.It is the Radcliffe Camera and is part of the Bodleian Library. The church bells ringing and Morris dancing went on for quite a while as the different ‘sides’ of Morris dancers took turns to dance and make music. After they had all danced, they moved on to another area. The most exciting bit for me though was outside St Johns College where I got to join in with a Morris Dance. I had to be carried around for health & safety reasons as I am a bit short to dance on my own (there is a big risk I might get trodden on with all the jumping up and down and leaping about waving hankies). My reward for dancing so well was breakfast with the Morris Dancers, which took place in another college (Oxford is full of colleges), St. Edmund Hall. The tree, known as Jack-in-the-Green, was having a sleep in the garden, so I posed for another photo with him.I was surprised to find that ale was being served with breakfast….After breakfast we set off again for more Morris dancing, and walked under the Bridge of Sighs……then onto the area outside a museum, The Ashmolean. Here I was given the very important job of looking after the tankards full of ale.I started to feel very tired. I had been up since 4.45am, my little legs were aching and I was finding it difficult to keep my eyes open. A Morris Dancer lifted me up onto the top of the sculpture, and I within moments I fell fast asleep.Looking forward to my next Morris dancing adventure when I will be meeting up with the Oxford Morris Dancers during their canoeing tour of the Wye Valley 🙂
Horace the Alresford Bear 2/5/2016
I haven’t done any ‘mascot’ duties for a while now, but yesterday my human decided to put me in a cycling cap with the Bristol South Cycling Club logo on it in order to go and ring a cowbell at a Bristol South Rd Race that took place around Bishop Sutton near Bristol. There were lots of big yellow signs along the roads and people wearing high visibility jackets, plus cyclists everywhere.
Before the race began I had a nice rest in the sunshine on a gate post. I was a bit worried about the barbed wire though, so didn’t stay there for long.
Karen wanted me to be ready to ring my cowbell as soon as the racers came up the hill, and as she was worried about the barbed wire too, decided to carry me around.
As soon as the cyclists came up the hill, 80 of them altogether, Karen started ringing her huge cowbell and shaking me at the same time to make me ring my bell, fortunately they all went by quite quickly.The cyclists had to go round a 10km circuit 8 times, and as they went around some got tired and left behind so they got told to leave the race for safety reasons. The end bit of the race ended on a flat road next to a lake (Chew Valley Lake). After we had watched 7 laps my humans took me to the lake to watch the finish. I posed for a photo next to the lake. I then toddled along to the finish line, where there were big flags either side of the road.I waited there with all the humans for about 5 minutes, then as Karen spotted the safety car coming along she scooped me up, after which one cyclist appeared, about 100 metres in front of the others. Karen rang her bell and shook and shook me to ring my bell too – I have never been shaken so much. Seconds later many more cyclists came across the finish line. You can see just how much I was shaken in this short video clip!
Once I had recovered from the shaking I had my photo taken with the winner, Stefan, and Rob, who came 3rd, both riding for DRKracing team. I am still smiling!
I’m not sure I’d want to be a full time mascot though I guess I would get used to be shaken around after a while. I think sometimes Karen forgets that I am quite an old bear really. I think my next outing doing mascot type duties will be somewhat different. I am going to be kitted out as a Morris dancer and join Oxford Morris men on Mayday. Hmmmm…….
Karen has been saying for a while now that she would like to get some photographs of me with squirrels. Obviously I was somewhat apprehensive about this as they sound a bit springy like spaniels (I had a bad experience with a spaniel that resulted in me needing several stitches in my tummy). Anyway, I got put into the bag and carried off to a rather lovely place in central Bristol called Brandon Hill. On arrival there I played on the swings for a while, which helped take my mind off squirrels for a while….After ten minutes or so we wandered on up the hill to the place where the squirrels live. Karen had brought along some squirrel bait, which turned out to be walnuts. She sat me down by a tree with walnuts on my lap. I was worried, but it turned out that the squirrels were apprehensive about me too, and wouldn’t approach me to collect the tasty walnuts.Karen decided it might be better for me to sit with her, as the Brandon Hill squirrels are not afraid of humans, so we moved and I sat by Karen’s feet waiting for a squirrel.Within minutes a friendly squirrel appeared. He was a bit too friendly and decided to investigate me. Karen decided that now the squirrel had made friends with me, she could probably get a photo of just me with it. I kept smiling but felt quite nervous inside. There wasn’t really anything to worry about though…Squirrel Nutkin and me got along just fine…….until a very big dog came along the path and frightened him away.
There is big tower at Brandon Hill (built over 100 years ago to commemorate the discovery of Newfoundland over 500 years ago). I nearly fell in the waterfall while my human took this photo, and she nearly fell in the pond!
I decided to climb the tower, which is a long way up for a small bear with short legs….When I was nearly at the top of the tower I peered over the wall to enable my humans to take a photograph.Then I carried on right up to the top, where there was a great view of Bristol – you can see Bristol University Tower just above my head.
It was quite cold at the top of the tower, and by the time I’d got to the bottom again I was quite tired and cold. I was a very a happy bear when my humans then took me to a nearby restaurant for coffee to warm me up.I was put back in the bag while my humans walked home, then had a wonderful surprise when they decided to treat me to pizza on the way home for being such a brave bear modelling with the squirrels.
Yesterday I decided that the Tyntesfield pumpkin had been sat in the pantry for long enough and decided to make it into pumpkin pie.
I wasn’t exactly sure how to make pumpkin pie, Nye used to eat it when he lived in the USA but unfortunately he doesn’t really know how to make one. I decided to use a recipe from the BBC Goodfood website http://www.bbcgoodfood.com/recipes/1742633/pumpkin-pie. First of all I had to cut up the pumpkin and cook it until soft in water.
While the pumpkin cooked I made the pastry…I lined a special loose bottomed flan tin and then pressed the pastry into it. I had to make lots of little fork holes in the pastry to stop it bubbling up, then put it in the oven to cook. Meanwhile I mixed up the pumpkin pie filling mixture…I found this somewhat difficult using a wooden spoon, so swapped to using a stick blender powered by electricity instead of paw power.The whole lot was then tipped into the flan case…The pumpkin pie had to be baked at a very hot temperature for 10 minutes then at acooler temperature for a further 20 minutes. Unfortunately when I removed it from the oven I managed to put a paw mark in the edge. I tried to fill the paw mark in with the icing sugar and cinnamon sprinkle topping but it didn’t quite work, but the humans seemed to be happy with the result!This afternoon I gathered up a few of my bear friends to try out the pie. Nye is the only bear who has eaten pumpkin pie before, and he said it was very good, almost as good as the pies he used to eat in the Autumn in USA. Gilbert and Hester enjoyed it too, though Gilbert thought it ought to be served with cream. Growler wasn’t too keen, he said he preferred apple crumble. My own opinion, it tasted OK but I think it needed some more spice.
Why not try making one if you have a spare pumpkin?
Horace the Alresford Bear 23/1/16
I’ve noticed that the days are getting shorter and the weather is getting colder and this has got me thinking about snow. I have only played in snow once in my life, and I’d quite like to do it again. It snowed a couple of years ago and I borrowed Paddington’s wellies and went out into the garden to explore while it was still dark as I was so excited!
The garden looked so different covered in white and I’d so like snow to fall here again…
The following morning dear old Growler used one of Karen’s old socks to keep his head warm and joined me to make a snow bear in the garden. Karen went on to use the photo on a Christmas card.
Lots more Alresford bears have joined us since these photos were taken back in 2013 – with teamwork could make a whole load of snow bears if we get snow this winter!
Karen has written a book about me, and wanted very much to deliver a copy to Alresford Library in order for people in the town to read about my life. So, a couple of weeks ago on the way to France ( yes this sounds odd, but we were on the way to Portsmouth to get on a ferry) we spent a while in Alresford. I don’t remember much about the town where I was made, I guess after being stuffed I was put in a box and sent off to a shop to be sold, so wouldn’t have seen much Alresford. Anyway, I was delighted to find that it is a lovely place and I am proud to carry the name of this place on my label.
The first place we visited after parking the car was Alresford Library. The staff there seemed a bit surprised to have a visit from a bear but they seemed to like the book.It is only a very small library, nothing at all like the library I usually visit, Bristol Central Library. The children’s section is upstairs, and just the right size for bears and children. After visiting the library Karen decided we all needed a nice cup of tea. We found a traditional tea room called Tiffin, and I must admit the tea was brewed as tea should be, and I do like china cups, those mugs some places use are so heavy for a small bear like me to lift up.Now it was time to find out where I was made, and whether the building was even still there. After examining maps and signposts, off we went to find the place where The Town Mill might have been, and to our delight, we found it. Now converted into flats, but a lovely place with a waterfall right next to it. I felt quite emotional and had to sit quietly on the grass for a few moments.Then Karen helped me up onto a post for a photo of me right in front of the building in which I was made.Here I am by the front door to the apartments which has the name plaque ‘The Town Mill’ and confirmed we had the right place.Karen thought it would be nice to find the place where some of my relatives were made too, as newer bears were made in The Station Mill, so we set off to find it. Not surprisingly it was next to the railway station.
I think someone needs to do some gardening there though as there were no flowers in the window boxes.We went on the visit Alresford Station, which was really exciting as old steam powered trains run from there. There were some interesting scales for weighing luggage, and bears…and a seat for people and bears waiting for trains.Then the most exciting thing happened, a steam train came puffing into the station just as I had climbed up onto the bridge that crosses the track. I thought it was a shame that we didn’t have Growler present as he is very fond of steam engines – I will have to ask Karen to bring him along too next time.I then did a bit of modelling next to the station sign and the train.The train used to be used to transport watercress, which is grown in the area for people to eat. I found some in the nearby stream but I prefer cake.On our way back to the car we also came across The Old Fire Station, now a picture framing gallery,…and here I am at The New Fire Station:-I didn’t see any Firemen though, which is a shame as I would have liked to try on their hats.
I thoroughly enjoyed my visit and I am happy to know that me and all my Alresford relatives were made in such a beautiful place. I hope to visit again one day.
I have been set up with a Twitter account where I am supposed to tweet things. I am confused by this. At the moment all the birds in the garden are all tweeting away but I have no idea what they are talking about though suspect it has something to do with nest building. My ‘tweets’ are meant to be very short sentences with less than 140 characters. I guess I’ll give it a go; my name on twitter is Horace Bear @Alresford Bear if anyone would like to ‘follow’ me – not that I am going anywhere at the moment.