Mabel Strikes Again!
Sunday 7th December saw the fourth annual Mabel Day, touring Oxford city centre pubs, now settling into a regular format. One big surprise and improvement was the new management at the Old School in Gloucester Green. Not only did the new manager offer (without prompting) to provide a free buffet for 60 dancers, not only did he agree to open early at 11.30am for early arrivals, not only did he start serving coffee at that time ndash; he has also re-upholstered the seats in tasteful Whip the Cat fabrics... how rapper-friendly can you get?!
This year we had six guest teams – four ‘regulars’ – Insword, Whip the Cat, Ryknild and Stevenage – and two teams new to our day – Black Boy from Ipswich and, controversially, will-they-won't-they North British. North British had already had a successful crawl of Oxford pubs on Saturday night, featuring Graham being bitten by a dog with no taste, but that story belongs to another write-up [published in issue 17].
Dancing started off at around 12.30pm and the audience poured in... Many of these were tourists, who had just alighted at the nearby bus station, and it was fun to watch the form above their heads as they watched. This spot provided the first tumble from “a member of the audience” when Toby (of pure Ryknild stock) casually peeled himself off the bar, walked through the Ryknild set, tumbled and then returned nonchalantly to the bar... This spot also provided the interesting spectacle of Stevenage dancing to ‘Dingle's Regatta’ played on the spoons... The excellent buffet was provided and grazing and dancing continued until 1.50pm. We then moved on to the catchily titled ‘Far from the Madding Crowd’, where we were eagerly awaited by James, the manager, whose birthday it was that day. The ritual humiliation of the birthday song followed, then each team danced. At a special request from James, Stevenage did not whack any members of other teams on the nose and the blood fountain was thereby omitted from this year's tour.
The surreal moment was provided by North British “dancing” to two brave persons singing ‘Byker Hill’. The carefully choreographed chaos was a joy to behold. The team was obviously still shaken by Graham's injury and by the quantities of beer swallowed on their tour the previous night. We then split the tour in three, visiting the Turl, the Hobgoblin and the Lamb & Flag. Mabel had intended to dance in all three pubs but, on arrival at the Lamb & Flag, we found that North British had decided to take in an extra pub and had left... as we had temporarily donated our musician to another team, and had been hoping to borrow the North Brits' windbag (sorry, bagpiper), we decided to cut our losses and enjoy a nice quiet pint before re-entering the fray. We were all reunited at the King's Appendage (Legs? Head?? Arms??? I can never remember). The presentation of the eagerly awaited Annual Mabel Awards took place and then we danced til it all stopped. Which coincided, more or less, with the arrival of sausage and chips all round.
Many thanks to the teams who joined us for the occasion and yah boo to those of you who had more prestigious bookings to attend or preferred to stay and wash your hair. Date for your diary, Mabel Day V: Sunday 5th December 2004. Don't say you haven't been warned...