A week ago, I set off into the wild North in search of adventure and fame. Well, I squeezed into my parents’ car as we all went off to a camping holiday in north Yorkshire. It’s moreorless the same thing, right? Especially as there was to be music and singing, and I had my new concert-size ukulele to show off, so “fame” as well as “adventure”.
What I hadn’t realised was just how far north we would be. Our destination was the Folk Camp long weekend in a village called Dalton, which on the map appeared to be as far north as Middlesbrough (but farther inland). Therefore, the weather had changed from the bright sunny day of our departure point to a rather more soggy version when we reached our destination and started to assemble tents.
My tent is officially a 3-person tent, although once you have a rucksack full of clothes and useful things, it quickly feels more like two at most (my best friend and I went on various camping trips back in the day in it and it fit our backpacks and the two of us just about perfectly; alternatively, my guitar is sometimes the second person). The best bit about this tent is that the poles are built into the design and snap together to produce the structure. It takes about ten seconds to set up, and another ten to put the pegs in (longer if the dirt is dry and solid). When the weather is soggy, this is an exceptionally Good Thing.
Nevertheless, the stress of the week of preparations, along with the stress of finding somewhat imperfect weather, and some other less than satisfactory equipment in my packing (i.e. a sleeping bag that, despite my remembering using it perfectly well before, now proved to be several inches too short) was taking its toll on my system.
The B’ Clan is the term we use for the close-knit extended family at the nucleus of which is my mother and her two sisters. The three of them were all there, with current husbands or squeezes alongside, my sister and her husband making the trek from Far Away to join the gang and bolster the Second Generation contingent with me. Not everyone stayed on the camping field; but we who did set up with tents on three sides, and the beck on the fourth.
Once we had made contact and joined forces with the other B’ Clan elements, the holiday could begin in earnest.
I’ve discussed already that there was participatory folk dance, and displays of rapper and morris, and the gender-based thoughts I had about those activities. It is a programmed part of each evening’s entertainment that we go around the room and if people have a turn to do, they perform a song or a trick or a story for the assembled folks. There is also hot drinks (cocoa, tea or coffee) and then more dancing.
Mornings usually have a musicians’ workshop, followed by morning drinks, and after that various workshops (often rapper and/or longsword, and singing; sometimes other folk activities too). All of these are optional, and the afternoons are usually free, although there are sometimes programmed activities on specific days.
My favourite part was the singing workshop, which I joined on the second morning, along with the three B’ Clan sisters. This involved parts singing, mainly in rounds but sometimes in individual parts, ranging from the sublime to the ridiculous (and it is a mark of the character of my family that it was our corner that cracked up in laughter first every time; this is a Good Thing about being in the B’ Clan).
“Everybody, Verybody, Erybody, Rybody, Ybody, Body, Ody, Dy, Y” – Google says that this is a Michael Rosen poem (here’s the first link listed that made that attribution), which makes a lot of sense (it has that sort of child-logic to it that Rosen captures so well); someone set it to a simple descending scale and turned it into a round; the workshop leader taught us to sing that version. Then the B’ Clan corner (not all B’ Clan persons were there, and some who were there weren’t B’ Clanners) came up with the idea of “When you sing the first word, you stand up, and sit down afterwards”. The room tried it. We collapsed laughing after the third “Everybody”.
Later that day, the sun finally came out (third day of the camp, but second morning, since the camp started Friday evening).
With the weather, my mood also lifted. That night, I was all but out of prepared pieces to perform at the singaround, but contemplated singing the Postman Pat theme song (unaware at the time of the new movie version) on the grounds that (a) I could remember how it goes and (b) there were likely to be several young people in the audience, making it an appropriate “family” song for the situation. This proved to be a very successful decision. Not only did the children join in, but so did the adults in the room. For the rest of the camp, people gave positive feedback about it, either for entertaining their kids or saying how much fun it had been for the grown ups. I like to think i am self-reliant, but the ego boost helped lift my spirits and make me feel good about the holiday (true secret: I get a huge buzz out of “like”s, retweets and blog comments, too. “I need to be loved!” But obviously, I don’t need your validation to feel good about myself *shakes head*)
I still felt socially awkward, much of the weekend was stressful, but at the same time it was a relaxed level of human interaction for the most part and healthy for me to engage as much as I managed. Folk dance, particularly where partner progression (as opposed to couple progression) is involved, is a sequence of scenarios that require reading of body language (so you know how to make your partner comfortable with the way you carry out the moves; whether a cross-hand or ballroom swing hold, for example, or how much energy to put into the moves). On this evidence I am, again, better than I tend to give myself credit for.
When the final morning came, the weather was back to dank and dismal while we packed down tents, squeezed what we could into the cars and headed off in different directions. I reflected on the fun I had had, but looked forwards to coming home and unwinding, logging back in to email, twitter, etc and catching up on my blogs. More fool me, huh?