Northern Soul


To save my blushes I’ve drawn over a photo my friend took of me today.

After we had sung with the combined choir there was a brief break and then a woman got up and did a quick dance lesson to teach us  Northern soul dance steps. The music is in four four time, so she taught us four steps, stand on your left leg, tap your right foot behind, to the side of and in front of your left foot, then put your right foot down about shoulder width away from your left foot. Then putting your weight in your right leg repeat the moves using your left foot. After we learned to do that and danced for a while to a northern soul tune she added a jump, then jump and cross your legs spin round, clap, and carry on doing the side to side step.

I was jigging along with the rest of the crowd. I loved Northern Soul when I was a teenager.

The only problem? My knees are aching now.

Penkhull Wassail


There’s not many places in Britain where you can wander round with flaming torches (but no pitchforks). But today we did just that round Penkhull Village. From Penkhull village hall we walked down the road to a garden with an ancient apple tree. The Domesday Morris danced and poured cider over its roots, Wassailing (shouting Wassail) to bless it and get it to flourish in the coming year. Domesday Morris danced, the Clay choir, which I sing with, sang Wassailing songs such as ” The old Cornish Wassail” and “the Penkhull Wassail” ( written by Duncan Bourne). Penkhull village brass band and the Penkhull Ukelele band also played.

Once we had drunk warm cider down at the garden we walked back up the hill and on to the local pubs, the Marquis of Granby, the White Lion, which was closed for some reason. We then went to The Beehive pub on Honeywall which had laid on some sandwiches. Then back across the hill to the Terrace pub and up to the Greyhound pub and Manor Court ale House where we finished singing and dancing. The Morris group were brilliant with their decorated hats, bells and boots. When they start dancing their sticks fly and swirl and clash together in time with the music  So exciting to watch.

We went over to the village hall for hot soup. Some people stayed for a barndance, but as we were tired out we came home to get warm and have a hot coffee.

No monsters or zombies were affected by this Wassail.




Wassailing is a tradition to celebrate the New year. People would go from door to door  knocking on them to rouse their occupants.

The local Morris Dancing troupe started to organise Penkhull Wassail a few years ago. Our Choir joined in and now quite a lot of people walk around the boundaries of penkhull with lighted (flaming) torches. We visit an ancient apple tree in a garden nearby, the Morris dancers dance and we get a drink of hot cider.. Then we continue around and sing and dance outside the local pubs.. . Just for fun. We end up at the local village hall for soup. Sometimes we stop for a barn dance afterwards.

We sing various songs including the Penkhull Wassail and the Gower and the Gloucester Wassail.

I guess some of the songs will be on YouTube.


Dancing trees


I thought they were holding hands but my friend said dancing. Imagine the branch in the middle is two arms entwined, clasped hand to elbow  Then the branches on the other side of the trunks are like outstretched arms, and the other branches higher up are like hair flying outwards as they spin each other in a dizzy whirl of autumn leaves..

An idea for a painting. I also like the way the hedge cuts between them and splits the composition.


Barn dance


Just back from our local barn dance to raise funds for the Penkhull Mystery plays. What a blast! I danced and laughed more today than I have done in ages.

It’s great when you get the dances right, but hilarious when you get them wrong! I started with one partner and ended up with someone else. No one knew how to heel toe then do split the willow or something. Talk about confused, the other groups got it fine but could we? The more we tried the worse it got.

Now I’m shattered but happy. During the evening I also won the raffle 4 times so I didn’t take two of them. Madness, then my partner won a bottle of whisky.

The band were great and the caller was patient with us. But we were awful.

Great fun.


Visiting the Moon

Today we visited the museum of the Moon, an art installation which is on till tomorrow. We got in free but there have been events there that you had to pay for.

The Moon is a huge inflated sphere, a balloon, hung from the ceiling of the Kings Hall in Stoke-upon-trent, part of Stoke’s town hall.

I’m afraid I didn’t get the details of the artist who made it, but it is very beautiful. The Moon is fully rendered with all its craters and mare (or seas). The seas are actually flattened areas where magma or lava has welled up from the interior and flowed out across the Moon’s surface. They are caused because of the speed of impact from asteroids and meteors hitting the Moon, the energy of momentum is converted into kinetic, heat, energy.

But thats the side we see, because the Moon is tidally locked with us, so the face we see is always pointed towards the Earth. If you observe the Moon over time it swings and sways so you can see slightly more than 50% of the Moon but we never see the back. The sides, top and bottom is squashed up so its not easy to distinguish what is visible.

So walking around the installation you can see things you might only have seen in blurry film from the Apollo missions almost 50 years ago. Huge craters where impacts must have shook the Moon to its core. You realise how much more scarred and cratered the dark side of the Moon is. Pitted and dented, the back of it has been impacted over millennia.

The Moon has also slowed the Earths spin which is why when humans are shut away in dark caves to experiment with our body clocks, we think a day ends after 23 hours or so. That is because as we evolved over millions of years the Moon was orbiting the Earth closer to us, and as it moved away gradually  (less than a centimetre a year?) it slowed the Earths’ spin to 24 hours a day.

At the moment the Sun can be eclipsed by the Moon. It just happens that the Moon is 400 times closer to us than the Sun and 400 times smaller. So the Moon appears to be exactly the right size to cover the Sun when there is an eclipse. As time goes by the Moon will move further out and “perfect” eclipses will end. Finally the Moon will break away from the Earth. When that happens the Earths rotation will become chaotic. It already spins on an axis that is tipped over at about 23°. If the Moon flys off into space its gravity will no longer help hold the Earth steady. Who knows we could end up tipped right over.

I’m not an expert so my figures might not be completely accurate. If you want more information please check out Astronomy websites.

The Museum of the Moon is an installation run be Appetite. They help produce various arts projects over the year. We also heard diary entries from the First world war, and a dance performance called “in Flanders feilds.”

I drew the Moon because my camera isn’t good in low light levels. The juxtaposition of the Moon installation and the old Kings Hall made for a marvellous and eerie afternoon out.