It’s unusual to have an afternoon ceilidh, but this 40th birthday party was just that. A proper tea dance, and we were well supplied with tea throughout (and scones, tayberry jam, cream ….).

We set up in front of the gear for the rock band playing after us. Here’s Hazel and her dulcimer with the rock panoply behind her. Maybe we do need a drummer ….

The dances went well – small sets but enthusiastic. They were rendered a little surreal by small children with large inflatable tigers, penguins and tortoises wandering lethally through the sets, and one tiny girl talking solemnly into a toy phone.

Here they are doing the Cumberland Square Eight.

We did a couple of dances we hadn’t done for a long time – Allelulu (with Greg gamely leading the line), and the Bridge of Athlone. 

The pipes had a bit of an outing too – one of the families had a Northumbrian connection, so David and Andrew played Air Moving, Because he was a Bonny Lad, and Holmes’ Fancy. And we did the Blaydon Races, with all the verses and the dancers joining in the chorus in good voice. Here’s Andrew calling it.

All over by 7, and home with the sun still shining. 

And – they appreciated it! 

“Hi Hazel,

I just wanted to thank you again for playing at our party on Saturday. Lots of the guests commented on how much they enjoyed the ceilidh and I really appreciated the way you catered for an audience that mixed adults, children and balloons! “

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A return to Anstey Hall in Trumpington, Cambridge, to play for wedding guests in the marquee. Fairly spirited dancing in spite of the obligatory merriness. Here they are stripping the willow in the extended Virginia Reel.

We played a fairly standard set, though Greg was moved by the sight of a kilt to call The Dashing White Sergeant, which went quite well after a false start.

A quick break for quite tasty scotch eggs, then back to the fray. The very lovely bride and groom seemed to enjoy it all, so our efforts were not in vain. We wish them a long and happy married life!

And an early finish, unusually for us, the packing-up of the PA only interrupted by the owner of the hall telling us we’d have sounded better without it …

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Another great ceilidh at the genome campus. We’ve lost count – over twenty anyway – they were still sequencing the fruit fly probably when we began with them way back in the eighties. The campus is now a space age university, with security so tight we had to be inducted on arrival. Not sure we got the answers about appropriate footwear entirely right …

Very enthusiastic and diverse audience of research scientists and friends, as always – and old friends from previous years. As usual, an inverse relation between the number of phds and the number understanding Greg’s instruction to rotate the set of four through 90 degrees (to be fair, most audiences struggle with this …).

Here they are stripping the willow in the Virginia Reel.

John the piper piped in the haggis and delivered the Address to a haggis, as in previous years, his performative elucidation of Burns’ Scots dialect as expressive as ever, particularly the Crocodile Dundee flourish of his sgian dubh!

The supper was very tasty, as ever – haggis, neaps and tatties, sticky toffee pudding with whisky custard. 

We heard a couple of new jokes from Greg. We enjoyed – “There are many versions of the eightsome reel – and this is no exception.”

Andrew gave a spirited rendition of Paddy McGinty’s Goat in the Belfast Duck hornpipe; then fell victim to a violent fit of the giggles calling The Willow Tree, after joking that the dance formation of the willow tree bore an uncanny resemblance to the real thing. 

The crowd danced till midnight, finishing with the Drops of Brandy. It gets faster every time. No time for Auld Lang Syne …

And a very nice couple bought two CDs! Happy Burns Night! And thanks as ever to Neil – lovely to see you again.

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HORRINGER, January 2017

A return visit to the sprightly Nordic Walkers group! Very sprightly as it turned out – their oldest member at 91 completed the dipping and diving sequence in the Waves of Tory with time for a swing, which we haven’t seen for a very long time!

Here they are, stripping the willow in the Drops of Brandy.

The group had calculated they had more women than men so had provided party hats for those dancing as men and masks for women, in case of confusion – a novel solution!

Greg’s jokes took on a slightly surreal twist, while his instruction to turn heads not bodies in the reverse charge in the Cumberland Square Eight sounded like something out of The Exorcist, whose author had died the day before ….

Here”s Mike, no doubt enjoying an infelicitous moment in one of the walkthroughs …

And David coaxing sublime bass notes from his Fender …

So, a good evening, all in all. Spirited dancing, excellent fish and chips, and a kind gentleman bought one of our CDs. 

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The staff’s Christmas bash, masterminded by Matt Blaney in the very lovely Radegund Hall. Overlooked by the Nine Muses stained glass panel, we did our best to boost the festive cheer. They all danced with considerable gusto, including the Head, Mark Patterson, so it all went with a swing (literally!). Here’s a lively basket in the Cumberland Square Eight.

We did the Belfast Duck, and Andrew remembered another verse of Paddy McGinty’s Goat (the version his grandad taught him).

Andrew’s partner Jenny, deputy principal at the school, treated the band to a tasty mix of little pork pies, shandy and chocolate puddings, which kept us happy for the second half.

David and Mike nailed a thumping rhythm section for the Waves of Tory (the Redheugh Library Jig/Trip to Carlisle, and the slipjigs for the Drops of Brandy.

And we were delighted to see a surprise guest – the immortal Dick Brading of the Cambridge Crofters, stepping his way through the dances like a young’un. 

Merry Christmas!

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We have played here before, for a party of Microsoft PhD students, in a marquee in the garden. This time we were inside the very lovely house itself, for a wedding ceilidh for an equally lovely bride and groom. The house was extraordinary – a working sedan chair, longcase clocks, marble and marquetry all over the place. 

After a very noisy start, the guests settled into some fabulously energetic dancing. Greg got the first Trump joke of the night in, much to Andrew’s annoyance. There were a few kilts in evidence so we did the Dashing White Sergeant, which went down a great. And of course the Cumberland Square Eight. Here’s the basket – always a good photo!

Sausage rolls in the Library, then back to work! Finished with Drops of Brandy, to ridiculously fast slipjigs. Even Greg claimed to be slurring (nine of us believed him …).

And we forgot to sell any CDs …. must try harder ….

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Ok, it’s not called New Hall now, but we can’t remember the name of the benefactor it’s been renamed after …

Anyway, interesting modern art and architecture. Greg and Andrew spent some time while the speeches finished looking at ceramics in the main corridor, failing to find the name of the artist on the touchscreen guide, and failing equally to remember the name of Grayson Perry, who may or may not have been the artist in question ….

Greg kicked off as usual with the Virginia Reel. Here’s the good looking married couple taking hands in the walk through.

The acoustic was better than we expected from the domed ceiling, and the dancing was never less than enthusiastic. The buffet boasted mini-beefburgers. We ended with the Drops of Brandy, Greg calling again.

In fact it was something of a triumph for Greg, who was very chuffed at having repaired the catches on the microphone box. Here it is, as good as new after 40 years’ service, with the ghost of the Cobbler’s Last sticker just visible …

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A nice local gig for us. The happy couple did their fair share of dances, including the first (The Virginia Reel) and last (Drops of Brandy), which was so fast it made Greg feel young again. Cambridge colleges are funny places for ceilidhs – historic hall, all oak panelling and giant paintings of past Masters and illuminati – but terrible  acoustic! Still, it sounded good out in the hall and everyone had a good time. It was the first outing for Andrew’s  Castsgnari  Mory – a rich sound! 

More pictures on the way courtesy of the groom’s brother … 

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We had a great time at the wedding of Greg and Hazel’s daughter. Very romantic setting – a tree-house in the New Forest, with fairy-lights and take-away party mugs! The best man gets our nomination for the best speech, though Greg’s was enjoyably tipsy. 

Here’s the happy couple, Ellie and Dave, signing the register.

We enjoyed hearing Ellie’s band, the wonderful Kiss the Mistress, who kicked off with a spirited rendition of the Game of Thones theme. We followed on with the ceilidh, and managed a fair number of dances before everyone slid off for a session. Here we are with Greg calling in his father-of-the-bride outfit.

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We wondered what kind of therapists, but never really found out … A very international bunch anyway, on a conference at Robinson College. Greg tried a bit of French in the calling, though it turned out none of them were French, sadly. Still, they were hugely energetic, and the dancing was intense and vigorous, even if bits were lost in translation. As we only had ninety minutes it was intense, and a hot July evening. We got through some challenging dances, including Margaret’s Waltz and the Drops of Brandy. They drank lots of iced water and were very appreciative (of the band). 

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