A group of medieval lepers were humiliated today after being banned from a Durham pub for wearing bells. The lepers, part of a reenactment society who were due to perform at the village fete, were visibly shaken by the confrontation, which only made matters worse.
"When Judy the barmaid said we couldn't come in, we were devastated. Dave just went to pieces", explained Mike Hume, who caught the disease when travelling in Senegal, as part of a misguided weight-loss programme. "I tried to offer her the hand of friendship, but she just tossed it in the bin."
In the past, it has been compulsory for lepers to wear noise-making apparatus to warn communities of their presence. But the use of bells dropped off gradually over the centuries, and in some cases quite suddenly.
Mike defended the period costumes: "We want to carry on the traditions of this country. Our shiftless movements, the way people run screaming from our performances in quaint market towns on the solstice: it's a vital part of educating today's youth about their history."
The group was angry, but just about managed to hold themselves together during negotiations with the landlord, Jim Neville. "He said that if more than two of us rang our bells at the same time, he'd need a live music licence. We suggested that we could quietly break up into smaller clumps, but he looked disgusted at the idea."
Neville eventually allowed the lepers to stay, as long as they kept their fingers out of the bar snacks. "We've agreed to embrace them, once we've found some rubber gloves and a bottle of detergent."
Mike is used to being treated badly. "People can be very cruel about our hobby. Sure, some people don't like the sound of our bells or our outlandish costumes but that's no excuse to treat us like Morris dancers."