So, my beauties, there we were, on the deck of the MS Stubnitz, late of Hamburg, now come to Canary Wharf, the icy air seeking out our exposed flesh, surrounded by all manner of weird creatures, some with the smell of seamen about them, but many from worlds strange and unfathomable. We found ourselves in the midst of a great rumpus of noise and commotion, at once assailed and bewildered by the desperate voyage now embarked.

Gentle reader, we saw three genuine mermaids, sirens of legend and lore, their tails flecked with the colours of the deep, their heads and breasts home to corals and anemones of every kind. They sang too, in slight Estuary tones, but passable nonetheless for they must have rehearsed it under water.

Upon that deck was every ocean’s denizen, persons in ponderous diving contraptions bedecked with tubes, lobsters grown the size of ponies and tangled with kelpy cloaks, giant crabs nipping at our extremities, a drunken accordionist who lashed his instrument about, and jewelled ladies aplenty. A poor lad begged me for tobacco saying his nose was broke from a sea-vixen that fell down upon him from the sky, for she was somewhat loose about the stays. We took fright, running from the groping octopi, and many winsome lasses sporting basques and fishnets. A few lads in fishnets also.

Below decks the lone bar stood three-deep with writhing wenches, deep-sea divers and privateers, all of them fighting tooth-and-claw for a mouthful of grog. “An extra pound deposit for yer diminutive plastic pint pot,” says the barman. “A foul trick!” says I, “None would be arsed to brave this bedlam to return’t.” And so they had my pound, may it burn a hole in their poxy purses before it’s spent.

From down in the bilges came wild music played with murderous intent by two bands of troubadours – one named Penny Black Remedy, the other BootScraper – and had me a merry jig while a quaint fellow called Sarb parleyed a damsel whose eye was well twinkled by his “End Is Nigh” sandwich board, tho’ it came to naught, there being a ring upon her finger.

And thus, as the party thinned, we journeyed for’ard to boogie in the dark for awhile ’til the 11 o’clock curfew fell upon us; whence above board and contemplating the gangplank, we watched the wretched sloop’s crew set to scrubbing the soiled decks and arousing those fallen to the scuppers with the staggers and jags.

Watch out for more information on future Rumpus parties at their official website.

All photos: Ken Sparkes exclusively for This Is Cabaret