I was in Birmingham last week for the last leg of the Get Steven Home autumn tour. The gig was organised by the splendid Wendy. I can best describe Wendy by quoting my Auntie Wilky – “Goodness me. That girl’s got some vim”.
We were both staying at the same accommodation and I met Wendy in reception about 5 o’clock. Demonstrating her vim, she announced: ” I’ve got a good surprise for you. I thought we’d eat early and then I’ll take you dancing”. I can’t remember the last time I went dancing. “Erm – dancing?” “Yes. I went last week. It’s in the Selly Oak community centre. It’s circle dancing”.
Circle dancing? I suppose I immediately thought of country dancing. I was very keen on country dancing at junior school. In fact, our class represented the school in a county competition and won the Amy Moulder Rose Bowl. The headmistress was rose bowled over. It was the first time the school had won the prestigious trophy since 1949. We were heroes of our times.
The following year, defending our trophy didn’t go too well. We had a mishap. My partner was one of my bestest friends, Sharon Martyn. Sharon towered over me, so it wasn’t always obvious who was leading who. We were doing the Dashing White Sergeant. My family used to chuckle as my Dad would say, ” Our Mark’s got a Dashing White Sergeant” and then laugh in a Dick Emery stylise. Anyway, this year’s competition was held in the open air. And as we were Dashing around the field, a disaster happened. Sharon’s plimsoll flew off and landed in the first row of the audience. Ever gallant, each time we hurtled pass, I bent down to try and retrieve the plimsoll. Unfortunately, the front row was occupied by the parents of our biggest rivals, Dormers Wells Lane, and as I tried to make a grab for the shoe, they’d kick it further away. The headmistress was furious with me. I don’t blame her. Even if I had managed to get hold of the plimsoll, we’d have to stop dead in our tracks whilst Sharon put it back on again. We finished 6th out of eight schools.
Anyway, back to Birmingham. There were about a dozen people in the class. I was the only man. The teacher was, to quote Auntie Wilky again, “a good age” – well into her eighties. The form, as I quickly discovered, was that she would tell a quick story about the origins of the dance, do a demonstration and then we would all join hands and off we go. I determined that if anyone’s plimsoll flew off, they could darned well fetch it themselves.
The first dance went okay. I thought I did okay. Jacquie introduced the second dance, directing most of her narration to me. “To get the most out of this dance, you must imagine yourself as a Bulgarian peasant woman in the late 1800s”. I swear she winked at me. Off we went. At the end, she came over to me and said in a loud but gentle voice, ” It’s not too much of a problem that you’re doing different steps to everyone else Mark. However, it is important to be going in the same direction as everyone else”. Oh, how we laughed. I’m a good sport but it did slightly knock my confidence, so I started to become selective over my participation in the dances that followed. I did the Kurdish number but sat out the Polynesian one. By the way, I wonder whether Kurdish women in 2015 recreate the dances of 19th century women from Selly Oak.
We reached the end of the evening and started to pack up. There was time for one final humiliation. Jackie came over and tried to give me my entrance fee back – “You take it back Mark. It wasn’t really your cup of tea was it”. I protested that I’d had a great time (which was true) but she wouldn’t have it and I came away with an unexpected fiver.
If I’m invited back to the conference next year, you watch. I’ve already added ” circle dancing” to my list of YouTube favourites.