Friday, 10 October 2008

Dancing and Eating Kebabs as the Banks Crash and Burn




It seems to have been one of those weeks that I wanted to eat every time I turned on the radio, as any pervasive atmosphere of depression always drives me into the arms of hot buttered toast with jam or now and then donuts. The radio alarm woke me up to the sound of the death knell for the Icelandic banking system, the car radio as I drove through the fens muttered into the foot well about downturns and global recession and when I came home at night and switched on the TV the face of strained bankers full of gravitas smiling in a particular wan way to try to summon up an air of confidence and ‘this too shall pass’ greeted me. All this demanded I resort to suppers consisting of shepherds pie and custard the ultimate comfort food stuffs.

Meanwhile, as if to pile on the guilt, Jamie Oliver was inviting the good souls of Rotherham to lightly tickle a salad with the fingers to coat it in a dressing cheerily shaken in a jar, like a fluid filled maracca. I watched with my tub of bought custard and admired the man’s drive and evangelical spirit to make the diets of some people, particularly children, nutritional better. He had witnessed children in African orphanages for Aids victims eat a better balanced and nutritional diet than a child he came across in Rotherham who lived on kebabs and burgers, he sighed to camera. I now not only felt gloomy about the economy I imagined my liver and the whole nation accumulating fat at a rate of knots from similar tubs of custard. Perhaps his Ministry of Food idea will become the new soup kitchen of this depression.

Given this sense of going to ‘economic hell in a handcart’ it is no wonder that I have embraced the return of ‘Strictly Come Dancing’. A Saturday and Sunday night filled with sequins, twirls and minor celebrities attempting to rumba as if their life depended on it can only lighten the heart, if not the scales, as a glass of wine and a bag of crisps serve to heighten the whole glitzy experience for me.

I long to dance but at 6’ 3” the likelihood of finding a partner who might skip the light fantastic with me or hurl me round the dance floor in a giddy waltz was never going to happen. At school Miss R the PE teacher gave us a term of ballroom when we reached the fifth form. Young women could not be released into the world post 'O' level without the rudiments of the foxtrot and cha-cha to ease their way into polite society. Thirty, rather cynical young girls, who had just discovered the pill, Mary Quant eye make-up and the pouting sensual lips of Mick Jagger were never going to do justice to the quick-step. I always had to lead and take the male part as I towered above everyone, it was either that or dance holding a small chair as a stand-in partner (I did go on to dance at parties with many a plank later in life so it stood me in good stead and taught me not to expect any conversation or witty repartee whilst dancing). I presume Miss R thought that either I would never be asked to dance by a man or that I would somehow, as if by magical kinaesthetics be able to reverse all the steps in the flurry of excitement that would occur in my head at the prospect of being whisked onto the floor by a man.

I did go to a formal dance once in my twenties and surprisingly I was asked to dance by a man who elegantly swanned over to our table in full black tie and tails, this could be my Fred and Ginger moment, I too might get to fly down to Rio. However he had arrived late after I had already sat down to dinner and had not seen me on my feet. I have to hand it to him he never batted an eyelid when I stood up and all of his 5’ 6” oozed confidence that this dance could be achieved without loss of face on both sides. He was wrong, as soon as the waltz struck up there was an almighty clash of chests as I tried to lead, well strictly speaking it was a clash of breasts and face as his nose wedged itself into my cleavage. He should have known when I became totally confused about how to go into the woman’s hold and we ended up in a tangle of arms and apologies that the situation was beyond repair. Miss R would have been proud of the way I firmly grabbed his hand and placed my other one in between his shoulder blades, but this seemed to cause his eyes to pop out of his head like a cartoon figure and demanded he rise up on his toes, like a small boy trying to peer over a wall. Why had I agreed to dance was the only thing that was racketing round in my head as I desperately tried to reverse like a huge articulated lorry having to back up at speed to avoid being rammed by a small Ford Escort.

That was my last and only ballroom dance. Luckily all that jigging and waving arms about on your own in front of each other was the dance of the moment and I could do that and still can. As for the smoochy, grab each other dances, that occur at the end of discos, weddings and awful office parties it seemed to be ok or maybe it was the booze that made it feel ok for men to just bury their noses in my bosom and for me to rest my chin on the top of their heads and we would shuffle round as if we were the disabled elderly using each other as a Zimmer frames.

So I sit and sigh and watch the dancers on the TV do their thing, and imagine myself doing that in another smaller life. There are worse things to do though, perhaps we may frown at the thought of Nero fiddling whilst Rome burnt, but quick-stepping whilst the global economy crashes and burns seems fine by me.

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