I like to think I have a good sense of humour and that I can see the joke and laugh along with the best of them. Even after a few dried frog pills, my sense of humour remains intact and I can guffaw with the crowd. Occasionally, I find myself ploughing my own lone furrow when it comes to comedy. Sometimes I find the joke just too sad and tragic to join in.
A classic example is one of the running jokes in Dad’s Army. Whenever the platoon were called to attention, you get the crunch of the assembled Home Guard’s boots hitting the church hall floor in unison, followed, exactly half beat later, by the boots of Corporal Jack Jones. This got a laugh every time – except from me.
I always felt that the audience were laughing at the afflicted and that the humour was cruel and heartless. This isn’t because I have a particularly strong Political Correctness streak or that I never laugh at cruel and heartless jokes. It is because I felt for Corporal Jones and in a small way even envied him. Here was a guy that was always exactly half a beat late on the song score of life.
You see, my defoliated yeomen, I would kill to be exactly on a beat, be it half a beat late or not. I cannot carry a beat in a bucket, which makes me a hazard when it comes to dancing.
At junior school, when the playing fields were deemed unfit for outside games, the teachers decided that we would do Scottish Country Dancing. Out would come the school gramophone, on would go some Scottish music and the entire class would form up into sets and dance with grace, beauty and above all, timing - the entire class that is except for me. I would be blundering around to my own, totally random beat. I may not have had timing, but I tried to make up for it with enthusiasm. That, my syncopated yeomen, was a big mistake.
It didn’t take long for the sympathetic teachers to bandage up my classmates broken feet, retrieve lost teeth and stem the bleeding from numerous noses. Very sympathetically, they took me to one side and told me that I was ‘special’. That dancing was not for me. I was destined for higher things I should look after the record player, carve my name with a compass on the school piano – ANYTHING except try to dance. And so it began
In my youth, when disco was in full swing, I was banned from clubs from Minehead to Newbury. From Bournemouth to
I soon learned that if I wished to impress a young lady, I never asked them to dance. When I forgot myself and tried to strut my stuff the date usually ended up at the local casualty department with me applying a bag of frozen peas to some part of my soon to be ex-girlfriends anatomy while waiting for the X-ray machine to come free.
My wife is wise to my shortcomings in the gyratory arts. She knows not to drag me onto the dance floor until late in the night when I have consumed enough alcohol to temper my shortcomings. I must be the only person in the country whose dancing improves after copious amounts of the falling down juice. Even with alcohol dampening my natural instincts, when we take to the floor I am under strict instructions not to lift my feet more than half an inch from the floor and to keep my elbows welded to my sides at all times.
Of course, my wife has been known to abuse this knowledge to her own advantage. Some years ago, at some charity fundraiser, I was approached by a lady who I will call ‘A’ to avoid her any embarrassment. My wife and ‘A’ didn’t get on. Some weeks previously, ‘A’ had beaten my wife in the Mother’s Egg and Spoon race at the school sports day amid some claims cheating and the inappropriate use of Blu-Tac.
‘A’ asked me to dance. I politely declined.
“It’s OK, Simon.” My wife oozed. “Why don’t you and ‘A’ enjoy a quick Jive?”
“What?” I spluttered as visions of the headline ‘Bloodbath at charity event’ in the News of the World flashed before me eyes.
“Yes, dance with ‘A’!” My wife commanded with a set jaw and gritted teeth.
The steely determination in her eyes made me realise that I was stuck between a rock and several nights on the sofa. As I took the arm of ‘A’ and led her to the dance floor, I watched my wife leading those present who were dear to her to the safety of the bar.
It turned out that ‘A’ and her fellow dancers were lucky. Casualties were surprisingly light, probably due to the wine flowing freely during dinner and ‘A’ still being in good physical shape due to her training regime employed for the blue ribbon Egg and Spoon race.
As ‘A’ was loaded into the ambulance and the paramedics treated those who had failed to escape the floor in time, my wife looked on with a look of triumph and I vowed never to let her use me as an offensive weapon again.
At the weekend, I went to visit the location for my talk at Oundle Festival of Literature on the joy of blogs (See Note 1). During the post-reconnoitre pleasantries, Paula brought up the topic of salsa.
As Paula is a long standing resident of the town and the night of the fundraiser is still a subject of local gossip, I naturally took her to mean the spicy tomato dish and my thoughts started to wander to tortilla chips and chocolate chili.
Yet, she wasn’t. Despite everything, Paula was hoping that I would attend the Grevel Lindop event at the festival (See Note 2). Visions of my past misadventures flashed before my eyes. I imagined the headlines, remembered my restraining order and declined the invitation.
The poor woman must have thought me mad. I probably went a very strange colour and made my excuses and left. Forgive me Paula, I’m sorry that I rushed off like that. I hope that this blog entry goes a small way to make recompense for knocking the door off the hinges as I ran off.
Note 1 : For those of you who have somehow missed this earth shuddering event, it is on March 7th in the
Note 2 : Grevel Lindop will be at the Festival on Friday 13 March, 7.30pm - 11.00pm at the 2 Acre Club in Oundle. Included in the event is a Salsa dancing lesson so bring along the partner of your choice and loosen those limbs.