Dancing and mourning

Sep 6th, 2012 | By | Category: International

It was August 1975 and being fourteen years of age meant being caught between two worlds. The bars in the seaside town wanted no teenagers and no fourteen year old wanted to attend the campsite children’s entertainment. The feeling was shared at a neighbouring tent where friends of the family were camping.

My mother decided that those bored should get into the car that her friend would drive and that we would head off into the evening sun in search of adventure. ‘We’ll find a milk bar’, my mother suggested. Her look of doubt was matched by the scepticism of the bored; milk bars sounded like something from the 1950s and the chances of finding one in North Devon seemed remote.

Milk bars were as plentiful as unicorns and my mother’s friend decided some alternative was possible, a sign for a bar dance was spotted. This seemed a fate worse than spending the evening with the children. The car headed through winding Devonshire lanes until a hall was reached. Surely no-one would have gathered at such a hidden away spot?

The hall was filled. Big farmers in suits, women in frocks, a live band, the sound of country music. Soft drinks and sandwiches were included in the entry. My mother and her friend joined with enthusiasm in the dancing. The bored teenagers were of that generation which never learned even the simplest steps of dancing and could only sit and watch. To the sound of ‘The Crystal Chandeliers’ can revive memories of that evening.

It was an experience that has many times since served as a reminder that there are happy and vibrant worlds entirely other than the one which I inhabit.

Sitting in a pew near the door of a church as one more mourner among the hundreds gathered in the big church, it was instructive to see things from the back instead of the front; to watch as solemn and serious people filled every last seat and then stood at the back. It was mid-afternoon on a workday and the majority of those present might have pleaded many reasons for not being present, business people trying to break even in straitened times, farmers trying to gather harvests and save hay and silage, but they stood and sang heartily. Community ties were stronger than financial pressures, there was  a vibrancy greater than the gloom of the times.

At least some, perhaps most, of those present at that funeral would have been able to take to the floor for ‘The Crystal Chandeliers’, for I have seen the proficiency of many of them on the dance floor. Perhaps there is some connection between dancing and community, perhaps dancing is part of something indefinable; perhaps it is part of the life of a community that is stable, secure and sure in its identity, perhaps it helps create such a sense of belonging.

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