February 19th – Do you wanna dance?

If you put “Knockliscrane” into Microsoft’s spell checker you get “knocking shop”. Best we add our rental address to the computer’s dictionary, to avoid any awkward misunderstandings …

The build is currently being hampered by the weather, but John and I have been far from idle. Aside from route planning and writing (and rewriting) press releases for the Moscow ride, we have planned our new kitchen, researched important stuff like satellite television and home movie systems, started golf lessons, learned to make soda bread and joined two dance classes.

They are big into social dancing here in Ireland, at least in Co. Clare they are. Not just “dad dancing” , i.e. rhythmless swaying, accompanied by extravagant hand gestures while miming to the lyrics. I mean proper ballroom dancing: foxtrots, waltzes, quicksteps, and the like. Dances of which I am embarrassingly ignorant. Strictly … two left feet!  John, at least, remembers learning a waltz in his youth, and although slightly less orangutan-like in its execution than his efforts in the disco … oobee doo, hoopdeewee, I wanna be like yoo-hoo-hoo, it is still less than elegant.

To be unable to dance is not only a social handicap but can, I have discovered, prove physically hazardous. Try explaining that you can’t to a man who has spent the last four days at a wedding, who has lost the power of speech and hearing, and whose only hope of staying awake is to keep moving. No such word!

Thus, John and I spent an enjoyable Wednesday evening being taught Jive at extremely grand Woodstock Hotel and Country Club in Ennis.

I said two dance classes, didn’t I.

We came away from Wednesday’s class, determined to practice what we had learned at home. And we might have done, had we not confused matters by signing up for a Set dancing class at the local church hall.

Equal in popularity to the foxtrot and the waltz, around here, is the traditional Irish Set dance. Sets are a bit like Scottish reels but, in my experience, far more likely to be seen in pubs and at parties throughout the year.

It was a mixed ability group but, as our teacher, Tom, said, there wasn’t much to the steps – as long as you got them right – and you could learn the figures out of a book. Well, that’s the theory anyway. Women out numbered men 4 to 1, so two or three of the women were conscripted to dance as men. It’s actually quite a skill – being able to mirror the movements of your partner if you are used to being the female half of the couple!

So off we went. In twos to start with: advance, retire, step left, step right …easy. Much easier than the Jive anyway. I could get the hang of this …

Inspector ClouseauUnfortunately, I had only just got the hang of this, when Tom (a man whose teeth bear an uncanny resemblance to Peter Sellers’ Hunchback of Notre Dame),  started arranging couples in the middle of the room for the “first figure”. Uh?! The music started and, watching intently, yes, I could still make out the steps we had just practiced. Only we hadn’t been warned that we would need to move around the room with our partners – at speed! At this point it helps to know your right from your left and the difference between clockwise and anti-clockwise. It also helps to have a smaller room (John) and shorter legs (me) … Then came the second figure.

“You’ve picked a nice tempo, Tom”, commented the woman next to me, as I was recovering my balance, “nice and easy …”!!! Having danced several of these practice figures, I learned two things. First, don’t look at your feet, or you will eventually fall over them; and, second, bring a bottle of water with you.

So, tell me, alcohol and dancing … how does that work?!

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