I have spoken before about the fears I have, as a disabled person, claiming benefits and then having the audacity to enjoy myself, or, heaven forbid, actually dance but that is not what I am going to be talking about today.
There are many excellent blogs commenting on this government’s hideous line of action when it comes to benefits and welfare and I feel somewhat humbled, reading them. I know I am political and I know I can write but you can do far better than reading my thoughts on the hideous, almost eugenic, work that the current UK political regime is implementing. You could start by reading Where’s the Benefit and Diary of a Benefit Scrounger. Both excellent blogs that are far more worthy of your attention than this shite I write.
So, that’s what I’m not talking about. What I am talking about is something far more frivolous: Singing and dancing.
I have always been one of those people that has to sing along to the radio. Or the band. Or the CD, or whatever. I like a sing, me.
I used to sing at my (Catholic) junior & infant school. In the school and church choirs. Then, a little older, in the church with my best friend, as we led the music with our guitars and voices, until the nuns told me my dress sense was not appreciated and I should wear something more appropriate than Black Sabbath tee-shirts.
I tried to argue that if God wanted me to be at church, surely He would want me there as “me” and not someone pretending to be something I was not. They not only had obviously never heard any Black Sabbath music (which is quite pro-Christian, as it goes) but they failed to hear any of my arguments.
I left the church.
I sometimes think I miss the church, but when I think a little more, I realise I do not miss the church. I do not miss the judgemental, guilt laden, narrow-minded people that associate themselves with organised religion. I miss the singing.
So, I have joined my village’s church choir. It is not a Catholic church. It is Anglican. I do not know that many of their hymns. Sometimes I know the words but the tune is all wrong. Sometimes it is the other way around. Thankfully, I can read music and cobble my way along with my now diminished soprano warble. They don’t seem to mind that I am there. Mind you, I no longer even own a Black Sabbath tee-shirt.
They possibly do not know that I am no longer a Christian and seem to have not noticed that I will not say the prayers (I think it would be disrespectful and downright lies, if I did).
But here I am, thinking about getting shit-faced tonight, instead of on Saturday night (as I had planned) when we have a party to go to. Why not both nights? Because I have to get up on Sunday morning and go to church at 0915hrs, to get kitted out in a robe, ready to sing in choir.
Thank fuck I live in the church-yard.
So, this party on Saturday night. The landlord and landlady of our local have been at the pub for 25 years, and that is the reason for the celebration. There is to be food and a band and all the usual stuff for that sort of thing.
Pretty much like the party I went to, last weekend, really. It was a friend of mine’s 70th birthday. There was food and a band and all the usual stuff.
I sat and watched while the very young children skidded about on the dance-floor before the band started, but there were records playing and lights flashing and it was just like all the community centre parties you have ever been to.
The band begin – a covers band, of course, playing music from 30, 40, 50 years ago. The women begin to dance. Before them, a solitary girl, about ten years old, maybe younger, is just having to move. She is doing her own thing and trying to avoid the skidding boys and the babies. She just has to dance.
My eyes start to sting. Bollocks, you can’t even blame the smoke for that, since all us smokers are now exiled to hang out the door on such a rainy night.
I was that child, you see. I had to dance. the minute the music started, I would be there. Unashamed and unabashed and uncaring as I flailed myself around a dance floor, all on my own. In a world of my own, letting the music, any music, take me where it seemed to need to do so.
I remember being in what seemed like a very grand property, with my family, when I was about 5 or 6. We were in a hall. There was music playing. It was a waltz. I remember the music, because one of my elders came up to me, on the dance floor and took hold of me and said “this is how you are supposed to dance to this music” and whirled me around for a few bars, then let go and went to sit down.
Again, all alone on the floor, I realised I could not do that stupid, so-called dancing that I had just been instructed in, on my own. Silly person. Who cares what you think I am supposed to do, I am doing what the music is telling me to do.
I am sure I looked quite ridiculous. But I remember it so vividly. I did not care. I was free.
It all came flooding back, as I watched the small girl discovering that if she twitled around at just the right speed, the hem of her skirt began to rise and she looked, in her mind I am sure, like a floating faerie. I remember that. Before I knew about physics and cause and effect… I remember like it was yesterday.
And I remember being a shockingly fit and good looking young woman going to nightclubs on my own (yes, with the intention of pulling – or just plain to get laid) and going to dance. Going to dance before anyone else was on the dance floor. On my own.
Still unashamed and unabashed, letting the music take me. Feeling the bass in my solar plexus and feeling it pull me around like a puppet. I had no choice. I was it’s slave. There was nothing I could do about it.
So, last Saturday night, as I sat and watched my former self, in varying states of age, moving on the floor, letting the music take them and being free, I knew I would have to dance.
Here’s the rub: These days, I get one dance. Sometimes, not even a full song’s worth. But I can do one, Then my legs tell me to fuck off and remember who I am now.
I explain to my (poor, long suffering) husband about what is going on in my head, at that time. I am allowed one dance, if I am lucky. I want it to be a good one. I want it to be to a track that I know very well and that I can sing along to as well as let the beat and the tune take me where it will.
This is a good song, but there may be a better one in a minute. If I don’t dance to this one, maybe there will not be a better one coming along. Oh, the trials!!
I have been using my walking stick throughout the evening and I know that a lot of the people at this party will have no idea who I am, let alone know why I have a walking stick. It’s a good job I didn’t take my walking-frame, like I do to my local, as then they’d think I was a complete fraud.
I get up and “dance” to a Bob Marley song, being covered quite well by the band. I can move to this. These days there is not quite the freedom that there used to be. I know that if I let the puppet strings take me where they want to, someone will come along and cut those strings. Savagely. Without notice.
After my dance, I have to go and sit. I have to go and sit NOW. That’s fine, on this particular night, as no-one is sat with us and we have a table for four all to ourselves, right up by the stage. This suits me fine, for when I have to collapse. It suits me fine for watching the other people grooving and shaking and busting some moves.
It makes me very upset.
Music still has hold of me. Generally speaking, I do not have music playing, these days. I do BBC Radio 4. Speech based radio. Of late, I have tried again with music radio, tuning in to my local community radio station, Glastonbury FM (who are always glad of financial support, by the way). I am doing my best to listen again to music.
I sing along all the time, of course. Sometimes, the music takes me. Sometimes the puppet strings are pulled tight and I move in my kitchen until I have to stop. Sometimes I cannot.
But you know, when I can, I will.
When you see me in the pub, this weekend, and I have walked there with the aid of my rollator and then someone has given up their seat at the bar for me, and then I wobble over to where the band is playing and dance, please don’t think I am a fraudster. I am mistily seeing my life being dragged away from me. I am taking the opportunity to be free.
Maybe for the last time.