It is quite possible that the question directed to those of the opposite sex and on the opposite side of the dance floor did indeed include my words ‘with me’. I know that memories can get a bit blurred but not to the extent of the ‘with me’ not having occurred.
I can’t for the life of me understand what was going on between the sexes all those decades ago, but getting a girl to dance was fraught with all sorts of handicaps and barriers. I have always blamed my nose for it all. The family joke that Gerard’s nose came out first and he grew onto it later on, was always difficult to counter. It wasn’t till puberty that I changed the story of my nose to something more pertaining to a masculine protuberance further south.
While the size of noses might have been troublesome in order to get the girls to accede to the dancing requests all those years ago, there was an added nasal disability to overcome in my case.
Many years before and in Rotterdam during a particular severe winter I suffered a nasty fall on the frozen canal near our house. Somehow, the sleigh got stuck on the down-hill slide and I was catapulted onto the frozen ice. My face and therefore my nose hit the ice first. My mother told me I was to be kept in a darkened room for six weeks. I remember that a man kept telling me, your nose will be alright but just keep still and stay out of bright light. My mum reinforced the doctor’s advice with,”just keep eating your porridge”. I hated porridge with a vengeance (lumps) and it was only when ladled with copious Golden Syrup that I would try and get the revolting sludge down. Why eating porridge would help my recovery, especially in the nose area, wasn’t delved in with any great depth and no explanation was ever given. I spent the 6 weeks brushing up on all the books about Dick Trom.
Of course, the Dick Trom adventures were hilariously funny because, as the illustration clearly showed, Dick Trom was a fat little boy with short legs and dressed in wide shorts clearly exaggerating his obese and funny shape. It would be a Herculean task to write comedy involving a fat little boy now! At that time his fatness and my nasal plight seemed fair and, at least balanced things out a bit
I did recover finally but my nose had taken a left turn. This left turn resulted in the right nostril to show up much larger compared with the pinched nostril on the left which had to accommodate the left turned tip of the nose as well as retaining its breathing in and out capacity.
Now, before I get back to my dancing requests, please consider the following historical anecdotes of dancing protocols. Dancing in the fifties and sixties was strictly segregated. The boys with the brilliantine seated on one side, the girls with their concrete re-enforced bras and pleated skirts on the opposite side.
That’s right; both sexes would be seated in long benches opposite and parallel to the walls. With the starting up by the trumpeting band there would be a forward surge of the boys, who (being seated parallel and opposite) had already perused the girls on the other side and had narrowed their choice to the girls with the loveliest smiles and the most voluptuously concrete filled bras. In the confusion, often more than one boy would be spearheading for the same girls. The girls had to be on their qui vive as well, avoiding as much as possible the nerds that they had just as much right for in avoiding….It was tit for tat alright and all a bit of a nervous scramble.
My forward surging was done with much more care and consideration. I was acutely aware that going across the floor with the first throng of all the others would likely result in failure. You can imagine a seated girl being asked to dance (with me) and when looking up would be confronted with a disproportionate set of nostrils.
I had long given up on being seen as a ‘knock about bloke’. The knock about blokey-ness of my obvious migrant background was just not there. Everything about me was Dutch, guttural and Euro.
I took my chances during a dance whereby the whole floor got up and rushed towards the middle. The Pride of Erin was the dance extraordinaire whereby everyone would swirl around a couple of times before changing to the next partner. You just could not miss and sooner or later you would get a turn with the girl of your choice!
Still, the question of “Would you like to dance”, (with me), has now disappeared. It’s all strobe lighting, staccato jerking about, passing crack-ice or meth with a nice Mogadon. No more Fanta- no more Pride of Erin.