Posts Tagged ‘Fox Trot’

Teaching and the obstinate Shetland pony ( Auto-biography).

August 14, 2015

 

We all know that Shetland ponies are escape artists. When you see them looking down, they are actually thinking. “How the hell can I get out of this joint?”. Our Shetland was a Houdini. I would get a phone call; “Hey Gerard your horse is in town.” I would jump on my bike with the lead in hand. I would cycle back, Shetland on rope, give her a stern talking to and put her back in with the sheep and chickens. I would again fix the wire fence but also knew she would soon figure a way out again. When the foal was born she stopped escaping.

There are so many memories fondly embedded in that period that I am at risk of never finishing what I set out to do. The aim is to meander from the beginning of my family’s migration in 1956 till my present state of blissful dotage. Still, words at times seem to have a will of their own, like a Shetland, and lead to unexpected and totally arbitrary directions. My apologies.

The job of teaching came about though a friend named Jan Muller who was doing the salt glazed pottery and lived in the museum village of Orvelte, and who was teaching at a collage for adults. After a short interview I started teaching at the same college. That was the best time of our stay in Holland. The first day of teaching was somewhat nerve-wrecking. Who was I to teach anything? I wasn’t taught anything. Failed even the Phyllis Bates ‘academy of dance’ of Fox trot and the Rumba. And that was with the dance steps painted on the floor!

Of course I had a good grounding from Desiderius Orban, the Hungarian master teacher at The Rocks in Sydney. He lived till 101 years and at the time we were in Holland I was still in contact with him. Fear is what prevents many from employing what we are all born with. The ability to express and give form to some creativity, no matter how humble or grandiose. The first lesson, if I remember correctly, was to try and get all the adults to put charcoal or pencil to paper. Now, if you had a group of toddlers, they would instantly without exception start to doodle furiously and with great joy! Not so with many adults. It is sad. They lost this spontaneity and joy. Many would as a first option say; ‘I can’t draw.’ They say that before any attempt was made to put a single dot on the paper. How do you know?  You don’t know if you don’t try!  ‘Go on, put the charcoal on the paper just draw a line or just a single dot’!

My first day was to try and make the students approach the paper without fear. Somehow the enthusiasm of the toddler had to be regained. That is what my aim of teacher was. I could not teach just skill or things like shading or making portrait eyes follow you around the room, photo-like images of apples or strawberries so real that the paper or canvas was almost bitten into by the ambitious but starving student while wearing a beret and dirty pants.

 

The learning of Fox Trot and my V8 Ford.

May 25, 2015
Ford V8 Singl spinner

Ford V8 Single spinner

Of course with the powder-blue Ford V8 sedan and the family being treated to a few tours around Sydney, thoughts went to try and get to know more about the opposite sex. These were lean times spent with females.  Harking back to the Scheyville migrant camp with the very limited and lonely Polish-pubic- bush peek through the shower partition, the experience had exhausted itself. I decided to take the bull by the horn and take some dancing lessons. I had noticed that in some magazines of  the ‘boy wants to meet girl’ kind (or the reverse), photos of the boys were often taken while nonchalantly leaning with one foot elevated into the door- way of a car.  A photo leaning one footed in the side-car of my motor bike wasn’t all that exciting a prospect for a girl to be taken out in. I mean, on A Roman Holiday the girls rode around on a Vespa but that was a bit different from driving around mute Sydney suburbia and its nodding petunias in an ex-police motor bike, even with a side-car.

The nous for someone with a guttural accent to get to know a girl in a strange country might now have  to include a photo of myself leaning casually in my FordV8.  Even then, I feared it might just not melt the tigers enough to make the butter.  I needed some flair, more oomph, chutzpah even. Before placing an ad in a lonely heart’s magazine I decided to take dancing lessons from Phyllis Bates dancing academy. I had already learnt that the word ‘academy’ was used in Australia with careless abandon.  I mean, that word in Holland meant professors and  Leiden University or an eight year ballet course in Moscow with the Bolshoi. Here an ‘academy’ could be doing Jiu jitsu , car repairs, or jigging about above a Greek milk bar. In any case, this dancing academy offered a booklet of twenty tickets on ‘special’. In the late fifties and sixties, everything was ‘special’. Even a local built car was Holden ‘special’. You did not have much that was sold being ‘not-special.’ The one thing that remained static and fixed, even till now is, that some cheese survived today, is still sold as ‘tasty.’

The flooding of the love-market was heavily tilted towards single bull necked males with strong gnarled horned hands. They were the ones to build the Snowy Mountain’s  Electricity supply scheme, now  redundant; the digging of mines at Mnt Isa, now redundant;  the cutting of sugar cane in hot Queensland, now by giant machines. I thought that by learning to do a nifty fox-trot or even a quick-step I would have an edge over the Queensland cane-cutters and bulky Bulgarians when it came to getting to know a girl with a lovely smile. I duly took the train to Sydney after donning a clean Pelaco shirt, finely ironed by my mother and a smart Reuben- Scarf suit (two for the price of one). I walked to Pitt Street and clambered the stairs up to Phyllis Bates Academy. (above the milk bar) and presented my booklet of twenty tickets After a ticket was ripped out of my booklet I entered a room from which before I could hear a lively tune being emitted. A very nice cone bra encased woman came to me and after introduction told me she would start teach me a fox trot.

‘ Just follow the painted footsteps on the floor’ and ‘I’ll guide you’. Just start one two…one two….I hopped along but could hardly believe a woman was holding me, I mean a real woman!  To think I still had nineteen tickets left. I could hardly contain my pleasure but did notice that most of the dance students were all bulky cane cutter males. The teacher in the meantime said; ‘ you have to hold me in such a way that a book must be firmly held between us and not fall on the floor’. The last thing I wanted for future memories was the misery of unable to even hold the book between me and a female body and suffer the ignominy of a failed book holder while learning the fox trot.

But, where were the girls? So much to come yet.

Dancing lessons

November 27, 2013

images

While the streets are being dug up with a variety of cables being introduced or taken out, I remember taken dancing lessons. I don’t know why. Perhaps all those entangled entwined cables are the reason. Who knows? The subconscious does more than we are willing to give credit for.

It was many years ago. I was still normal, in my teens, and wanted to get in touch with women, even touch women. It was also a period when, historically, the country was being flooded by single men. They also wanted to meet and touch women. The reason for this flood of so many single men was migration from Europe and giant public works in Australia that needed brute male strength.

Cane cutting up north in Queensland and giant mines everywhere seemed to attract mainly men from Italy and Greece. Perhaps it was the heat. The Snowy Mountains with the damming of the Snowy Mountain river called for men able to stand cold, so, men from Finland and the Baltic countries flocked there. In any case, there was a copious number of single men and a dearth of women.

Things were grim for men, but, and rightly so, there were many glorious opportunities for girls. Women had the pick of good shiny dark haired Dean Martin Southern European looking men, albeit often a bit dishevelled from cane cutting or the blond giant Thors from Northern sword flashing Viking countries.

In Sydney, a desperately lonely male had white washed on an overhead railway bridge at Glebe in 1962, “Australia is a country of men with no women”. How sad an indictment of an immigration policy. However, dancing academies were flourishing. Many knew how to make a quid from misery already then.

Of course I was subject to this female drought as well. Worse, I wasn’t anywhere in the league of swarthy, dark haired Dean Martin Italians or a Zorba, nor had the sword flashing mien of the blond Viking. I wore glasses and a big nose. But, what I did have… was a Ford V8 (with a single chrome spinner) and leather seats with inbuilt ash trays. It was a light blue in colour and the rust in the mudguards was well hidden with metal putty and hand painted over.

I had nothing to lose and a lot to gain. I bought a complete booklet of tickets to Phyllis Bate’s dancing academy in Pitt Street. It cost a months wages but if that helped me to ensure a touch with a lovely soft yielding female, the heck with frugality.

We know that in the English speaking world, sometimes words such as ‘academy’ or ‘accredited’ are a bit, well…freely used. Phyllis Bate’s academy was a bit stretched for claiming ‘academy’ when on arrival the hall above a milk-bar was full, not of girls but of European males. I had already bought a years supply of weekly dancing lessons. So, what to do. I was crestfallen. It was too late for a re-fund.

Fortunately the dancing steps for beginners were already painted in black on the wooden floor. “Try to get in the rhythm of the music and follow the black steps on the floor”, I was told. “You’ll learn the Foxtrot pretty quickly”. I was totally floored by that. Dance by myself? That’s what I had been doing since arrival.

Even so, I tried feebly to follow the steps but the teacher (a woman) thought I was showing less than enthusiasm. “Try put more feeling in the steps’, she offered. “Don’t look at those painted steps”, “imagine a partner”. “Next time we will try a Cha,Cha,cha”. I wanted more than an ‘imagine a partner.’ It was so lacking in substance especially soft-ness.

Next week, there were a few girls as well. The Dean Martins soon were swirling around with a lot more gusto than I was doing a solitary Cha Cha cha. The teacher came up to me and offered to be my partner, just when I had resigned to have another dancing session following black painted steps. She said that she would hold a book between her chest and mine. I had to be careful not to let it fall on the floor. It was going to be the fox trot.

When the music started, it was a quick snappy version of ‘tulips of Amsterdam.’ I was most diligent not to let the book fall and managed to stay fairly upright pressing against a real woman. The book had the title ‘Of Human Bondage’ which I had read.

It was all a long time ago. I also had a Ford V8.