Tuesday, 18 October 2011

School Disco? Chaka Khan, Chaka Khan .....!

Most of you probably don’t know that I was once a disco dancing champion!

In 1994, I visited Cairns for the ‘Seventh International Symposium on Spermatology’ where I was presenting a paper on testicle size and sperm quality in the male zebra finch Taeniopygia guttata guttata.  

A fine flock of Rosella's. Australia 1994 (nice shorts!)

While kicking back one evening with some of the delegates and after having drunk my body weight in lager, I won the prestigious ' Woolshed’ night club and backpackers dancing competition.

I remember being on an elevated walk way, giving it large with some energetic ‘acid shapes’. Queensland had never seen the like before. I’d been practicing my ‘big box – little box – cardboard box’ and ‘cloud polishing’ to Ozric Tentacles so my moves were very ‘NOW’.

The contestants were whittled down based on audience applause. I was clearly very popular down under. 

Down to the final two.....

My knees were starting to go, but I was leaving a winner so I threw in a pirouette and glanced over to my rival. The only thing she had going for her was a big chest. I could smell victory. One final burst of head banging and an attempted splits and the prize was mine. The crowd went wild and for once - finally, I was the most popular girl in the room.

Seventeen years later (last Saturday) I was at a PTA disco in Bristol in a school hall full of 40–something lawyers, accountants and dentists.

We’d gone to stay with friends who had tentatively asked whether we’d be interested in joining them for the fundraiser at their children’s school. 

“It’ll probably be rubbish and terribly boring,” my friend’s sales pitch was impressive. “But we should go. There’s going to be a magician and a band and food and drink...”

So there I was, in a school hall, drinking Sauvignon Blanc from a plastic cup, going rapidly into my shell while around me people talked about skiing holidays, their new sporty Mercedes which is “really nothing special – it’s only a car,” and little Jemima’s piano lessons.

On the plus side, the salads were amazing.

But what could I talk to these people about?

Their openers were either:

 “So how many children do you have then?” 

It’s a sensible question – we were at a PTA school disco after all.

Awkward pause.....

“We don’t have any children.”

Awkward pause .......

“Ah, decided not to go down that route then.”

Deep breath, swallow, regroup.

“Yeah, something like that.”

End of conversation.


“So what line of work are you in then?”

Oh God – where do I start with that one? 

Do I go down the “I used to be a charity fundraiser route”?

Maybe “Recovering from cancer”? 

How about “A writer”? That’s what I spend the bulk of my time doing these days, but having only made 26p in the last four months from the advertising on my blog, I don’t think I can call it a living just yet.

So I did what anyone in my situation would have done. I made something up.

“Traffic Warden,” I replied. That shut ‘em up!

There was only one thing for it. Slink off into the corner and pretend to send text messages.

And then the band came on.

“He can’t be in a band, he’s a dad – and an accountant,” my friend shouted over the music.
The band were very well turned out, fully branded in monographed polo shirts and looking disturbingly like sales assistants in a DIY store. They were aptly called ‘Clutching at Straws’. 

School disco.
Suddenly the dance floor was full of people dancing like your parents. With babysitters booked until 11pm, there was no time to waste. Wankered on wine and lager (massive profit margin to school funds) they flung themselves enthusiastically around the dance floor to ‘The Jam’ then ‘Madness’, remembering what it was like to be a person in their own right, instead of someone’s mum. 

‘Big box – little box – cardboard box’, was no longer a harvest festival dilemma.

Shoes came off and were piled along with hand bags in the middle of the floor as people shut their eyes, forgot about their Sainsbury’s on-line shopping and pretended to be 14 again, bumping and grinding with the father of their children.

Where did all the years go - I'm sure last time I looked I was 25!
Dancing is a great leveller. As the band finished their set and the disco proper started, I was slapped out of my trance by Beyonce (Crazy in Love).  Hang on, this was my territory. I might not have children, or a job, but I can dance – I’ve won a competition!

 From a quite, dark corner of the hall I strutted confidently into the middle of the dance floor. With the video playing in my head, I was that girl in the denim hot pants, bang-bang shoes and bra-less halter top, shaking my ass:

 “Uh oh, uh oh, uh oh, oh no no”
“Uh oh, uh oh, uh oh, oh no no”

If that bloke on Comic Relief could do it, then so could I.

From that moment on, I was in the zone. I even had a go at moon walking, to prove that Billy Jean wasn’t my lover. The parquet flooring, now sticky with pinot grigio, lit up – following my foot steps as I danced across the room.

I didn’t bother looking at anyone else. I knew what they’d be thinking. 

“Who is that girl – I didn’t know Paula Abdul had children at this school!”

I contemplated releasing the climbing ropes and doing a bit of swinging, but was confronted with the memory of a seven year old me, in navy blue gym knickers, crying because I couldn’t get beyond sitting on the knot at the bottom of the rope. I decided to can that idea.

All too soon, the lead singer of ‘Clutching at Straws’ shouted “Last dance, haven’t you lot got babysitters to go home to?”

And back in the room – the moment was over. People remembered their responsibilities and headed off reluctantly to get their coats.

In days gone by, when Spandau Ballet’s ‘True’  started playing:

“Huh huh huh hu-uh huh”

it was time to scuttle back to the edge of the dance floor and wait for the ‘hot’ boys - or any boys at all for that matter, not to ask me for a slow dance. This time it was different. Now I had a husband for such occasions. Hurrah!

“I bought a ticket to the world,
But now I’ve come back again
Why do I find it hard to write the next line?
Oh I want the truth to be said.”

It wasn’t quite the ‘Woolshed’ in Cairns in 1996, but despite a few grey hairs and a few extra pounds I knew that dancing queen was still in there somewhere. 

‘Big box – little box – cardboard box’ anyone?

1 comment:

  1. that was superb! Was that a B & J eves out??!!