On the ninth day of Christmas, my true love gave to me: nine ladies dancing.
I carefully followed the map that my true love had provided, but when I arrived at my destination I was convinced that I’d taken a wrong turning. I had been told that I would be spending the day with nine dancing ladies, so I fondly imagined that the location would be somewhere a little more lively, a little more glamorous, than a drab church hall in a part of the city completely unfamiliar to me. According to the noticeboard attached to the railings, the next social event on the church hall’s calendar was a talk about flower arranging. It seemed unlikely that I was about to be treated to a display of pole-dancing.
From inside the hall, I could hear the sound of a slightly out of tune piano playing Begin the Beguine, with just enough dissonance between the notes to set my teeth on edge. Pushing open the door to investigate, I was confronted by what appeared to be a tea dance for — well, to put it politely — ladies of a certain age. I decided that this was definitely the wrong place, and hastily retraced my steps back towards the exit.
“Young man, where are you going? We’ve been expecting you!”
Startled, I spun round.
“Oh, I see you can move rather well already. That’s a good start, isn’t it, ladies?”
Looking around me, I realised that the last time I’d shared a room with so many thick spectacles, pearl necklaces and blue rinses was at my grandmother’s funeral. The most imposing of this nine-strong group stepped forward to address me.
“As I say, we’ve been expecting you. Myself and the other ladies of St Hilda’s Church Hall have been asked to instruct you in the art of dancing. Proper dancing.”
I laughed out loud, but seeing nine pairs of eyes staring at me disapprovingly over the rims of nine pairs of spectacles soon convinced me that this was no joke.
“We shall start with a simple waltz,” called out the pianist, as one of the ladies took my hand and led me to the centre of the hall.
And so for the next few hours, I was gently but firmly coached in the Waltz, the Tango and the Slow Foxtrot. I quickly went from feeling like a visitor in some bygone age to being immensely comfortable in my new company. Thirtysomething going on sixtysomething. By the time afternoon tea was served — finger sandwiches, pastries and scones with jam and cream — I was chatting away to the ladies about their past, commiserating about the pitiful state pension and finding out about the forthcoming diary of social engagements at the church hall.
I was deep in conversation with Beryl about the rudeness of today’s bus drivers when the insistent beeping of my mobile phone jolted me back into reality. It was a text message from my true love.
“In thirty years, when we’re their age, we’ll go dancing, eat scones and talk about the good old days. I wanted you to have some practice.”