The busy-ness of life

Gidday peeps!

Sorry I’ve been lax on the posting front of late. It’s been a bit busy since I got back from stopping in Muscat seven weeks ago and while I managed to have a little rant about burgers in my last post, finding the time and head space to craft something more has proved a challenge. But I wanted to let you what’s been happening here at Chez Gidday.

First things first – I finished my fourth MOOC, this time on Democracy and Development in Africa, on 14th November and achieved 94%.

Hurrah!

This was quite a hard going course in terms of workload. In each of the seven weeks we were asked to complete several pieces of work – a mix of video lectures and interviews, reading, questions, discussions and essays – which was then capped off by a 3-part exam in the last week. Let me tell you there were many times when I cursed myself for signing up in the first place and then for not being able to walk away and let it go.

But in catching up with a close friend a couple of weeks ago, he complimented me on my commitment and acknowledged my self-discipline as a real strength. Interestingly, one of my reasons for doing these MOOCs was to ensure that my self-discipline ‘muscles’ stayed active. So I’m glad I stuck with it and am proud to say I have the certificate of achievement – as well as a whole lot of new ideas and opinions – to show for it.

My school governor role has really taken off as well. I’ve been attending the monthly marketing meetings as well as making my first visits with each of the dance and the drama curriculum leads at the school. I’ve also spent a day and evening completing my new governor induction training as well as the mandatory safeguarding training. So I’m now in the thick of it and really enjoying it.

Speaking of getting into the thick of it, I took part in an intensive 3-day Property Investment seminar at the beginning of November and also attended the Rethink Mental Illness Members Day the following weekend. Both are areas I’m very interested in exploring over the coming months. Needless to say I don’t think there’ll be any more MOOCs for a while.

Then amongst all of this was my usual smattering of out-and-about-ness.

On the culture front, I had my first ever visit to the Affordable Art Fair

…and spent another afternoon at the V&A immersed in their latest exhibition Opera: Power, Passion & Politics.

Both are areas I know little about so I really enjoyed having my eyes and my ears opened and my cultural horizons challenged.

The last seven weeks has also produced a couple of excellent theatrical highlights with the Donmar Warehouse’s production of The Lady from the Sea (by one of my favourite playwrights Henrik Ibsen) and INK (the story of Rupert Murdoch’s purchase and transformation of The Sun newspaper in the UK). And as regular Giddayers know, I love dance so it was with great delight that I went to see BalletBoyz’s Fourteen Days (and was especially moved by the intimacy of Christopher Wheeldon’s piece, Us). Then last weekend I was completely mesmerised by the provocative musical Cabaret that is touring regional theatres in the UK at the moment (and stars singer Will Young as the irrepressible emcee).

Literary-themed events got a look-in too with a walking tour of Fleet Street – called Publish and Be Damned! – on a rather chilly Saturday.

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There was also the chance to listen to readings from the Man Booker Shortlist authors the evening prior to the announcement of the prize winner, the British Library’s annual Equality Lecture by Professor Mary Evans and Gresham College’s free lecture on the wonderful Jane Austen, the last a welcome follow up to the Jane Austen exhibition I visited in Oxford earlier this year. I also went to some fascinating talks about The Future of Work, Artificial Intelligence, The Fight Against Alzheimers and The Future of our Digital Selves.

But amongst all of this, there was one lowlight.

As a long-time Agatha Christie fan, I had been looking forward to seeing Kenneth Branagh‘s remake of Murder on the Orient Express. But it had a different storyline and while the cinematography was gorgeous, the whole film was a bit ponderous and suffered from style-over-substance syndrome. As far as I am concerned, no-one writes Christie better than Christie so in tinkering with her work, Branagh’s effort left me feeling a bit flat.

And then last week I squeezed a 5-day rendezvous in Paris into proceedings (more on that later)…

…so maybe the word smattering was a bit of an understatement.

Not to mentioned that December 1st is only two sleeps away – when I get to open the first window of Mum’s annual advent calendar and put up the Chez Gidday Christmas tree…

*excited squealing*

So stay tuned. There’ll be more Gidday adventures coming to the blogosphere soon!

May: Between the bookends

The month of May has the dubious privilege of being book-ended by bank holiday weekends here in the UK and it has to be said that the weather on both occasions was worthy of a patio session or two. But true to form, the temperatures in between have dipped considerably so this month I have found myself veering between layering up from my Spring wardrobe and delving back into some light woollens.

But the flowers (and other green things) were out and about…

…and so was I, starting with two contemporary dance shows at Sadlers Wells.

The first was from one of my favourites, Rambert, and their triple bill – the moody seamlessness of Terra Incognito, a dichotomous look into the mind of Macbeth in Tomorrow and the exuberant joy of the Brazilian Carnival in A Linha Curva – left me breathless and thrilled. Then I went to my first Nederlands Dans Theatre show. Actually it was Nederlands Dans Theatre 2, the 2 referring to the company’s troupe of ‘up-and-comers’ – if their extraordinary programme was anything to go by, the main company might just blow my mind. They were awesome.

Staying with the stage, a friend and I went to see Kit Harington (yes he of Game of Thrones fame) in Doctor Faustus. It’s a story I know, having seen the play for the first time on a school trip to the Adelaide Festival in my teens and it also provides the overarching serial killer narrative in the movie Seven. This was edgy, swinging between being absolutely hilarious and intensely shocking. There was even a nod or two to modern times woven into Christopher Marlowe’s 1604 script. It’s received quite polarised reviews but I really enjoyed it. It probably helped that Mr Harington spent quite a long time on stage in his underpants. After all, I’m only human.

I also heard Chris Anderson speak at the Institute of Directors last month. Who is Chris Anderson? He’s the CEO and curator of TED and has been doing the rounds promoting his book, TEDtalks: The official TED guide to public speaking (as opposed to the Talk like TED tome that has been doing the rounds since 2014). In any case, spending an hour listening to him speak and handle some Q&A before I started my work day definitely gave me a bit of pep in my step.

On the food front, I cooked my first BBQ – ever…

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…I went to a masterclass on being good to your gut with Eve Kalinik

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The goodie bag

…and then topped the month off with a visit to a free chocolate museum in Brixton which, being underneath a chocolate cafe, meant that Aussie-K and I were inspired to indulge after our visit – the gingerbread hot chocolate was absolutely delicious.

In literary news, the best of the five books I read this month was Ferney, a ‘time-slip’ novel by James Long. It may have been published in 1998 but right here in 2016, it earned itself a big fat five-star rating from yours truly. An inspired recommendation that I’m glad I took on…and there’s a sequel. *squeals with joy*

And speaking of time-slip, I managed to find some time to slip across the road from work to enjoy a bit of sunshine…

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The view from the grass in Victoria Tower Gardens

…and sculpture.

It’s really just as well that the month ended with a long weekend – June is beckoning.

February: Firsts, facts and fine things

I know. It’s almost a week into March but I promised in January to review each month’s gadding about and February has been every bit as jam-packed as January. So hold on tight and here we go…

There have been a few firsts this month. I’ve already posted about my first filling and my first visit to the British Library. I also attended my first Monash University Alumni event. It’s only taken 24 years and a move across the world to do this and I did turn up wondering what this Global Leaders Network was all about. I had a great evening hearing about the university’s plans for alumni engagement around the world and sharing expat stories with like-minded Australians. How nice it was to enjoy some straight-talking Aussie banter, the room humming with that laconic Aussie twang.

Speaking of university, I have a psychology degree from Monash so I’m really interested in the mindfulness conversation that’s happening at the moment. I saw Ruby Wax interviewed on Sunday Brunch and so went to see her show, Sane New World. Not only is she a comedian but is qualified in psychotherapy and has recently completed a Masters in Mindfulness-based Cognitive Behavioural Therapy at Oxford. Her show was a frank and funny look at our pace of life, mental illness and how our bodies – and in particular our hormones – are trying to cope. I really admire her philosophy in getting ‘off your a**e and doing the work’ – she’s set up free mental health walk-in sessions throughout the run of her shows with the aim of creating a network of walk-in centres across the UK.

February has also been a month for some of the finer things in life.

I attended a talk at the V&A Museum where Francesca Cartier Brickell, granddaughter of Jean-Jacques Cartier, took us on an enthralling journey through the Cartier family history introducing us to the three brothers – Louis, Pierre and Jacq – who started it all and their commitment to innovating whilst maintaining the essence of Cartier design. She also shared many personal anecdotes, one of these about finding the Cartier history in an old suitcase full of letters in her grandfather’s wine cellar. The many family moments she shared made this talk more intimate – less like a lecture and more like a lovely conversation albeit with more than a hundred of us in the room.

It also inspired me to visit The William and Judith Bollinger Gallery at the museum. We were herded briskly through this collection of stunning jewellery on the way to the auditorium and a couple of weeks later, I turned up early for a V&A book club evening to have a wander through. However, it transpired that the gallery was only open during the day so I killed the time I had by visiting the delightful stained glass gallery nearby and also enjoyed a meander through the just re-opened Europe galleries once book club was finished.

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The V&A Museum on a drizzly winter evening; killing time in stained glass

I also attended a book launch at the Institute of Directors. Peter Frankopan is director of the Centre for Byzantine Research at Oxford and over coffee and croissants he talked about his new book, The Silk Roads: A New History of the World. His contention is that we are taught about history through the lens of a very small number of countries and believes that we have a lot to learn through the stories of other cultures and regions, particularly Russia and Iran, the latter having been the wellspring for language and religion more than a thousand years ago. I left unsure as to what these regions could offer but it did make me realise how uneducated I am about these areas of the world. I’m now waiting for the paperback version of the book to come out (ever tried to read a hardback on the tube?) so that I can broaden my historic horizons.

And speaking of fine things, I also saw Ralph Fiennes in Henrik Ibsen‘s The Master Builder at The Old Vic. Being able to see actors that I’ve loved on screen performing on stage is one of the absolute joys of living in London and despite being in the vertiginous cheap seats, the power of the performance still remained. It’s the second Ibsen play I’ve seen – the first being A Doll’s House which I studied at high school – and there is something fascinating about the way he explores the roles of women and how they use their personal power in a male-dominated society.

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The view from the cheap seats at the fabulously refurbished Old Vic theatre in London

Personal power also underpinned the speaker themes at the opening session of the TED2016 conference which was live-streamed into cinemas on February 16th. Whether it was 10-year-old Ishita Katyal’s opening talk, the performance from musical phenomenon AR Rahman or Riccardo Sabatini‘s vision for personalised medicine (my favourite talk of the night), it was an inspiring and thought-provoking evening and all for the price of a cinema ticket.

February also had me moved by music. My annual pilgrimage to the Flamenco Festival at Sadler’s Wells was a testosterone-fuelled performance by brothers Farraquito and Farruco which had me on my feet at its conclusion. Over at Kings Place, the Brodsky Quartet’s performance of George Gershwin’s little-known Lullaby for Strings was exquisite.

And with all of that going on, I found some time to imbibe in a well-deserved drink

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A couple of new watering holes near Holborn Station to add to my ‘let’s meet up’ list. L: The Princess Louise  R: The Ship Tavern

So that was February, filled to the brim with firsts, facts and fine things.

Phew!

Now for March…

Let’s make it a good one

Here we are at New Year’s Eve again. The year’s gone by so quickly and it doesn’t seem that long ago that I was trying to stay cool last New Year’s Eve Down Under. Time flies doesn’t it? And speaking of fun, I’ve managed quite a bit of it over the last 12 months.

After returning from my bi-annual pilgrimage to Melbourne (and a fab top-up visit from Lil Chicky) in January, travelling-for-work was much less frequent this year but I managed to find some cash and conquer some new frontiers. Ten days in Seattle with Seattle-A heralded my first trip to Canada, I spent four fabulous days in Stockholm at the start of August and then jetted off for a week of sun, sand and a whole swag of reading in Mauritius in November.

Speaking of reading, I smashed my book-a-week target by 25% (I read 65) and 8 of them got a Gidday 5-star rating (that’s 12.5%). I discovered Henning Mankell recently and will be reading more of his Kurt Wallander series next year. And while it doesn’t count in 2015’s quota, I am in the middle of my first Philip Kerr – March Violets with protagonist PI Bernard Gunther – and if things continue as they are, the new year looks set to start with another big fat 5 star rating. Awesome.

There have been many theatre outings over the year, Death of a Salesman being one that I studied at high school yet hadn’t seen and the most recent being Hangmen which featured a cracking ‘noir’ plot and really great characterisation. I’ve also been back to Sadlers Wells to be swept away by the Rambert Dance Company and transported to Spain at the opening of the London Flamenco Festival.

I’ve upped my Live Screening ante enjoying some new (well new to me) Shakespeare – Love’s Labors Lost, Othello and The Winters Tale – and several operas including my first Gilbert and Sullivan operetta, The Mikado. Live Screening also delivered a theatre highlight – Man and Superman – and a new crush, Ralph Fiennes. When seeing his face alight with joy in taking the final bows, well I may have had a little weak-at-the-knees moment…okay maybe not so little.

I’m finishing the year with a two week staycation. Christmas was spent with friends in SE London and aside from an outing to Borough Market and Southwark Cathedral with another friend yesterday, I have just enjoyed being at home. I’ve still got five days off before I go back to work so plenty of time of time to complete my Christmas jigsaw puzzle, finish March Violets and catch up with friends for a little Star Wars, drinks and dinner.

It’s almost midnight here, Bryan Adams is rockin’ it out on the telly and before long, the crackle of fireworks will be heard overhead as those locally organised start the new year with a bang. All that remains is for me to wish you the very best for 2016…

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Let’s make it a good one.

Bourne Again…

I’ve been enjoying a little staycation for this ‘week between’ Christmas and the start of the New Year. It’s been a week of pottering about at Gidday HQ: literary lie-ins (aka indulgent reading in bed until somewhere around 10am), comfy couch sessions and bouts of cleaning with a few dips into some local delights – a trip to The Phoenix Cinema to see Gone With The Wind (all 4 hours of it – at last) and a fab girly catch up over cocktails & lunch at Skylon  – in between.

After a couple of brisk, blue-sky days, the weather is wet and a bit dismal today so amid continued bursts of cleaning up, I’m aiming to tick a few more movies off the I-haven’t-seen-it-yet list with Gentlemen Prefer Blondes already under my belt this morning.

Speaking of ticking things off my list, I want to tell you about my Boxing Day. You see, I went to Sadler’s Wells to see Matthew Bourne’s Swan Lake as a Christmas present to myself. Yes peeps, Happy Christmas to me.

I first saw Matthew Bourne‘s work in July last year. Play Without Words left me thrilled and awestruck and his take on Sleeping Beauty was clever and fun and brilliant. His Swan Lake, which premiered in 1995 with an all-male ‘swan ensemble’, has something of a reputation. So even though my previous experiences of Swan Lake had left me bored and wondering what the point was, I took my seat just before 2.30pm feeling quite excited.

The first familiar notes of Tchaikovsky’s score swelled from the orchestra pit soon after, the curtain rose and I was riveted.  

It was theatrical and dramatic and witty, filled with light and shadow and the most extraordinary dancing I’ve ever seen. And for the first time I really felt the story. It was visceral – I could feel the fear and liberation in the prince, the reined-in majesty of his mother and the sycophantic expectation of his subjects. But most of all I felt the magnetism and menace of the swans. Their flapping fury, their drooping necks and piercing eyes, the muscular ebb and flow of sweeping, swooping limbs that were, it seemed, inseparable from the music.

Source: http://www.sadlerswells.com
Source: http://www.sadlerswells.com
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Source: http://www.new-adventures.net
Source: http://www.sadlerswells.com
Source: http://www.new-adventures.net

It was an amazing show and for me, it was if Tchaikovsky’s powerful score had finally met its match in the powerful movement on the stage. I felt incredibly emotional and as the cast took their final curtain call, I was on my feet applauding furiously. 

Thinking back, I can still feel the moment that the final note evaporated into the air and the curtain fell. The slight prickling of my skin, the full feeling welling in my chest and the profound sense of being touched by something extraordinary.

A Litany On London Largesse

Since coming back from holidays just over five weeks ago, I have been struck by how many great things there are to do in London, particularly when it comes to activities of the stage variety. And I have to admit that I’ve been a little lax in sharing this largesse with my lovely Gidday-ers so I thought I’d make this post a litany of my recent cultural adventures.

I’d been back not much more than a week when I popped down to Sadlers Wells to see Matthew Bourne’s Sleeping Beauty. Regular readers might remember my first Matthew Bourne experience last year and I was really looking forward to his take on this traditional tale.

And I was not disappointed. A combination of modern irreverance and gothic spirit cast their magic over the story and I found myself enchanted by Bourne’s mastery all over again. There were moments of laughter and darkness and beauty throughout and I left the auditorium wondering whether I’d get an opportunity to see the balance of Bourne’s Tchaikovsky triumvirate – Swan Lake and The Nutcracker – anytime soon. Sleeping Beauty has left Sadler’s Wells and is touring so you may have the chance to see it somewhere near you.

Sunday before last I went to see Argentinian company Tango Fire’s show, Flames of Desire. This had been inspired by a half price ticket deal in The Metro on my morning commute earlier the same week. 

For two hours the auditorium thrummed with passionate pas de deux, fleet feet and erotic attitude as the five couples, musicians and a rather smooth crooner brought the milonga (late night dance hall of Buenos Aires) to life. It was heart-stoppingly, breath-takingly brilliant. And when the cast – musicians, singer and dancers – took their curtain calls at the end, their absolute delight in the thunderous applause from the audience was as wonderful to see as the performance they had just given us.

And most recently, it was dinner and a show last Friday night with a friend. Again a deal dropped into my lap a couple of weeks ago and after a fabulous feed at Italian restaurant  Polpo near Carnaby Street, we took our seats for the greatest of musicals, A Chorus Line.

While I’d seen the 1985 movie starring Michael Douglas, I’d never seen the show. I am thrilled to report that this oversight has been corrected.

Because thrilled I was.

Every foot-tapping, fractious moment held me in thrall. The individual stories laid bare on the stage before the darkened auditorium: the pert, the cynical, the world-weary and the hopeful. The rediscovery of tunes I knew but had buried themselves in my memory. The cleverness of the choreography, entwining itself around the differences in shape, size, style and attitude of each dancer to create a whole truly greater than the sum of its parts.

And the culmination of all of this in the finale, ‘One’. One moment in the presence of an amazing cast and the most quintessential show tune of all time – a ‘singular sensation’ of glamour and celebration and synergy. Which took A Chorus Line to my all-time top 3, sharing my trinity of musical favourites with Les Miserables and Chicago.

Such is London’s largesse that I’ve managed to see all of these in the space of a month. Life may not always arrange itself so supportively – and cost-effectively – around my cultural interests, but let me assure you that I intend to grab every ‘moment’.

Another Spotlit Stage…

It all started in Seville in 2002. It was an additional excursion, added on top of an already busy trip. Tourist-y it may have been but it was spell-binding.

In the deepening twilight, we’d driven down from our dinner in the hillside village of Mijas Pueblo to join the throngs at a tablaos flamencos in Seville. It was crowded and we had to push our way through to our reserved seating in the front rows (one of the perks of much-maligned organised tours). 

Before long the show began: the pounding feet, arched poses and haughty profiles holding my attention, challenging me to avert my gaze elsewhere if I dared. Women danced, men danced, women and men danced together. Skirts and shawls swirled and swayed, fingers flicked and clicked and the cantaores (singers) wailed and clapped. It was powerful and passionate and provocative.

Then a small man took the stage. He was not handsome or well-built. He had a hard, weathered face and a small wiry frame.  But he exuded a raw magnetism and as his heels started their gentle tempo against the floor, he looked out into the darkened audience over his hooked nose, turned swiftly, sharply and raised his arms.

From my seat in the front row, I could feel the heat of his body, see the beads of sweat rising on his face as he pounded the floor. I held my breath, my heart thumping in my chest and my eyes glued to this stomping, whirling, arrogant dervish in front of me. It seemed to last forever and be over in a minute. As he remained still for that last time, it was a few seconds before I could leap to my feet and applaud, so mesmerised was I by his performance.

Ten years later, my pulse still races when I remember the man on that small stage in Seville, dancing with such arrogance and magnetism. And it fuelled an ongoing desire to immerse myself in that wonderful Flamenco spirit at every opportunity.

This weekend I went to see Paco Pena and his Flamenco Dance Company at Sadler’s Wells. It’s the third time I have been to see this unassuming master of plucking, picking and strumming since I’ve lived in London and he has lost none of his musical magic.

This latest show, Quimeras, is a fusion of Spain and Africa. It is filled with foot stamping, arm waving movement that spends two hours weaving in and out of haunting wails and tempestuous rhythms. It was unbelievably good. So good that I was on my feet at the end, cheering and clapping until my arms hurt.


Yet for all its wonderful-ness, as I walked back to Angel tube station, my mind wandered and I was taken back to another small man on another spotlit stage.

My heart skipped a beat and my soul soared again.

Speechless…

In the midst of preparations for last weekend’s Gidday Soiree, I took a break and went to Sadler’s Wells to see Matthew Bourne’s Play Without WordsThis was both my first Bourne and even more remarkably, given my love of dance, my first visit to Sadler’s Wells. And apart from it being another bonza deal unearthed during my daily travels, Sadler’s Wells is an easy commute down the Northern Line from Gidday HQ so I suspect that this cultural pocket of London will feature amongst my erstwhile ramblings a little more often.

Anyhow, Play Without Words is set in London in the early Sixties and is based on Robin Maugham‘s novel, The Servant. The action starts as we see leading man, Anthony (all 3 of them) sign the lease on a swanky new pad. He hires manservant Prentice (3 of them), a maid Sheila (only 2 of these), meets up with an old friend and then hosts a party with his glacial financee Glenda (yes, 3 of these too) by his side.

The trios and duos interweave to show the same character captured in three different moments in time, adding power and depth to the wordless storytelling.  There’s friction and frostiness as the relationship between Anthony and Glenda disintegrates. There’s wit and clever visual repartee as Prentice and Sheila insinuate themselves into the household. And there’s sizzle and sexual tension and lust and betrayal – and I LOVED IT!

But more than anything, it’s Bourne’s visionary eye that makes this a seamless and sensual masterpiece. I was entertained, uplifted, moved and thrilled…and determined I’d be back for more.

So as I left, I picked up the program for the rest of the year and amongst the turned-down page corners, you’ll find the San Francisco Ballet, the Rambert Dance Company, Paco Pena and…yes you guessed it, Matthew Bourne and his world premiere of Sleeping Beauty.

It might be baked beans on toast for a while should I let myself indulge in this passion.

Now where is my debit card?

If you are in London between now and August 5th, make sure you get along and see Play Without Words. I kid you not – it’s absolutely brilliant! And I even got an Editor’s Choice for my review on Weekend Notes.

ps…if you’ve been under a rock ignoring me not reading my posts all the way to the end, Birthday Number 43 is fast approaching. You are down to only 13 shopping days peeps so let’s make that a lucky 13 shall we? Don’t let a little superstition get in the way of celebrating…well…me.

A Highland Fling…

After travelling for the last couple of weeks for work, on Friday night I was looking forward to a quiet weekend, catching up on a few chores and squeezing in a bit of chilling out. But in actual fact, Saturday became one of those days that kept unraveling and unfolding as the day progressed. 

After a slight over-sleep (meaning no chores pre-departure), a planned catch up with A-down-the-hill prior to a regular appointment at the hairdressers developed into somewhat of a larger day and after an impromptu movie matinee (Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows if you must know, and yes it was great!) I found myself at a Ceilidh.

‘A what?!’ I hear you say.

A Ceilidh.

A Ceilidh, pronounced ‘kay-lee’, is a traditional Scottish knees up, comprised of kilts, whisky and haggis. But mainly, it is about dancing, informal, fast-and-furious, ‘catch your breath between sets’ kind of dancing. So it’s just as well I had come completely unprepared for a night out – flat boots, jeans, long sleeved t-shirt and not a scrap of make-up – because before long, I was sweaty and ‘unkempt’, and absolutely loving it!

We arrived with A-down-the-hill’s Scottish contingent (McHubster is from north of the border you see), snaffled a table and the boys went off to queue for drinks and a spot of haggis. I had grand intentions getting my vegetarian haggis later in the evening but, well, I got rather busy. You see, the music started and the caller invited everyone to take the floor. After a walk through of the dance – usually comprised of a series of steps set to 16 bars which is then just repeated – we were off. And that’s pretty much the way the night went…all night.

The first dance was The Gay Gordons (don’t ask!) and then a little into the second dance, I was delighted to find I had just renewed my acquaintance with The Virginia Reel, a dance I learnt in primary school.

Three and half hours flew by. There was The Dashing White Sergeant, Strip The Willow, The Flying Scotsman, The Canadian Barndance, The Eightsome Reel and a few that we didn’t catch the name of, made stuff up (because we had no idea what we were doing) and had a laugh anyway. The haggis was piped in (and I do mean bagpiped) half way through the evening and Burns’ Address To A Haggis read with due ceremony, much theatre and sense of occasion (for those of you who don’t know, Burns’ Night falls this Wednesday on January 25th).

It was a fantastic night – young and old alike took the floor and it was a refreshing change to see the guys itching to get onto the dance floor to strut their stuff. There was a sense of joyful abandon in the hall – maybe the flow of whisky helped a little – but this was just a great, old-fashioned knees up and the best thing to do was leap off the deep end and give it a whirl.

If you are interested in finding out more you can click here for upcoming ceilidhs in London and here if you feel you really must swot up on a few of the steps.

But there’s really no need…sometimes a little improv. makes the best fun of all!

Strictly Heartstopping…

Every so often I experience something that affects me so deeply, I just cannot get it out of my mind.

Settling in last night with a bit of Ben & Jerry’s, I was all ready to be entertained and uplifted (to a degree) by my regular Saturday night double dose of guilty pleasure, Strictly Come Dancing and X Factor.

But not like this.

After nine amazing performances on last night’s Strictly, this happened:

I was mesmerised. Absolutely spellbound. For the whole 90 seconds, I think I actually stopped breathing.

I kept seeing it over and over in my head all night, despite the brilliant performances on the X Factor Final (part one) that followed.

It was the first thing I thought of when I woke up this morning. And just to double-check I wasn’t imagining it all, I watched it again before posting – twice.

My heart still skipped a beat.

Exciting. Aggressive. Passionate. Uncompromising.

I have nothing further to say on the matter.

ps…oh wait, hang on. I need to let you know that there are only 14 sleeps before Christmas is upon us. That’s only 14 shopping days left so chop chop peeps. You don’t want to be late!