An oh so proud, pre-plague moment. Hosting the Dance for Victory Ball at the Blackpool Tower Ballroom.
‘After sound check, you have a query out front,’ said stage management, pointing. ‘Her over there. She’s been too difficult even for the circus archivists.’
Her over there was a woman with a waved combover, in a sequined puffa jacket, nylon culottes and pink trainers. Wafting Lily of the Valley and carbolic.
‘You may have seen my quick step earlier to the Wurlitzer.’ She was giving me an undecided look, her tone no-crap librarian. ‘Every Wednesday I’ve danced here since before even my mother passed on. To the Wurlitzer only when practicable.’
Spiralling her right wrist at me, she said, ‘Now, I’ve got these three expected carrier bags. In this first one: Happy Shopper vodka. Not paying your bar prices. In two — shrimp that were Morecambe-bought, home-self-potted. In three — glad rags. So, I’ll thank you to tell me your band’s set list. Then I’ll decide if or not I’m staying.’
I told her.
She nodded. ‘Thank you.’ She high-stepped to the edge of the dance floor and pushed and pulled puffa and culottes as you would a towel to change on the beach, to emerge in dove grey tulle, silver court shoes and diamante head band. She sat, shoulders back, weight on her toes. In her now softened, child-wide, bright eyes I saw reflected all of Blackpool for all of her.
During my opening number, I waltzed past her. Grinning, she toasted me with the cup from a vacuum flask.
Kinship between two old hoofers that didn’t scrub up too shabbily.