She looked at the images of holidays they had been on. She rarely enjoyed holidays now, and seldom went abroad. As she saw Geoff’s car coming to a halt outside her house, she stood, shaking off these sad thoughts, and set her mind to enjoy the pleasant company awaiting her that evening.
Later that evening at St Philip’s Church Hall
Geoff Heath was setting up the music for the night on his table, at the front of the Church Hall, in front of the stage. His dual deck, amplifier and speakers were all on the stage itself. On the wall, at either side were the licences from the various bodies associated with public performance or broadcasting of copyrighted music. He’d put on a CD of easy listening music for the dancers as they arrived. These were mostly by established dance bands and were produced in strict tempo for occasions such as tea dances or other social dances.
Mary, his wife, was taking the entrance and raffle money. The session was due to start at seven-thirty, in fifteen minutes time, but most of the regulars were already sat in their usual groups around the Hall. Geoff and Cathy had arranged chairs around folding tables along the three other walls. Most folk were talking, some of them still changing into suede-soled dance shoes from their street shoes. Everyone was dressed smartly for the night, some more stylishly than others. The ages of those who came to the sessions ranged from late forties to early eighties.
Nearly all the people who came had started dancing at sequence-dance classes elsewhere but had tired of the endless new dances to learn. They preferred the popular, well-known dances played here. This was a place to meet and exchange news as much as a dance venue.
Cathy was sitting with five of her usual friends at one of the tables opposite the entrance door. She’d changed earlier into a Country Casuals patterned dress in an apricot colour and gold dance shoes with a medium heel. Other than Cathy, there were usually eight other regulars in her little group: three married couples, a male widower and a divorced man. Two of the married couples, the Heaths and the Wilsons,’ plus Tony Franklin, the widower, had already arrived. Tony’s wife had died twelve years ago. He’d been Cathy’s usual dance partner for the past eight years – since she’d started going to The Palace Dance Academy. Some of them had been going there for years and it was where, over time, all the group had first come together. Mike and Helen were absent tonight – on holiday in their Spanish timeshare.
All were competent dancers who’d known each other since their days at The Palace. A space had been saved for Steve, who’d not yet arrived. Five minutes before the session started, he walked in. He was the divorced man, whose wife, Marjorie, had walked out of their marriage ten years ago when he was forty-seven. She was now living with a younger man whom she’d met at a local amateur dramatics group. It was now six years since their divorce. Steve had been brought into sequence dancing – and the group – by the Wilsons, who lived in the same road and attended the same church as he did.
“Evening all,” he said, “Sorry I’m late. Marking!” he explained. Steve taught economics at the local comprehensive school.
Cathy looked up when she heard his voice, turning away momentarily from the conversation she’d been part of.
“Evening, Vicar,” she greeted him, “I’m not accepting feeble excuses like that. I was just about to mark you absent.”
“Sorry, Miss. Slap wrist.” He offered his wrist to her and she tapped it.
“Next time it will be the cane,” she said.
“Well, I never knew you were into those kind of games, Cathy.” He pulled a face at her.
This was a part of a regular good-natured pattern of banter between the two singletons. Steve was an active member of St Philip’s congregation – training to be a lay Reader, although he already led services and occasionally preached the sermon. Cathy was an avowed atheist. This had led to some heated arguments between them in the past. Nevertheless, they usually got on well together and occasionally even partnered each other. Steve had been form-teacher to both her children.
She watched him as he turned away. he’d given as much as he got, but there was something else. He looked troubled.
Her son, Paul, hadn’t liked Steve since his schooldays and regarded Steve as a “sarky bugger.” He was aware of Paul’s antipathy, but had he been asked, he would have justified his having had to engage firmly in banter with testosterone-fuelled teenagers. It was not unknown for teachers at the school to give-up teaching rather than face the aggression of adolescents who simply didn’t want to be at school. Cathy, being a librarian, sympathised. She too had to deal with problem customers.
“Good evening, everyone,” Geoff greeted the dancers using his microphone, “I hope you are all feeling well and ready to start. Take to the floor please for something to warm up those muscles and joints – a Line Cha-Cha.”
He waited for those who were inclined for exercise to leave their chairs before clicking Play on Bruce Chanel’s “Hey Baby.” The dancers had formed two lines facing him – one behind the other, and whenever the singer called, “Hey Baby” the dancers raised both arms, waving as they zig-zagged and joined in the singing.
As everyone afterwards made their way back to their seats, the buzz of conversation rose. The choice of both dance and music had been welcomed. In Cathy’s group the topic returned to their children.
There’ll be quite a lot of dancing in this story – and I have a lot of dancing photos to choose from. I can’t/won’t tell you where I took the photos to protect the identity of the dancers, but I had a great afternoon taking the shots at a church hall, like the one in my imaginary town.
I took this shot with my Fujifilm X-T4 26 MP cropped sensor mirrorless camera using a Fujinon 10-24 mm f/4 lens handheld.
EXIF data were: 1/1000 seconds @ f/2.8 and 16.5 mm. ISO was 6400.