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.
Mary turned to Cathy and asked about Paul.
“Has he managed to find anything yet, Cathy love? “
“Not yet, but not for want of trying. He puts so much effort into completing CVs and going to various seminars for jobseekers. Most times he doesn’t even get a reply.”
“That must be soul destroying,” Steve said, “how is he bearing up?”
“Not very well,” she said, “He’s starting to look further and further afield..”
“Here in Codmanton there hasn’t been much on offer since the mills and factories closed.” This was George Wilson, a former secondary school teacher who had managed to take early retirement before the Government closed that escape route. At least he had a decent pension pot. He continued, “Is there any suitable retraining available?”
“Yes, there is, but not relevant to any of the local vacancies,” Cathy replied.
“I was talking to the Careers teacher at our place the other day,” said Steve, “I didn’t mention Paul, just kept it general, but he said that the Council in Croxton will be hiring some IT staff in the next few days. If what he said is true, they’ll almost certainly be offering training to suitable candidates. I’d have thought that would be something Paul might be interested in and it’s only eight miles away. Suggest to him that it might be worth a ‘fishing’ letter to their Personnel people.”
As Steve finished speaking, Geoff announced the next dance, a Rumba One.
Tony had crossed the room during the line dance to talk to one of his neighbours, and Steve’s usual partner, Olwyn Fairhurst, had gone away for Easter, so he looked at Cathy and raised his eyebrows questioningly. She smiled and rose. As they made their way onto the sprung-oak dance floor, she thanked him for his suggestion about Paul and promised to mention it to her son.
“That’s OK,” he said, “he’s a bright enough lad and, with his admin background, I’d have thought he would be well-suited to that line of work. It’s just a damn shame that so many youngsters like him are being cast aside like that.”
They faced each other and held hands for the step-replace-step action before he raised her hand to lead her around and back. As they continued the romantic dance sequence, she turned the conversation back from her son to his.
“How is Peter’s job at the garage going?” she asked.
“So far, so good,” he replied, “but all it would take is a fall in car sales for the garage to become uneconomic too. The only consolation is that he could always try the self-employed route.”
“Has he got himself a girlfriend yet?” she asked.
“Nothing steady,” he said, “he still knocks around with the same group of friends, some of whom are girls, but that’s the nearest I know of.”
“What about you?” she asked, mischievously. Although she had never smoked, her voice was attractively husky – the kind of voice that would make hearing it reading from a telephone directory enjoyable.
“Are you asking?” he quipped back.
She laughed, “You know what they say about goldfish and bicycles.”
Her laughter, he always felt, was almost musical.
Their hands joined as their faces and upper-bodies swivelled to face each other in the Fence-Lines move.
“What’s the matter, Steve?” she asked moments later, “Work or Church? You look like you’ve got the weight of the world on your shoulders.”
“How do you mean?” he asked.
“You’ve had a face like a wet weekend since you came in.”
“I’m sorry,” he said, “Just something that I need to get my head round. Something personal. I didn’t realise it showed.”
“Well it’s not very flattering. Am I that hard to dance with?”
“I’m sorry. You’re right. I should have left it at the door,” he paused, ” and no, you’re not hard to dance with. You’re a wonderful partner to dance with – and you look lovely – as usual.”
“Ooh! Flattery now is it? I’d been wondering why you bothered to come tonight and why you asked me to dance if your heart wasn’t going to be in it. Lighten up.”
“I’m sorry,” he repeated.
“Stop apologising,” she ordered him, “Just listen to the music and the words – and dance as if you mean it.”
He realised that she’d been right. He sighed and made his mind up to deal with his problems later. He smiled at her.
“Thanks, Cathy. I was wrong to bring my problems in with me and I am really sorry if it’s made you think that I was being inattentive to you. Am I forgiven?”
She smiled back and squeezed his hand. He held her close to him.
“You God-botherers – you’re really into forgiveness, aren’t you?” she jested.
It seemed no time at all before they were bantering as usual and laughing together as they made their way back to their seats.
After a few more dances, the mid-session break was announced. During the last of these dances, Mary and a couple of the other women had been in the Hall-kitchen, and they now served up tea, cakes and biscuits. The group’s conversation was now about Mike and Helen’s timeshare, wondering whether such a purchase had been really wise given some of the press-articles recently. Before the resumption of dancing, St Philip’s Vicar, Revd Sheila Wilson, and the priest from St Benedict’s, the local Roman Catholic church, Father Michael, walked in together. They often came in to conduct the raffle, but also to make their faces known to people from their overlapping parishes who would never normally enter a church.
A dancer, who was sat at the opposite side of the room from Cathy’s group, shouted a question to Sheila, asking whether she and Father Michael would be joining in the dancing later. Sheila roared with laughter. Father Michael just blushed, shaking his head at such a notion. The wag continued, “If Sheila isn’t to your taste, Father, ask, Steve Pearson – as a teacher, he’s never done a decent day’s work either.”
The priest ignored the heckler and, picking-up the dish of folded raffle tickets, started calling-out numbers. The only winners among Cathy’s group were George and Beryl Wilson. They collected a bottle of whisky. As Sheila and Father Michael left, the dance resumed with a Waltz Katrina. Although Steve had no shortage of willing partners from among Olwyn’s group of elderly spinsters, widows and divorcees, he would have been glad had Cathy been free for more dances.
Most of the conversation for the remainder of the evening was about forthcoming holidays, but neither Cathy nor Steve had any plans, so they simply listened and, where they were able, joined in describing the delights of destinations that they had enjoyed in their previous relationships.
The only other topic of conversation was television. Doctor Who had been revived, with Christopher Eccleston and Billie Piper as the Doctor and his sidekick. Others wanted to exchange views about the weekend’s Stars in their Eyes final.
The session ended at ten, but not before the group had arranged a meal, to be hosted at George and Beryl’s house that weekend.
Social dances are not only about dancing. They are also about community and friendship. Nonetheless, the main part of the business at the Church Hall is dancing, so our Photo of the Day is another of the dances.
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 31.1 mm. ISO was 6400.