6 Jul


children country dancing photo: suska55 101.gif  There’s quite often a lot of references to the affect childhood traumas can have on the grown man. Some religions claim that if they can have the child until he’s five they can mould the man, and it’s a popular belief that adults often reflect their parents in attitude and understanding even long after their parents have passed away. We learn and we imitate and we absorb into ourselves.

And there may be some truth in it.

Take dancing, for instance. I’ve long maintained that I don’t do dancing. I have no sense of rhythm whatsoever and reckon that music was invented to be listened to rather than moved to (I conveniently tend to forget half the musical output of the last few centuries when I opine that!)

And maybe this antisocial aspect of my otherwise well-rounded personality had its roots in my childhood.

I reckon it all had to do with sweaty fingers.

When I was knee-high to the infamous grasshopper (at Junior School), once a week we were told to line up by the classroom door.

“Girls on the left and boys on the right, and hold hands…”

Hold hands?

Back then I had a theory based on actual experience about girls’ hands. They were sticky. Sweaty. Not pleasant to the touch. And the girls didn’t seem to enjoy grasping my little-boy hands either, as if there might be something wrong with the way life got ingrained into my fingers like life should. As if they knew some of the things we boys liked to pick up, to pass through our hands, pull faces at, then throw down in mock disgust. Maybe the girls had ideas about our hands, but their ideas can’t have been as powerful as my ideas about their revolting sweaty fingers.

One of the dreams, the hopes, the unnamed desires, was when there were more boys than girls and the boys at the back of the queue had to hold hands with another boy rather than a girl. Then there was a nudging, pushing sort of battle (when the teacher wasn’t watching) for the back of the line of boys. I seem to recall I rarely won it. I wasn’t so much a pusher as an accepter of what fate held in store for me.


“Walk to the hall, no running, holding hands…” warbled the teacher, Miss Girdler, who we nick-named Goose-neck for what, to us, was a quite obvious reason.

I suppose she wanted to confirm the intimacy of hand-holding because we were on our way to the school hall for country dancing.

Country dancing! Of all the obscenities created for the torment of small boys, that was the worst. Barn dances! Who, in the name of all that was repulsive, wanted to dance in a barn? And not only in a barn as if that wasn’t bad enough, but with girls?

The half hour of country dancing was such a torment that my brain was obliterated most of it, choosing instead to conserve memories of more favourable childhood torments, such as semolina and gristle.

The music came from a record-player with a turn-table that whipped around at a fetching seventy-eight revolutions per minute and the records were all just about worn out. They were played by more than the one teacher for more than the one class and I guess not all were as careful or precise as Goose-neck when they operated the machinery.

And when our half-hour (I’m sure it was a wretched Thursday afternoon, but I may be open to correction there,) was up we lined up back at the door. In twos. Boys on the right and girls on the left.

More sweaty fingers, more toothy grins, more swaying plaits, more humiliation. And there you have it: the obvious reason why I don’t do dancing, not even today.

And anyway, who was Sir Roger de Coverley?

© Peter Rogerson 06.07.15


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