THE FIRST SLOWIE
THE BOY was called Chris and had a funny accent.
THE OUTFIT was a long gypsy style skirt/dress with a kind of bib thing over a blouse. (The HEIGHT of fashion in the late 70s, let me tell you!)
Yes, with Valentine’s Day and all things romantic bearing down upon us all like a whiskery aunt demanding a kiss, I am talking about my First Slow Dance.
It is scored forever into my memory but possibly not for the reasons a girl would hope. It was the Beechwood School Disco and I was 11 and incredibly alluring in the crimplene skirt/dress thing my mum had made. The hall was throbbing with ABBA and we girls were boogying discreetly while all the boys lined the walls, flicking back their long feathered hair cuts and checking out all the pockets in their trousers (the coolest boys had pockets at knee level).
Then the disco guy (a teacher in a T-shirt) threw the BeeGees on the decks. Well – alright – he eased a vinyl single awkwardly over the spool, clacked it down and put a needle on it. There was a bump and a crackle and then those meltingly angelic harmonies began.
AaaaaaaAAAaaaaAAAAaaah… I know your eyes in the morning sun…
My prettier friends were collected by the cool guys with the lowest knee pockets and I drank lemonade through a straw and tried not to notice. I focused on the oil-pattern projections swimming around the school hall ceiling.
And then, to my utter amazement, the guy from South Africa with the funny accent (or finny ucksint) came over and asked me to dance. He had only been at the school a short while and hadn’t been brought up to speed about the weird one with the freckles or he would never have done this. Or maybe having the finny ucksint – and glasses – he felt some sense of kinship. In a daze, I accepted and was led out after the pretty girls in a state of shock.
We shuffled around for two and a half minutes, clutching each other’s slightly sweaty elbows and avoiding eye contact. It was the most romantic thing that had ever happened to me.
The next day at school I was on such a high. I mean, OK, so Chris wasn’t exactly Donny Osmond – but actually, I wasn’t that fussed about Donny anyway (although I would never have said that out loud; it wasn’t permitted) – and hey! He’d asked me to dance! Me! So that made him exceptional. I petitioned my friend to sound him out. What did he think of me?! How deep was his love?
All day I awaited a response. Valerie wasn’t hurrying back to me with it. Perhaps I didn’t come to him on a summer breeze after all… Eventually I prised it out of her. She told me Chris had summed up our disco dance liaison in one concise sentence.
‘She is a hairy baboon.’*
Or more likely: ‘Sha iss uh hirry bibbon.’
I kind of went off the BeeGees at that point.
Many years later I wrote a slow dance scene in Wishful Thinking. I remembered my own experiences, (they didn’t improve much on the Chris scenario for several years) and wove a little of it in, but Kevin (my hero in the book) has a HUGELY different outcome. Pages 212 to 216 if you’re interested.
For me, it’s a kind of therapy.
* My husband has asked me to point out that I am not hairy. No really. I’m not.