Back home

Back home, and I had a really good time. The others were great at making sure I didn’t feel isolated, and I almost always had someone to dance with. People are so nice 🙂

I have to confess I went to Blackpool in the end. It was…the same. But I was invited, which was kind, and I did get to ride a carousel, which I try to do whenever possible. I also walked past the Doctor Who museum, outside of which hangs this:

Hanging outside the Doctor Who exhibition in Blackpool

Go figure.

Looking for things to do in west Lancashire

I’m going to St. Annes this weekend. It’s with my dancing group, and I’ve been twice before, but this time it’ll be without any of my regular partners. I wasn’t planning on going, but a couple of other people in the group talked me into it at the last minute1. Which was actually really flattering, and I was quite touched.

But while it’s lovely that they asked me, I’m still going to stand out like a priapic Beefeater. I’m, um, a fair bit below the average age, and the only person not in a couple. I’m also hardly the life of the party at the best of times, what with my tendency to go quiet when nervous, and I don’t want to be the dude who hangs about making everyone feel slightly awkward. This could all be in my head, but I’m worried nonetheless.

There’ll be dances on the Friday and Saturday evenings, and I reckon they’ll be ok. At least, if the Friday is terribly awkward I’ll bow out of Saturday and go take photos of the seafront or something. But during the day on Saturday / Sunday I’ll feel bad about latching onto someone, so I figure I’ll disappear off somewhere else. I might try and talk someone into riding The Big One. And then maybe go to Blackpool Pleasure Beach.

Actually, no. I just wanted to write that. Blackpool is, um, not my favourite place in the world. In fact, twenty minutes on the promenade and I’ll happily lobotomise myself with a spade. If there is a hell, Blackpool has a franchise. Lots of people find its apparent isolation from the last fifty years quaint and charming, and I’m glad, but one visit was almost enough to turn me Catholic2 and that’ll do, thank you3.

So I don’t really want to go there. So, erm, to anybody I haven’t offended: any recommendations for interesting things in west Lancashire? I haven’t had a proper look around as yet. I could head up to Kendal or thereabouts, but that seems a bit OTT. Plus I’ve been there before. Hmmm.

After five minutes of googling:

Oh, no. There’s a Doctor Who Museum. In Blackpool. Oh god.

  1. everyone else booked six months ago, I booked three weeks ago []
  2. I’m not sure if they believe in Limbo this week, but it’s as good an explanation as any []
  3. I was going to say ‘life is too short’, but ironically another Blackpool visit would rid me of that particular trope []

St. Annes Dancing Weekend 2006

I had a plan. We’d leave at about 1400 and avoid the rush-hour traffic, reaching St. Annes by around 1730. I was up until late on Thursday night blogging the Richard Dawkins event, so packed hurriedly on the Friday morning before heading to my guitar lesson half an hour’s drive away in Solihull. After that I walked Megan and started preparing lunch. Everything was going swimmingly.

And then I realised I’d left my dancing shoes in Stratford.

I mean, of all the things to forget. I had battery chargers of all shapes and sizes, I had spare clothes in case of unfortunate rainstorms, I even had my trusty compactflash/cd-writer in case I filled my memory card. But dancing shoes? No. We ended up leaving at 1500, got caught in traffic and arrived at 1845, fifteen minutes before the evening meal. I am a muppet. Still, I was upgraded to a deluxe room, with a great view of the sea:

View from my hotel room

Last year very few of us had danced in a ballroom before, let alone in front of people we didn’t know, so everybody was very hesitant to step up. Happily there were no such problems this time. The first evening’s dancing was casual dress and good fun, even if some of the music was, um, godawful. Well, that’s not entirely fair; it was square tangos directly from 1930’s Bournemouth and jives slower than java that annoyed me, but I’m picky like that 🙂

The next day we took a trip en masse along the beach, where people were doing this:

Racing Windskurfer

My first thought was ‘waterboarding’, which seems unlikely, so I have christened it ‘windskurfing’.

After invading a coffee shop Lynsey and I wandered around the shops for a while. I found Fabric of the Cosmos and Does Anything Eat Wasps? in a charity shop for under £2 each, which was cool. Then the strong wind drove us back to the hotel, where we sat by the foyer fire watching a very silly Rock Hudson film and reading, before evacuating as people arrived to watch some football match.

Saturday night’s dancing was smart dress, which I always find funny. Women look great, but men? No. There’s a level of ‘smart dress’ at which most men start looking ridiculous…I am prepared to concede that some men can look as good in a tie as without, but no more than that and it doesn’t apply to me anyway. I decided that if I had to wear a tie it was going to be fun, so found one picturing all the characters from South Park 🙂 Everybody took their ties and jackets off after twenty minutes anyway.

All the dancing was great fun, although I struggled a little on some of the ballroom. The crowded floor was tricky at times. The latin was good, though 🙂 Late on Saturday evening came the raffle. Confirmation bias it may be, but I always seem to win raffles. In a room of 60 people and seven prizes I won twice on Saturday evening. The first was a box of chocolates, the second I was told to give to Lynsey. She ended up doing a ‘special surprise’ demonstration dance with another member of the group, and received a loud round of applause.

Avoiding collisions

As with last year, we met up with a dance group from Stafford. They’ve been learning for six extra months and are far superior…or so they seemed last year. This time, it was subtly different. Our teachers differ wildly in style: theirs move quickly and teach many different steps; ours go far more slowly, making sure everybody can achieve each different move, but get through far less as a result. And with the benefit of an extra year’s experience I could tell that what had looked very impressive last year was, on occasion, a little dodgy. Don’t get me wrong – I’m not criticising or saying I and my group are all perfect. But what we can do, we generally do well. I feel bad putting it that way, but it’s what happened. Once I realised that they weren’t always more advanced I felt much less intimidated.

Last year we learnt the barn dance, and I struggled with one of the turns. We were partnering members of the other group, and at the end the lady looked at me, said “well, that was different”, and walked off. Not the friendliest person in the world. This year the exact same thing happened, except she got the turn wrong. Ah, justice.

Chris and Steve

I found the last two dancing weekends very tough. My normal social neuroses went haywire and I didn’t cope very well at times, but this weekend was much, much better. I’ve been doing ok in this regard for the last few months, which helps, but I’ve also got to know various other people in my group. For the first time I went to bed not feeling like I should go home. Which is actually odd, as there was one moment where it wouldn’t have been unreasonable to wonder whether I was being deliberately avoided. But only once, and a kind soul did notice and make up for it a minute later. It didn’t actually bother me all that much, perhaps because reality doesn’t compare to the paranoia in my confused little mind, but it’s ironic that the other times I was worrying over nothing, this time I wasn’t over something.

On Sunday Lynsey and I headed over to Blackpool. The theme park is free to enter, but each ride costs a certain number of ‘tickets’, each of which costs £1. The Big One was a 7-ticket ride! We wandered around and figured out which were worth the money. I couldn’t talk her into riding The Big One (if I had a penny for every time I’ve said that) but happily there wasn’t much of a queue so she didn’t have to wait too long. It was excellent fun 🙂

Into the skyBlackpool Tram

After hitting the carousel we took a walk along the beachfront before coming home. Blackpool was a little ’70s for my tastes, but nevertheless interesting to visit. One question remains, though: does anybody have any clue what this is?:

Big Dude With A Sign