Wednesday, 18 May 2011

Dorset moonlight and dance

A good weekend, down in Dorset, celebrating the 50th birthday of my old friend Patrick (a lot older, obviously, than when I first met him and he was just 31 and I wasn’t even 40. Ah well – as I always say, the only way not to grow old is to die young).

Patrick and Mary put us all up in a hotel right on the cliffs overlooking an English Channel as gloriously, deeply blue as the Mediterranean ever is. Amazing for May. It was beautiful at night too, when I took Janka for her evening walk along the beach. There was a half moon which sent one of those staircase reflections over the surface of the sea towards me, the kind of thing which always used to make me feel as a child that I could walk along it to some magical destination. And then, when clouds came scudding across, there’d be a moment when the moonlight became just a patch of silver on the waves before vanishing altogether.

The party itself went well too.

It’s quite extraordinary that some people don’t like dancing. Generally, their antipathy is based on a lack of confidence in their ability to dance, and a fear that they might cover themselves with embarrassment if they tried. The reality is that they probably have only to let themselves go to enjoy one of the great sources of joy for humanity, in every climate and at every period.

My own position is entirely different. When it comes to my ability to dance, I suffer from no lack of confidence whatever. On the contrary, there are few things on which I have greater certainty than my incompetence as a dancer. Nor do I have any unjustified fear that I might cause myself embarrassment by trying to dance. I know beyond the shadow of a doubt that if I so much as step onto a dance floor total abject embarrassment would be an immediate and inevitable consequence.

I’ve actually got the moral scars to prove it. Decades ago, two women on separate occasions gave me all that guff about ‘anyone can dance, you just have to overcome your lack of confidence and let yourself go with the rhythm.’ Each occasion ended with them saying, ‘OK, I see what you mean, perhaps you really had better sit down.’ So I spent the rest of the evening nursing a drink while they danced with a series of vastly more talented young men.

It’s extraordinary how attractive to women a young man looks, viewed by a boyfriend sat by a dance floor watching them dance with his girlfriend.

All of which perhaps explains why I was out on Saturday walking the dog on the beach and trying to work up enthusiasm for the moonlight.

Fortunately, there were lots of other things to do during the weekend. On Saturday, we went to Lyme Regis, one of the most precious jewels in the crown of English towns. It’s also a setting used in some remarkable novels, my favourite being Jane Austen’s Persuasion but also including Tracy Chevalier’s Remarkable Creatures and John Fowles’s The French Lieutenant’s Woman.

Danielle and I visited Lyme in 1981 (thirty years ago – chilling thought) when the film of that last novel, starring Meryl Streep, was all the rage. The poster showed Streep looking fetching in a hood, standing on that iconic place in Lyme, the Cobb, the long, curved jetty that thrusts out into the sea. Inevitably, Danielle insisted on taking a photo of me with my head covered in the same way, in the same place. Since I had a beard at the time, the resemblance to Streep was somewhat less than eery.

She took another picture this weekend. Not sure whether the resemblance is any more striking.

Streep in 1981

Me in 2011. Spooky likeness or what?
And the one horsing around in the background? Here's her attempt at a Streep - not a patch on mine, of course.

Vanessa attempts a pale imitation of my
tribute to a great artist

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