I went barn dancing on Valentine's Day!
I hadn't been barn dancing since Primary School, when the local High School gym was "transformed" for the night into a barn via the use of dim lighting and randomly placed bales of hay, complete with a band featuring a lagerphone, trestle tables laden with cheezels and fanta, and a sea of suburbanites clad in stone-washed demin and checked shirts (and the odd leather vest). I can't remember what I wore, but it must surely have been the pale blue ra-ra skirt that features in many photographs of that era.
The modern-day barn dance has been growing in popularity here, especially amongst unfeasibly cool Shoreditch types who apparently love nothing more than dressing ironically like hillbillies. I had read a few good write-ups and thought it sounded like good, clean, mildly aerobic fun - the kind which you won't find at a typical sweaty, drunken club.
So Valentine's Day eve, I donned a red dress, borrowed a suitably love-worn cowboy hat, put on my dancin' shoes (actually my converse sneakers seemed the most sensible option) and headed down to the gorgeous Finsbury Town Hall, along with a load of other assorted geeks, trendies and weirdos. The two single friends I had with me were quite apprehensive (rookies!) - it took a few G&T's before they took to the dance floor. Not even an impeccably mannered old-school cow-dude could change their minds - we turned him down en-masse, regrettably. The G&T's hadn't kicked in yet. Sorry, Mr. Cowboy. And don't worry, I got a taste of that bitter rejection later on.
As it was, I ended up doing more dancing with one of my female companions than with any lonesome cowboys. But still, it was great fun, and took me right back to that heady night in the gym/barn, lining up to "thread the needle", dosey-doe-ing your partner, then dosey-doe-ing your neighbour, left hand star! right hand star! and generally having a good old stomp on the floorboards. Literally, during one particular dance. The only instructions we got from the caller were: "Left foot, left foot, left, stomp stomp! Right foot, right foot, right, stomp stomp!". There was many a bleeding ankle at the end of that one (not mine, thankfully, I got off lightly despite my inappropriate footwear).
Speaking of which, the caller was a brilliant, miniature madwoman with bright pink hair, goggles, and a string of lights coming out of her boots, shouting gleefully at us through the microphone, while the band played merrily in their 50's inspired rock-abilly outfits. I was in awe as she expertly organised a heaving, partially drunken crowd into groups of smiling strangers dancing and weaving around one another, with nothing but the power of her lungs.
It was an interesting crowd, that's for sure. Gingham was the textile of choice, while the only acceptable colour options were red, white, blue, denim and leather (with the odd bit of silver or gold electro-bling to bring it up to date). One girl waiting with me at the bar was rocking a full-length prarie dress (which made me wish I had held on to that costly mistake I bought at Beyond Retro a while back).
All in all, it was a fun night and when the band started winding up, my first thought was "What? I was just getting warmed up!". Probably best not to push these things, though. I am just glad I got to do something a little random - a nostalgia kick with a twist - with some brave souls prepared to do something random with me (or at least to watch my drink while I barnstormed).
Thankee, little ladies! Much obliged.