Saturday, 18 July 2015

The Secondary Waltz


Apple Music delivered up one of my favourite Mark Knopfler tunes the other morning—Secondary Waltz. I love the line, "Waltzing with fear in our hearts," and the impending "final manoeuvres," "heads awhirl" as D-day approached when "we're going to do it with girls." Actually, I got to do my learning with girls—co-ed school, a most uncomfortable experience, especially when we just got who we got as a partner.

Every time I hear it I am transported more than fifty years back in time and half a world away to school dances at Kuranui College in Greytown, New Zealand. The legendary Sam Meads was the Headmaster. Our disgrace wasn't so much the waltz, as it was the Gay Gordons. To begin, Sam would use his best parade ground voice to get us onto the dance floor and into position in the circle—was it by form (or grade for you Canadians)?—it seems like something he would do. And there we would all stand, not necessarily with a girl with whom we really wanted to dance, or who wanted to dance with us, while Sam's voice and temperature rose and the veins stood out on his forehead. Romantic, it was not. It was more "one, two, three, two, two" we were "all a disgrace," but eventually we'd all be in place, more or less, the music would start and off we'd go around and around, from one girl to another. Some were a secret delight because I knew I'd never get to dance with her for a whole dance, having asked, so I'd revel in the brief steps and twirl before moving on to the next. 

Speaking of whole dances and the asking—"May I have the pleasure of this dance?" was the standard expression we were taught. This after that agonizingly long and exposed walk across the gym from where all the boys sat against the wall, to the opposite one where all the girls—those most mysterious and delightful creatures—sat. They were supposed never to refuse, but some did, which meant an even more agonizing return across that vast gym floor. I know there were matching agonies of being asked, and not, on the other side of the gym. Ah, adolescence. It's a wonder any of us came out of it anywhere near normal. Perhaps I didn't.