The Thrillsville Way to Health and Happiness...
It started with a slice of serendipity. Late July I was in York, no reason, just a good place to be. And what I found at the centre, Parliament Street, was a set of buildings getting put up – temporary halls, some truly ornate. So I asked the story and found the Great Yorkshire Fringe was about to hit the city of my birth.
Excellent, I got a programme, looked over the events, discounted comedy items (can’t be bothered with ain’t-life-shit humour – cos it ain’t, it’s great) but found a Swing Music event. Yess! My sort of music: trumpets, saxophones, trombones, rhythm section, Count Basie, Duke Ellington, count me in. Lindy Hop dancers too, whatever they were.
My-my-my! Whatever they were!
Forget the music, cos when we turned up I was just mesmerised by the dancing. It was such a superb load of flash and cool and show-off and turn-on and skill and casual and, well, my words run out but my enthusiasm didn’t. Right then I wanted to Lindy Hop.
See, I’ve got to tell you a story. I’ve got type 2 diabetes, and that’s a total lie except it’s true. But how can I have it when I’m 6 foot 2, and 12 and a half stone? That equals one skinny-malinks-me, and you fight type 2 diabetes by getting yourself skinny-malinked. See what I mean? I was pre-skinnied. I didn’t need the diet. I was already good.
But the numbers said different. Score 42 on the blood test and you’re borderline. Score 60 and you’re well in, not drastic, not needles and the rest of it, but you’re in. And I scored – guess what – 60. Sometimes 59, sometimes 61, but average 60.
So what else could I do? Answer: get mega fit. Answer: Lindy Hop. I mean, come on, I’m not going to a gym, all that self loathing and self love and self flagellation and shared showers and shared dressing rooms. Ugh. And I can’t run, dodgy knee, and I struggle to walk fast, plantar-fasciitis in the right foot. But Lindy Hop, yeah, I’d go through the pain barriers for that, wouldn’t even know they were there.
And that’s what I did. Went to Pure Lindy in York, Tuesday evenings, run by Sian and Julian, lovely people, lovely sessions, mm that’s what I wanted. But the first week I went, the beginners were on 6 count moves and that made no sense cos I know there’s 4 beats in a bar, not 6. (Remember I love swing. I play swing – piano – I sing swing – sawdust throat. I know how many beats there should be to a bar.) So that was humiliating, total dyspraxia, first-time hopelessness. And that, my friends, is when you give up if you’re going to.
No, I studied YouTube. I analysed the moves (they’d be onto 8 count next time). I worked out exactly where each foot would go. I drilled myself. I turned up. I was good. Not spectacularly good, but good enough.
And here’s the big bonus, I’d go home and teach Chris the moves, half from the lessons and half from YouTube, and we’d practice together, an hour a day. We weren’t very good at first, but you know what practice does? That’s right, gets you very hot, very sweaty, and – bit by bit – very fit. Not too bad at Lindy Hopping either.
After a few weeks we had a routine – you’re not meant to, the guy’s got to lead, the gal’s got to follow, swop genders if you wish, but the thing is there’s leading and there’s following. Well, we didn’t. We just got our routine and stuck to it. But we were slick. I tell you there were times we flew.
We’d do the Lindy Circle and she’d throw back her hair and the gravity as we spun was just awesome. We’d do the Flip-Flop and we’d fly past each other, perfect sync. We’d put on Benny Goodman Taking A Chance On Love (vocalist Helen Forrest) and we’d be back in the 1940s, dancing in imagination with her mum and dad, dancing a dance without limit of time. And folks, I wouldn’t know if the earth moved cos we were flying two feet above it.
But let me tell you something about that Great Yorkshire Fringe show, the one where I got hooked on Lindy Hopping. An image that stayed with me afterwards was of a couple dancing past us, in the side-by-side hold, kicking and hopping in perfect unity. I still see it in my mind’s eyes. I wanted to do that more than anything, that perfect kicking and hopping.
And then one week I did. It was the Forties version of the Charleston, and what that involves is an 8 count, where on the 3rd count you kick (left foot) and hop (right foot), then on the 5th 6th and 7th you kick (right foot) and hop (left foot). That’s a lot of hopping. A lot of kicking too, but it was the hopping that counted, cos, listen, I’d got it (practised off YouTube beforehand) and I was kicking and hopping with everyone else in a line. Couldn’t wait to get home, practise it with Chris, get our own perfect unity of kicking and hopping in action.
Can you feel the story building to a climax? It’s got to, hasn’t it? Something’s got to happen. Well, you know what? Ping.
That’s it. Ping.
I felt my achilles tendon, left foot, give a ping as I hopped. Not a bad ping, didn’t stop me dancing at the time, only really stiffened up next day, but gradually I came to realise this was serious. Bust your achilles and you’re in plaster for weeks, out of action for months. Well, I hadn’t bust it, only pinged it. Not even a pop, only a ping.
But I’ve got to take care. If I want to get back to Lindy Hopping (8 count, 6 count, forget the Charleston) then I’ve got to let this ping re-knit itself. But that leaves a question, and maybe you’re asking it already. What about the diabetes? Had all that manic practising paid off? Well, guess what I scored on the latest test? 53! That, my friends, is a spectacular drop. You can’t go much lower once you’ve actually got the dire-beaties. So I was kicking some serious diabetic ass! Yeah, I was smiting some serious diabetic goolies! I was so fit I couldn’t afford not to stay fit.
So here comes the question. How do you stay fit when you’re nursing your achilles? I tried exercise biking. Nope, Mr Achilles didn’t fancy that at all. I tried again and Mr Achilles liked it even less. So what now? Come on folks, you’n work out the answer. Let’s make a sum of it.
The only way I can get fit is dancing + I can’t move my foot around = sit on a stool and dance.
That’s right. Put on the up-tempo stuff – Nena, 99 Red Balloons; Madonna, Ray of Light; Lou Bega, Mambo No.5; Los Del Rio, Macarena; & so on – then punch, dab, elbow, shoulder, shake, shrug, nod, use weights, drop weights, go go go. Takes a while till the arms and torso are geared up, but today I got real hot dancing on a stool. I got real sweaty. I released a whole bucketful of endorphins. And I kicked that diabetes so bad it dropped its head and slunk out the door.
Now, I can’t say how long it’ll take the achilles to stop sulking. It’s had three weeks, maybe it wants another three. Maybe another five. Whatever. Can’t rush cos, fair play, that’s a 65 year old achilles. It’s lived the bulk of its life in another millennium. But one day I’m gonna get back to Lindy Hopping. One day I’m gonna do the 8 counts and 6 counts. One day I’m gonna partner the love-of-my-life, and we’re gonna fly. Oh yeah, we’re gonna fly.
P.S. LOML has just done in her knee at zumba. Mm, could be a bit of a wait for those flying sessions...
May I invite you to make certain purchases? (I may? Why, thank you...)
(a) The Salamander Stone (by my most excellent and trusty pal, Mrs Me) from one of these outlets:
Direct from the publisher, Burst Books: click here
Amazon UK: click here
(b) The Two Worlds of Wellesley Tudor Pole (by Mrs Me’s most excellent and trusty pal, Me):
Amazon UK: click here
Amazon.com (US): click here
(You’ll be getting both of them? Well, that is an admirable choice, if I may say so...)