INSIGHTS ON IVOR
As a result of the bomb damage from the Second World War, there was an urgent need in Britain for houses so the Government bought out a plan to build what was called ‘New Towns’. Stevenage in Hertfordshire being the first one built in 1946. This was followed a year later when Crawley, West Sussex and East Kilbride in Scotland joined this new concept. The houses in these new developments were a revelation, sporting double-glazing windows, Central Heating and all the latest labor-saving gadgets in the kitchen which had the housewives drooling with pleasure.
On the political front Anthony Eden never really recovered from the Suez Canal war of the previous year and the strain on his health forced him to resign as Prime Minister. Harold Macmillan took over but not until after the usual behind the scenes battles and skulduggery amongst the party whips which defeated his chief opponent Rab Butler.
Other events in 1957 included such diverse events as seeing the Vulcan bomber enter the R.A.F. service. Vauxhall Motors introduced three new models the Victor Saloon (which was claimed as giving 40 mpg) and the Cresta and Velox models.
A terrible tragedy occurred in June when a BEA (British European Airways) Viscount plane crashed at Manchester’s Ringway Airport killing 22 people.
In July at the Conservative Party Conference the P.M. Harold Macmillan, thinking of the abundance of goods and the choices people now had compared to the austerity of the war years and its aftermath, famously proclaimed that ‘Most of our people have never had it so good’
During this period of my life I felt that although I had enjoyed having a few dates during my RAF days and afterward, I grew a bit lonely and restless at home with just Dad. This became more apparent now that my friend Graeme had married and moved away. So, I decided that I should give the fair sex another chance to renew their acquaintances with me! What better way to do that than to go dancing? The only problem with that was I couldn’t dance. How could I, someone who loved to, and still do, watch Fred Astaire and Gene Kelly not be able to dance? My efforts were more like Gene Astaire and Fred Kelly.
Anyway, undeterred, off I went to a Dance studio in nearby Ealing to have a few lessons in the noble art of Terpsichore. In those days there was a man called Victor Silvester who had been a World Champion Dancer in his earlier days but went on to teach dancing and formed his own orchestra. He was well known for only playing strict tempo dance music. When teaching he would give timing guidance to the pupils, in relation to the steps of the dance, for instance, if the dance was a Quick Step, he would instruct the pupil by saying ‘slow slow quick quick slow’. This method of teaching was adopted by most dance teachers including mine. She would play 78 rpm (Revs per minute) shellac 10-inch gramophone records of the Victor Silvester Orchestra playing a strict tempo dance melody. I started by learning how to do the waltz followed by the Foxtrot and then the quickstep. Eventually, I became reasonably proficient and reasoned that I was ready to demonstrate my new-found skill to the public at large. Whether they were ready for me is another question1
As luck would have it, one day whilst shopping in Greenford I bumped into an old school friend of mine, who not only went dancing every Saturday evening but also had a car and invited me to join him. So, come the next Saturday, Len and I, dressed up to the nines drove over to Chelsea Town Hall. The place was packed with men and women waltzing, quick stepping, foxtrotting, shuffling around, and trying not to trip over their own feet or kick their partners. It wasn’t long before Len found a partner and off, he went gliding around the dance floor whilst I just stood nonchalantly looking around seeking out someone attractive to approach.
My strategy was based on the fact that because the Waltz was the easiest dance to do I would wait until the band played one before approaching my unsuspecting chosen prey to utter the time honored phrase ‘May I have this dance please’?
Eventually, I was lucky and found someone who was willing to take a chance with this clean-cut Lothario of the dance floor. As we took up our positions to commence the dance, I thought it only right that I should give the poor girl some advance warning of what was to come by saying ‘I’m not very good at this’ This was accepted with a smile of encouragement and an assurance about not to worry. So, with some trepidation on both sides, off we went with the Waltz sequence of steps, One Two Three, One Two Three etc. After the usual introductions of exchanging names, it was considered mandatory to ask your partner ‘Do you come here often’? Goodness knows what would have happened if the girl had replied ‘Yes, but not anymore’
Fortunately, she didn’t and we both survived without any injuries or embarrassment.
Because all of this happened so many years ago, I cannot recall what happened for the rest of the evening. Suffice to say that at the end of the evening Len and I had a drink or two before climbing into Len’s car and headed back to Greenford. My first venture into “tripping the light fantastic” in public may not have been exactly fantastic but at least I didn’t trip. It was considered good enough to try again and, thanks to Len and his car, I continued showing off my dancing prowess, visiting other local dance venues on more Saturday Nights.
--End of Part Thirty-Five—