Dancing 'til you drop
JONAH'S feet were tapping to the music. They hadn't yet cleared the
tables away so the dancing could begin, but he was ready to go. He already had
his shoes off.
Then a new sound suddenly burst into the air against the lively notes
of the ceilidh band. It was the same tune, but raucous, piercing and very,
very loud. Jonah's head shot round. He directed what I think you might call an
old-fashioned look at the figure in kilt and bonnet who'd emerged from a far
door, bagpipes under his arm, the chanter to his lips. Then he pointed. "I
don't like those," he said emphatically.
I do like bagpipes myself, but I have to admit they sound rather better
out of doors than they did that evening in a small crowded village hall in the
Midlands. But this was a
celebration and I suppose everyone with something to offer was eager to do
their bit. Anyway, the piping didn't last long and very soon the dancing
Some people hate ceilidhs. They hate all that jolly music. They hate
being dragged onto the floor to make fools of themselves in front of complete
strangers - or worse, in front of their nearest and dearest. I have to agree
they aren't much fun if you have two left feet and you're trapped in a room
with folk-dancing enthusiasts who know every step and hate you for spoiling
Strip The Willow by
always going the wrong way and bumping into them.
The best sort of ceilidh is the kind where the music is so good you
can't help wanting to dance and nobody there cares how well you do it so long
as you have fun. In fact, if you get in a complete muddle it only makes it all
the more fun. It's dancing for non-dancers.
That was the sort of ceilidh my aunt and uncle held to celebrate their
golden wedding. They're nearly 80, but still running an organic smallholding
they started long before The Good Life was even thought of, and very long
before anyone ever talked about downsizing or getting out of the rat race.
Their own good home-produced white wine was set out on the tables, their own
fruit and vegetables used in the buffet meal. There was a cake decorated with
tiny caulifowers, carrots, aubergines, beans and apples made out of icing.
Even the teenage ceilidh band was led by one of their organic box customers.
Friends and relations had come from as far away as
Canada to celebrate with them.
There were cousins we hadn't seen for decades, passing round ancient
black-and-white snapshots of long-dead relatives. There were photos of the
wedding 50 years before. There was a lot of catching up to do on who was doing
what, and a lot of new friends to be made.
There were mature people in suits and ties, or best dresses; there were
teenagers in jeans and T-shirts. I'd guess my mother, at 88, was the oldest
person there. The youngest was a babe in arms.
Second youngest was Jonah.
He'd never been to a ceilidh before, but no-one had to tell him what it
was all about. He knew as soon as the music started. He likes dancing, even if
for him that just means jumping up and down to a catchy tune. But then isn't
that what a ceilidh is all about?
There's always a shortage of men willing to dance at these things, so
Jonah and Nana stood in, holding hands, and nobody seemed to mind being
partnered by an OAP and a two-year-old. It was a bit tricky when the opposite
couple were supposed to duck under our raised arms, but we muddled through
somehow. If it got too complicated then he could always be carried for a bit
(who needs weight training? Try dancing with a two-year-old in your arms
instead). There was a lot of laughter.
Jonah joined in every dance, though by the last one his legs just
wouldn't carry him any more and he lay down in the middle of the circle and
smiled at the people dancing round him. After that, it was definitely time for
bed. He slept so soundly that, for the first time in ages, his parents had a
Sunday morning lie-in.
There can't be many better ways to celebrate a family get-together,
with such a wide age range. Even the people who didn't dance enjoyed watching
what was going on. In fact, we had such a good time we're already wondering
when we can do it again.
Come to think of it, my mother will be 90 the year after next. Time to
start planning that ceilidh.