The Pink Jukebox. July 2016.

Dear Rowley,

At the risk of sounding evangelical, can’t even begin to tell you how much better I feel after three short weeks since canning the booze. For one, the time has flown and I go to bed wanting to get to the next morning for my swim, sauna and steam. For two, I realise that I haven’t eaten properly for about twenty years. My relationship was food was as third person in the marriage; the neglected wife between me and my mistress 40% proof. I lived on cocktail peanuts, olives and Charlie Bingham when malnutrition kicked-in.

The hob in Bloomsbury Square was basically a proxy cigarette lighter when I couldn’t be arsed to go out and buy a new one. I must have got so much sugar from the vino and suppressed my appetite SO much that food was superfluous after 6pm. Food shopping was a bore because I didn’t even want, let alone have a desire to cook, what was in the basket. All I wanted was to pop a cork and light a tube.

Granted, I might need to be shopping in the Hefty Hideaway soon if I don’t get the balance right. My figure used to be legendary. Now - salve RuPaul – it is ‘leg and dairy’. I’m guzzling milk, devouring cheeses of all nations and slathering so much butter on my toast that the thickness is 50/50. But Rome wasn’t built in a day and I am stepping-up the exercise what with all this sex, tennis and ballroom dancing.

Yes, after the false start at dance class in Islington I finally found my feet at the Pink Jukebox in Holborn. Pink Jukebox is twice monthly and has been run by the fabulous Jackie for over twenty years. I invited Inga – my old partner in crime at Gieves & Hawkes and latterly Henry Poole & Co – to come dancing.

We arrived in the dance hall only to be greeted with Jackie who had me signed-up for membership before you could say Cha-Cha-Cha. The floor belonged to the intermediate class and a very lithe Asian teacher with snake hips and a white leather Gucci belt. Inga and I snuck into a banquette, ordered a tonic and I laced both with Angostura from my silver hip flask.  What can I say? The dancing was to me sublime because as you know I don’t know a step of Ballroom or Latin.

As the name suggests, you dance with who you want to at the Pink Jukebox though the rule in lessons is that you have to change partners every couple of minutes. That made me feel right at home. Before we assaulted the floor for the beginners class, Jackie sat with us and gave us the lowdown on social dancing. She also told us about the New Year’s Eve excursion to Copenhagen for a big ballroom dancing social that had me scrubbing in my purse for the deposit. Hate New Year, don’t you? In Copenhagen, they have fireworks as well as pickled herring and furs.

Then a lovely chap in a check shirt got me on my feet while the intermediate class was going on, took me into a corner and gave me a private dance lesson and a pep talk suggesting I should follow rather than lead in my first lessons. Don’t know about you but I find it terribly easy to follow if someone knows what they’re doing. Within minutes he had me dancing the basic steps of the Waltz. I loved it.

When it came time for the beginners I was mightily impressed that over half of the intermediates stayed on the floor outnumbering the beginners. This I thought very generous because, let’s face it, the last thing you want to do is put two beginners together and watch them lumber round the floor like Dumb & Dumber. Great rule to always work with someone better than you are.

Our first dance was a Fox Trot. It goes slow, slow, quick quick, slow and despite breaking down on several occasions I got the basics and danced with four bloody good partners who steered me round the floor. I do like a strong, safe pair of hands, don’t you? Rather than saying ‘don’t worry’, they corrected my hold, pointed-out repeated mistakes and did it again until I’d got it. By now Inga was fox-trotting like Karen Hardy.

Our second learners dance was the Paso Doble. It involves foot-stomping and looking cross so I had a head start on Inga. I love the Paso and particularly enjoyed one partner who could change direction on a dime and counted me round and round turning when I would have crashed into the couple dancing next to us. I actually felt giddy when we finally did it to music. Guess what we danced to? Hernando’s Hideaway? No. Total Eclipse of the Heart? Not even close. We danced the Paso to Viva Espania. Nothing camp about that.

When it came time for the social dance, I was sitting it out and admiring better dancers Jive, Waltz and Cha-Cha-Cha. Then Jackie bellowed that the next one was a Fox Trot and my Paso partner asked me to dance. We positively whipped round the floor despite the occasional kerfuffle at my feet. The trick is not to look down and allow your partner to lead firmly … a blueprint that might have saved my last marriage as it happens.

I know it is early doors but I think I have the dancing bug. I shall go back to the Pink Jukebox in a couple of weeks’ time and it is Jackie’s birthday on the 6th of August when there’s a big pink social at the Rivoli Ballroom. It’s a yes from me, Simon. If I make progress, I am going to buy my first pair of dancing shoes when I return from Toronto. Thanks to Su Thomas, it looks like the fox is out of the box…