‘Mum, I have a recollection of you winning a dancing competition when I was a kid. Is that true?’ ‘It is indeed’, I beamed proudly at my eldest son, as I recalled that time in Pontins in Wales, where my inherent tendency to throw my body in all directions when I hear music, no matter where I am, actually proved appropriate. Now there would have been a little help from my friend Ron, because not only was I a dancing queen that evening but I have been crowned the Bacardi Queen in my time.
Dancing has always been a love of mine, there was the school dancing competition, pre-Ron days of course, where we boogied for an inordinate amount of hours, to raise money for charity. As I got older, the reason to be at places dancing an immeasurable amount of hours, was to raise a toast with Ron and his friends as late as possible. There were of course people who never danced at all, just went to these places in the hope of an aul ware (old Irish slang for a snog). The ‘ware’ would have been preceded by quite a few tipples, be it Ron, his stout friend Guinness or even the hip and trendy West Coast Cooler. If these drinks were cartoon characters, West would have strolled in wearing an open necked shirt revealing a tanned chest (in my day it would have been a hairy one, not waxed to an inch of it’s life as is the current trend), long shorts showing his toned muscular legs, and a head of streaked long blonde hair, whilst carrying a surf board under his arm. Ron would have been be a balding middle aged man (just bald at the crown), such men can be very tasty, as is our Ron. His stout friend Guinness, yes, you’ve guessed it, a friendly, fun rotund man of any age, who just keeps giving. Their buddies, the serious faced Russian, known as Noff to his friends (Smirnoff) with his national skating champion wife, Smirnoff Ice, with blue glassy piercing cold eyes likely hung around for the duration of the wares and boogies. Baileys, now there’s a tipple we associate with Christmas, but this was a popular drink of choice in Ireland at one time. Jesus, the amount of calories in the stuff, had we known it then. But sure we would have danced the fat away and if there’s any calorie burning in wares, sure the weight would have fallen off us by the end of the night. So, Baileys would have been Guinness’s more sallow skinned cousin with a voluptuous figure and Tia Maria, her sleek and slim Italian bestie. Oh here, I’m getting off the subject altogether, when my imagination kicks in, I can’t help myself.
Those ‘wares’ could cause a lot of trouble, for patrons of such establishments. Murder on the Dancefloor could have been a song about the inordinate amount of fights that broke out, when someone’s ‘moth’ (Irish slang for one’s girlfriend}, not to be confused with a flying bug , though there were times when there could have been a thin line between the two, as certain ‘moths’ ended up flying through the air, if the fracas got out of hand. And it wasn’t always the lads who were creating the fracas. Woe betide any woman who tried to snatch a ‘ware’ with a lad who was already taken. It was more like Dancing with Wolves in those cases. Leave the murder to the lads.
However, these fights were the exception rather than the rule and fair play to the powers that be, there was a law in Ireland in the ‘olden days’, as my grandkids might affectionately call it, that a free supper must be served in nightclubs, if drink was allowed to be served late. A ticket was given out at the door, when you paid your entrance fee and if you didn’t avail of the food yourself, you could pass the ticket on to a friend, who might want second helpings. The friend was usually one of the lads, they just couldn’t fill themselves. The idea of this free supper, was to soak up the huge amount of drink that was inevitably consumed and contrary to popular belief, Irish people really don’t have hollow legs (an expression used to describe where all the drink goes that Irish people appear to consume). There were those who left nightclubs early, or went straight from late pub closing, to local chippies, to soak up that alcohol. Good ole spice burger and chips, battered sausage…. mind you there could be plenty of spice and battering going on outside the chippie, at that hour, between the ‘wares’ and and the murder spilling off the dance floor, or from the pubs. ‘Wares’ were commonplace in the pubs, as well as the clubs. In general though, we’re a friendly bunch and there was always a lot of drunken camaraderie thrown in the mix.
If you hadn’t filled your bellies enough after all of that food, if the chippie wasn’t really for you, or you hadn’t consumed the barely edible, though always more pleasant tasting nightclub supper, after a few bevvies, there was always very early breakfast, at 6 am, in one of the nice hotels in Dublin city. However there would be a few hours to fill before that, which could mean even more drink, as there were wine bars that opened till very late but you had to appear sober enough to get in. The price of the wine in these places, was and still is, extortionate but though there’s no such thing as a free lunch, there was often the chance of a free glass of wine, if the game was played right. Sometimes however this involved a hasty retreat, to escape a ‘ware’, or slipping into the crowd on the small dance floor, hoping there’d be no wolves.
Whether it was the chippie, or the early breakfast at the posh hotel, where the food was consumed, you might even get a ride of a taxi home. Now backtrack, read that again. Yes, the taximan could be a ‘ride’ (Irish slang for gorgeous looking individual, not to be confused with the word ‘ride’, which is also Irish slang, meaning sexual intercourse, though it is a bit confusing). Now should you have chosen to ‘ware’ this taximan, you had to be very careful about making a date, because though the experience may have been pleasant at the time, the reality could be very different when the aul beer goggles (mythical glasses that people of any nationality wear which make folk more attractive when plenty of alcohol has been consumed, by the wearer of such goggles) were off. It was always best to make that a pub date, so you could rapidly get those beer goggles back on if need be and sure the speed of you trying to fill that mythical hollow leg, might frighten the individual off anyway, if he was the opposite of a ride, a minger!!
So, back to dancing, yes I did indeed win a disco dancing competition in Pontins in the early 90s…!!