And so to the Anvil for the Mayor of Basingstoke’s Annual Ball. A splendid event, presided over by Gerry and Janet Traynor, with the guiding hand of Margaret Payne detectable in the background. They raised a useful sum of money for two of the Mayor’s nominated charities, Rehab and Early Bird (helping the early detection and treatment of cancer)
There was more than the usual excitement when the raffle was drawn at the end; this was because the microphone had a speech impediment, which meant it broadcast alternate numbers of the four figure winners.
During the meal, as Len Phillips and his Big Band warmed up in the background, the Mayor asked me a perfectly legitimate question.
“Do you like dancing?”
The honest answer is that No, I don’t enjoy dancing. Nor do those that I partner. The Accident and Emergency Departments of hospitals in North Hampshire have been filled at weekends by ladies with injuries to the lower limbs, sustained in the course of duty on a dance floor with the local MP. The more serious injuries occur during Scottish dancing, sometimes in a constricted space, where others have fallen victim to friendly fire. But accidents have also happened during less strenuous dances. (It has been suggested that, in these circumstances, a dancing licence should be suspended, while the assailant attends some rehabilitative instruction in ballroom dancing.)
So I paused before answering. Civility required that I should be polite to my host, who had gone to some trouble to ensure that we all had a good evening. And, being a male Mayor, the chances of his discovering the lack of this important social skill were small.
As I weighed up the answer, I looked at the person sitting between us. On these important civic occasions, it is usual to find, seated on the top table between His Worshipful the Mayor and the local MP, none other than Madam Mayoress. If I said yes, it would be expected that, when Len and his Men got going, I would take her in my arms and navigate her round the floor, with my right elbow high in the air and at right angles to my body
So, for a politician I did what does not always come naturally; I told the truth.
“No” I replied. And that was the right answer. Later in the evening, as Lady Young and I shuffled in the shadows, we observed the Borough’s First Citizens waltzing with style. Discretion, at times, is the better part of valour.