Last weekend, a number of middle-aged couples could be seen furtively approaching a barn in North Hampshire. They did not know each other, and were concerned about the ordeal that lay ahead. Would they embarrass themselves in front of each other and in front of total strangers?
But first, some background.
A year ago, I had attended a Scottish Reel party in aid of a local charity. I had done a fair bit of reeling in my youth, and assumed that it would all come back.
Three things had happened since I had last danced the Duke of Perth and Hamilton House. First, thirty winters had come and gone, and had robbed me of my agility; second, the brain cells that stored the relevant information about the steps and sequences had sadly perished. Third, just as policemen seem to get younger, so Scottish dancing seems to get faster.
The consequence, a year ago, was what the Army politely call injury through friendly fire. A number of ladies who had inscribed my name on their card and who were partnered by me for the dance sustained collateral damage. Nothing life threatening, but some bruises and compressed toes; and there were some collisions with other innocent parties whose space I invaded.
And so, when another invitation arrived last month, requesting my attendance at another Charity Ball at which Scottish dances would be performed, I faced a dilemma. Boycott the event, in order to save the shins of the gentlewomen of North Hampshire; or help raise funds for the charity and risk social ostracism.
Hence the furtive appearance at the rehearsal in the barn. Here, dancing took place at a reasonable tempo; the steps were explained; first aid was at hand. A licence was issued certifying the holder safe to take to the floor on the night itself.
And so, to-morrow, I take to the floor again. The casualty department at Basingstoke Hospital has little to worry about.