MY TIME AT HERRÄNG 2006
Warning: this account is terribly long and appallingly self-indulgent. If you haven't been to Herräng, then this really isn't the one to read. It was laid out on a screen ten and half inches (26.67 cm) across, and so those of you with luxuriously large screens may do well to make the browser window that size.
Yes, of course I went again. It is a chance to meet friends met there in previous years, and a chance to spend some time in a world where I can at least pretend to be someone significant. I hadn't anywhere else to go.
I had been to the Snow Ball in Stockholm at New Year, and had had a great time. I had learned some useful stuff in the lessons (now I can Lindy hop, I thought), and had been dancing well in the evenings to some great music. I was ready for larks at Herräng. I packed the usual stuff: tent, repellent, shirts, socks, socks, shirts, medicines, shorts, shirts, shoes, socks, spats, sponge scourer, spoon, emergency condoms, an excitingly unreliable alarm clock, and socks. This year, I would be especially well prepared for DJing. I spent two days going through my CDs, picking out good tracks, timing their speeds, and burning compilation CDs. I noted down titles and artists, because I knew I'd be asked for them.
Amsterdam airport has an interesting variation on its announcement boards: it tells you nothing on them until it surprises you with the words "gate closing". I ran further and faster to catch my connection than I had for some while. On arrival in Arlanda, I discovered that the information services there couldn't tell me anything useful about the buses to Herräng. Fortunately, I knew of a web-site that could help - mine! I used their internet connection to get the directions from my 2004 account, and set off. At Rimbo, I prepared myself. In every previous year, I had always been bitten a few times on the head before getting my mosquito repellent on. This time I would be ready. While sitting at the bus stop, I thoroughly daubed myself in repellent lotion, until my skin gleamed in a rather sci-fi way. At Hallstavik I had a bit of a wait, but this was pleasant in the company of a group of young Lithuanians on its way to the camp. They were all too polite to mention my skin's curious mirror-like quality, or perhaps their English didn't extend to 'iridescent'.
Herräng was its familiar self: people wandering about, trees, quiet set-back houses. I ran into Gunnar the techie who told me how things were going. He said that the Yum-Yum restaurant had been the cause of many complaints, because it wasn't as good as the last few years. A bigger piece of news was that the water supplies to Herräng had been stretched by the demands of the camp to such a degree that the water authorities had threatened to cut off supplies. Showers were forbidden from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. and people were asked to flush the lavatories only after delivering solids ("If it's yellow, let it mellow, if it's brown, flush it down" said the signs on the loo doors, after I had added the apostrophes in biro). There were fewer mosquitoes than usual. It had been dry at the critical period.
I pitched my tent near my usual spot. This time, I was surrounded by caravans as well as tents, as the caravan park had spread across the road - another sign that the camp was growing. A wooden mini speed-bump ("fart hinder" in Swedish) contained the electricity cables crossing the road to supply the caravans around me (on the right of picture, painted red). I would be reliant on the caravans for much of my shade.
|Immediately visible was another change: a marquee ("big tent" to an American) containing another dance floor was in the field where I camped. This was the 'Roseland Ballroom'. Confusingly, rather than add a new marquee elsewhere and give it a new name, they renamed the site of the old Roseland the 'Alhambra', and moved the Roseland to this new spot. Part of the need for this floor came from the fact that the school gymnasium was now being used exclusively for sleeping quarters.|
First Blues Night - Week 2
It was Wednesday - blues night. I changed into my usual outfit, this year with a different tie, and approached the passport controllers outside the Folketshus. "How much to see the show?" I asked. 200 Krona. "Blimey! That's inflation!" I said. "Yes," said the controller, "we're getting a lot of that." When I first came to the camp, the evening dances were free, then they were 100, 150, now 200 Krona. 200 Krona is a significant amount of money (about fifteen pounds or twenty-three US dollars). Why the steep increase? Well, there are more people at the camp now, so one could argue that demand is higher, and so prices can be raised in the confident expectation that they will be paid. But the costs of running the nights at the Folketshus do no not rise so much as numbers increase, so economies of scale would allow the camp to lower its prices. So why the increase? Two answers I can think of are 1. To make more money, and 2. To discourage people from coming to the camp and not taking lessons (evening dances are free to those doing courses in the day). These two reasons are compatible of course.
Blues night is not what it was. It used to be hot and sexy, cool and bluesey, dark and mysterious. Now the lighting is brighter, people take flash photographs, and the music is bland. All night the music was the same - sort of middling blues from a narrow period. None of it was awful, but it all had the same feel. Sometimes a piece of music tells me to hug my partner close, at other times the music tells me to open out and let her do her stuff at arm's length, or to break away entirely. This music all said the same thing: hold my partner at a range of half an arm's length. It never packed a punch; never told me to suddenly throw my partner into a powerful dip, nor to hold her in stillness for a while.
Thursday Week 2
Next day, I was walking along the road to the Folketshus when I encountered Harlem Hotshot Frida. She said that she had seen me in the paper, and said something about vegetarians and lard, but then she clammed up and walked away. Had my story made the Swedish press? That seemed unlikely. Was she offended by what she had read? She is as inscrutable as she is short.
On Thursday night there was a dance competition in the Dansbanan. I decided to enter. I have never been competitive in my dancing, but perhaps it was time I got comfortable with competing, and this was not a very serious competition. I was imagining that I might take part in the 'battle' in Stockholm on the Saturday night after the camp, so some competition experience might be good. There were two categories: 'fast feet' and 'back beat'. We were given a track to warm up to for the fast feet contest. I danced with a partner I knew from previous years. Damn I was good. My feet were ever so fancy, the moves came together fast and smoothly, and my partner smiled broadly. The competition started. We swapped partners. Damn I was bad. My feet were glued to the floor, the moves came together in slow stuttering fits, and my partners looked distinctly ungrateful. Thirty-two people entered. I made it as far as the last sixteen couples. Geddit? I later noticed that the four women I danced with all failed to make it far in the competition. Two interpretations suggest themselves. One is that I was unlucky in that I got four rotten partners who held me back and ruined my chances of success. Another is that I ruined the chances of success of four perfectly good partners.
Using this formula (explained in detail here), we can come up with a fairish estimate of the probability of three or four random partners out of sixteen all being from the lower half of ability in the group, where n is the number of partners (4), p is the probability of a given partner's being from the lower half of the group (taken here as simply 0.5 for convenience), and x is the number of times a woman turns out to be from the lower half of the group (actually I think one made it to later rounds, so I'll use the figure 3).
This gives us a result of a 25% probability of three partners out of four turning out to be from the lower half of the group. This is not conclusive, but it is a fair bit lower than 50%, so the balance of probability indicates that I was probably to blame, in which case I'd just like to say to all those women unlucky enough to have me as a partner in that competition that I'm terribly sorry.
Things went better in the back beat competition. I had just the one partner for all the rounds. The test was to dance on the even beats (2,4,6,8) rather than the more usual odd beats (1,3,5,7). My tactic was simple. I opted to start a very definite rock step on the 8, and heave my partner in by main force. I kept it going, as those around me were picked off by the judges. When three couples remained, the music stopped, and my partner had a look of utter astonishment on her face. She even hugged me. This was followed by a jam - we would have to please the crowd for eight eight-counts each, twice*, and then "all skate". The couple on before me in the jam both times danced for longer than its allotted phrases, and I don't know if I was right or wrong to try to start before my opponents had finished. Anyway, I jammed, got in one minor aerial, and kept it going. The final judging was by public acclamation. The placings were fairly definite. We came second. The winner was the couple that was perhaps not as smooth as us, but was better at crowd-pleasing antics.
[*A friend of mine was giving a medical lecture in the USA and realised that his audience was confused. A senior professor sitting near the front stood up and said "Two times" to explain to the general audience what the word 'twice' meant. Can it really be true that Americans don't know the word twice? This seems such an old, fundamental part of English that I find this unlikely, and yet I have no reason to doubt my friend's account.]
The prizes were announced. The winner of the fast feet got a free camp video and a free place at a dance camp in Germany. The winner had also won the boogie-woogie competition in week 1, and the fast feet in week 1, and so now had three places at that camp, and would perhaps be able to watch three different parts of the video at once. Other lesser prizes graced the second and third place winners. For the back-beat finalists, there was nothing. I complained, not entirely seriously, to the organiser (an American called Dax, named presumably by parents hoping that he would grow up to be a Bond villain) that I wanted some ice cream for my efforts.
I wanted to challenge people to a Dave Brubeck Take Five dance. Some years ago I was in a bar in Newcastle with some swing dancers, and we annoyed the swing entertainer by dancing in front of him on the little floor and getting too much attention. He then came to the microphone and said that the next number was one impossible to dance to. My partner and I exchanged looks. We would dance to it, whatever it was. As predicted, it was Take Five and I discovered that it is quite Lindy hoppable. Next year, perhaps I'll initiate a five-beat competition, which I will of course lose.
When thinking about how to dance at the fast feet competition, I was thinking about the proper way to Lindy to fast music. Should one dance with economic movements, and a smooth style, making it look as though the music is not fast, or instead go wild and emphasise the speed of the music? When I'm watching a troupe do a routine, I generally prefer the latter, and yet so many of us take pride in smoothness, and go to great lengths to look as though no effort is involved. I prefer to watch a juggler who looks as though he might drop something at any second, because it's more exciting, and I usually prefer to see someone who is apparently dancing as fast as he possibly can for the same reason. In the fast feet competition, though, looking as though you are struggling might not impress the expert judges. To please an audience unfamiliar with Lindy, it might pay to make it look difficult rather than easy.
Cabaret Week 2
Thursday night is cabaret night. I didn't have any act prepared. Acts that come up spontaneously during the camp can be more fun to do. I would spectate. I remember that it was very full. Beyond that, I struggle to remember much. I am writing this nearly three weeks later, most of which was lived in sleep deprivation. Aha! I've just remembered that it was compèred by Peter Strom. I remember noting a few good acts that should get a mention in this account. Oh dear. Wait! I have now talked to someone who was there only for Week 2, and have been reminded of a few acts. One was a competitive hand-stand act, in which each half of the audience was encouraged to chant support for one of two men who stood in a handstand until eventually my side's man (Pontus) lost. Another was a man who juggled with two cushions in an amusingly musical way. The Harlem Hotshots did one fast dance. Two men dressed in yellow came on and did an act involving the teachers looking silly behind them. "All bananas of the world UNITE!" [bring hands together above head] they said, and for a while they had the audience entirely on their side, but then they went well beyond the three-minute limit.
Skipping forward now to the next day, it was ANCIENT ROME day. Partly to save money (I could earn a free entry to the party), and partly for something to do, I volunteered to set up for the party and spent most of my day painting things and building stuff. I joined a group laboriously painting mozaics. They were using brushes. I painted about three little squares before deciding that there had to be a better way. I went to my tent and cut two squares from my sponge scourer (in my 2004 account I claimed this to be a multi-purpose thing and now I can add another use to its versatility). I returned and started printing squares with them. My squares were squarer, more accurately placed, and most importantly, created in a tiny fraction of the time taken by my brush-wielding rivals. This caused an unfortunate crash in the morale of the brushies, and I finished off my corner of the design and beat a retreat.
|I built, with help from a various others, a podium for Caesar to overlook the gladiatorial games. Finding candlesticks for the candles was the hardest bit. Upstairs in the café, I put up various decorations, including a wave frieze around the top of the wall. Holding up a mozaic painted on heavy paper was the greatest engineering challenge. We weren't allowed to use strong tape to hold it up. In the end we clamped one end with G-clamps and planks of wood, and the other end we taped to an oar that was, miraculously, exactly the right height to jam in to the corner of the room. Here we see the result.||
|The nicest of the mozaics (nothing to do with me), above a sink, surrounded by towels, which lie on a surface that someone had painted to look like marble. All this for background decoration for one night.
||A wider shot of the café. The fountain had real fish in it. The bath in the corner, overseen by Neptune, alas didn't work. I don't know how serious they were about making it usable, but they did try to stop it leaking.
||The gates of Rome. People going this way would walk through them once, and then probably never regard them again. Some, in conversation with those around them, may even have passed through them without noticing them. The people you see here have far better costumes than I had for this night.
||The marquee next to the Dansbanan was decorated with arches and called the Colosseum, or 'Coliseum' as they have decided to spell it. Strictly speaking, The Colosseum was the Amphitheatre of Flavius, and was only nick-named the Colosseum because of a giant statue (a colossus) next to it.|
|Here perhaps is that colossus, recreated in miniature form. The archaeologist in me has his doubts, however. I have never seen a Roman male statue in a hip-hip pose, nor one wearing a girl's summer dress.||
|More people than you might guess came dressed as dice. "Ella iacta est" (the die is cast) I said, hoping to earn some points by this. I don't think I did.|
Costumes included characters from the Asterix cartoons. Here for some reason Asterix is holding the menhir, while Obelix appears to have become quite trim after a lot of swing dancing. The lady you see on the right striking an elegant pose was my fortunate/unfortunate partner for the back-beat competition. I think she was Russian. I couldn't have upset her terribly by my brutal back-beat leading, because she asked me to enter the same competition with her the following week.
They were offering pony rides too. Here we see the younger sister of Hanna Hotshot Zetterman with her pony. On the far right, face daubed woad-blue is Bridget Tibbs, who was teaching with James Hamilton that week. I didn't get a ride, alas, but I got to pat the ponies.
Tan-tara! Enter Caesar. Ryan Francois played the part, and played it well, pretty much wordlessly, looking aloof. They had built him a chariot, and here it is drawn into the arena by attendants, flanked by lions.||
||Dancing girls came on and did a dance reminiscent of those 1950s and 60s Hollywood epics in which dancing girls did a sort of ballet. No one really knows how Romans danced. You see here Caesar on my podium, candles lit, with the lions lounging in front.
There were several acts, largely consisting of comedy gladiatorial combat. Two gladiators came on, one small and wearing a loin cloth, and one large and heavily armoured. The smaller ran away and the larger gave chase. Round and round they ran, with the larger falling further and further behind, until the smaller one came up behind the larger and stabbed him. Frida came on and danced three huge challengers into submission. A group dressed as Eighteenth Century pirates, that had been lurking in the background made its move and stormed the floor, captured a dancing girl or two, and made off. The pirate tradition continues.
Here we see the Roman legionaries who would collapse one by one from the voodoo magic cast at them by Dawn Hampton dancing to Splanky. These same men performed again a couple of hours later in the Folketshus, doing a military version of the Shim Sham, in which they managed to stab each other fatally, one by one. Their shields have been given two straps on the back. I tried to tell them that all Roman shields were centre-grip, with just the one handle, but they wouldn't listen. Some might say that I should lay aside my knowledge of ancient warfare during a dance camp, but I feel that authenticity can only be a benefit.||
Here we are inside the Folketshus, and Caesar is displayed to his citizens on a winged throne, now with tigers as well as lions, and four slave girls. In the foreground, you see a posing tourist. A group of people came as tourists, complete with maps of Rome, guidebooks, floppy hats etc.
Tucked away in the 'Hang Out' area (where the admin office was last year) was this rather sinister scene of Roman massage, done by a man in a black hood, next to a table of uncomfortable-looking implements.
And so the night swung away. I didn't do very much dancing this night, as I got chatting to Peter Loggins, who had just arrived.
"Hey Lloyd, how's things?"
We elaborated on this for seven hours. Mostly we talked about swing dance, of course, but then we got onto World War Two for a bit, and then film making. I have never in my life been addressed as bro' anything like so many times. I thought I had to wear expensive trainers and half a hundredweight of jewellery before that would ever happen. One thing we hatched between us was an idea for a sketch for the cabaret: the Lindy hop world championships as run by FIFA, complete with referees blowing whistles, diving, feigning life-threatening injury and then turning out to be unharmed, free kicks, extra time, penalties etc.
Peter told me of an interesting debate he set off on the net. It was about the proper way for a guy to ask for a dance in a particular circumstance. Imagine that a chap is at a normal weekly social dance, and standing by the floor is what is quite clearly a couple. How does the chap ask for the dance? Does he walk straight up to the woman, ignoring her man, and ask her? This shows a lack of respect for the man. Does he instead approach the man and ask his permission to dance with his other half? This suggests that she needs the man's permission. Both sides of the debate seem to have a fair point. I'm British so I would compromise.
In the last hour or two of our talk, I found myself coughing a suspicious amount. This was to be the start of my cold. It was never severe, but would linger in very mild form throughout the trip. One innovation at the camp was dispensers of hand-sanitizer next to the main dance floors and in the restaurant. The idea was that people would use this alcohol-based volatile gel to kill germs on their hands and thus avoid spreading disease. I can't tell you how well it worked, if at all. No one used it all the time, and it only takes contact with one infected person for one dance, to become a carrier. It smelled like gin and tonic. Perhaps it was a milder year for infections. I didn't hear of many people too ill to dance, but there was always some light background coughing and sniffling.
A Good Night
The next night, I had a good dance night. I can't say exactly why some nights I find myself dancing well (for me), although having space to move on the floor is certainly a big factor. Dance after dance went well. My partners smiled, I was happy, the moves flowed. "You're very easy to dance with" said a Lithuanian. One of the Russian elite smiled, apparently from genuine pleasure, after both of our dances. Dances with beginners were fun, and dances with experts went non-disastrously. There is a feed-back loop in operation: when I'm dancing well, I enjoy the dance more, and when I'm enjoying myself, I dance better. For a while I danced near the DJ booth in the Dansbanan, while Steven Mitchell talked to the DJ.
The next day, there was a meeting for all the DJs. I attended, and Mohan briefed us on what he wanted. He was very explicit in saying that he didn't necessarily want old recordings, that might be hissy and muffled, but he did want the music to be solid mainstream swing jazz, faithful to the swing band era. Steven Mitchell joined us and said that a DJ should establish a "groove" and that groove should be 160 beats (40 bars) per minute, and that DJs can deviate from this, but must always come back to it quickly. This was Week 3 of the camp, and it was expected that there would be the greatest variance of ability on the floors in this week, and that it was right to cater for the beginners. Dancers should not find themselves saying "This one's a bit fast, maybe I'll wait for an easier one to come on before dancing with you". Steve told us that we were the bosses, running the floor, and should grab the mike and do things like tell the wallflowers to come into the centre of the floor to be partnered up. He also said that he'd been watching me the previous night getting "into the groove". I was a little alarmed to learn that he had been watching me, but I think he meant this as a good thing.
I made a couple of points, in order to stimulate debate. One was that surely we DJs are the servants rather than the educators of the dancers, and that since many beginners at the camp would be familiar and appreciative of such numbers as Zoot Suit Riot, then surely we should play such numbers. Along similar lines, I asked whether we should play requests (my feeling is that we should). The answers were not cut-and-dried, but left it to the judgement of the DJ, although it was clear enough that Mohan wanted each musical track to match the last. He said he would be monitoring us, as he did last year. He said that he had observed my set last year, which I found odd because I don't think he did, and he said that he remembered what I played last year: ska! I said nothing, but knew for certain that last year I never played a single ska track. That was a different DJ.
I told Mohan that I couldn't DJ on Monday. I would be teaching ska that night. Part of my motive was that DJs got in free for the night, and I'd been put on the guest list as a teacher, and wanted to get maximum budgetary benefit from these. As usual, almost no one at the evening meeting had heard of ska, and so I had to give a quick explanation and mini-demo. When I mentioned that I had done ska in previous years, there was a tiny but encouraging cheer from a few of my previous pupils. Amazingly enough, this was to be the most crowded ska class ever. In fact, some people dropped out I think because the floor was so packed. When I did the one-step-beyond walk, the columns of dancers were shoulder to shoulder as they advanced across the floor. Quite intimidating. As ever, the teachers at the camp, and all the cool elite dancers stayed away, but those that attended worked hard and much sweat was sweated.
It was interesting to see the sorts of mistakes people made. I can remember the way I danced the long-legged Charleston (standard side-by side Lindy Charleston) when I first learned it: up, down, up down, shifting left and right, hopping and landing. You can't dance a step very fast if you do that. Instead, for speed and economy of effort, you must land on a tense leg, with your weight under you at all times. I saw people practising my ska steps at one speed and then trying in vain to double it. I gave a quick demo of how one can Lindy hop in a ska style, and rounded the lesson off with my usual group dance to Prince of Peace. They gave me a nice round of applause and a cheer. When the cheer started, I smiled appreciatively, and the cheer picked up a little and carried on. It then carried on some more, and I didn't know how to react. Being British, I tried embarrassment. Seeing this, the cheer picked up even more and carried on for some excruciating while. "Um, thanks," I think I said.
Fish came along during the class and took some shots of people struggling with a fast step, and, I dare say, of me getting my own steps wrong. You may see some ska in the camp video, therefore.
It is interesting to learn about foreign ska. One DJ said that his favourite Gothemburg band plays ska. There is, I'm told, an underground ska scene in Lithuania, and ska is mainstream in Latvia. People asked me questions about the origins of ska and I had to confess that I am rather ignorant of them. I was never really part of the ska scene. The ska revival in Britain happened when I was too young to go clubbing, and I learned to dance to it at school discos when the ska period was over and just part of recent pop memory. I never wore the two-tone outfits with the piano ties and thin hat brims and lapels. One Aussie wearing checker-board earings and wrist-bands called me "Rudie" a day or two later, and I confess most of minute passed before I realised what she meant. She had gone to my class with some trepidation, fearing that it would be rubbish, but apparently I taught some "cool moves". Phew! I almost got found out, there. Another ska fan accosted me and we talked for a while, and she let me off lightly, accepting that I was a two-tone ska boy, while she was a more old-school Jamaican ska girl, favouring the gentler more family-friendly ska dancing over my flying-fist showdown variant.
I taught another ska lesson Tuesday Week 4. This one started late, though, because they showed a documentary about Norma Miller in the evening meeting, which then over-ran by an hour. I didn't have so many people, but it went well enough and people were asking for more. Possibly in future the place for ska might be the new dance floor in the library in the Folketshus, which offers the opportunity for other dance styles in the evening parties.
Andrew Sutton taught a few evening classes in a novel swing dance form. He had talked to me about it, in search of a good name for it. It involved dancers coming together in pairs, threesomes, foursomes, and more, then breaking up and making new agglomerations elsewhere on the floor. The word 'orgy' seemed likely to become part of the name. 'Amoeba Lindy' was another suggestion. Mine was 'Lindy Lego' but this did not find favour. The one that stuck was 'Contact Lindy'. Dancers had to learn to be both leaders and followers at the same time, ready to follow a lead from one partner even when leading another. Andrew, Dax, and a girl from the first lesson did a demo that involved aerials, co-ordinated mini-dips, and some very inventive patterns. There would be a contact Lindy jam that night at 2 p.m. I was looking forward to it.
I bloody missed it. Fell asleep in my tent. Woke up just when it was over. People told me what terrific fun it was. They played all sorts of music, apparently, including some really powerful slow stuff. Damn. A week later I took part in another such jam in the library, and I have to report that I was underwhelmed by it. Groups of four or more are too busy coping with their own internal complexity to give any attention to others trying to join in, and once formed, large groups find it very difficult to do anything very inspiring. Perhaps more could be done with this technique if people clung on less and moved around the floor more.
Hug an Aussie Day was announced. The next day was Kiss an Aussie Day. The much-anticipated third day in this series never arrived.
I talked to a Spanish girl in Week 3 who had decided not to do a course at the camp, but instead to spend the equivalent money on lots of private lessons. She claimed to be bored with the lessons. Possibly she did get better value in terms of personal improvement, but she was missing out on part of being at the camp. What would happen if many people did the same? I asked a teacher about private lessons, and he said that teachers at the camp are allowed to take money for private lessons, and to use camp facilities for the lessons, without having to hand any of the money over to the camp. This isn't even limited to teachers teaching courses at the camp.
The sky, photographed from outside the internet room, or 'Communication Centre'. This sky is considerably prettier than a row of computers, and so will better serve as illustration of the fact that many people seem incapable of living without recourse to their e-mails or the web, even just for a week or two. The rates there were far from cheap.||
||The extension to the Dansbanan. I don't think any lessons were taught here, because of the proximity of the Dansbanan, so instead this was presumably intended just to extend the size of the dance floor for the evening dances. This didn't work tremendously well. The extension was almost always empty but for a couple of couples practising moves and chatting. The social action was on the main floor, and this sometimes even got crowded while the extension remained under-used. I think people felt that to dance in the extension was to appear ostracised from the main floor.
|Every year they make something a little bit nicer and plusher. Here we see the new surface of the 'bridge' where the techies run the lighting and sound for the Folketshus. Someone has portrayed Josephine Baker in a few different veneers. Not a smooth professional job, but very nice none the less.|
In the burlesque show (see below), Fatima performed her topless J. Baker banana skirt dance, back-lit behind a white sheet.
|Herräng continues to flout the laws of science. Here you see the ground where the swimming pool was for some while. The mobile pool was little used, so I don't expect to see it next year. Anyway, when I strike a tent, I notice that the grass underneath it, deprived of light for a while, and crushed under me as I slept, has yellowed and withered. By contrast, the grass crushed and darkened under the pool seems to have thrived. The lush ring of grass around the edge can be explained by the watering effects of spillage from around the rim of the pool. The grass within this ring is harder to explain. The water was about a yard deep, so each square yard of grass had getting on for a ton of water pressing down on it, and the plastic bottom of the pool was thick opaque blue plastic, and much of the time the pool had a cover over it too. How come, then, that the grass within the ring has done so well in comparison with that not covered by the pool? I think we should be told.
Dax taught an evening lesson in dancing to bebop jazz. I did this, and it was quite a challenge, but I just about got the routine. What he didn't teach was how on Earth you predict the emphases of the music that would enable you to improvise a dance that interpreted bebop. I remain to be convinced that bebop is good dance music. He is organising a swing camp in Japan.
Another evening class was in tango, taught by Catrine Ljunggren who now lives in Buenos Aires much of the time. She told us of how very different the dance culture there is. Rather than just go up to someone and ask, dance, and then swap partners, there is a lengthy ritual which starts with all the single people being lined up along the long sides of the room, and eyeing each other up for some while before anything happens. Only when a woman has signalled by eye-contact that she is willing to dance will a man approach her, and he is then expected to dance with her for a long while, and then lead her back to her seat. In the Lindy world, it is possible to ring a stranger the other side of the world and say "Hello, I'm a Lindy hopper, may I come and stay?" with some expectation of success. In Buenos Aires things are tougher.
There was a professional photographer at the camp, armed with a huge digital camera. He took snaps, and organised some staged set-ups, and got some great results. I liked his series of shots called "Break Dancing" in which someone apparently got run over while doing aerials in the middle of the road. He also got some very nice images of Elliott and Cathrine apparently dancing on the surface of the water on the lake. I'm told that there is a link to his work from the Herräng web-site.
Since 11/9 (reclaim the calendar!), the Americans have been waking up to the concept that not everyone in the world thinks that they are great in every way. I heard a few yanks at the camp say that now everybody hates them. This is not true. We don't hate you. We may be head-in-hands at your nation's foreign policy, we wish you knew a bit more geography and history, and we certainly don't want American citizenship, but we don't hate you. Please dance with us. We reserve real hatred for the French.
There were some quite nasty thefts at the camp. At least two people had their money stolen, and a lap-top computer disappeared. One possibility is that people from outside the camp swooped, but another is that now the camp is large enough to accommodate thieves. This was the most populous Herräng ever, and the trend seems set to continue. Some said that there were over a thousand people in Week 3. More conservative estimates said 700. Not long ago it was 400. The increase in camp size meant that they had to be stricter with free accommodation, making sure that it was only used by people doing courses. They were also checking tents to reclaim foam mattresses (they claimed that this was because the mattresses rotted in tents).
I marvelled that some people were happy to do certain jobs, rather than join in with the dancing at the camp. One woman had flown the Atlantic to run the Lindy Hop Shop for four weeks. Was running a shop really that much fun? I don't know if she was paid, but I doubt she was paid much. The shop was over double its previous size, and as usual I bought nothing from it. There were some interesting looking CDs and books, but they cost a week's worth of ice-cream each, and I have my priorities.
|No one was running the Prop Box this year, and it showed. This year it was in two small cabins rather than one large one, and was a bit of a muddle. It was still good, though, and people still found plenty in there from which to make costumes and the like. Behind the No No Box (named after the lax prohibition of use by non-staff) there were canopies covering work and storage areas, and as I find great beauty in clutter I photographed it a bit.|
I came into dispute with Mark over a matter of shower hygiene. His contention was that the floor (washed daily with modern cleaning materials, washed every few minutes by water and soap during showers, made of non-porous material) was more infected with bacteria than the sandals (neither washed with bleach, nor much with water since his feet sheltered them, smothered by his danced-on feet, with a porous surface and lots of skin cells for the bacteria to munch on) he chose to wear to protect his feet from it. He said that the test was to see which a person would rather eat his dinner off. To make his point, he photographed a hot-dog both on the floor and on his sandals and asked people which hot-dog they would prefer to eat. He said that the result was a 2:1 majority in his (the sandals) favour. Given that one person in three preferred to eat the hot dog on the shower floor, I feel that he cannot claim victory in this. I want to see proper scientific testing of both surfaces.
For the first time, I went rowing on the lake. I went on my own, though, and I'm not sure if this counts.
While working out some moves with one senior teacher, I discovered that this teacher could Suzie-Q one way, but like so many people, had trouble going the other way. They are human.
One thing I heard said a few times was "Street dancers don't wear dance shoes," and this was said to imply that the proper footwear for Lindy is not a purpose-made dance shoe. Am I a "street dancer"? I don't feel like one. Wasn't Lindy developed in the Savoy Ballroom? Still, it is good to know that I can justify my wearing of desert boots for Lindy by something other than my inability to afford Bleyers.
|The camp had a publicist for the first time, and he got the camp featured in several papers. I'm not sure why the camp would want this publicity. A bit of fame may be nice, but what use is this to the camp? Will more people come? Perhaps, but attracting people is not one of the camp's problems. Coping with the hordes that do is a greater one.
The hordes were swelled by people who came to party but not to take courses. I talked to two American men who had flown the Atlantic just for the evening parties. I think most people who do this are fairly accomplished dancers, so they probably contribute to the camp.
Getting the most out of a night's dancing can be tricky. You can join the throng at peak time at the Folkethus, and sweat and crash into people on the packed floor, or you can wait until after 2 p.m. when things thin out and cool down (and when you can get in free), but by this time you've missed most of the dancers, most of the faster music (played when the floor is crowded, for extra frustration), and four hours of fun. You then get more and more sleepy until somewhere around four or five a.m., and then, if you're like me, you start waking up again. By six a.m., I was usually ready to dance like a Dervish, but this was when many DJs played their last tracks and left.
I lent someone my pen, my beautiful four-colour rapid deployment pen, and he walked off with it. I could no longer note down moves. Never lend your pen.
After a blues night, a group of us in the foyer of the Folketshus devised, demonstrated and discussed 'creepy' moves. Two sisters were the willing and laughing victims of these moves, near enough all of which were perpetrated by men. Some of the moves were big and obvious, but tiny adjustments of moves, like staring a bit too much into her eyes, stroking her hand with one finger, breathing too hard on her neck, or not holding her hand still when holding it against oneself, all produced strong reactions from the two test subjects. That such tiny differences count so much may explain why I never notice anything untoward happening on Blues Night. There was one move I'd used a few times on Blues Night and had been worried that it was creepy, so I tried it out and was relieved to be told that it wasn't.
I know that I have many weaknesses as a dancer. I can only remember twelve moves, and I can't do triple spins or back flips, and I still drop my right shoulder when dancing with short women, but one strength I was reasonably confident about was musical interpretation. At the Snow Ball at New Year I went to a class given by my favourite teachers, Sharon Ashe and Paul Overton, in musical interpretation. They did a demonstration dance of over-interpretation, showing how a man can force his partner to acknowledge every single note. People laughed. I felt like burying my head and shouting "Damn you for showing me myself so starkly!" Ee gad - did I ever do that? During a conversation about this at supper in Herräng, I thought for a moment about a maxim for defining over-interpretation, and came up with this: a dancer is over-interpreting the music if he cannot change to dancing with the basic beat without a noticeable change of style, jarring rift in his movements, or without making it difficult for his partner to adapt. What do you think?
One senior teacher at the camp, I won't say which, in private conversation with me, said confidently that London's Jiving Lindy Hoppers were the world's best Lindy hop performance troupe. I recall a Swede involved with the organisation of Herräng once telling me that what the JLH do isn't even proper Lindy hop. Hmm.
I arrived with a load of good stout British food: sausage rolls, pork pies, cheese and pickle sandwiches, bourbon biscuits etc., and these kept me fuelled for a week or so. I bought milk from the Kuggen shop to go with my Asda muesli. I had planned to buy food from the Yum Yum restaurant for Week 3, suppers only, because I thought I'd be dancing all night every night in Week 3 and would miss all the breakfasts. However, a full week's meal ticket was 900 krona (72 pounds, 108 US dollars) and a supper-only one was 750 krona, making a single supper about eight-pounds fifty. I could get a decent supper from the Bar Bedlam for half that. I did buy a full meal ticket, but in the event used it almost solely for Week 4.
Eating at the Yum Yum means that you always have somewhere to sit, and probably someone to talk to. Seats in the Bar Bedlam are rare and precious. The general opinion of the Yum Yum's food this year was that it was slop. Personally, I scored it highly in the main category: quantity. This was not a culinary trip for me. The arrangement was a help-yourself buffet, which meant that most people like me had both the meat and the fish, and the other meat. On a couple of occasions I regretted eating quite so much, shortly before doing something energetic.
Here you see a shot of my left leg, after twelve days at the camp. I have a ring of bites at around top-of-sock height (presumably the little bastards fly up my trouser legs and bite when they first encounter flesh). This is quite a novel thing. Normally, you would see a mass of mosquito bites with perhaps just enough of a clue from the general outline to conclude that you were looking at a leg, but this year, you see what is quite definitely a human leg, with bites on it. Some days I didn't even bother bathing in repellent, and I returned home with near enough no bites on my head. This was the mildest mosquito year ever.
I know what you're thinking: 'Why, Lloyd, have you got bald ankles? The hair on your leg extends to the bites, but then is absent below. Did the mosquitoes by their bites cut off the flow of nutrients to the folicles?' Well, actually, I've had bald ankles since going through a phase in my student days of wearing big tightly-laced boots all the time. So, ladies, for permanently bald legs, you could wear tight thigh-boots at all times. Why not give it a try?
|The mosquitoes tried to make up for their small numbers by biting in strategic places. One (or perhaps three acting in concert) bit me through the thick skin on the front of my ring finger on my left (leading) hand. It swelled up and was very tender for a couple of days. I made do by leading with just two fingers. The French woman in my class with the vice-like grip proved a bit of a problem, and when I explained to her why I was wincing more than normal when dancing with her, she grasped my hand in firm apology, and said 'sorry'. Bloody ow.
In this same shot, you see the cut, already healing, on my second toe that I got when swimming. This is really a pathetic attempt to invoke sympathy as it caused me no trouble at all.
My plantar fasciitis (pain in foot) that I had last year, had returned. Just before going to the Snow Ball at New Year, I had injections for it, and these worked for a while, but in anticipation of Herräng, the condition returned in mild form a couple of weeks before the trip. I kept it at bay with anti-inflammatories. More worrying had been the tendonitis in my left wrist, but my habit of wearing a splint on that wrist seems to have allowed it to heal. Huzza. I wonder what will go wrong next.
This group played in the Folketshus on Monday and Tuesday night of Week 3. I was looking forward to them. They played at the Snow Ball and theirs was perhaps the best live music I've danced to. My only criticism was that all their numbers lasted ten minutes. Now that I dance two dances with each partner, this meant twenty minutes with one partner. I recall dancing my second dance with one girl, to very fast music. For the first half of this dance, I was great, and she was too - flying around the floor - but I was pretty ragged by the end. Anyway, one way or another I ended up dancing little to Uptown Rhythm at Herräng. I often found myself coming up with excuses for not dancing: the floor was crowded; it was hot; I needed a drink; I could have some ice cream; I would first check the other floors; I needed to find someone; I was dancing badly; I had a headache; I'd carry on talking for a bit. I wasted a lot of time this way.
The second night they played, Steven Mitchell arrived on stage and took over. The band was skilled enough to go along with everything he did, but he didn't seem to give it a lot of choice. He sang, he kept altering the tempo, he threw a bit of one song into another, he roused the crowd. The moment he arrived, Uptown Rhythm became his backing band, and the audience his acolytes. He didn't give the crowd many options either.
While I think of it, I'll tell you about one aborted dance to Uptown Rhythm at the Snow Ball. I had asked a British girl to dance. I didn't know her, and she turned out to be a great dancer with an interesting wiggley style. Half way through one of the band's multi-solo epic numbers, she asked to stop for a rest. We sat down on the stage. She apologised for stopping the dance, and said that her knees hurt. I searched my mind for something nice to say - something that might amuse her, and put her at her ease. I recalled a gag from The Hitch Hikers' Guide to the Galaxy: a character with a supposedly-broken arm had just outrun Arthur Dent who was uninjured, and explained this by saying "We always over-compensate for our disabilities. I've been thinking of having my entire body surgically removed." This would suit. "We always over-compensate for our disabilities," I said.
"I'm not disabled," she said very quickly, looking rather displeased.
"I've been thinking of having my entire body surgically removed," I continued, though I could see already that the situation was beyond rescue. She never danced with me again.
Four Band Night
One night, there were a remarkable four bands playing in the Folketshus. One was not booked by the camp, but just showed up. A clarinetist, bass, and drummer. The drummer sat on a wooden box and drummed on it with gloved hands. It sounded like a snare, and at first I thought he was wearing butchers' gloves to achieve this effect (they are very fine chainmail), but then I learned that he had guitar strings stretched against the panels on the inside. This trio was a bit mad, and had a level of energy that I associate with drug taking, but they could certainly play their instruments. They hung around the camp, jumping over things for the sake of it, and playing their fast raucous jazz, for a few days. A saxophonist from the camp played with them. Personally, I don't see why anyone plays the saxophone when the clarinet is an option, because clarinets sound a thousand times better.
Table Football Report
It wasn't a bad year for table football. There was a choice of larger white plastic ball or smaller orange wooden one (I favoured the latter). I must be reasonably good at it, as a few times I beat a pair of challengers using both hands, with one of my hands (the right, if you must know, and yes, I'm right handed - happy now?). I played one game against a German girl, and it was end-to-end stuff with long rallies, and she won 10-8. A few days later I tracked her down for a revenge match, and she won 10-8 again, but I'd like it on record that at least two of her goals were dead jammy. I'll get her next year.
I'm not much of a drinker, but I did sit at the table while a group of folk got drunk on the Sunday of Week 4. The bar had closed, but still drinks were found. The sun was up, and so were we. One topic of conversation was tongue twisters. I challenged Andrew Sutton with this one, thinking somehow that it might suit him:
I'm not a pheasant plucker,
I'm the pheasant plucker's mate,
I'm just plucking pheasants,
'Cos the pheasant plucker's late.
Despite several attempts, and some emphatic coaching, he never made it past the first line. Perhaps he didn't know what a pheasant is (it's a type of bird popular with owners of shotguns).
I went off for a shower and bed. One welcome side-effect of the water shortage was that the showers were consistently warm, and I might even add that on a couple of occasions they were too hot. The lavatorial flushing restrictions were possibly being obeyed by few. I say this because I seldom came to a mellowing toilet, and because a couple of times I flushed away liquids while my mind was on auto-pilot.
At some point I got up, and, like many people, said "Good morning" to those I met. This, in the sense of greeting someone after sleeping, is a phrase which is always correct in Herräng. By the same logic, I ate a lot of breakfasts.
Monday and Tuesday Week 3
I learned from Simon Selmon that he had seen me featured in The Daily Mail (he claimed that he read this rag because it was provided free in his gym) and had passed this on to Lennart, possibly with the idea that this might be good material to embarrass me with in an evening meeting. This was mildly worrying, because anyone reading the article in that paper might be forgiven for concluding that I am an evil fiend. The article was far from accurate. Lennart was not much in evidence at the camp most of the time, but I did accost him in the bar one night to tell him that the article was a pack of lies, and that I was not as evil as I appeared in it. He said that he had read little more than the headline, which put me in my place (what on Earth am I on about? This page explains all).
For reasons I never entirely understood, marathon fever swept the camp. I think it started with Lennart deciding to do all his teaching at the camp in one go. He taught for twenty-four hours straight (presumably with food and loo breaks), before I got to the camp , and one fool attended all these lessons.
On the Tuesday, Mark Kihara from Seattle was in the Love Box for twenty-four hours, during which he was due to see seventy-two women for twenty minutes each. These 'dates' had to be rounded up and sent to him by an organiser, who was therefore also busy for twenty-four hours. A third person got involved: a photographer undertook the project of photographing every girl who saw him, with a board on which they recorded a score for his performance. In the end he saw eighty-one women, because a few went in with a friend. After this, Mark offered an evening class in "How to date eighty-one women in twenty-four hours and remain single".
For Mark, I can see that the experience was probably one worth trying once. I was less convinced by some of the other marathons. These included making pancakes for twenty-four hours. Where's the fun in that? Another was to wear a woolly hat for twenty-four hours (not such a challenge). Another was to DJ entirely from a personal collection, without repetition, for twenty-four hours, and about five people undertook to dance to all this music (fifty minutes per hour, with a ten-minute rest).
||These were pretty much their usual selves. One change was that Lennart no longer wore ancient blue trousers, but was clad instead in comparatively sartorial beige corduroy. One night he sat with his flies wide open for the whole meeting. At one point he said to someone something like "Ah, so that is what you were saying" and I called out adding "That, and your flies are undone." He didn't hear me. I repeated it. He still didn't hear me. Oh dear. I was one of those people calling out something unfunny. Cringe, cringe. Here we see him not only wearing the new trousers, but also a T-shirt with something written on it, advertising the jam battle in Stockholm that I was going to miss.|
One trait of Lennart's I have noticed is his fondness for the phrase "a little bit". Perhaps one day I'll keep a count of how many times he says it in one meeting.
After one meeting, they had a session with all the old-timers up on stage: Frankie, Dawn, Skip Cunningham, and Norma Miller. I attended largely because it was less energetic than going to one of the evening classes. Frankie was his usual loud-laughing self. Dawn said little. Norma sat on the end, her eyes hidden behind large dark glasses, and her hands displaying her long scarlet talons. After her dance career, she had become a stand-up comedienne, and something of her technique showed in the way she waited and then pounced in with a spiky comment. She claimed that with a bucket of chicken and a swing band she could solve the Palestinian problem. Skip talked the most, about his career in the shadow of Sammy Davis Junior, and at great length about cooked breakfasts (they made one to his specifications a day or two later, frying everything in lard). An American eighteen year-old in the audience asked him a question, of which a cruel paraphrase would be 'Now that your career as a performer is washed up, why do you bother donning your tap shoes?' Skip looked about as pleased to be asked this as to be handed his left foot on a plate.
I had volunteered to teach a lesson in Wing Chun 'sticking hands' technique as a cultural activity for Wednesday Week 3. They had changed Wednesdays around. In previous years, the lessons were early and the cultural activities were in the afternoon. This year, the first lesson was at 2.20 p.m. and cultural activities preceded this. I imagined that this would mean that they would be poorly attended, as the camp spent the morning and early afternoon sleeping.
When setting an alarm clock under Herräng conditions, one has to decide between setting it for just a couple of minutes before the thing one has to get up for, which means that one ends up having to rush like mad, or setting it for a generous twenty minutes before, which gives one enough time to fall asleep again. I went for the latter, and yes, I fell asleep again.
I woke and saw the time, and in a panic rushed to my lesson, expecting to see no one there. Amazingly enough, my class was still waiting patiently for me, even though I was ten minutes late. I apologised profusely, and we started. This was the second time I'd taught this class to dancers as an exercise in hand connection, and I think I did it a fair bit better than last year. Full of the confidence that comes from a mind disabled by fatigue, I challenged men to hit me as hard as they could in the belly, and used the techniques I was teaching to block their blows. Some of my pupils I think were even fooled into thinking that I'm a kung fu master (I'm competent at best). Tom Kerwin, who was supposed to be teaching with me, turned up half an hour late, looking a bit ashamed, and of course I chastised him publicly for his unacceptable tardiness.
Fish turned up to video the class. I did a quick piece to camera explaining that he was using a very wide-angle lens and that my nose is not actually as big as it appeared. After he had left, I realised that in my rush to get to the class I hadn't changed out of the undervest I had slept in.
The Lindy battle in Stockholm wasn't on the Saturday. It was on Sunday the 30th. I had been told the wrong day. I had booked my flight for the afternoon of the 30th. I 'phoned from the Communications Centre to see if I could change my flight, but it would cost hundreds of pounds, so I would miss the battle. Arse. The people at the Communications Centre laughed at me for telling the airline people that I was "at a dance camp". I was.
Blues Night Week 3
A teacher suggested I follow him via the "teachers' entrance" to the Folkethus dance floor for the blues show. I did, because I was invited, but felt a bit of an interloper as I stood there while the people rehearsed the show. Skye and Frida whirled around on stage, filling the instrumental part of a song sung very well by one of the other teachers (Naomi Uyama?). When they did it for real, the dancers left the stage a phrase early, leaving the singer to cover the gap by smiling a lot. Skye did not stay to blues the night away. Apparently, in previous years he has been mobbed by the ladies, and so, having his shy side, he now stays away.
There was a group of girls who clustered along one wall for much of the night. Having asked some to dance, it seemed rude to bypass others, so over the course of a few hours I asked them all. One of them cringed away from me and refused. Later I asked her again but got the same rather discouraging reaction. Perhaps she was shy. "Maybe she likes you," said Chester when I told him. He went on to relate that when he was young a girl kept hitting him, and she turned out to have liked him (until he hit her back once). Perhaps I'm odd, but I tend not avoid or strike women I like. I got to Lindy with her on another night and she smiled as we danced, so the shyness theory seems good.
The night was much like Week 2. I danced for most of the night, failed as usual to get off with anyone, and left in the bright light of the morning. As I was leaving, I saw a rather inscrutable Swedish girl leaving at the same time. I asked her if she'd had a nice night, and she said "I hate blues night." I asked her why. "I felt bad things. Men can be disgusting sometimes." Those are exact quotes - I wrote them down soon after she said them.
I have now been to an awful lot of Herräng blues nights, and I am yet to see anything nasty or rude happening on the dance floor. Women continue to complain, though, but as in this case, the women complaining are often those who have been dancing blues for eight hours straight, and so one might be forgiven for thinking that things can't really be so bad, or else they'd have left the floor long before. My guess is that they like blues dancing really, but that occasionally a chap does something to spoil it a bit. Studies of office sexual harassment have shown again and again that the same behaviour from different men gets radically different reactions from women. If a woman likes a man, then close contact can be quite welcome, but if she doesn't, then exactly the same degree of contact can make her feel revolting. So, guys, learn to read the signals - if she pulls away or tries gently to fend you off, keep your distance.
Back Beat 2
|I thought I'd go along and watch the Week 3 competitions. The fast feet happened as before, and there would be another 'back beat' competition. My partner from the previous week saw me and asked me to enter it with her. Off we went. This time, things would be tougher, but I didn't know how much tougher. We were told that the judges would be less tolerant of people dancing to the usual beats, and I knew that there had been one or two evening classes in dancing to the opposite beat, and so my opponents were more schooled. What I hadn't expected was such predatory judging.||
Controversy! Elliott, one of the judges, put his hand on my shoulder and ruled me out because I had put my right foot back on 1. Normally I would of course accept a judgement meekly, but I was rather surprised to be interrupted, and utterly certain that I had not gone wrong. I had done a forwards rock-step on 8, dammit. The crowd seemed displeased at something. Dax intervened, claiming to have seen that I was dancing correctly, and I was reinstated. Now, however, I had to dance with not one, not two, but three judges circling me. Somehow I survived another round.
We changed partners again, and mine now was an American guy, with a wacky and rather rhythmically liberated style. He counted, very loudly. I tried to ignore this and his various back-led suggestions, but it wasn't easy. The judges seemed determined to see me put a foot wrong, and my three shadows circled me with arms outstretched and ready to pounce (yes, literally). I didn't see them pay any of the other dancers any attention. They were giggling. Henric giggled more when I shouted "Stop counting - it's putting me off!" at my partner. Eventually I threw in the towel.
The winners of the back-beat competition this week were given three (first place), two (second) and one (third) scoops of ice cream as prizes. No retrospective prizes were awarded.
I'm told that I was robbed. One camper said that I was "kicking ass". She was American. Would you have guessed that? What I really missed was the ice cream.
Cabaret Week 3
I was to be in two acts. I signed up for them on the sheets (these limited the number of acts to seventeen) and even did some rehearsing. One was a sketch suggested by Peter the Assyrian from Chicago, and the other was the FIFA Lindy World Cup sketch with Peter Loggins and Chester. We had rehearsed this, although not with the full cast. Chester was going to be compèring the show, so (unusually) I knew where to go to meet him, but finding Peter was harder. Peter found me. Immediately I knew the news was bad. "Good news," he said. We would do the sketch the next week, with more rehearsal time, because this week he had food poisoning and would be busy visiting the loo. He had partaken of the crayfish at the teachers' crayfish party the night before, and things were restless in the tummy department. A short while later, Assyrian Peter came to me with near enough the same message about the other sketch, his reason being that he was too busy rehearsing other stuff to rehearse our sketch.
So I watched the show from out front. It was very hot in the audience. Acts included a restaging of the "walk off" scene from the film Zoolander, in which male models battled it out on the catwalk; two women dancing with laundry and ending up doing lots of aerials using shirts and trousers for partners.
|This man (top left) told a joke; the Hotshots (pictured) did a song and dance number; two sisters (not twins, though many people took them for twins) did a song, the pianist of them adding that if anyone wanted a haircut they should see her (two days later I did - 50 krona including beard trim - can't say fairer); Peter and Dan did their annual guitar and oboe duet; and everyone ended with the shim sham.|
The next day, in the evening meeting, Lennart grinned as he recounted the tale of how the crayfish were delivered frozen one hour before the party, and how it was recommended that they thawed for four hours, and how they had been put into the sauna for a rapid thaw, and how, thank goodness, no harm had come of this. I considered putting him right on that one.
Made in Sweden
Friday Week 3 was Made in Sweden night. Requests had been made for people to fulfil the role of moose for the party.
My costume was pretty low-quality. I was supposed to be a bit of Swedish crisp-bread. There is a brand well-known in Britain called Ryvita. There have been calls to go to war with Sweden over this. It is quite good as sandpaper, but no one who values his insides would try to ingest any. I couldn't find any suitable brown blotchy material for a shirt/top on my chosen theme so instead I just drilled (with a proper drill - quite necessary) holes in crisp-bread and hung this around my neck using wholemeal string. To draw attention to what I had done, I wore a foam-rubber triangle of cheese on my head. "Are you from Wisconsin?" three people asked me. Apparently there are 'cheeseheads' from there, and this may have been the origin of my headwear. I was surprised to hear a few people comment that I always wear the cheese hat. I wore it ONCE before, for the duration of one number, Wipe Out at the Woodstock party in 2003. So there. . This night, I kept the cheese on my head, as it acted as an effective sweatband, and it seemed to be playing the game to keep my costume on, no matter how feeble or maligned.
|Ulla Ritamaki from Finland has contributed this photo' she took of me using her mobile 'phone. Not trusting the cheese to do its job, I am also employing my finger to indicate the theme of my costume. Nice back-lit effect on the cheese, I think you'll agree. For contrast, she also sent me the picture on the right, showing what a proper costume looks like. He is dressed as a tube of pink caviar.|
|I followed the ferry in. A group of people had done up a camper van as a ferry, and this made its stately way to the Folketshus, using a CD provided by me of Night Boat to Cairo by Madness for a fog-horn sound effect. I never got a decent picture of it, because it was surrounded by people, and my new digital camera is a bit rubbish, but here you can see its prow and one side.|
|On the way in, I took this shot of the road through Herräng, populated by people on the way to the evening party, because I think this image is quite evocative of the camp, for people who have been there.
Costumes included red wooden houses, and dresses made out of Ikea bags. There were surprisingly few Vikings.
Pippi Longstocking is a popular character in Sweden, and inspired many costumes. Here you can see the Pippi Longstocking arm-wrestling table, where super-strong cartoon characters contested.||The Swedish chef, from The Muppet Show. Not a popular character in Sweden. They try to pass him off as Danish.|
A Swedish folk band, doing its thing. I think they were a bit confused as to their role, because most people were milling about, taking digital photographs, and generally ignoring them. Note the unusual instruments (very blurred - blame my camera).||
Here we see Fatima giving Swedish lessons. There is a tradition at Herräng that no one who gives Swedish lessons is actually Swedish.||Doctor Dan from New York doing his bit for free Swedish health care. Not sure which part of his patient's anatomy is receiving his attention here.|
|A Swedish milk carton in human form. On right of frame is a chap wearing a very tasteful Porn Star T-shirt, which was another theme chosen by some.||They built a really very pretty and impressive thing like a Maypole, covered in white-flower-bearing leafy branches. I didn't see this used for anything, however.|
I was standing over on the right side of the van/ferry, and could smell an awful smell. I didn't mention it of course, but just politely moved thirty paces over to my left. The smell was still there. I traced the source of this appalling odour to this one, single, solitary, on its own, and without any others, tin. It contained rotting fish, and they were giving certificates out to people who ate any. I declined. The same table had the revolting mini-teabags of tobacco the Swedes call Snus. Sweden is the only country in the EU whose regulations allow this stuff. I think the fish was a mistake to have at the party, because I could still smell it six hours later wherever I was.|
||Another character by the creator of Miss Longstocking has a propeller on his back, and was emulated by many.
|(Left) Tom Kerwin and his Swedish lady-friend whom he met at Herräng. What a guy.|
(Right) Here we see the curiously tall and narrow winner of three Herräng dance competitions, and of the accompanying lavish prizes.
|While all this was going on, hidden away the other side of the Folketshus, there was moose hunting. I don't know how many people were ever aware of this. I arrived late. The poor fools who had volunteered to man the moose costume were the target of a paintball gun, and had to run around the wood being pelted with high-velocity pigment. Here we see them after their ordeal, still smiling, or perhaps now smiling because it is all over. Actually, I don't know if the one in the back is smiling. Did they learn of their fate in time to back out? I don't know. Certainly the planned jape had been leaked to me before the night.||
Inside the library there were many posters of Swedish bands, all of which looked laughably Swedish. This is one example. Oddly, the walls of the Bar Bedlam had, the previous week, been covered with vast maps of Sweden during the Rome party, but this week the maps were absent. I was told that they had been mislaid.
At about midnight, the band came on in the Folketshus, giving us a short concert of Swedish pop music, and I'm happy to report that they only did one Abba number ("Super Trooper", ably sung by Anna Brännström). It was crowd-pleasing stuff. Henric Stillman was a star as a frontman/vocalist. I'm not sure what he's planning with his hair, though - he seems to be on the path to the Heavy Metal roadie look.
Some people dressed up as ninjas and invaded the Folketshus dance floor. Their plan was concerted enough for them all to arrive at once in uniform, but beyond that they had nothing much planned beyond striking various karate poses. Their plan had been betrayed to the pirates. The pirates had rehearsed a dance routine and had got the DJ to collude and play their song when the ninjas struck. In rushed the pirates and they danced to ninjas off the floor. Piracy has a longer tradition at Herräng than ninjacy.
Eden from New York announced at the evening meeting that there would be a burlesque show that night, in the library, price 20 krona. I got the impression from her patter that she was somehow involved with the group that did the show, but actually her part was to add just one number - a dance by four chaps ("something for the ladies," as she put it). She finished her sales pitch by reaching into her dress and plucking out two nipple covers with tassels on that she twirled by hand. Sold.
There were to be two showings, I queued for the first and got a seat on a cushion one row back. The group was I think from Stockholm, and was perhaps performing for the wrong audience. The audience was made up of very musical people, who could all dance, who had mostly been in a fair few shows, and who were used to the physical proximity of strangers, even those wearing few clothes. I quite enjoyed the show. It was short, and I hadn't had high expectations. I did notice, though, that the choreography was primitive and tended to ignore a lot of what the music was doing. There was no tassel twirling. A pair of tassels was revealed in the last number, but then not twirled, which was a disappointment, and, given Eden's implied promise, may have been grounds for a refund. They threw sweets and roses into the audience, they smiled, and two of them bore a lot of tattoos (one had "Live every day like it's your last" all down one side). The best act was the four men, because it was the funniest, and it was set accurately to the music. They came on with ultra-serious looks on their faces, bodies oiled, and struck silly poses. They repeated this act in an evening meeting a couple of days later. Eden had asked me to be in it. I am so very very glad I didn't accept. Had I shown so much of my body, there would have been howls of disappointment from the crowd.
Word got round very quickly that the show was rubbish. I think that this was a bit unfair. I heard that the audience for the second showing was smaller.
I decided not to try to register at the usual time, because this has never worked for me before. Instead I would register after the evening meeting. Thrice I went to Reception to change money, and was thrice told very clearly that I would be able to change money and register at the same time in the basement. Guess what - I couldn't. I queued along the corridor, down the stairs, and through the basement and was then told to go to reception and change money there. I came back and joined the queue again. While queuing, a guy I didn't know bought drinks for me and a few others around him. I'm not sure he got his money's worth back from us in entertainment.
First thing (well, 10 a.m. actually, but this is now first thing at Herräng) was the audition for advanced Lindy hop. Everyone putting himself down for this elite category had to show himself worthy, and they were splitting us into three groups. For some reason, I wasn't feeling very nervous. My hope and expectation was to end up in Advanced 2. I think I would have been disappointed with Advanced 3, and Advanced 1 might be a bit high-pressure. We danced, swapped partners, danced some more, and did this until the teachers had put little coloured stickers on us all. One of my early partners got a blue sticker with a "3" written on it stuck on her. A while later, I was dancing with another partner and three teachers passed me by, then a fourth came along and stickered me. I saw a flash of yellow and felt his thumb press the sticker on near my shirt collar, just out of my vision. Did the colour mean anything? I struggled to see it, pulling in my chin as far as it would go, like a handcuffed man with a deadly spider crawling up his neck. "It's just a sticker," he said. It had a little "1" on it. I still had to dance on, because there were plenty of women with no stickers on them. I danced with another, and she seemed to be following everything I led fine. A "2" was stuck on her. This was all feeling a bit random.
Some were very disappointed with their stickers. Frida had a small mob to deal with after the session. I cannot tell you what the standard was like in Advanced 2 or 3 because I stayed with Advanced 1 the whole week. Certainly within my class it varied, and there were some women who were probably more suited to a lower level. Watching a woman dance with a guy is not the best way to tell how good she is, because his quality is such a big factor in how good she looks. Dancing with her tells you a lot more. I don't know that my class did much that other classes didn't. One French woman joined us the next day, having missed the audition. The same woman was in my (top) class at the Snow Ball. The first couple of times passport control checked my class, she seemed to wander off, and then return after they had gone. She should have been in the intermediate class. I once saw her stay for passport control, and though she had no sticker on her passport, she seemed to pass the inspection. Should I have said something? I didn't, of course.
Should I have been in Advanced 1? Can't tell you. I got the moves, and with the best followers led them all right, but as ever some of the followers seemed less than impressed. For the first year ever, I think I noted down all of the moves before I forgot them. My noting down moves surprises a lot of people. I am surprised that all leaders don't write down moves. Yes, I really can put together a move learned and forgotten years ago, by using my notes.
|In the last lesson on the course, with Cookie and Tom, we were asked what Herräng meant to us. "Mosquito bites, sleep deprivation, and ice cream" was my answer. We were asked about what it meant to be 'advanced'. The American women in the group said that they would not be in the top stream in the USA, and this echoed a number of remarks I have heard that lessons over there have a higher standard.||
My passport, at the end of it all.
It's official: I can dance a bit.
There were three or four of these a day, each of eighty minutes. My teachers were:
Angela "Cookie" Andrew and Tom Kerwin: from London, Cookie was the veteran and Tom the novice. They taught a jazz routine, some moves from which they then added to partnered figures. The second time they taught us, there were far fewer people in the class. Some people choose to skip lessons by some teachers, and seek out extra lessons with teachers they like. I just do the course. How, though, do people find out which lessons are taught by which teachers? The schedules given to the customers show the times and places of classes, but not the teachers. The teachers' schedules are secret documents, and yet somehow loads of people seem to get wind of who is teaching specific lessons. I did look at a teacher's schedule once, for the purpose of finding a time to rehearse a cabaret act with him. It was interesting to see how many lessons (lots) were scheduled to be taught by "XX" (i.e. not known at time of printing). Tom held his own, doing much of the talking, and it gives hope to me to see him succeed.
Skye Humphreys and Frida Segerdahl: taught us straight Lindy hop. Skye has a vigorous and bouncy style, and Frida can follow anything. Sometimes I found that the only way I could get some of his moves to work at all was to emulate his particular style of movement, because the extra bounces he puts in seem to be part of the impetus for the moves. It was good to see him go wrong while trying to demonstrate his moves and break them down, because it shows him to be human and fallible, but when he nailed a move he really nailed it. These two also taught a routine of challenging moves to be danced to breakneck-speed music, which we just about managed, although the twisty variant of the hand-to-hand Charleston was murder on my knees.
Peter Loggins who sometimes taught with a partner from America called Mia. He taught us a Lindy-like partnered Charleston dance from the very early days of swing dance. Peter is someone who has put of lot of study into the roots of Lindy hop, and seeks to pass on his learning to preserve a degree of "authenticity". I was talking to him about this in respect to competitions. Some competitions are judged by the acclamation of the crowd. In such circumstances the winner is usually the one who didn't do the dance specified. In a salsa competition, one way to win would be to break off into Lindy, do an aerial, the crowd goes wild - victory. In a Lindy competition, go into break dancing, spin on your head, please the crowd, and win. The opposite extreme is to have dance competitions judged solely by professional dancers who look for strict adherence to the specified dance form, but this stifles the competitors and can lead to unpopular results. His solution was to have some dancers and some non-dancing celebrities in the panel, such as the local mayor.
Hasse Mattsson and Marie Nahnfeldt, boogie-woogie dancers from Sweden, who said that they were nervous to teach Lindy to Advanced One. They needn't have been. They are both very nice, and really know how to partner dance. They taught some very nice moves, and gave an interesting styling tip: dance as if you have a sword with its tip stuck in your navel, with a very heavy hilt, and as if for some reason it is important for the blade to be horizontal. In other words, keep your abdominal muscles braced, and this will give your posture power and your dance more energy. Marie is one of the few teachers to be seen dancing socially in the evenings. Hasse is sadly missed by the ladies of the camp in this role, and I told him, and he said that he gets migraines if he overheats which happens in the crowded Folketshus.
Henric Stillman and Joanna Ericsson also Swedish boogie-woogiers. These were described by one girl as "the liquid chocolate couple". Understandably popular, they danced with a smooth effortlessness, and a visible love of the dance and of each other. They taught us some nice conventional Lindy.
Steven Mitchell and Virginie Jensen: Steven had been teaching his gospel routines in earlier weeks and now he was joined by Virginie to teach partnered Lindy. I got more out of his Lindy class than in previous years. Perhaps he is better at teaching, or perhaps I am more ready for him now. Probably a bit of both. One lesson was almost entirely devoted to one move, which I still had trouble with. I had more success with his variations on simple walking, and his foxtrot. I found that I could add in the bounces, and sometimes even take my partner with me.
Dawn Hampton: On Tuesday at 15.20 my class and all the other advanced Lindy people went to the Folketshus. Dawn did three of these sessions, covering everyone doing a course at the camp. She called herself our "awakener", trying to bring out the dancers in us. It was pretty much the same stuff she says every year, but she has polished this lecture over the years into something pretty good. She is now 78. It ended with everyone getting up to dance to the usual Bangra number and then a great number I must try to get hold of: "For Dancers Only" by Junior Mance.
For the first time, I got no teaching from Chester, nor any of the other Harlem Hotshots. I have still never been taught by Daniel Heedman.
Monday Week 4
Got up, had breakfast at the Yum Yum canteen (they call it a 'restaurant' but there are no waiters), then went back to bed until my first lesson at 12.40.
This night was one of the best, if not the best. The Carling Family did a show in the Folketshus, complete with magic tricks, contortion acts, balancing and juggling, and lots of jazz. It was all good, although I had seen most of it before. For me, the highlight was an amazing jazz solo on the bagpipes. I just wish I had a recording of this powerful version of Amazing Grace, so that I could play it to Scottish bagpipers and say "There, you see, you can play bagpipes with rhythm and feeling!"
I went on to dance the 'contact Lindy' jam in the library, then went on to have a great night's dancing. For some reason, I never got tired, and danced the whole night through. I was on rare form. Every dance was good. I danced with the shy Lithuanian. I danced with a girl whom I was partnering in 2000 when Bill Borgida put Hi Di Ho by K7 on, and I had utterly failed to cope. This time, we danced well, and she smiled. She was very, very good. I remember the way she triple-stepped out from me to build up the tension. If only every night could be like this one.
Wednesday Week 4
|I stepped out of my tent to see a magnificent sight: two old biplanes painted in bright colours flew low overhead. I went back into my tent to get my camera, judging that they were bound to circle round for another pass. They didn't, so all I got was this feeble shot of them in the distance. This was one of the 'cultural activities' of the week. They were offering twenty-minute 'plane trips for 200 krona. I would have gone along but I judged (correctly) that the service would be oversubscribed. They said they may lay on more 'planes next year.||
There was an unusually wide menu of things on offer for cultural activities: games, sports, lectures, a preview of a documentary on faked Mayan crop circles, sunbathing with (or without) Åsa Palm, boat trips to the islands, and much more, many of which I'd have liked to do. I did none. Sleep was more important.
Third Blues Night
There had been much grumbling about the music in the first two blues nights. People were saying that they wanted stuff that was more 'soulful', whatever that means. Blues night Week 4 started with the usual blues music, and then a different DJ came on, and played very different stuff. My main complaint about the other bluesy music was that it was all the same. Now we had different blues music that was all the same. This was later stuff, with a thumpy-thumpy beat and lots of shouts of "Ow!" in the James Brown style. I preferred the previous sameness to this new sameness. The reaction was split. Many people left the floor because they didn't like the new blues music, while others professed to be pleased with it. I remember some American-voiced approval of the lyric "I just want a man who knows how to push it in."
Am I better or worse at blues dancing? I can't tell. It could be that I peaked in 1999 and have been going downhill ever since. Back then I danced far more of the time in a torso-to-torso hug, but then I was dancing to different music. Back then I was enjoying myself more, but then it was novel. One dancer, who was very good in 1999 but who was unimpressed by my dancing then, not only smiled with apparent pleasure when dancing with me this year, but actually consented to dance again later in the evening.
As always, there were enough women happy to dance the blues to keep things going. Some were even too keen. I remember one young pretty partner who went straight into a very close hold with me. I led her back out into a distant hold and slowly danced my way back in. Getting in close feels better if you spend a while on the way there.
Cabaret Week 4
I was set to do the sketch with Peter and Dan, and was expecting to do the FIFA act as well, which was put in the running order as the closing act. Not only this, but it had been mooted that I would do an act of some sort with a Swiss lady, Nadeschkin, who worked as a professional theatre entertainer. She didn't want to do anything half-baked, though, because she had professional pride. I had made a yellow card, a stretcher, a sign saying "Extra time 2 bars", found a whistle, and found a dance partner for the FIFA sketch. No sign of Peter, though. I rushed around and eventually tracked him down to his flat, where he had gone to sleep. The sketch was off. Perhaps we could shoot it on video the next day. I arranged this with Fish the cameraman (in the event, Thor intervened and rained the shoot off).
I rehearsed the other sketch: a scene from one of the Pink Panther movies (the good ones, with Peter Sellers). We had the costumes and props together, and had finally agreed on the staging. It had occurred to me to translate the two key lines of the sketch for the benefit of the Russians in the audience (there are now so many Russians that the camp makes bilingual signs for them). Not wishing to give the game away, I asked two different Russians to translate the two lines. These were:
I wrote these onto big bits of card. We had never actually done the whole sketch all the way through, but we were ready enough.
We were asked to get up on stage and dance in the background of the first act, to give the show an energetic start. Dutifully, I and a fair few others went up and Mark started rapping something about a woman with a large bottom. We did our hip-hop macho 'heurgh!' moves, and then did some more. This was a very long rap number. The audience almost certainly couldn't hear, but rebellious dancers at the back were, after the fifth verse, contributing alternative lyrics pleading for the number to end. I think the song concluded that the lady in question's bottom was indeed very large.
We did our sketch. The biggest laugh we got was when the first card was shown to the audience. I, playing the hotel receptionist, replied 'no' to this question. The dog then chased Peter (Inspector Clouseau) off the stage and there Peter and Dan made growling noises, ripped up cloth, and Peter took off his outer trousers to reveal ripped trousers beneath, while I casually read the paper. Peter then re-entered, said "I thought you said your dog did not bite," and I delivered the punch line (translated on the second card). He then left, and I went back to reading the paper, and waited for the curtain to close. I waited rather a long time, and was wondering what I was going to do if it still hadn't closed after a full minute of reading the paper. I suppose I could have started singing.
I came off the stage, and went back down to the bar, and then remembered that I was supposed to be in another act: the Swiss lady had come up with a gag for me. She would finish her act (dancing with a bottle of water on her head), bow, drop the bottle, then pretend to hurt her back when bending to pick it up, and I would come on and straighten her up, making a horrible back-cracking noise as I did so. I was a bit nervous, partly because of her professed high standards, and partly because we had only rehearsed it once. She found two (one for rehearsal, one for performance) stiff plastic cups. I would crush one under my arm to make the noise. I stuffed it up my sleeve, and gave it a go. There was a bit of business to work out, getting the microphone to pick up the noise, but in the event it worked fine. Phew. I even got a little laugh by pulling a face before getting off stage.
Other acts included three 'Italians' in sharp suits dancing and doing party-piece flips; the 'shy man' from Germany being embarrassed by a woman serenading him with My Baby Just Cares For Me (he ended this with a very convincing kick to her head); a group from Edinburgh doing a disco routine; and a glow-in-the-dark poy-swinging act. We were then supposed to all go up and shim sham, and I wondered why people were being so slow about it, then realised that half the people in the bar weren't performers at all, but just people proving how cool they were by being where they weren't supposed to be. I was last on stage, which meant I ended up at the front, but at least I got to leave first.
This was the theme for the last party. They set up a gazebo on the path, and had several men dressed in black suits as bouncers. The pretence was that it was very difficult to get in. They kept us queuing, only admitting people a few at a time, and the bouncers acted mean. In front of the Folketshus they had a small dance floor, and around this three podiums on which disco divas gyrated. There was a short lesson in the 'hustle', which is a curious six-count partner dance popular in America in the '70s, which, when I tried it, felt like trying to waltz to disco music. The demonstration dance made it look quite slick, though, and then there was a hustle competition, the winners being those who danced most energetically, sexily, and in the best costumes. Unfortunately, people crowded round to see the lesson and the competition, which meant that very few people saw anything at all. They should have asked people to back off.
We were then told that inside there was the 'Red Room', the 'White Lounge' and behind the building was a "surprise". I went round the back. Inside the dansbanan was a surprise. Attached to the ceiling was an unfamiliar gadget, and beneath this was a big sheet of plastic, covering the floor, and coming up to make a wall about four feet tall all around. Within this pool, were an awful lot of white bubbles. It was a foam pool. A few people stood in it, idly tossing clumps of foam around. Lights flashed and disco music played.
I have to say that at this point, I was not in a good mood. A feeling of failure and doom had settled over me, and I could quite happily have settled down with a good book. The theme of the party had not inspired me. I am old enough to remember the '70s, and I can report that though I was but a little kid at the time, even then I knew that I lived in a time principally characterised by low-brow tat. The music went doo-cha doo-cha, and the colours orange, chocolate brown, and purple never looked good together.
I suppose I embark on things in the hope that something will happen, and by and large things do not. You might imagine that an awful lot of coupling occurs at Herräng. If you put that number of young men and women in one place and set them loose with parties, alcohol, dancing, and no responsibilities for a few weeks, then you would imagine that a high proportion would get off with each other. Herräng, though, has a strange atmosphere in which such behaviour does not flourish. I'm sure many friends are made at the camp, and I'm sure that many romances have had their seeds there, but nothing much of that sort of thing happens at the camp itself. People are there to dance, and for the dancing to work, people have to understand that a dance is just a dance, and there is a fostering of respect that runs counter to snogging. If a chap propositions a woman, the spell is broken, and the situation spoiled (this assumes she says the usual 'no'), and the pair might not enjoy dances with each other as they had before. The women at Herräng are very friendly, but perhaps they are more friendly than usual precisely because they are not expecting to get propositioned.
One goes to a party normally with some sense of hope, and no matter how vain, this hope is sustaining. After two and half weeks, this was wearing thin. I felt a bit tired and ill, and as though they could add another 'failed' to my tombstone: "Here lies Lloyd, failed writer, failed film maker, failed photographer, and failed dancer (but apparently a decent enough bloke)."
And then a nice young lady asked me to go with her into the foam pool. One doesn't like to disappoint, and so I took off my boots and carefully mounted the slippery steps and climbed in. The foam was essentially soap bubbles, which were now pouring out of the ceiling-mounted pump, and the floor surface was smooth plastic, and we were barefoot. Yes, it was slippy. I never fell over, as I was careful to keep my feet moving at all times, making little circles with them. The foam near the edges was a lot colder than the stuff in the centre. No one went wild, but I was still comparatively half-hearted as I flailed up foam from the waist-high mass. After I felt I'd shown enough willing, I left. I fear I may have disappointed the lady.
They played disco 'music' in the main hall for an hour, so I stayed out. They were dancing Balboa again in the library and I gave it a few goes. I was glad to notice that I can still Balboa through an entire number and interpret the music to some extent, and even get my partner to follow me most of the time, although I still don't seem to be able to do this without her bursting out laughing at least once.
There was gambling in the Hang Out room, but the odds they were offering were dreadful. I was wet through from the foam, but drying fast enough, thanks in part to my wearing British army lightweights, which dry uncannily fast. My costume was feeble, and involved an '80s shirt and a '60s paisley bandanna, which averaged out in the '70s. I took no photographs this night, and not one photograph of myself this year, although possibly people may contribute some. I think the foam pool deserves an illustration.
|Alakazam! Tom Kerwin has contributed this illustration of the foam pool. It seldom looked quite this full, nor the inhabitants quite so doused.|
|Andy Lewis sent in this shot of Nadia, whose back I pretended to crack back into place in the cabaret. She's the tall one. I am still drying out from my time in the foam pool. Incidentally, I said last year that I should extend my trouser legs, and here are those same trousers, now extended.|
There was some debate as to which was the Red Room, and which the White Lounge. You may think that it would be obvious, but they had taken the Bar Bedlam, a room that is normally red, and put up white things in it, and the Blue Moon Café upstairs, which is white, and put up a few red things in it, and so both rooms were red and white. It might have been better to have done things the other way around.
It was the last night, so I stayed up late and danced a bit, then I went to breakfast, and then to sleep.
I never did get to DJ. I'd asked Mohan about it a few times. He probably just forgot, every day, for a fortnight.
Saturday 29th July
It had been dry all the time I was there, but the Norse gods know when I am taking a tent down, and did not break their tradition of raining when I had to pack. Despite my having eaten a load of food that was packed in my back-pack on arrival, my pack was heavier on the way out than on the way in, the extra weight presumably being water. I had to take 4 kg (8 lbs 13.2 oz) out of my pack to get it under the 20 kg (44 lbs 1.4 oz) weight limit at the airport.
I went to the bus stop and waited. The local loony, who had bought me a drink in the Folkethus in 2004, was there, ranting on about the number of people killed in World War Two. I noticed that he was wearing an Adolf Hitler T-shirt. One German girl got a bit upset, but I think the rest of us took it in our stride. We took various buses to Stockholm, and then dispersed. There was a dance at the Kulturhuset in the centre of town, starting at 7 p.m., and as I had nothing better to do, I walked. On my way I noticed what must be the ugliest building in Stockholm, and photographed it. It turned out to be an architecture school, which was predictable.
|Three bands played on top of the building. There was a spot of rain but not enough to spoil things. When the dancing started, the locals, mainly people in their forties and fifties, started dancing. Impressively, they were doing proper Lindy hop, but they had the clunky mechanical look of beginners and intermediates. When I took to the floor, I felt, for a short while, like a smooth expert. Then enough Herräng people turned up to spoil this illusion. I recall one dance I had with a local lady, and how I managed to get her to dance at the top edge of her ability, and how much smoother she was by the end than at the start. Nice.|
I had not found anywhere to stay, and by this stage it looked as though I would be spending the night at the airport, but the world of Lindy came to my rescue, as someone there knew someone who could put me up. He was a Lindy hopper, and that I was a Lindy hopper was a good enough introduction for him. I crashed out on his living room floor, and slept until noon.
As I stepped out of the boarding gate at Amsterdam airport, a concerned airline staff lady asked me if I was all right. I explained that I had been to a dance camp for a fortnight, and that this accounted for my not knowing what was going on nor which way was up.
Back in Newcastle, the world seemed unreal. All the social norms were different. I saw in the papers that the Israelis had decided to give war yet another chance. Why do people live like this?
No amount of your tedious ramblings seems to be enough. Show me the next one!
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