Here is another re-post, with apologies to those who are getting fed up with me. Sometimes remembering the past jolts my decaying brain cells and points me to another 'story'.
Oct 7, 2008 4:18 PM
No, that is not her dancing with Victor Silvester, the Len Goodman of his day, at least I don't think so. I found this picture, from 1930, in Google images, when she would have been nineteen. The resemblance to mother is strong and I know there were photos of her with him but I cannot swear that this is one of them.
A lot of the stories told to us by our parents have to be taken on trust and my belief in the validity of her tales is strengthened by the fact that, although mother had her faults, lying was not one of them.
Mother was the product of her mother's seduction by the son of the couple she worked for as a maid in a large house in one of London's famous Squares. According to family history, the father was a Viscount. My dear Aunt Midge always promised to tell me 'the name', but died with her lips sealed. My Grandmother could not bear the sight of the product of her 'shame' and mother left home very young. Dates are sketchy...oh how I wish I had paid more attention, asked more questions...the young are more interested in themselves; but sometime between leaving home and having her first child in 1932, mum was a showgirl and a dancer.
I had a picture of her that I treasured, sadly it was forgotten and left, with many other irreplaceable pictures, in a box on top of a cupboard when we emigrated to Canada. She is on stage, in a tableau with a dozen other girls. She is posed, kneeling sideways on to the camera, her arms behind her, her head back, and she is very nude. She looked like one of those small ivory and bronze statues...very beautiful.
Victor Silvester was a Bandleader, born in 1900, and was very very famous up until the day he died in 1978. His sound was 'strict tempo', no flying solos, no fireworks, just 'slow, slow, quick quick, slow'. He had started out as a dance teacher and continued to teach even as a bandleader. Mother was just one of his many partners.
Mum would dance at the drop of a hat [if my stepfather was not around] Back would go the furniture and she would pull one or another of us into her arms and try to teach us the intricacies of the waltz, the foxtrot or the quick step, her long legs gliding, her arms lined to perfection, and her feet, in the high heels she loved, pointed and elegant.
The dancing stopped for her, in the early fifties, when she was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis. She was 44.
The illness progressed very slowly, little by little taking away all her joi de vivre. We had been estranged for a number of years, not surprising really, given our history, but when I heard of her illness I went to see her and we made a sort of peace. By then she was walking with two sticks, had gained weight and lost her sparkle; no more flirting with the milkman, no more singing and no more dancing.
Much later...a marriage and three children later, we were in a position to offer her a haven in the Retirement Home that we owned. By now a quadriplegic she spent all her time in her room on the first floor. She had a Possum machine that could open and close doors, turn lights and the TV and radio on and off, and could turn the pages of her book, simply with the power of Puff and Blow. Her favourite paintings and photographs were on the walls and we were living in the building, so she had family around her. I think she grew to love me.
She read extensively and watched quite a lot of television, especially, and to me, amazingly, Cricket and Snooker. But the one program that gave her the most pleasure, was 'Come Dancing'. For there, with his 'slow, slow, quick quick slow,' was Victor Silvester and his Band. That first series of shows, which continued for many years, was a contest of amateurs, with professional dancers giving exhibitions. The women's gowns were full and flowing fluffy layers of tulle in glorious pastel colours and the men wore white tie and tails. It was an extravaganza of nostalgia, and mum was in heaven.
Now, when I watch Strictly Come Dancing, or the American Version, Dancing with the Stars, I smile, and can see mother, gliding and skipping and swaying, and hear her singing, in time to the music: Slow, slow, quick quick slow.
Written for mum.
I cannot walk, or wash my face
And the things you do that are commonplace
Are realms of fantasy for me.
A grandchild's gift
to be carefully chosen
Is an ordinary thing through which my dreams are woven.
My gratitude for simple things is tinged with blue
Better to do for others
Than have them done for you.
Bet yet, I live, and breathe
And while a can, my being here, and being
Is enough, and I'll not grieve.
For I have given life three times
And done the best I know
So there will be something here of me
Even when I go.
Awarded Post of the day at Authorblog, thank David!