Dancing Around Our Zimmer Frames with Generation Z
Dancing Around Our Zimmer Frames with Generation Z
(c) Jane Risdon 2013
Since writing this piece in 2013, I have had several people read it again and mention it to me. The subject often comes up when talking about music and what life in a Residential Home might be for the Baby Boomers when they get to ‘that’ age.
I thought I’d share it again.
I hope you enjoy it and it gets you thinking.
I think we should start a movement to ensure that such places have a decent music collection available for those of us born in the 1950s and after, for whom George Formby and Pearl Johnson and Teddy Carr – wonderful in their day – is the stuff of nightmares.
At primary school we had Country dancing lessons and it was a good opportunity for the boys to grab the girls and fling them from one end of the gymnasium to the other when the ‘Caller,’ shouted, ‘Change partners.’
Later, at the Convent school we didn’t have dancing as it probably meant ‘touching’ each other, but we did dance around the May pole, trying not to tangle the ribbons or go the wrong way, which is a special feat one of my sisters still manages much to the totally cringing embarrassment of her children.
When we celebrated the crowning of Mary, Queen of The May, we sort of skipped about a bit in our white dresses, all very proper, overseen by The Mother Superior, so there wasn’t any opportunity to grab or be grabbed.
Big school saw us learning how to do the ‘Dashing White Sergeant,’ and ‘The Gay Gordons,’ – nope, not a Gay Scottish dance! I was a dab hand at the ‘Valeta Snowball,’ in spite of the boys still wanting to fling me from one side of the Gym to the other whenever we had to be twirled.
About the same time as we were tripping the light fantastic with our pubescent male partners, The Beatles and Chubby Checker were doing ‘The Twist,’ and up and down the country the sexes danced apart and around each other. Our school dances saw us all ‘twisting’ and ‘shaking it up baby,’ and doing ‘The March of The Mods,’ under the watchful eyes of various teachers, ensuring we didn’t ‘shake it up,’ too much behind the bike sheds in between dances.
Meantime, at various family weddings our parents still waltzed up and down, jitter-bugged and attempted to ‘Walk the dog,’ and ‘Do the locomotion,’ much to the horror of their children who watched ‘the oldies,’ making complete idiots of themselves. I can recall my Dad nearly slipping a disc doing ‘The Twist,’ and hobbling off the dance floor much to my great relief, before I died of embarrassment in front of all the eligible young men I’d discovered lurking near the bar.
Towards the middle to late nineteen sixties something called a Discotheque appeared and every town had one so it seemed. Our nearest town had one every Sunday afternoon in the old dance hall where my parents had quick stepped to the likes of Edmundo Ros, and smooched to Nat King Cole, when they were courting.
We were the generation who hoped ‘We all die before we get old,’ and who cringed at anyone over twenty-five, who we deemed ‘too old and over the hill,’ to know anything about life and us – teenagers. We died of shame at them dancing, or behaving like we did.
The Discotheque (not known as a Disco at that time), was a cool place to hang out. We could listen to the latest Singles and Long Playing Records (later known as albums), whilst checking out the opposite sex from underneath our Cathy McGowan fringes and Dusty Springfield blacked eyes, faces pale with Max Factor foundation, across the distance of table and chairs grouped round the outside of the dance floor. There was something we all thought so sophisticated – from Italy – called Espresso (coffee), and we also had Pepsi Cola and Coca Cola in long-necked bottles with straws. Such decadence.
The boys didn’t dance, they just stood and watched the girls and smoked. The girls danced self-consciously in pairs or groups of four or five, around their handbags piled in the middle of them, on the floor. There was a whole lot of shaking going on to The Mersey Beats, The Beatles, The Swinging Blue Jeans, Herman’s Hermits, The Walker Brothers, The Rolling Stones, The Kinks, and the latest music from America; Sam and Dave, Otis Redding, Wilson Pickett, and all the Motown and Phil Spector bands and vocalists who were so new and exciting. Suddenly we didn’t want to listen to Frank Ifield, Matt Munro or Frank Sinatra.
Woodstock and the Isle of Wight festivals led us into long flowing robes, free love and flower-power and boys with hair to their shoulders and hips to die for. We danced and swayed to Dylan, Joan Baez, and Peter, Paul and Mary and Barry McGuire, who reminded us we were all ‘On the Eve of Destruction.’ No-one held each other to dance, everyone ‘did their own thing.’
It was The Summer of Love and we weren’t going to miss out.
Slam diving, stage diving, and moshing took over eventually and boys were back in the game, dancing on their own, throwing themselves around like the demented. Girls stood and watched and kept money ready to make the 999 phone call to summon an ambulance if one of them misjudged the crowd, and landed on their head and not in the arms of their mates, when they launched themselves off of speaker stacks and high stages.
Disco bounced into our lives with Donna Summer, The Bee Gees and John Travolta and we were all strutting our stuff under the mirrored globes in nightclubs, where lighted floors, strobes and laser lighting created monsters of us all, reflected in the mirrored walls. Everyone dressed to impress. Image was the thing. We all had a swagger to our walk and the boys knew how to swagger the most.
By this time our children were ‘disco’ mad too and it was our turn to be the ‘oldies,’ not safe out alone and certainly not allowed on the dance floor in polite company. They were ‘Dirty Dancing’ to ‘Fame,’ and ‘Grease,’ and holding your partner became all the rage again. But not for parents. That was deemed ‘gross,’ and a step too far.
TV shows featuring ballroom dancing, Latin American dancing and everything in-between has taken off in a big way.
When I was young we could watch Victor Silvester on his TV show ‘Come Dancing,’ – all sequins and taffeta – but only on a black and white set.
Which brings me to afternoon tea dances which are becoming more and more popular now, not that I could ever imagine myself at one, but people are going to them again. I am not sure which generation.
Then I wonder about myself and my generation. We still listen to the music of our youth, and our children enjoy it too, but we also listen to their music as well. I think about my mother’s generation and The Big Bands of the nineteen forties and Rock and Roll of the nineteen fifties.
Whenever you see a nursing home or a retirement home on TV these days, the music they are singing along to is the music of their generation; Sinatra, Crosby and Guy Mitchell, Patsy Cline and so on. They sing along to the piano player pounding out ‘Knees up mother Brown,’ and ‘Roll out the Barrel,’ and I get a funny sensation as I wonder what my generation will be singing along to when we are in nursing homes and the ‘entertainment’ turns up.
I have a vision of a row of tattooed women with face piercings, dancing around their Zimmer frames, watched by rows of elderly men, similarly tattooed and pierced, in sweat-shirts and jeans, longing for a joint and a pint, singing along to ‘Rock and Roll,’ by Led Zeppelin, ‘My Generation,’ by The Who and ‘Dancing Queen,’ by Abba….followed by ‘God Save the Queen,’ by the Sex Pistols. A ‘mosh pit,’ would be in the middle of the room and those brave enough and whose knees still worked, would try to launch themselves off of the leg rests of their geriatric recliners, shouting ‘Up the revolution.’
Outside, Para-medics would be busy loading exhausted ‘Generation Zimmer,’ into their ambulances. For a change they are not being abused and sworn at – shouts of ‘peace and love’ would fill the air with offers to share a spliff – for medicinal purpose of course.
Now there’s a thought.