Saturday, 7 March 2015

Grand Bend, Ontario


Being semi-retired (ha ha), I thought I had enough time to take on various un-paid projects for the sake of the community (ha ha ha), but I've just backed out of another one, making two retreats in as many months.

Telling people that you specialise in delegating doesn't seem to work. Everyone seems to think that they can point their fingers in just as good a direction as I can, so I've told them to get on and do it then.

What am I going to do with all this spare time? I know, take up ballroom dancing.

Actually, I have already learned ballroom dancing, way back when I was about 30.

There is a huge ex-theatre come cinema here called 'The Forum', but sadly it seems to have been taken over by a bunch of lunatic Christians - there's plenty of those about.

When I was touring with the theatre company, I was encouraged to attend these dancing classes by the couple who were the performers in the troupe, and we went to The Forum once a week for quite a few weeks.

The main reason for going was the cheap bar - it was really cheap, and we couldn't wait to finish dancing so we could get into it and get tanked-up for half-price. The ballroom itself was a wonderful example of well-preserved Art Deco interior decoration, and probably still is - wasted on Christians.

Because the beginners always went first during the early evening, we had the run of the bar shortly afterwards, and the experienced dancers - all dressed up in skin-tight trousers and sequinned dresses - stood around looking annoyed whilst we all got tangled up in the corners of the room and had to be pulled out one by one as if from a motorway pile-up. I still cannot remember any of the foot moves, but the one big lesson I learned is that it is very important to know your position on the floor at the same time as anticipating the movements of the other couples around you. That's what dancing is all about, and when it's done properly, it looks easy, but it bloody isn't - ask Fred and Ginger.

The Forum bar also served as a sort of working-man's club, which is why the beer was so cheap. I have only been to working-men's clubs a few times in my life, but they are really grand places where everyone rubs shoulders without a hint of the superiority/inferiority implications that you find everywhere else.

I was taken around all sorts of fancy bars and restaurants in North America (probably because they thought my English accent indicated an aristocratic upbringing - a secretary in Florida once said to me, after I had asked to see her boss, that, "You English could read off the back of a cornflakes packet and make it sound intelligent!"), but the best place I went to was a working-man's club in Grand Bend, Ontario.

August in Grand Bend is probably like a giant Hastings in England, with the Summer visitors lying around the edge of a lake so big, that you could fit the entire British Isles into it without seeing its borders on the horizon.

January in Grand Bend is like a combination of scenes from 'The Shining' and 'The Thing', with the tiny population that stay behind for the winter huddling together for warmth and trying not to kill their families through cabin-fever.

In a prolonged sub-zero environment like this, working men's clubs become a vital part of the mental well-being of the town, and the town consists of one set of cross roads with one set of traffic lights swinging in the freezing wind above the intersection.

Ask for directions in Grand Bend, and they will always consist of one of the following:

"Turn right at the cross roads."

"Turn left at the cross roads."

"Go straight over the cross roads."

There is what we call an 'ironmongers' on one of the four streets of Grand Bend, and it sells everything that a 19th century trapper could possibly need. Axes, boots, snow-shoes, knives, paraffin stoves, oil-skins, etc. etc.

I was told that I was in for a treat when I walked into the working man's club in Grand Bend - this night was Karaoke night.

I got myself a Molson and sat back to watch a 7 year-old girl, dressed up as Madonna - complete with bright red lipstick and high heels - sing 'Material Girl', almost in key, with her proud parents watching from below with beaming smiles on their faces.

19 comments:

  1. Ah yes, Grand Bend. Long weekend Party Place of my youth.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. With a few hundred miles of beach...

      Delete
  2. Love these little one-horse places in the US and Canada - they have an atmosphere all their own. You wander about, peering into windows of 'shops' and 'cafes' and then suddenly - out of nowhere - you come across (in the US) a dirty great gun shop.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You get big gun shops in Germany too, but not with assault rifles.

      Delete
  3. Were you the roadie with the troupe?
    I learned to ballroom dance when I was 11. I got a bronze medal. It has never helped me with anything.
    I went to Virginia Beach in the US and it was like being in Carrie but on sea. I couldn't wait to get out.
    I went to working men's clubs when I lived in the North East. They were great. I was usually the only woman apart from the barmaid.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. 'Driver/Technician' was my title, though it amounts to the same sort of thing. My main job was to set off loads of big fireworks.

      I went to one in Sheffield once, and H.I.'s mum said, "Ooh don't go in there. It's full of rough-necks". I have never met a friendlier bunch in my life.

      Delete
  4. I'd imagine Grand Bend has hosted a few benders over the years.

    ReplyDelete
  5. Don't know whether you like to be reminded (as you seem to be allergic to Jane Austen), but I thought your Assembly Rooms (known as The Upper Rooms to J.A. fans) absolutely lovely - I show a photo in my blogpost on Bath 'A Day Like Milk and Honey'. So lovely - and no perceptible Christians around.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. They were called 'The Upper Rooms' because the lower ones used to be a few yards from where I write this, but were demolished because they were too small.

      Delete
  6. When I was in my teens my family used to take short camping trips to Grand Bend in the summer. The carnival atmosphere there is unlike any other Canadian beach area I've ever been to. My mother should have put me on a leash - I had far too much fun. I haven't been back for years.
    Yes, what proud parents indeed... I also hope the mum (or dad) wasn't acting out the part in the audience to help her sweetheart on stage.
    I'm glad you got a peek at our colony when you were touring.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I went there (and Quebec) for a snow-carving thing. Must be nice in the Summer.

      Delete
  7. I never got the hang of dancing; ballroom, tap, or anything. Classic two left feet.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I know how you feel. The last time I danced, it was with you and we were naked. (That'll get them thinking...)

      Delete
    2. Ah yes; I remember it well.

      Delete
    3. Were you recreating Matisse's The Dance?

      Delete
    4. Nope - we were winding-up a Polish painting teacher.

      Delete
    5. So you stripped off and danced naked to show her what life is like in the West.

      Delete
    6. It was a 'him', and it was to show what life was like in Britain for post-war, carefree youth.

      Delete
    7. That was what I meant, except I got the sex wrong.

      Delete