Saturday morning in Nero’s with Aging Lad, who was being oddly enthusiastic about the carnival. All became clear when he explained that last year, it was more than tombolas and candy floss : pole dancing was apparently now a traditional event at summer fairs.
Crèche Manager sprayed a mouthful of coffee – iced, luckily - over Thing One. ‘Pole dancing?’ he spluttered.
Aging Lad nodded. ‘Shocking, it was. I made a complaint, and they said they’d sort it out for this year.’
I was impressed. ‘They agreed not to do it?’
‘No’, Lad said, ‘They promised to get better totty than the raddled old trouts they wheeled out last time.’
‘Maybe you oughtn’t take the kids to the fair’, Crèche Manager said to me, wiping his drink off Thing One’s head. ‘It doesn’t sound suitable. I’ll keep Lad company, make sure he doesn’t get into any bother.’
He was saved from my withering reply by the parade going past. Dozens of Carmen Miranda lookey-likeys weaved through the crowd, singing ‘ay-ay-ay-ay-ay I love you verrr-y much’ to the accompaniment of a steel band… oh no, hang on, that was the Rio Carnival on telly. Lewes’s street revelry was briefer and less culturally diverse, but the unsmiling teenage dancers going through their paces to the tune of Daydream Believer had a special charm of their own.
Rather like pole-dancing, perhaps, which seems to be trying to throw off the shackles (ha!) of its seedy origins and go respectable, as if Peter Stringfellow had decided to become an MP. Maybe not an MP. A bank manager? Hmm. Can’t think of a respectable occupation.
Aging Lad’s tale had made me feel slightly pole-axed. Who knew where else this floor show might turn up? Would the cashiers be pole-dancing in Waitrose next time I popped in for some extra virgin olive oil? Or the turnstile at Lewes Castle be replaced by a pole for visitors to wiggle round?
‘You’ve put on a bit of weight’, Aging Lad said, cutting short my disturbing pole reverie.
‘Pardon?’ I replied, as a float with belly dancing ladies wobbled by.
‘I have too’, he said hastily, ‘so I thought you might like to come to keep-fit with me.’
This was about as likely as Peter Stringfellow becoming a monk (note to self: check if monks have been discredited); Lad wouldn’t normally touch exercise with a ten-foot pole.
‘It reminded me, coming here’, he went on. ‘Lewes Leisure Centre’s running pole-dancing classes.’
‘But of course they are. And the All Saints Centre’s hosting a lap-dancing event.’
‘Is it? Brilliant. They’re not calling it pole dancing, of course’, Lad continued, ‘It’s pole “fitness”. Meaning it’ll be full of fit chicks. Be better if I show up with a woman.’
I shushed him; Thing One was listening attentively to every word.
‘She could do worse when she grows up’, Lad said. ‘Some of those clubs pay birds a fortune.’
By now the parade had passed by, along with any semblance of normality. Crèche Manager and I put our arms round the children, including Aging Lad, and led them gently away from the fleshpots of the Malling Fields.
Beth Miller, 16th June 2009. Published in VivaLewes.com