Where I meet a famous Jazz Musician's Daughter and am Rescued by an Heroic Knight!
The Nidge? Well, first time I heard that 'term' for the Hertfordshire town of Stevenage was yesterday - but it fits perfectly! Stevenage is also known as 'Chavtown' - which, if you are a Brit, makes sense. If you are from Stevenage, don't be offended! This is what I am told by those who are younger (much younger) than me... these are not monikers I have personally attached to Stevenage New Town (well, it was new about 40 years ago).
So, Saturday morning, and Bryan gets up at sparrow's crack to drive off to a gig in Somerset - about 175 miles away. That's the last I'll see of him till at least Midnight I reckon. The girls (Mel and her pal Rosie) arose at about 9, and by 11 the three of us were ready to drive the 20 miles to Nidge. (Alex didn't want to come with us for some reason). I knew it was called Nidge because Carol (a good friend who I thoroughly thrashed at Scrabble on the Friday Night) told me she was going too. Great! We'd meet up.
We drove down and - for the first time in weeks - it wasn't raining! I took the girls into lots of shops and the most beautiful dress was purchased for the 'Leavers Disco'. Mel leaves her middle school at the end of this term - she's going to look fantastic. Even though I'm chair of the PTA I'm not allowed to help that night - no parents of kids at the disco are allowed.
We met up with Carol and her friend Yvonne in Primark and then we three ladies went to ... er.... well, a bar actually, and the girls wandered off to shop some more. None of us drank alcohol, but we had a nice natter and - most delightfully! - in a smoke free pub. The difference was amazing. I don't know Yvonne well, but have met her a couple of times before. We got on fine (albeit for but an hour), and talked of many things including the local newspaper. Carol's girls are members of the (internationally) award winning "Electralites" dance troupe and are often in the papers. This week it was my boy's turn. There he was, in the local rag, with all his mates, dressed up to the nines standing next to a stretch hummer. The school 'Prom' managed to fill the town with limos and various other inventive means of transport including an ice cream van, and so the lads managed to get themselves in the paper.
On another page of the paper was an article on my friend Hayley (see I'd rather be dancing) with her band 'The Jivettez'. She's only 14 but a talented dancer and singer and bass player (oh yeah, and she's pretty too). Our town isn't that big, not as huge as Nidge, but most people know each other through one contact or another. It's an easy thing to talk about. We also talked about Carol and my planned trip to Egypt in 2010. We have a while to go, but we are saving up now. After a drink and a packet of crisps, we headed back into town.
As we were walking back through the town, we heard music in the town square. Imagine our surprise - there's the Jive Aces (swing band) and dancing away (unselfconciously) with one of the band's friends is Hayley. Yes, in Chavtown square, with loads of folks around - and she's there dancing as if it's a private function. Gotta love the girl's confidence (but I'm glad I'm not her mother).
Carol and Yvonne stayed to watch for a bit, Mel and Rosie went off shopping (again) and I stayed to watch. I stood with Hayley's friend, and chatted briefly to a woman standing next to me (who turned out to have a strong American accent). I watched the friend's bag so she could join in the dancing too - there were crowds of youngsters watching at first, then they started to 'boogie' around carelessly, then... as they watched the others (Hayley, the band's friend and a couple of others who joined in purposefully) the crowd of youngsters started to fall into line - dancing the same as the others, a sort of jazzy line dancing. It was great to watch - the 'Nidge yoof' dancing to a live swing band. There's hope for the planet yet!
Mind you, having said that, Mel told me how - as she was walking through the town - an old woman put out her foot and deliberately tripped her up. "Why'd you do that?" Mel had asked, but the old woman just laughed at her. So, old folks can be nasty too. You hear a lot about it - about gangs of old folks going round town centres frightening teenagers...
Carol and Yvonne departed, and I spoke to Hayley. "You going to sing?" With some cajoling - yes, she would. The band (who she knew through her mother's dancing) had invited her to, after all. The Jive Aces are the Number One Swing Band in the UK (I know, it says so on a big banner behind them....a banner which also said 'Say no to drugs' and 'Sponsored by the Curch of Scientology'. Hmmm, have I mentioned that my step-grandmother was one of the founding members of that organisation, but she left because she fell out with Mr Hubbard? Probably not, and now is maybe not the place to tell that story just yet I think). Meanwhile hayleys' mother Debbie and her husband and dance partner Paul had turned up and did some real professional Lindy Hop dancing. More peole joined in.
During a break Debbie formally introduced me to some of the band - "This is Carolyn, she's mad too..." how's that for an intro? Oh yes, and she plays the bass and sings as well. Debbie then introduced me to the American woman, who turned out to be Toni Prima, the daughter of world famous jazz musician, Louis Prima and Keely Smith,. I persuaded Rosie and Mel to stay so I could watch Hayley perform. She did, and she sang and played the bass with the band very well. The Nidge was in awe... including one senior gentleman who decided that he was going to forget the shopping for now and sit in the sun and watch. We fell into brief, casual conversation. Music does that - brings people together.
Eventually the girls and I left, waving goodbye to Debbie, Paul and Hayley and crew. None of them had known the Jive Aces would be in Nidge, and hand't known we'd be there either. It had all just 'fallen into place' as these odd things do.
On the way home the girls were happy, chatty. Mel said thanks at least three times for her dress (and it does look good, have I mentioned that?) and her shoes and her new jeans. My bank manager won't thank me though (oh yeah - and I got some new boots. Mine have holes in).
Just as we approached the home stretch, the car (which has been a bit 'wobbly') made a very odd noise. Rear tyre burst! Got round the roundabout and into the car park of the Little Chef (incidentally we passed the Little Chef one day a year or so back and it said in huge red and white letters 'LTITLE CHEF' - they'd cleaned the sign and put the letters back in the wrong order). We were nearly home so the girls decided to walk whilst I changed the tyre. (This is my third tyre changing story, am I jinxed or what?).
I got out the tyre, and the jack. Er, it was a funny one, I was fiddling with it - trying to work out how it worked when a voice behind me said 'Can I give you a hand?'. I looked up at a young man, and said 'I can't work out how to use this.' Which was the truth - my jack isn't like the one on the other car. He showed me how it worked, and changed the tyre for me in record time - in just a few minutes! "Thank you very much," I said, grateful. He hadn't been parked in the car park, he'd pulled over just to help me. "I do this a lot." he said. "You'll need a new tyre; go into Kwik Fit, tell them you know Rob, you may even get a discount." I thanked Rob again for his kindness. See? Chivalry is not dead!
I drove back towards home and picked up the girls - they'd not got far. Yes - I did tell them about the young man. "Was he fit?" Well, too young for me, too old for them, but yes, he was ... he was Kwik Fit!