Dancing Grannies saved Christmas
IT’S UNUSUAL to see a Christmas story in the pages of the Bugle after the dust has settled on the Christmas period – but my story didn’t happen until the Christmas Bugles had been printed.
2018 had not been a good year for me, especially the latter part, with the deaths of two people close to my family and having to have my pet cat Thomas put to sleep on November 5.
I rescued Thomas from a cattery over five years ago, where he had been for the three previous years due to his owner going into a home. When Thomas was handed to me he clung to me and a strong bond developed between us. He followed me everywhere and would not let my wife feed him, it had to be me. On November 1, 2017, Thomas had a cancerous lump taken off his leg and early last year this lump came back and continued to grow very large. We cancelled our holidays to look after him. Then came the fatal day, when on the vet’s advice, he was put to sleep, dying in my arms.
Just another day
This left a void in my life and I had no interest in the run up to Christmas. Yes, I wrote the Christmas cards, because of my wife’s eyesight, but that was all; as far as I was concerned Christmas would be just another day.
My daughter Julie always buys us lots of presents and she purchased tickets, as one of our presents, to go and see the Fizzog show at Netherton Arts Centre on Saturday, December 22.
I arrived feeling in the dumps but I left that theatre full of the joys of Christmas, thanks to the Fizzogs – they certainly made my Christmas.
The show was called Back in Our Day: the Life and Times of the Dancing Grannies, with Sue Hawkins as Letty, Jackie Fellows as May and Deb Nichols as Hilda, supported by the very funny James Collins.
The show was a hilarious comedy telling the friendship of three remarkable Black Country women and their love for dancing. It was spoken in Black Country dialect and was cheeky in parts but not outrageous, like on our modern day TV.
The show went through the decades, starting in the 1940s to the present day, with humorous sketches played by the cast with short films in between, about the period and the adverts of the day.
The curtains open into Letty’s home, she is sitting in a chair with her legs covered by a blanket, with a pair of lady’s boots hanging on the wall. There is a knock at the door, Letty shouts “Come in, it’s open,” and May and Hilda enter.
Letty is upset and tells her friends that her dancing days are over, as he doctor has told her she has to have her legs off and she has hung up her dancing boots. May and Hilda were disturbed to hear the news and the friends start chatting about the old days and they wish they could turn the clock back.
The stage goes into darkness, a screen comes down and shows the time of the 1940s and the war years.
In the next sketch, young Hilda and Letty are working in a factory with May the supervisor. The girls go dancing and meet Funny Face (James Collins), dressed in military uniform that only fits where it touches. He can’t button up the coat and the front of the trousers are wide open, revealing his large stomach. He starts chatting up the girls, who will not dance with him. He is not in the forces but is using his brother’s uniform to make an impression. When the girls are not impressed, he asks them if they would like to see his weapon that he keeps in his trousers. The girls say yes and he pulls out a tiny wooden gun.
In the ’60s the girls are dressed in miniskirts, showing off their lovely legs. The one skirt is so short that the others say, “They will see your knickers.” The girl in the short skirt replies, “They won’t, because I’m not wearing any!” then promptly sits down facing the audience and skilfully crosses and uncrosses her legs in quick succession, revealing a quick flash of her unmentionables. This caused a large cheer from the audience, especially the men.
In another sketch, the Grannies are in the park to get fit for dancing with Funny Face dressed in a leotard. This was a sight to behold, causing roars of laughter. Funny Face put the Grannies through their paces and it is too hilarious to describe the antics that he and Hilda get up to.
The show ended returning to Letty’s home after the girls had reminisced about the past. May and Hilda wanted to know why Letty was covering her legs and pulled the blanket off. Letty was soaking her feet in rice pudding – she said it was what the doctor had ordered. At that point Hilda went off stage, saying she could smell rice cooking, and re-entered with three bowls of rice pudding, which they started to eat. May and Hilda stopped eating and Letty said, “Well, my feet are clean, the dog’s licked them.” Hilda then pulled something from her rice pudding – Letty’s corn plaster!
Hilda and May then wanted to know what the Doctor had really told Letty, so they phoned the surgery. It turned out it was her socks he was referring to about coming off, not her legs, and to bathe her feet to keep them nice, not bathe them in rice.
Hilda took her dancing boots off the wall, put them on Letty’s feet and the Grannies ended the night, to rapturous applause, with one of their dance routines.
What a night! The tears rolled down my cheeks with laughter and the girls certainly excelled in this show. I came out of the arts centre feeling a lot better than when I went in.
The show ended around 10.30pm and we were back in Oakengates just before midnight. Did I go straight to bed? Not on your life! I was in the Christmas mood, so out came my favourite Irish whiskey. After a few drinks and making merry, I retired, having toasted a really good night.
Yes, I enjoyed Christmas, thanks to Sue, Jackie, Deb and James, not forgetting my daughter Julie for her present.
I look forward to seeing these grand lassies again in the future, they are really great entertainers. For those who have not seen the show, the Dancing Grannies will be at the Theatre on the Steps in Bridgnorth on 1st and 2nd February, the Forest Arts Centre, Walsall, on February 15th and then the final show is at the Crescent Theatre, Birmingham, on February 22nd. If you want a good hearty laugh, don’t miss them.
They were a good tonic for me, better than anything the doctor ordered and I am looking forward to 2019, with holidays booked and now I look at my photograph of Thomas and think of the joys he brought me, not the sadness.
Happy New Year to you all.
The Dancing Grannies’ latest show runs until February
Thomas the cat in his favourite chair