Dancing Gran­nies saved Christ­mas

Black Country Bugle - - FRONT PAGE - For Bu­gle reader JOHN TRAF­FORD a trip to see the Fiz­zogs 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.

Boots

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.

Rem­i­nisced

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.

En­ter­tain­ers

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

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