After my driving lesson yesterday, I was distraught. Why does Attila (my instructor) keep stopping the lesson half way through for a toilet emergency. Once might be understandable, but it’s becoming a habit. Is he sending me a not so subliminal message that my driving skills are less than adequate? Or does he just have a sensitive tummy? I choose to go with the latter option. My motoring skills are progressing – at a snail’s pace maybe. Slowly, steadily wins the race. I’ll get there in the end. I will have a license by June – it might not be next June granted. But by some June in the future.
A message on my phone was waiting for me after class. Was I interested in participating in the 12 Pubs of Christmas? My heart sank. I wanted to meet up with my friends. But this event is rather scary. It’s a recent (I think) tradition, that in the weeks before Christmas, you don a tacky Christmas jumper and have a singular alcoholic beverage in twelve separate pubs. This is not appealing to my sensitive nature. I loathe Christmas jumpers, and personally if I find a comfortable seat in an ale-house I am more than happy to stay there. Twelve drinks are also far too many for my delicate constitution, I would be asleep by around pub six.
Feeling sociable and slightly festive I agreed however. I suspected the group wouldn’t have the energy to traipse around city centre Dublin for that length of time.
We arranged to meet in Oscar’s Bar in Christchurch – a pleasant establishment that is located on the edge of Temple Bar. As it’s not in the main drag, it tends to avoid the hordes of tourists that Temple Bar attracts. Consequently you don’t need to mortgage your left kidney to pay for a shandy either. That suited me fine.
I arrived and greeted my friends. I ordered a frosty bad boy at the bar (a beer that is )and returned. There was a notice on the table warning us that at 10pm the table would be moved to create a space for dancing. What kind of nonsense was this? I was duly informed that a George Michael tribute act would be taking to the stage at ten to entertain the masses.
This rang a bell. I had been in this very same venue in June, during the Gay Pride celebrations and the same tribute act had played. That evening the bar clientele was comprised mainly of homosexualists. Despite Georgie-boy being one of our tribe he lacks that certain something required to be a gay icon – namely he’s not a woman. I find this slightly confusing. Put Kylie Minogue (and yes – I adore her) on stage in a nice frock, and middle aged men who are a touch light in their loafers tend to revert to their screaming teenage years. But an actual gay man singing banging tunes doesn’t tend to inspire the same response. He was a popular act on the night, for sure – having a good voice and singing some funky choons tends to be a wise move with performers. But there was no hysteria involved.
Tonight the audience was made up mainly of women of a certain age (my age), dolled up to the nines. It’s Christmas party season, and these dames had made a big effort to look fancy. The table was moved at ten – as warned – and George’s doppelganger took to the stage to set up. It was just him, and his microphone and sound system.
When he started, the place exploded. The throngs took to the floor as if in a dream and started to boogie. I remained aloof at my table, only tapping my foot along to the beat. I am very image conscious you see. I tend to resemble an octopus on speed when on the dancefloor so I will only venture onto the floor of the discotheque after a certain number of refreshing drinks.
The singer (whose name I believe is Norris Stephens – at least per my five second google research just now) knew how to work that crowd. Starting with the slow, more romantic George, he sang ‘Father Figure’, ‘A different corner’, ‘Jesus to a child’. The audience was primed to dance however. The singer obliged wheeling out ‘Too Funky’, ‘Club Tropicana’, ‘Freedom’. By the time ‘Wake me up before you go-go’ started the audience was in ecstasy.’ It was like a country barn dance – all the women in their finery dancing as if their lives depended on it, the men standing at the edge of the dancefloor nursing their pints of porter, staring on. I suspect they may have wanted to take part, but were too shy.
This simply wouldn’t do. When the intro to ‘Outside’ (the ditty George released after finishing his community service, which was the punishment he received after being entrapped in the lavatory in Los Angeles) started, I took the floor. It felt right. I danced like there was no-one else in the room with me.
You always need to leave on a high. When the song finished, I grabbed my coat and bag and left. I am almost certain that ‘Last Christmas’ was the finale. As I detest Christmas songs (with the bizarre exception of ‘All I want for Christmas is you’ by Mariah Carey) I didn’t mind.
We didn’t manage the twelve pubs of Christmas in the end. But I heard more than twelve songs by Andrew Ridgley’s bandmate. That was a reasonable compromise.