Lindy Hopping and the Marx Brothers

[I may have put in too many video clips, just take a dip or two]

Important questions first. What is Lindy Hopping? It is basically Swing Dancing, it started in  America in the 1920s and gathered pace with many variations through the next twenty years. To see the genuine article watch this clip from the Marx Brothers Day at the Races. The Lindy Hopping sequence doesn’t start until about 3.25 mins in, and the Lindy Hop dancing really starts about 5 mins in, but I love the section with Harpo and Who Dat Man that precedes it.

And no, I can’t dance like that.

Here’s a modern version of it.

I can’t dance like that either – but I try (the front couple in this demo were my first teachers).

In the last twenty years there has been a massive revival of Swing Dancing, particularly Lindy Hop and some of the original dancers were still with us until very recently. Most famous and beloved was Frankie Manning (d. 2009). Here he is age 90 doing the Shim Sham (a group Lindy dance)

(and if you want to be cheered and moved watch these two clips of villagers in India doing the Shim Sham in honour of Frankie on his Birthday).

Lindy is a partnered dance for all ages and everyone dances with everyone, you are either a lead (traditionally male) or a follow (female), but both men and women try the other roles. There are clubs in most big cities across the world run by enthusiasts. It is the best and most enjoyable exercise I know and I swear it has given my knees a new lease of life.

Threadgold Press – lessons learnt

[This is a moan, so feel free to jump to pictures at the end]

One of the privileges of being your own publisher is being able to choose your own book cover. Over the last month I have really concentrated on this (actually since April, if I’m honest). Ignoring the Really Good Advice to pay for professional work, I have become intimate with the foibles of InDesign; my numerous attempts to create a cover now run to over 50 files.

I am exhausted and depressed, I have used up all my credit with my nearest and dearest, the garden is untended, the vegetable plot a riot of weeds and my in-tray is overflowing. Each night I have new ideas and each morning I start again expecting the perfect cover to appear under my hands. But it hasn’t, and I am now finally ready to compromise. My daughter, Amy, has produced something better than any of the ones I attempted and while I still feel, churlishly, that it is not what I had in mind, it is simple and beautiful and I need to stop NOW.

So here are a few more rejected designs (and they are not the weirdest):

BL cover BL cover - Version 3 BL cover BL cover

That’s enough amateur graphics. Here are some lilies (smelling heavenly) and hydrangeas to finish with. Tomorrow, I will pick beans and weed the veg bed.

DSCN6205 DSCN6202 DSCN6201 DSCN6199I’ve been Lindy Hopping this evening, so I feel more human.


Mixed fortunes

The week has been disconcerting.

I have, with relief, finished reading yet another book I did not enjoy very much (I swear the last time I will do this), though it did travel across countryside I am fond of. At least I am only reading three books now. 

Every attempt to settle to writing on my new novel has been thwarted, however my finished novel has had a bite from an agent… I am not holding my breath.

I have been working on the Far East POW book again (new post tomorrow night).

In the garden warm weather has led to some strange anomalies. A spring clematis, Wada’s Primrose is flowering.


Another maple is only just now shedding its autumn colour.


But sadly one of my favourite maples, Sengokaku, was showing canker and today I have had to cut a big stem out of it.

Tomorrow I shall be at a Lindy Hopping workshop all day – happiness!

On the other hand

I’m damned if I’ll give up yet. After three days of gardening distraction, I am back at my desk working on more submissions. Border Line has had several bites from agents and I should at least persist until the whole MS is asked for again in its revised form.

Feel invigorated since making this decision. In the meantime I have rebuilt the really rough bit of path, put turfs into bare areas, dug all the available granite setts into the edge of the dragon bed, moved a lot of earth on the new bank by the drive-to-be, started cleaning up the area by the knot-garden and had an all out battle with a dark corner of the garden full of cow parsley and Lords and Ladies (arum italicum). So rejection has had a very good outcome for the garden.

Martins were probably passers-by. We haven’t seen any more. Maybe they are the ones who arrive at my brother’s house in the South West about now.

Managed to go Lindy hopping this evening, interesting moves, but way too much talking. Feel pleasantly exhausted now. No piano practice for three days. So tomorrow piano and writing.

Dodging Robins

Spent this afternoon dodging Robins and being blatantly ignored by blackbirds. I was working hard on the new paths lifting turfs and either piling them up to fill the new bank or taking them elsewhere in the garden to fill in edges. I couldn’t move without the rush of wings close by as the robins leap in to grab the worms and larvae. As I shovelled sand into the spaces, unseen robins would fly up. No doubt there were only two, but they worked non-stop shifts. The blackbirds never even bothered to fly up. If in danger of actually being hit by a spadeful, they would hop in inch or two left or right, but made it clear that it was my problem to avoid them.

Made some progress on the brick paths, but am regretting my failure to use string and measure out from the wall. Having bricked round a small rectangular bed, I find the gaps slightly bigger on the other side. Of course the old path I made alongside the house path may not be dead straight.

Frost again tonight. Someone coming to wash the bricks on the old bit of drive that we are keeping on Tuesday. We think it was laid 20 years ago, so it is doing quite well as all it has had in the way of cleaning is me, EG and a trowel in all that time. The giant concrete slabs that are to go are now at least a 100 years old, broken, and very ugly. There is so much work to be done before the new bricks go in, it is difficult to imagine being ready. I guess we will be working all weathers by the time they start. I have to admit, though that I enjoy the challenge and feel better for the exercise.

Will get more fun exercise tomorrow night as Amy will still be here and will come Lindy hopping with me.

miscellaneous day

Yesterday was a weird day. We were expecting bad weather yet the sun was shining bright, so I scrambled into gardening clothes and went mad in the garden, mending the hose that takes water from one rain butt to another, clearing paths and finding the edges of them. EG had set a fine example a week ago clearing all the moss from the side path. I kept expecting the sun to disappear, but it was so warm I went coatless.

In the afternoon we went to the funeral of our 92 year-old neighbour. She was a feisty and determined lady. She lived alone in the house her father built, and insisted on maintaining standards as she thought fit. When we came to live next door – more than thirty years ago – I lived in dread of her. She went in for unparalleled frankness and had many things to say about our house and garden, but over the years we became friends and she was always kind and generous to the children. Latterly she became a great supporter of my writing and would lend her copies of my books to all her friends – insisting that they read them.  She was lucky in having devoted friends, on whom she made great demands, who made it possible for her to stay in her own home to the end of her life.

After the funeral, as the bad weather still held off, I rushed into the garden and started work on the brick paths and beds in the area near the new drive-to-be. I had forgotten how much I enjoy the exhaustion of labour. I positively relish moving earth around and realising designs that had started out as pencil on paper. I think the two maples will look great in their re-made beds.

Later in the day, a lovely email from the researcher of the magazine on Far Eastern Prisoners of War to say that my article was OK. Much relieved. Apart from corrections, I did no writing yesterday.

To finish off the day I took myself off to a Lindy Hop session. This was mad. It takes place in the basement of a pub with limited floor room. Tonight there were suddenly about 15 newcomers. A crazy, lively and very noisy session, but not much room to dance.