A ballroom dancer and the power of words


 By Gerry Moran

Hardly a day goes by when I don’t find myself walking down the Parade. Or is it up the Parade? And is there a difference, I’m wondering? I guess if you’re walking from the Castle towards High Street you’re walking down the Parade as there is a bit of a downward slope when going in that direction.

Anyway what I really want to write about is the gentleman I encountered during one of my regular Parade perambulations. I meet many people on my walk; friends, acquaintances who I sometimes stop and chat to briefly or simply nod to in passing. This was different. Unusual to say the least.

“Excuse me,” he said ever so politely, “but are you from around here?’”

“A thoroughbred native,” I smiled. “How can I be of assistance?”

“Where,” he asked, “might I purchase a pair of ballroom dancing shoes?’”

“Ballroom dancing shoes?” I repeated with more than a hint of surprise in my voice. “Ballroom dancing shoes,” he repeated.

Now I have been stopped many times in this city of ours by tourists – some foreign, some local– seeking directions to various places of interest, or wondering where they might find a nice place to eat (no shortage there, of course). Indeed there have been times when time was on my side (and for sure time is very much on my side now) that I have escorted some tourists to their destination, offering a little ‘guided tour’ en route. I love being an ambassador for this beautiful city of ours. But I’ve digressed.

So, I am standing in the middle of the Parade with a strange=looking gentleman who has an equally strange request. He’s petite, about five foot five, has a huge head of ginger, curly hair and wouldn’t look out of place in a circus. Indeed as we chat I look down at his feet and can easily imagine him in a gigantic pair of clown’s shoes. Clown’s shoes, however, are not on the agenda, what’s on the agenda is a pair ballroom dancing shoes and where he might purchase same.

And, yes, I can envisage this lithe, slim man of about 40 years of age twirling around a ballroom floor. “Well’,” I tell him, “there’s Walls The Man’s Shop just  down the High Street on the right and just across on the other side of the street there’s Paul’s and further up on the left there’s Duggan;s Menswear, all of whom sell shoes, but in  my entire life I’ve never seen ballroom dancing shoes on their shelves.”

“Mmm,” my man muttered, “thank you very much” and off he ambled.

It was only later as I thought about his strange request that I wondered if he was a spy and was this the phrase that his contact was meant to react to! And then, God forbid, was it a chat-up line! I quickly banished that thought and ambled off with ‘ballroom dancing shoes’ reverberating in my head.

Not long after my encounter with the ballroom dancer, three young foreign ladies stopped me on the Parade. “You speak Irish?” one asked. “I do,” I replied. “What is Irish for pear?” she wanted to know. I had no idea whether she meant pear or pair. She meant pear. Piorra, I told her and off they went.

It was only afterwards that I berated myself for not asking why they wanted to know the Irish for pear? Pair, as in a couple, a young romantic couple perhaps, would have made a lot more sense. Anyway, as I ambled down the Parade I was now trying to envisage – a PEAR of ballroom dancing shoes!

Finally, the Parade hosts many buskers. I am very impressed with a relatively newcomer who positions himself close to the Castle. This man has a good voice, a good repertoire, and a great selling pitch: his little sign reads: ‘Out of work musician. All tips greatly appreciated.’ Clever.

Reminds me of something I saw on-line one time: a blind man begging on the street, his little sign read: ‘Please help, I’m blind.’ A lady stopped and asked if she could write something else on his piece of cardboard. She did and the blind man noticed an immediate increase in donations. And what did she write? ‘It’s a beautiful day and I can’t see it.’

Ah, the power of words. As this busker on the Parade fully understands.

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