Monday 31 January 2011

Everyone suddenly ...

... was just having so much fun. I had so much fun. The dances were fun, but it wasn't just them, it was the friends I hadn't seen for months, the laughter, the chat, the glass of wine, the atmosphere, the music (happy DJ) everybody had a smile on their face. Everyone was dancing around and having a fab time.

That was so much fun. And if I hadn't gone there, there was another place I could have gone to where the same might perfectly well have happened (and I hope it did).

That was so much fun it was ridiculous.

Thursday 27 January 2011

Shoe Brands and Heel Heights

If you wear heels to dance in, you probably have a current preference as to heel height. And suppliers and makers of dance shoes normally tell you what their heel height is, so you can decide which product to buy, if you order online.

There are, however, pretty wide variations to how they measure.

My preferred heel height for tango shoes is, more or less, 7cm - which is about the same as 2.75" if you're American, or you're the kind of British eccentric who measures even small things in the old-fashioned way, instead of only things larger than you can easily carry. At 9cm I'll get joint pain, knee strain, and a choppy, ungainly motion. 8cm is my maximum. Lower is fine by me, right down to socks.

Here are some salsa shoes, made by a company called Oobashoo, who as far as I know are British. They sell these heels as 2.75". I've rested a steel ruler, which starts at zero, in the gully of the seam that goes up the back of each pair of shoes, and taken a picture as near straight-on as I could manage so there's not too much perspective. Then I've continued the ruler's lines at 7cm and 8cm across the picture.

Oobashoo - 2.75 inch heels (=7cm)
Here, I think a 7cm measurement is fair; your foot is about 7cm off the ground where the heel supports it, allowing for the thickness of the sole.

This next pair are made in Italy for a German brand, Werner Kern. Their range for the tango market is called Nueva Epoca. This style is labelled as a 7cm heel. (The thickness of the heel is completely irrelevant to comfort or function as far as I'm concerned, as long as it's correctly placed, and in many cases I prefer the look of the thicker ones; but a thinner heel is the current fashion for tango.)

Werner Kern Nueva Epoca - 7cm heel
It's about the same as the Oobashoo. Nothing in it, really.

Lastly, here are the well-known Argentinian brand, Comme Il Faut (sold in London by Coleccion la Recoleta). Comme Il Faut label them as 7cm heels. I really think this is pushing it. I would label them 8cm. On the upside, if I can dance well in these without hurting myself, then I can probably wear Nueva Epoca's 8cm styles.

Comme Il Faut - “7”cm heel
But it's marginal. The difference between the Oobashoo and the Comme Il Faut is more than enough to cause problems if it comes at a point that's crucial for your body. And all of these are labelled as the same height.

When I buy a new brand I try to have a longish try-on with big steps and pivots, and to wear them first to a nice long gentle practice session, and do some boring technique exercises, just to make sure they're OK, rather than find out they're not when it matters.

Saturday 22 January 2011

Taking a good dance home #drinkupandleave

When you have a great dance, that really worked, and you were totally in the zone, and you're not really going to have a better one that evening, I think there's a good argument for quietly finishing your drink and going home.

Your last dance of an evening can stay with you for days. I tend not to remember any particular steps at all clearly, but I do remember the general sensations of rhythmic and lyrical movement. Softness. Relaxation and the fading-away of external things. Flowing, confident, calm and balanced. The moments of hesitation,  adventure, curiosity, surprise. Shared emotion, expression and response. My nose gently against his cheek.

You can stick around in the hope of getting another, and sometimes that makes sense too, but if the odds don't favour it, the benefits of just leaving are great, especially if you're planning to go on dancing for years and you can afford to be patient.

Anyway I think if you take a good dance home with you* not only does it give you a happy mood and confidence, it goes into your brain and your nervous system and makes you dance better next time. It's one of the things that stops you getting stuck.

Sometimes it's not possible because I have to wait for a lift in someone's car. Then I hide in girly-huddle or take my shoes off as an "Out of Play" sign.

*although other interpretations of that sentence would be possible - and do as you please, as far as I'm concerned - whether they're a good idea depends on other things entirely.

Wednesday 19 January 2011

What are John Lewis thinking?

What, please, is wrong with the knitting department at John Lewis Oxford Street?

No Addi Turbos - no Addi of any kind. No Manos del Uruguay. No Malabrigo. No Shetland. No Artesano. No Habu. No Colinette. No Wensleydale. No organic Welsh natural colours. None of that beautiful Argentinian cotton I made the chemo hat out of. No mercerised cotton. Not even Opal or Cherry Tree Hill sock wool. They've stopped doing the Cygnet Superwash pure wool that I used to use to make my knitted animals, that came in all those good strong colours; there's absolutely no point in going there any more. What are they, a dozen years behind the times? I see young, starting-out knitters coming in and going away puzzled and disappointed, having had their time wasted with this stuff. (If that's you, try here instead).

All they've got is overpriced boring big brands, Rowan (with their boring boring coordinated-wallpaper colour schemes and they've never even managed a proper blue or a proper red), a few cheapo rubbish needles (like they've never heard of magic loop - you certainly couldn't do it with anything they have), Debbie Bliss, a wierdly enormous pile of not-very-useful Noro, a small batch of very scratchy Fair Trade product in muddy colours and some ghastly soapy acrylic.

I entirely agree that it's essential to provide some low-budget yarns - but they don't even do that well. And is it really the low-budget knitters who fight their way through the Oxford Street crowd to go there? If you're that low-budget you'd be better off at that department store in Ealing, or down Walthamstow Market.

I can only conclude I'm not their target market. But I'm not sure who is. Clueless knitters only, who don't expect any better? That doesn't seem like a sound long-term strategy.

Do they sell ball winders? How about the rug-hook for attaching zips? No.

And the haberdashery is just as bad. I want to make myself a carefully-fitted wool skirt in a specific design. I just want some good quality wool cloth in a choice of colours. Can they help me? Nope.

Update, promoted from Comments:

Sharon Neale said...
Hi, my colleagues at John Lewis came across this post and shared it with me. Thought it would be worthwhile responding.
John Lewis always welcomes customer feedback and we are currently looking to strengthen the range of brands and accessories across our entire haberdashery range, especially knitting - so please watch this space!
Our existing assortment is generally proving popular with our customers but we constantly look at ways of improving our offering so thank you very much for your feedback.
Sharon Neale, Buyer for Haberdashery at John Lewis
Hedgehog here: I'd be a lot happier if the Cygnet Superwash, or any other superwash pure wool at the same price point in a range of strong colours, in a DK and an Aran weight, and maybe a sock weight, came back. That's something a department store can really deliver. Together with maybe some quality needles. The rest of it, to be fair, is relatively low-quantity stuff that I can get elsewhere.

Monday 17 January 2011

Dancing and sleep

I thought I'd be a bit rusty, not having danced at all over my holidays (although I did do a few little balance exercises on my friends' lovely smooth floor). But actually, when I came back I was really happy with my dancing as soon as I went out - my concentration was much better and I felt really relaxed. Maybe it was all that extra sleep. I'm going to try not to hang around staying up so much when I'm not going out.

I think I needed the holiday. Before I went I was going "What?" at virtually every headline and losing my mind a bit at work. Now I accept the inane and the inexplicable with more calm.

If I decide that a night is not my night - for example because the schedule shows a poor DJ, a kicky class, and a Boring Performance (nice of them to put them all on the same night, it does simplify matters) - I hereby resolve to go to bed by eleven, at least some of the time.

Friday 14 January 2011

Movies I saw on my holidays

The King's Speech

Really good. Very well paced and constructed, and I generally loved the acting, and it's very, very well put together and entertaining. Watch out for the gorgeous Jennifer Ehle. Timothy Spall is bizarre as Churchill, and there are some stock characters, like the Archbishop, who is a parody of so, so many historical-drama Archbishops. Guy Pearce is brilliantly plausible as a weak, airheaded and vicious Edward VIII. It's also full of wonderful rooms. Moving and funny and so much fun. It's not Alan Bennett, but I loved it.

The Tempest

Helen Mirren is great, the costumes are interesting, and the Rude Mechanicals are good too (including Russell Brand, who manages to say all of the words like they really just occurred to him, which is just as it should be). But the pacing is all over the place, the romantic leads are weak (I wanted to push them into the sea, like in the first Pirates of the Caribbean) and the special effects are the lamest thing ever. Overall, it's tedious. Straight to DVD, I'd say - and watch that mainly for the costumes.

Wednesday 12 January 2011

Things I Saw On My Holidays

I didn't see, or even contact, my tango friends over there - I'm sorry :(. I was three days delayed, then really quite sick for the first week and a bit suspicious-sounding for the rest, and it just became too complicated.

I did see:

The Moon below me

The Moon



Mount Rainier. And ducks
Mount Rainier at Sunset with Ducks

The Sculpture Park:

Shadow of Thing

This thing that made the shadow above - it looked like the Sutton Hoo Helmet from one angle and a fish from another:

Fish Helmet Sculpture Thing
A sculpture called Wave:


Monday 10 January 2011


Heathrow Airport: We Don't Give a Flying ****.

Heathrow Airport Baggage Reclaim - We Don't Give a Flying About You or Your Stuff or Even Our Stuff Any More, We Mean Seriously, What's the Point?
The Baggage Reclaim hall in Heathrow. Apart from the dead trolleys lying around, there are also vast piles of unclaimed baggage with sad little cryptic semi-legible handwritten notes on top. And feeble, shouty little notices saying Please Note the Airport has No Responsibility for Anything, and (somewhere else) giving the names of the (wrong) baggage handling companies for the airline. And police with giant guns. And foetid, unbreathable air. And nothing else.