My earliest memory of Pastime was trekking into the wilds of Kent to join some unknown folk in a pretty village hall overlooking the quintessential English green. The music and dances fascinated right from the word go while the dressing-up was something else. Finally, finally I could begin to get the hang of English history through dances, costuming, music and even food as we created and re-created shows from different periods. Enthusiastically I borrowed, begged even sometimes oh dear purchased books detailing eras and outfits and choreographies and everything else in between.

I have many highlights – well every meeting is a highlight really!

At the Weald and Downland Museum

At a very early summer school in Pembrokeshire – maybe a first for me – we walked along the cliff top in single file and danced around a tree stump on a beautiful afternoon off. One fine morning a couple of us ventured down to the empty beach seeking fresh early morning air and maybe shells, one hardy soul taking a dip in bracing water. Dancing was fun though not without some tricky moments with Lieven Bart teaching some great stuff including the canaries together with meals as convivial as they were delicious, something that was to become a defining feature of Pastime gatherings over the years. 

Richelieu was another world but a journey that sometimes had its .. er .. challenges, shall we say, en route – not that these weren’t entertaining. Driving through the open spaces of sunny French countryside the satnav bid us suddenly ‘abandon vehicle’ in no uncertain terms (and probably in franglais) which seemed a slightly odd instruction given that we were in the middle of a field of corn or sunflowers or something verdant waving merrily in the breeze with not a hint of another car, person, animal or bird in sight. We fell about laughing imagining ourselves immediately transported into a James Bond movie set in France of course complete with amazing costumes and props. Aahhhhh those candlelit evenings, those gourmet dinners, those early morning fresh croissants, that confiture, that beurre, the Wednesday marché, café au lait in the square, our ballroom, the hazy flower-filled days, the electrics hanging off the wall…

And just when we all thought Richelieu couldn’t possibly be replicated along came Bournemouth. In my early years on a farm on an island about three hours from Melbourne a step-aunt sent postcards and letters from London where she was nursing so I’d heard the name. We rollicked through that week and ended up acquiring and then quite out of the blue performing a string of newly-learnt dances including a thrilling Morris which nearly brought down the glitterball in the lounge. A few Charleston steps had the mostly chair-bound residents grinning and tapping their knees though surely expecting something else and completely other by way of evening entertainment.  Nota Bene: always bring Charleston dress to Pastime summer school.

A recent recollection was the arrival of antipodean nephew and girlfriend drenched, freezing and hungry for a wintry Xmas party night with Pastimers all wondrously attired and dancing about, something I know for certain that the duo would never before have witnessed let alone experienced. They sat bewitched, unbothered if maybe slightly bewildered though fortunately smiling and before long the colourful welcoming atmosphere had them up and moving and enjoying themselves, nephew admitting casually next morning that he’d kept his eye on the little boy in his group who seemed pretty good (boy in group being of course the renowned Ms Segal).

There followed a somewhat chilly and wildly windy week on the magical Isle of Wight similar in size and shape to my own island home even to the sharing of some township names, and just prior to my own departure downunder. So there we all were, dancing in a ballroom overlooking the white-capped ocean (ocean? surely it’s the English Channel or .. cor blimey, check map), and me gazing out to sea instead of trying to master steps and choreographies. Happily ensconced in the very fine and comfy Trouville Hotel – surely a reminder if not a blast from our past – and with the ballroom dancers downstairs prompting notions of joining in a few quick foxtrots, the week flew gaily by rounded off by a particularly memorable member’s concert displaying the many and astonishingly varied talents of the group.

Well, I could go on ..and on ..  but suffice I think to say:

Long live Pastime! Special days and special people who know the real meaning of good, serious and-not-so-serious fun.