The General’s Dance

I will not begin with my views of dancing. Dancing is an abomination…. that has been my stand for  long time and I tell it to everyone, especially a colleague of mine who vehemently disapproves the contention.  However, let all this be…. here  I will bring before you the account of an epic dance from one of my most well-loved and most-read books. The point basically is that any individual, be he ostensibly so prim and proper, gets the chance to see his fervent desire… I would even say fetish, become a reality, he becomes a danger. If also, this individual has the power and the means to make his desire come into reality, then what results is a situation to describe which even the word chaos is insufficient…. markedly insufficient. Read the account to see…… and do pay attention to the language and the various literary devices the author adroitly uses to heighten humour – the metaphor and the similes to say the least.

Since I am plunging you right in the middle of the story, a few words about the plot would not be amiss. After a discourse of dancing in his Highland regiment, the author tells us that the Colonel is on verge of retirement and before it the formation is to be inspected by a various senior officer, who is also from a Highland background. However, as it happens, everything possible goes wrong giving a bad impression to the General and creating a lot of frustration in the regiment. On the eve of the General’s departure he is being entertained with the best they can put up but the high-ranking officer turns to have a few ideas of his own……. Now read on.

~~And when we were all back in the ante-room and the senior major remarked that the pipe-sergeant was all set for the dancing to begin, the Colonel barely nodded, and the General lit a cigar and sat back with the air of one who was only mildly interested to see how big a hash we could make of this too. Oddly enough, we didn’t. We danced very well, with the pipe-sergeant fidgeting on the outskirts, hoarsely whispering “One,
Two, Three” and afterwards he and the Adjutant and two of the best subalterns danced a foursome that would have swept the decks at Braemar.

It was good stuff, really good, and the General must have known it, but he seemed rather irritated then pleased. He kept moving in his seat, frowning, and when we had danced an eightsome, he finally turned to the Colonel .“Yes, it’s all right,” he said. “But you know, I never cared much for the set stuff. Did you never dance a sixteensome?”

The Colonel said he had heard of such a thing, but had not, personally, danced it. “Quite simple,” said the General, rising. “Now, then. Eight more officers on the floor. I think I remember it, although its years now…”

He did remember; a sixteensome is complicated but its execution gives you the satisfaction that you get from any complex manoeuvre; we danced it twice, the General calling the changes and clapping (his aide was was studying the ceiling with the air of an archbishop at a cannibal feast) and when it was over the General actually smiled and called for a large whiskey. He then summoned the pipe-sergeant who was looking disapproving.

Pipe-sergeant, tell you what,” said the General. “I have been told that back in the nineties the First Black Watch sergeants danced a thirty two-some. Always doubted it but suppose it’s possible. What do you think? Yes, another whiskey please”.

The pipe-sergeant, flattered but slightly outraged, gave his opinion. All things were possible; right, said the General, wiping his mouth, we would try it.

The convolutions of an eightsome are fairly simple; those of a sixteensome are difficult, but a thirty-twosome is just murder. When you have thirty-two people weaving and circling it is necessary that each one moves precisely right, and its takes organisation. The General was an organiser; his tunic came off after half an hour, and his voice hoarsely thundered the time and the changes. The mess shook to the crash of feet and the skirling of pipes, and at last the thirty-twosome rumbled, successfully, to its ponderous close.

“Dam’ good! Dam’ good!” exclaimed the General, flushed and applauding. “Well danced gen’men. Good show, pipe-sarn’t. Thanks Tom, don’t mind if I do.Dam’ fine dancing. Thirty-twosome, eh! That’ll show the Black Watch!”

This is not the end of our story yet!


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