Por una cabeza



Before I go any further, I must stop and shout ‘free at last, free at last!’. It may only be for two weeks, but it feels like a lifeline of relaxation. In common with most people who have jobs and busy lives, by the end of the year, I am done in. I exist somewhere on the continuum between stop the world, I want to get off, and stop the bus, I need a wee wee. If such a continuum exists. Possibly not. Either way, a weight has been lifted and the lounging may truly commence.

Not that there hasn’t been a smidgeon of lounging happening already. Early last week I contracted the dreaded lurgy, what might affectionately be called the ‘man-flu’ (what, sexist, moi?). I had a similar thing about two months ago, and it’s clearly been lurking, biding its time for re-emergence. Or perhaps, I am a bit tired and unhealthy and run down, therefore susceptible to its evilness, who knows? Since then, it’s been a case of woman down, even a couple of days off sick last week. And each time I came to my laptop to write, I was unable; as though my entire head was full of cotton wool, or soggy hankies. Apart from this, the worst thing about it, aside from the mountains and on occasion, fountains, of snot, is the deafness.

If you are unlucky, like me, you might be prone to this with bad colds. It feels like your entire head is under water; you can hear sounds, but they are muffled. Deeper sounds are much harder to hear. It reminds of that Radiohead video, I think it’s Karma Police, which is a claustrophobic shot of Thom Yorke’s head inside a glass box, slowly filling up with water. According to the doc at the ear clinic, some people are born with narrower ear canals than others, possibly due to our squishy skulls being squeezed during the birth process. When you get a heavy cold, it’s not actually fluid that’s the problem, even though when you blow your nose, you can hear all the phlegm moving around the sinuses (sorry for this gruesomeness). Instead, the issue is that all the yucky infectious stuff causes the area around the canal to swell up, making hearing even more tricky.

Managing this is hard. If you can squirrel away avoiding human contact apart from email and text, then all is well. When you are in an open plan office, or a meeting, sometimes you can’t hear people across the table, especially if they are softly spoken. If I was properly deaf, as in qualifying as a disability, I expect it would be treated properly. As it is, other people tend to find it amusing or annoying, that they have to speak more loudly or repeat themselves. I get teased for it, which is an eye opener. As a person of reasonable privilege, aside from my gender, (being white, heterosexual, educated, etc etc), it’s a useful reminder of what some people face all the time. My situation is temporary but at times I have felt genuinely disabled by it. Not hearing what is being said in an important meeting is frustrating. However, it will improve. Already I have noticed a shift in my cold. It’s still horrible, but less horrible. I am still a bit deaf, more so than normal, but I can hear the radio loudly at 17. Two days ago, I needed 20. Normally, it is 14. Progress is being made.

There was one positive side to this snotter fest. It has forced me to slow down, almost completely. Apart from the most basic work and maternal functions, I have done SFA for a couple of weeks. I have only been to the gym once or twice this month, and I’ve been on a sugar, carb and booze fest. Chocolate is everywhere, so is wine. There are a lot of social engagements and lots of reasons not to get up early and exercise. I am not particularly concerned, as I’m already a bit scunnered with the excess. Come January, I will be ready to get fit and healthy again. Right now, it’s low on my priority list and I ain’t bothered. And whether we admit it or not, we should all take a bit of time out once in a while. Humans need to let loose.

So instead of doing all the sensible, proper things, I have been eating, drinking and watching TV and films and loving it. Not one to promote unethically, I will point out that recently I purchased one of those plug-in doohickeys for the TV (from one of the UK’s most prolific tax avoiders) and it is amazing. My current crush is the lovely Jamie in the pic above, from the Outlander series.  More TV has been watched in a fortnight than in a year. It’s not going to become  an obsession, but it can be inspiring and entertaining (Jessica Jones anyone?). I have realised I need to take time for guilt free TV/film at least once a week. It may seem obvious to many, normal people, but I have started being kind to myself. A method I started even before this man-flu hit me, before I could get started on my next sadness-avoiding obsession, which is the Argentine tango.

The translation of the Spanish title of this post is ‘by a horse’s head’: a racing term, which is a useful summary of my 2015 compared to 2014: i.e. it’s a bit better than the horribleness of last year. Por una cabeza is also one of the most famous tango songs ever, one which you will recognise from numerous films, including the dance scene in one of Al Pacino’s most over acted performances, as the blind ex-soldier on the cusp of suicide in Scent of a Woman. Earlier this month, I went to a tango show with a friend and it was so wonderful, I decided there and then to go back to Argentine tango lessons. By the end of the following day, I was booked on a refresher package, including one-to-one lessons. Its been a while since I danced a tango, but much came flooding back. 

The most important thing is to understand that the leader really does lead. This is not the ballroom tango, where the dance is very clear. In the Argentine tango, there is a basic alphabet of steps (with embellishment for the follower) that can be used in social dance. However, the follower (usually the woman) has to be truly led by the leader, typically the man. In social dance, once invited, usually the dancers dance for three songs so they can get used to each other’s rhythms: forming, norming and performing. Strangely, I had an immediate affinity and was determined to learn and get better.

Sadly, this was thwarted by the man-flu. The plan was to keep going with the practicas and milongas of the Argentine tango in Glasgow but I will wait until the germs go. I may struggle to get on a class soon as a follower –there are often couples, or too many followers, compared to leaders. Men do not seem to dance enough, something I hope to change with my own son. In the meantime, I will practice as much as I can. I will admit to being as terrified as anything in turning up to the practica. They all know each other and there was a fear that no-one would ask me to dance. 

The tango is beautiful and it has an emotional pull, different to that of other latin dances. Because it is completely improvised, the follower must wait until the leader directs them in the dance. This is the hardest part of the dance for me; I am not used to waiting for the man to do stuff. I would usually do it myself – this applies to numerous scenarios.  

Dancing took me out of myself, whether I was good or not. It was a way of escaping, while still discovering a new language to communicate with. There are numerous steps to learn, all seemingly complicated. Yet, there are people you are immediately better at dancing with. You have a connection, whether they are attractive or not. It really doesn’t have to be all about the sex, even though that is synonymous with tango in some ways. When I went to the practica, men did dance with me, but they were all different. While I enjoyed it, I was quite clear that I was a beginner that needed more instruction. More social dancing is what I need.

Social dancing is the antidote to my current scenario.  I need to dance with any man who knows what he’s doing and, for practice, those who don’t. It’s tough on the men to be leader, but it’s equally hard for the woman to be submissive. If you google tango, there are multiple videos to choose from e.g. Gotan Project songs plus tango dancers.

The music is beautiful. Violins, piano, accordion. Very simple and gorgeous: the folk music of Argentina. The dances shown are very dramatic tango. These are show dances, to demonstrate the skills and talents that will showcase the dancer’s talent, rather than show how the individual will dance in real life, like this. Which is fine, but regular social dancing looks a lot less glamorous and much less exotic and much more like a dance in a church hall like this.

Ah, the excitement of it all. Things to look forward to. New beginnings. I hope that things improve by more than a horses head by next year. 

Have a wonderful holiday. 

Until next time,






Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: