THE SALSA CLASS
‘One, two, three. Five, six, seven. Back, forward, back. And RUMBA.’
As every writer knows, most stories fall into your head because of a chance happening or a snatched conversation or – in this case – a Salsa class. Of course, Salsa has been around for a while. At least, for everyone else. But when I signed up for a four week class (to shift newish husband off the sofa), I soon discovered that I was treading on novel territory.
For a start, it was difficult to see exactly who was partnered to whom, in real life. ‘Come on your own or with a friend,’ the poster had said. But because there were more women than men, the enthusiastic leader with legs long enough for lamp posts and a natty little scarf round her waist, got us to Salsa in turn with the limited male reservoir. Those in between stints, did the Salsa solo.
That’s when I began to wonder. Was the grey-haired woman (who had clearly done this before) married to the grey-haired man (who clearly hadn’t?) And had the pretty, tall blonde woman arrived with the aging hippy (if so, I’d missed their entrance. Or had they become close, judging from those hand movements, since the class started?
It was a wonderful exercise in character observation; made even more poignant by the fact that we were next door to a beautiful row of Regency terraces where Jane Austen – arguably, the queen of social minutiae – hung out one summer.
By the second class, newish husband had claimed to hurt his back while lugging carpets around for my daughter. Any excuse. If that sounds unfeeling, it’s because he wasn’t keen on Salsa in the first place. ‘I’ll still come with you,’ he said manfully. ‘Then I’ll know what we’re doing next time.’
Hah! In the event, he spent most of the time, reading Rock Sound and chatting to the barman. Still, it was quite useful because it gave me a chance to remember what it was like on my own. Perfect for novel research.
So too, was the experience of dancing with other men. There’s something distinctly queasy about holding a limp hand in the Salsa position, which involves hanging on to your opponent’s two middle fingers. It’s not so bad if your partner knows what he’s doing but I managed to get quite a few knee-knockers. I tell you. It was all I could do not to stop and write it all down, there and then.
Then there was the female gossip during the wine break. One of my new friends with children at university and no wedding ring, confided how she’d just moved down here and didn’t know anyone. Instantly, I scrolled down my contact list on my iPhone and put her in touch with the tennis club secretary. At the same time, I couldn’t help thinking that she’d be a great contemporary heroine. Courageous yet shy. And a business woman to boot. Life is full of contradictions.
By the way, did I mention the music? It was enough to get anyone’s feet moving, except for my husband’s. Meanwhile, the music, together with smell (maybe we’d better not go there) plus colour (one of the ‘girls’ was wearing a great pair of red shoes) really set the scene. More observations to remember.
I’m not necessarily going to write a novel about a Salsa class, although I haven’t ruled it out. The point is that it helps to answer that inevitable question which all writers are asked from time to time. ‘Where do you get your ideas from?’
Easy! It’s places like these… As soon as I got home that night, I scribbled everything down. Some of the characteristics I noticed during class, will fit neatly into my work in progress. After all, emotions and people are transferable in fiction. And that’s the beauty of it.
By the way, if you’re wondering about who was married to who, it turned out that the grey couple wasn’t a couple at all, even though they looked as though they slotted together. And the pretty blonde woman WAS with the aging hippy. Meanwhile, please excuse me. I’m off to find some Deep Heat for the husband. Turns out that he really has put his back out – after falling over my Salsa shoes by the front door.
AFTER THE HONEYMOON BY JANEY FRASER. PUBLISHED BY ARROW (RANDOM HOUSE). £6.99
ONE HONEYMOON DESTINATION. THREE COUPLES. ENOUGH SECRETS TO SINK THEM BEFORE THE WEEK IS OUT….