Celebrating England

Anne-Hathaways-side-view It’s been a week now and I am settling: getting used to sleeping with a hot water bottle; driving like a demon; eating blueberries from Tesco every morning for breakfast. I’ve managed to work out how to talk to Carlos by buying Skype credit and calling the landline, so I get my daily injections of Argentine love and castellano. My family are all speaking little spanish phrases to me. They are getting ready to meet  my Argentine: my mum can manage a great, ‘Encantada!’ and my dad seems fascinated by ‘Tengo…’ (I have). I haven’t seen my parents yet, but one of my sisters arrives on the plane from Manchester tonight. I can’t believe I am going to see her. It feels like an impossibility. But no, it is not. It’s reality. And a very happy one.

This week I have had to drive out into the English countryside to meet with accountants. Wow, ‘el campo’ here is beautiful: rolling hills; ancient trees; green, green, GREEN. The market towns and villages are packed with history: stone and thatched houses; cathedrals; winding streets with names like, ‘The Hundred’… everything is so English and now these special parts of my country stand out to me. I appreciate things here as if I have never seen them before. I notice that the pavements are clean, that people are generally fatter,  that we have incredibly beautiful new 20 pound notes… yesterday in Boots I found myself saying to the cashier, ‘How long have we had these?’ She looked at me as if I was slightly crazy but kindly answered, ‘Oh quite a while.’ I felt I could have been in Doctor Who, time travelling to London and having to ask what date it is. But all these little things make me smile. Exploring is my cup of tea. And I do feel like an explorer in my own land.

And talking of time, it is flying. One week gone and I am realising that there are many people I am not going to get to see, many things I am not going to be able to do. Otherwise I am going to wilt under my own pressure.

Everyone says I am too thin, and this I know. I have not an ounce of fat to keep out the cold. But I am trying my best to eat all the meals that kind people are buying me. That part is a joy: I’ve eaten a delicious Nepalese meal  in Southampton, a heavenly Thai lunch in London and I’m enjoying the spices that I don’t often come across in Argentina.  This is a  gift of being in England.

People are asking me about how I am finding the tango. Well, I am going to be careful about how I deal with that question. Firstly so far I’ve only been to one Milonga. I will go again on Sunday. And secondly, what I have to remember is that English Argentine tango IS going to be different from Argentine Argentine tango. I first learned to dance here in Southampton, and I am grateful that I learned here. If it hadn’t been for my teachers in England and the Milongas they hosted, well, I would never have gone to Argentina. So I will celebrate that fact. Of course in general the men are not Argentine: they don’t sing tangos in your ear, or exclaim the names of their favourite orchestras as a tanda starts, or respond to the music as if it is their lover; they don’t give you the embrace that says, ‘I will take care of you and treat you like the precious jewel that you are… close your eyes and forget everything except that you are in my arms’; they don’t cabaceo you from far across the room and walk towards you as if you are the only woman on the planet.

I think men here tend to ‘do more steps’, that they have learned in classes. It is normally to perhaps ‘show what you know’ or try out ‘moves’ on the dance floor. This is possible too because there is a bit more space to dance… although I did get bumped a few times, so maybe there is less space than some men think. In general I did not feel I could close my eyes. I needed to be aware of who was dancing around me, and because the guys ‘do more moves’, I was shifting in and out of open embrace a lot, and it’s not easy to just relax and dream in that situation. I had to be absolutely solid in my axis and occasionally compensate a bit for a less than, shall we say, ‘thoughtful’  lead. But I realised that I can dance with pretty much any lead, and whatever the ‘moves’, my body is relaxed enough to feel them and follow. I can honestly say it was a bit of fun. Now of course, I am lucky because I know I don’t have to stay here forever. I am going back to the Argentine embrace. So it is easy for me to celebrate the different, and appreciate it for a while. I hope to dance with all my English friends while I am here, and all I wish is that my tango gives them something beautiful. I just hope that they find it a pleasure to dance with me. It isn’t just about what they give, it’s about what I give back. And I will try to give them the Argentina that is now a part of my soul.

I also know that I will have Carlos here in two weeks time and that we will dance together at the Milongas. I will love to see what he makes of it all. I think perhaps the hardest thing for him may be the music. It is so important to him: the Argentines all have their favourite tandas, orchestras, tangos… and I am not sure how familiar the music will be. We seem to play a lot of pop and other tracks. BUT Carlos is an incredibly gracious man. He has already said to me that he is so looking forward to experiencing our tango, because it will be different, and therefore enjoyable. He will not moan, or compare unfavourably. He will learn why I have found some of the tango etiquettes in Argentina so hard to come to terms with. He will see my tango roots, and he will understand who I am, where my tango soul was born. And I will be proud to show him.


8 Responses

  1. First of all, let’s say “Welcome Home!”
    It must be a very heartwarming and wonderfully strange but yet familiar experience to be back. I have been through something very similar a few years back when I came back “home” from another “home”. I might say that the bonus for me was to experience that fuzzy warm feeling equally at both these places that I see as homes.

    In just over one or two weeks the Green will become even greener here, and the sunny days begin to become far more frequent and warmer. It is in many ways the very best of times to be in England.

    “Tango” community and its culture here is bound to feel different to what you have become accustomed to however for a taste of the familiar maybe a visit to some popular milongas in the south east and London can be seen as worthwhile.

    Regardless of all these, I loved reading your post.

    Enjoy your stay!

  2. Hey ! Yes celebrate England and enjoy your time here. I guess you are aware of this ancient tradition ?
    That’s what I love about Britain, tradition !

  3. Hi, S. For some reason this post made me think of our tanda together at Ideal on my third day here, that day we met Kate at Havanna. Since then I have danced at thirty milongas and with 100+ woman yet I’d rate that as one of my favorite days here on the dance floor. Thanks for it.

    Greets from BA


  4. MilongaCat
    Yes actually it is rather lucky to have two ‘homes’ and to be able to celebrate the best of each of them. Now that I’ve been here over a week and feel more settled, I am loving the parts of here that I don’t have there.
    England is so beautiful in many ways, and I am appreciating that now like never before… rediscovering my own country is special.
    I do hope to get to some different tango experiences too while I am here. If you see me looking lost in London, come and say hi…

    Yes our traditions are to be celebrated!
    And you too… please say hi if you see me in Londres. I never really danced there before, just one Negracha, and one Balham. So a friendly face will be very welcome…

    I am so happy to hear that you have danced with over 100 women now in BA. I too remember that day. It was a joyful afternoon because I had many new friends around me. Sadly, the Thursday afternoon Milonga I loved in La Ideal has closed now… nothing ever stays the same for long does it? I have to find a new haunt when I return.
    Keep enjoying your Buenos Aires, and maybe we will meet again in April.


  5. I love how you describe both worlds with such love and clarity. I love how you are melding both worlds, and now bringing Argentina to your loved ones and friends who have not experienced it yet.

    I can’t wait to hear about Carlos and his arrival.

  6. Oh Sally,
    the stone buildings, medieval cathedrals and cobbled streets… and the spicy food… aaaahhh… enjoy it while you can;)

  7. I think your two worlds are lovely, and I’m so glad for you that you’ve learned how to cherish them. I have to say, your Argentine is a wise man for saying what he said. And I cant’ wait for you to get reunited, and hear the stories on how he learns to enjoy one of those two worlds, that right now he doesn’t know, and that you are now ready to share with him. I hope it will be an amazing and very happy experience for both of you.

  8. Oh, you’re making me homesick! I have no idea when I’ll be home again. I’m already scared about going back to London milongas, even though I really haven’t experienced the Argentine qualities of man you describe – because of the places I tend to go I still dance mostly with tourists, and because of the style I dance there’s very little dreaming in someone’s arms for me. Perhaps I’d better try and get some of that, as a supplement.

    I hope you have a wonderful, wonderful time in the UK, and that Carlos does too, and isn’t too traumatised by the culture shock!

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