I well remember a holiday that I spent with my family in Cornwall when I was a boy. Oh, those glorious summer days when the whole of my body was covered in soft downy hair and I knew that I would grow up to be rich, or famous, or both.
About half-way through the holiday, Sally and myself went for a walk along the cliff tops. After an hour we stopped and sat on the grass, and gazed across the sea as it shimmered with a silver phosphoresce. I turned to Sally, and as I did so her mouth opened and before I knew it I was having my first proper snog, and I loved it.
Sadly a year later she got distemper and had to be put down.
Ten years after that first encounter I had grown into a testosterone soaked, sex starved young man with only a vague idea of how to attract the opposite sex. The general opinion amongst my circle of (all male) friends, was that in order to meet the sort of woman that your mother warned you about, you had to go out to what was considered to be the ideal entertainment venue for people of your own age - this being a discotheque. Unfortunately for us, we lived in a town that didn't have one, and so every Friday night a group of eight or ten of us would pile into our cars and head for the nearest bright lights. This was not always as simple as it sounded; My car at the time was a badly dented, half-rust / half-body filler, Ford Cortina, that had a tendency to stop working every time it rained, and much of the time the occupants of my car would spend Friday night in whichever pub was the nearest to where the car had broken down while we waited for it to dry out.
However, when we did manage to get more than twenty miles, we would often end up at a discotheque called 'The Gold Mine' in salubrious, sun-kissed Canvey Island.
At that time, Canvey Island was not an elegant and sophisticated location, in fact it could be generously described as a damp shit-hole with no redeeming features whatsoever, and The Gold Mine reflected that. Still, we weren't elegant and sophisticated either so I suppose we were, in many ways, made for each other.
Whoever it was among us that had suggested that the best place to 'pull' was a shabby Essex disco was either deluded, mis-informed or gay, as I can't remember anyone actually getting a date during all of the time that we went out 'clubbing'.
This really isn't that surprising. Discos at that time (late 70s / early 80s) were still evolving, and they were generally owned by large sweaty men who managed to combine all of the style and panache of a post office moped into their premises. They had a keen interest in selling beer and making money but no interest, knowledge, or taste in music.
And the music...! Dear gods, the music! It was somewhat unsurprisingly 'disco' or 'pop'.
Now I'm sure that the Bee-Gees were all very nice lads. And that Michael Jackson was a splendid bloke and not a half-mad paedophile who tried to change his skin colour. And that Boney M were a serious band. And that all those Irish Eurovision Song Contest winners had some deep and meaningful message in the lyrics rather than a load of euro-babble pap designed to get the Danish vote. But, really, it was seriously bloody awful.
You couldn't dance to any of it for a start. There would be no graceful gliding across the floor with a beautiful woman in your arms. Instead, dancing would consist of shifting your weight from one foot to the other, while trying to do something with your arms that didn't look too ridiculous. A style that has since come to be known as 'Dad Dancing'.
And it was loud! You couldn't have a conversation with anyone. And so instead, you would order another watered-down pint of fizzy, chemically coloured beer and look at the girls on the dance-floor as they did their weight shifting routine to the latest sound sensation from Donna Summer.
After a while, it would become apparent that you had to try to make contact with someone, one way or another. And so you would target a likely looking victim and move as stylishly as possible onto the dance floor, all the time being closely watched by your mates, none of whom had themselves managed to spark any interest in the women.
"S'CUSE ME" you'd bellow, sending a fine spray of beer froth and cigarette fumes into the face of your chosen one; "YOU WANNA DANCE?"
"WHAR?" she says, cupping her hand to her ear.
"YOU WANNA DANCE?"
"NAW. PISS OFF."
And so you would make your way back to the bar to increase the revenue of the fat bloke with the dodgy suit who sits in the office at the back of the club.
At 2.00 in the morning, the law required clubs to stop selling alcohol. And so, unable to extract any more money from you, the clubs would close promptly at ten past two, and you would find yourself standing in the car-park with a full bladder and empty pockets. So you drive home in your crappy car, and then sit for a while thinking about the girl with the bright blue eye-shadow and the flared denim trouser-suit, and the way her hips moved to Randy Vanwarmer's somewhat ironic 'Just when I needed you most' And after musing about what might have been, you go wearily to your lonely bedroom, close the door, and knock a sly one off the wrist.
And so it was with some misgivings that I learnt from my somewhat exotic French missus that we were to go with some friends to a disco on Saturday night, where we would celebrate the birthdays of three of our number. And that the theme would be, horror of horrors - An 80s night! Something which inexplicably is the current fashion throughout France.
Let me explain at this point something about the French and music: Now, I love France. It's a beautiful country, with good weather, excellent food and wine, and outside of Paris the people are inevitably polite, friendly and helpful. They have no hang-ups about class or religion, and don't care what sort of car you drive... But... They have absolutely no sense of rhythm.
How many French singers can you think of over the last 30 years eh? Me neither. This is due to their total lack of rhythm, which means that they are pretty much incapable of writing melodies. So what they do is either take UK/US tunes and put French lyrics to them, or play UK/US songs in their original English. I can only think of one song that has gone the other way and had English lyrics put to it, which is the Frank Sinatra number 'My Way' - originally called 'Comme Habitude' and if you listen to it you will realise that it's a dirge rather than a melody so it doesn't count.
Anyway, off we went to Roumeziere, a town of perhaps 4,000 souls, for our big night out. It's too small to have a nightclub of its own, so soireés are provided by transforming the town hall into a disco by turning the lights down and hanging some spangley curtains to the walls, with the music being provided by a mobile DJ.
As we walked, arm in arm through the door, we were hit with the sound of Boney M's 'Ma Baker' at slightly less than ear-drum bursting level.
All the soul-destroying misery of the Gold Mine came flooding back.
The clientèle for the most part, seemed to be made up of slaughter-house workers and heavy-set farmer's daughters - most of whom hadn't shaved that morning.
There were differences of course. The age range went from small children to pensioners, which meant that there was no tang of expectation in the air that you might get into a fight. As such there was no gorilla wearing a dinner jacket on the door turning people away because they've got the wrong hair-cut, or their shoes have the wrong colour laces. - Instead a homely looking woman in her 30s sat with an open cash-box on a trestle table. And the bar sold wine and champagne and cakes rather than beer and crisps.
But there were also many things the same. On the table next to our party sat two middle aged couples. One of the women was smartly dressed in a 'chain-store chic' sort of way, and it appeared by the amount of champagne that her partner was ordering, that they were not yet an item, but he would like it to be so, if only in a physical, body fluid swapping sort of way. And judging by the way she was knocking the glasses back, she was well aware of his intentions and was going to make sure she got her moneys worth before yielding to him. She could have been a mobile hairdresser from Basildon. Also there was the spectacle of a room full of people dancing incredibly badly (no sense of rhythm you see).
My missus was up there strutting her stuff, along with the rest of them, all unselfconsciously doing the same weight shifting manoeuvre of my youth.
I went over to her as she gyrated out of sync to the strains of the Village People's 'In The Navy'.
"You dancing cheri"? I said.
"PEEZE OFF" she said.
I felt eighteen once more.