Once I had found my feet, dancing was the best way of meeting people and filling the long evenings when Belfast City was blacked out. My mate Bunny was keen and we went every night to some dance hall or other. On Sunday nights when all the other halls were closed we went to the Jewish Institute. I often went to a dance hall in the centre of the City where I am convinced they were so keen on looking at the dancer’s feet to see whether the turn was on the heel or the toe, they would have failed to notice if the dancer was totally naked. The conversation might have been one track – no, not that – dancing, – but those visits to the clubs and studios did a lot for my skills on the dance floor.
To relieve the boredom during the interval when the band went off and we were left with soft drinks and a record player I used to practice a parlour game. I have always believed that by studying people, their looks, their body language and their reaction to others around them one can make a shrewd assessment of their character in a broad sense. Someone at our table, in our company, would point to a person across the dance floor whom they knew. I would watch and then give a thumbnail sketch of their character and their reactions in certain circumstances. It seemed at the time that my assessments were reasonable, or else it was a case of who is kidding the kidder? Certainly my companions seemed to enjoy the game.
In this way I met many good dancers and one in particular who had been a beauty queen, whom I invited to a Christmas dance at the British Legion Hall. The dance went well but when it was over the limited number of taxis had all left and we had the choice of waiting or walking. She lived some four miles away at the posh end of town and was shod only in dance shoes, so walking was out of the question. I had an idea, asked her to wait and then left in search of transport. Just round the corner from the Hall was a police station and in my experience big policemen had big bicycles. Sure enough the RUC did and one of their number was prepared to lend me his. I returned and stated my case. With a little hesitation she mounted the cross bar and we eventually arrived at her house. She never held it against me, but I think she had aspirations higher than a sailor whose only asset was a highly developed initiative.