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Smallville: The Year Of The Fish

Now how does that ditty go? … “mackerel swimming in shoals…’’ Peter B Farrell enjoys (endures?) the entertainment at an East Coast resort where New Yar’s Eve is being celebrated in October.

I tried to recollect the words of a ribald song I had heard the previous day.

“Something, something, partial to Skate, ...something, something, on my plate”

My wife Margaret and I were staying at a resort on the East Coast, sampling a ‘Turkey and Tinsel‘ break. The holiday - catering mainly for the retired -crammed in Christmas and New Year in the space of four days; a daunting program that would be repeated over almost three months.

Christmas had been a success and we looked forward to today’s activities, New Years Eve. The weather was mild for October and with time to spare we decided to spend the morning in the nearest town, where it was market-day.

“How’s your leg?” Our neighbour enquired as we were leaving; he was one of the many wheelchair-bound who were attracted by the facilities here. Yesterday I had dived onto his patio after failing to notice the low adjoining wall. I blamed my new vari-focal lenses.

“Just a few cuts and bruises, a bit sore thanks.“

“Back to normal for a few hours“ Margaret added. Nothing like a few hours shopping was what she really meant.

“Just remember the motor-bike evangelist. Any sign of him and I’m off.” I remember the last time we were here. when my wife was accosted and plagued by a religious fanatic. I had pretended not to know her and followed at a safe distance until he roared off to continue his mission.

“...something, something, or mackerel swimming in shoals…”

I still couldn’t remember the words of the song, a party piece by a fellow holidaymaker well into his eighties; who accompanied himself on banjo.

The market was in full swing with many bargains on offer, although why anyone would want to buy 10 pairs of socks the same colour - white - had me baffled.

“You can’t miss those.“ Margaret could see the logic however, and for only £1.99 too. Done. After a productive morning’s shopping down the Golden Mile, we made our way back in time for lunch.

“Don’t confuse the waitress, keep it simple; soup, salad, ice-cream and no fresh fruit.“ Margaret had sympathy for the waitress, a young girl just in from Eastern Europe and in the process of learning English. The previous day my “Wot, no Coconuts?” had her heading for the phrase book.

Our companions at the dining table - the 85 year old Yoga teacher and his partner - planned to compete in the ladies versus men Bowling Tournament in the afternoon. We declined to join them and opted instead for the singing and dancing later on, with the resident keyboard player.

The music was good and we joined in. It seemed some of the regular visitors came equipped and ready to entertain. A lady produced some sheet music and belted out some standards; not a bad voice for her age, and she was roundly applauded. It later transpired that she had been a professional singer with a well-known dance band.

Later some members of the victorious Ladies bowling team arrived. It transpired that they had celebrated by lifting their skirts, perhaps in some form of bizarre Can-Can.

“They must all be in their seventies at least;“ from the Yoga teacher.

I was aghast and wished I had never heard this, as the vision had ingrained in my memory. Worse was to follow, during a party dance some of the victorious bowling team repeated their celebration.

“Can I open my eyes now?” It was too much for me.

“Back by special request...” The keyboard player was about to introduce another guest.

“Oh no.” Margaret must have been psychic. We had witnessed Albert’s performance the previous day and I had been intrigued by his material; perhaps handed down from the Victorian Music Halls.

“...It’s Albert, someone’s asked for the fish song,“ the keyboard player announced.

“That’s the song, something about skate, mackerel and soles.”

“I’m off.“ As Albert broke into song she left for the coffee lounge, or was it the bar? I decided to join her.

Later that evening, after dinner, we met up with our friends Jean and Harry for the evening’s entertainment, starting with Bingo. Cajoled by Jean “Why don’t you play, you could win enough to come again?” and ignoring Margaret’s “One good reason not to.“ I handed over my £2 for a ticket.

“Only one ticket?“ ...from Jean as I settled down to play. She had a boisterous sense of fun, always joining in the banter with the Bingo caller.

“Doctor’s orders - number 9.” Announced the caller. Jean followed up with a loud, grating, hacking cough. ”Thank you patients; “ intoned the caller.

Some of the catch phrases were intriguing, I just couldn’t see the link. Needless to say I didn’t win.

The highlight of the evening proved to be the fancy dress parade and competition. A number of wheelchairs led the way, followed by the blind lady;. We were impressed by the ingenuity of the combatants. The winner was announced.

“The guide dog? What was wrong with the...” I was drowned out by the thunderous applause.

The band took to the stage and we joined in the dancing. The floor became crowded and the dancing more boisterous as the evening wore on. During a particularly catchy tune, someone had left their wheelchair behind and was negotiating around the floor.

“Nothing wrong with him.” shouted Jean.

“Perhaps a miracle.” I added.

The evening’s dancing culminated in a rousing rendition of ‘Auld Lang Syne’

“Happy New Year.“ I shouted.

“It’s still October.” Margaret restrained me.

Out of the corner of my eye I spotted Albert.

“...the most beautiful fish you can have on your dish are...”

I remembered the lyrics.


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