Wednesday, December 26, 2007


Major[ette] issues

Doing St John duties takes you to all kinds of interesting places and lets you see all kinds of amazing performances. Getting backstage at V festival in Staffordshire, hanging around in the Golden Circle at Live 8, wandering through the royal enclosure at Royal Ascot when it came to York, and supporting the London Marathon.

Amazing spectacles. Sometimes though, you see something that takes your breath away for all the wrong reasons.

There's a small, low-risk duty we've been doing for several years at a Christmas market in the vicinity of Watford. It's outside, in December and thus thermal underwear is essential wear. This year we got rained on too for good measure. The market consists of a few food stalls, a couple of kids' fairground rides, and some entertainments, including a local team of majorettes.
In case you're not familiar with majorettes, the general principles are well-executed moves, synchronisation, and the twirling and throwing of batons, all performed to music with a beat.

The squad lined up, and the music began. The squad didn't move, but instead adopted a rather confused expression. and nervously glanced towards the hospital radio DJ who was providing the musical accompaniment.
"Sorry folks, that seems to have been the wrong track. Lets try that again shall we?"

The rousing opening to Sash's Ecuador boomed out of the small PA system, and as soon as the beat kicked in, they were off! Sort of. It quickly became apparent that not everyone was completely familiar with the routine, and they were in fact all copying the moves of one girl at the front, resulting in an interesting ripple effect across the group as each majorette copied the girl in front of them.
After marching around a bit and almost executing the manoeuvre where two marching lines cross each other smoothly without breaking step, it was time to start the baton-twirling. Just to reiterate, the whole point of the exercise is to twirl said baton around whilst hanging onto it, and then repeatedly chuck it skywards and catch it. A task which, without exception, every member of the team failed at repeatedly. This led to much running after wayward batons, as the little knobs on each end mean that once dropped, they can roll quite a long way.

Just when we thought it couldn't get any worse, the CD started skipping, and they spent a good ten seconds desperately trying to march to the beat of the stuttering record before the DJ put them out of their misery.

Time to move onto something different. Time to bring out the elite baton twirlers. You could tell they were the elite, because they were twirling bigger batons, and had sashes with medals on. The assembled spectators soon became aware of the key difference between a standard baton and a big baton. A bigger baton makes a bigger sound if dropped. Which they did. Repeatedly.

As if this spectacle wasn't enough, the music accompanying this segment was a euro-dance remix of Celine Dion's 1998 worldwide smash-hit, 'My Heart Will Go On' Already one of the most objectionable and overplayed recordings of the last ten years, made infinitely worse by the addition of a pounding techno beat. The particular version in use on this fateful day appeared to have been recorded from a radio broadcast. On longwave. Underwater. From a country which hadn't quite invented the radio yet. Dire doesn't begin to describe it.
After a while the team decided to call it a day and the performance was concluded.
Their instructor then had an angina attack*, which was fortunately the last item in this catalogue of misfortunes.

Now you may think I'm being a little harsh. The performers were all children, girls with an average age of perhaps nine years old. Normally I'd not comment on their mistakes on account of their youth. Unfortunately, I saw their display last year. Same team, most of the same individuals, and in twelve months they'd made no improvement at all.

Practice makes perfect, but there has to be a point when you take a step back, and realise that your talents lie elsewhere. Sorry girls.

*I should add that we didn't treat the instructor, and were not asked to.

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