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Reform Magazine | October 22, 2019

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Do stay for tea and coffee: Keeeeeep dancing

Do stay for tea and coffee: Keeeeeep dancing

Paul Kerensa hears an argument for a surprising indicator of the end times

It’s all fun and games till someone mentions the end times… I was doing a standup show in a church across country, and was kindly put up by a couple of church members – let’s call them Carol and Clive. (I’ve changed one of their names to protect the innocent; the other one can handle themselves just fine.) They were lovely and hospitable, warm and friendly, and other nice adjectives.

We returned to their charming lodgings after the show, and though it was near midnight, they offered me a mug of tea or wine. I gratefully accepted the former, then the latter when it was clear they were getting stuck in. As the taste of Tetley gave way to a fruity Malbec, we laughed and generally got the measure of each other. Clive had one of those jobs that stumped me for follow-up questions (‘Office support’ – a job my computer made me think was taken by a talking paperclip.) Carol was a professional violinist, globally touring her quartet with who knows how many other musicians.

Conversation turned from high culture to low. As is custom after anyone’s seen my comedy act, my hosts started talking about other comedians they preferred, from Michael McIntyre to John Bishop, Sarah Millican and Dave Allen. There were many that they found hilarious.

We drifted on to what we’d enjoyed on TV lately – I mentioned a Netflix boxset, they mentioned Attenborough, and McIntyre again. Then Clive said: ‘Of course, Strictly Come Dancing is an indication of the end times.’

Carol was rattled. ‘Oh yes,’ she added. ‘It’s a matter of time now. Especially since Brucie left.’ (I may have added that Brucie bit – my memory’s hazy.)

Once I’d established they weren’t joking, queries lined up in my head. Have they always been anti-Strictly? Have they seen it, or made up their minds based on hearsay? Is it the concept of dancing they take issue with? Or the particularly intimate Rumba or American Smooth? Is it Bruno? Is it Anton? Is Carol just bothered by the lack of violins in Dave Arch’s house band?

As they expanded on their apocalyptic hypothesis, it became clear that it was everything. The glitzy combo was too much for their early Saturday evening. Surprisingly, they found fault with this primetime family entertainment, yet had no problem with the late-night standup sets of John Bishop and co. Perhaps it was Strictly positioning itself as a family show that rankled. I try not to judge, but ponder these questions out of curiosity.

I steered conversation onto Trump and the general global state (Carol had travelled to umpteen countries after all), wondering if their literal reading of Europe’s ‘The Final Countdown’ was down to that. But no, Clive and Carol weren’t concerned with political posturing or military meltdowns. The hypothetical Doomsday clock is apparently at two seconds to midnight, whereupon the planet earth turns into a pumpkin and humanity turns back into Cinders – but for my hosts, it would be cultural catastrophe that would herald Jesus’ return.

Personally, I don’t think that Tess and Claudia are here to introduce the Four Horsemen, who’ll sashay on and pose before taking their seats on the ultimate judging panel. But theological cynicism aside, I am a Christian, which by its nature means that I believe Jesus died, rose again and will come again. The penultimate line of the Bible says: ‘The one who testifies to these things says: “Surely I am coming soon.” Amen. Come, Lord Jesus!’

So then, when? It’s a challenge to me. When the BBC trails Strictly’s return for an umpteenth series, God knows the date of an even bigger extravaganza, an almighty quickstep off this dance floor into a greater one.

Carol and Clive were dead set. They even told me they’d not planned any holidays beyond their next one – no point, they said. I’d have thought if the end was nigh, it might be good to tick off a few places on the bucket list, but they had a loftier destination in mind. As the Malbec finished and the clock ticked past midnight (thankfully not the Doomsday clock), Carol picked up her violin for a brief pre-bed recital. I was reminded of the band on the Titanic, valiantly playing on when they knew their fate was sealed.

I’m not one to judge – someone else will do that one day, and it won’t be Craig Revel Horwood. I hope that day is a way off yet. But it made me wonder just how many Strictlys we have left. Let’s enjoy them, or our string quartets, or John Bishop, while we can. And till the good Lord cues the closing music – when he sees fit – we’ll keeeeeep dancing.

Paul Kerensa is a comic writer, performer and broadcaster

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This article was published in the April 2019 edition of Reform

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