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Blogging the AGM 2008 #12 (Amnesty Come Dancing)

9:30pm  There are some thirsty souls gathered around the bar – six deep at some points. Parching work, this human rights. Aikta has promised / threatened us with an evening of elegant ballroom dancing. Sadly, looking around me at a motley crew of activists and staffers doesn't fill me with confidence that her dreams of glitter and sparkle will be realised.

But wait a moment. Here comes Dugald (he of the frequent-flyer lunch tray) sauntering up the corridor. He's been back to his room to change. He is in a suit. But, wait, there's even more.

Dugald's looking dapper in a topper. Real proper.

And there's Aikta herself, setting a good example, in a fetching black and white number. And her loyal husband in a hot, latino-style red shirt. And Clare B, who has a flower behind her ear. I'm pretty sure it didn't get there by accident. What's going on?

The restaurant-cum-Amnesty marketplace has been transformed into a Ballroom of Romance. Well, some tablecloths have been draped over the merchandise and campaigns tables… But no, there's more – someone's been busy.

The lights have been dimmed. A whole wall has been turned into a flickering, starlight strewn, night sky. The glitterball is revolving, as they do. It is – almost – beautiful.

Spinning the discs is the oldest DJ I have ever seen (ahem, obviously, I don't mean this in some horrible, ageist way). He's wearing a flat cap. And not in a devil-may-care, Kristyan Benedict, man-wth-places-to-go, people-to-see, sorta way. He's just wearing a flat cap.

He's also playing some strange 1950s, leaning-on-a-lamppost type dance music. Visits to the dancefloor are sporadic. There is precious little gliding going on, never mind twirling. What happened to the ballroom dancing? What happened to the ballroom dancers? They're late, I hear. Oh. Dear.

But suddenly they're here – swishing and swooshing onto the floor. They don't have the air of people who have spent their day in working parties a, b, c or d.

They're the Australian ballroom dance champions (what is it with Australians and ballroom dancing?). Mr Dance tells us they've had their dresses stolen (what? his too?). As a result, they are clothed all in black and look much the better for their lack of spangles. Scrutinising their attire, not-so-dour Scot John W notes that Ms Dance appears to have had the bottom part of her dress stolen too. No-one seems to mind, least of all the male trade union affiliate delegates strategically situated half-way between the dancefloor and the bar.

Later Ms Dance will experience, what I think is called in the trade, a wardrobe malfunction. Again, our fraternal colleagues don't appear to mind. Neither does she. Maybe it's an occupational hazard. The dance demonstration continues. Foxtrot, waltz, salsa, cha cha cha. Or, so they say. These dances don't much look like any of the dancing my parents used to do at family weddings.

Like Northern Ireland's electorate upon first spying Paisley and McGuinness in 'Chuckle Brothers' mode, we're seeing, but we're not quite believing. How can the human body be so fluid, so graceful? So unlike our own?

12:06am  The bar has closed. Again, the trade union delegates have acted with the sort of tactical foresight that only comes from a lifetime of attending conferences. Their table is groaning with pints. They have stocked up. 

Others are starting to stare at the bottom of their glasses. Thoughts are turning towards bed – hey there are standing orders committee elections at 8:45 the next morning, after all. Others, perhaps for the exact same reason, are thinking of just one thing – after hours common room parties. Where is it to be? Rumours abound. Cavendish Halls for some of the staffers I hear. Sherwood for some of the members.

1:00am  Being advanced in years, I wend my way back instead to Rutland Halls … through the snow. Yes, it's April and it's snowing. My thoughts turn to my newly sown vegetable plot at home. Snow's not going to help there is it? Oh no, I really am that old.

I pass by yet another party in the common room on my floor. It's STAN, I'm told. That's the student action network, by the way, not some guy with a really LOUD name. I keep going. It's bedtime. There are standing orders committee elections in the morning, after all.

Link to post #13

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Our blogs are written by Amnesty International staff, volunteers and other interested individuals, to encourage debate around human rights issues. They do not necessarily represent the views of Amnesty International.
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