Tag Archives: Comme Il Faut

How to fix your Comme il Faut’s

Technically they are two years old, but most of that time they have been sat in a box here. They have been worn for less than a month. The shop on the corner did a good job of repairing the buckle, but the straps are too thin and finding the holes in a dark milonga is impossible. So the strap was now also failing. It looked terminal, so I started thinking outside of the box. Is there any way to replace the strap? I told Viv what I was thinking and we joined our heads together, what about a lace? I went back to the shoe repairers and used my new Spanish word, agujero. I asked her to make two holes in the shoe, either side of the heal cage. I cut off the straps and the buckles, threaded the lace through and voila better than new Comme Il Faut’s. An added advantage is, the only detail on these shoes was the white strap. Now we can change the shoes with just a different coloured lace. We have always enjoyed El Arranque but with the demise of the Monday we have not been this trip. So we thought we would give the early Saturday milonga a try. We set off expecting to just hop off the subte at Callao. Big mistake, the subte is shut at weekends for improvements. When we got there, I was not now ready with a bus route. I did think of taking the 168 down to Entre Rios and walking from there, but in the end we just walked all the way. It was OK but we struggled to get through the crowds at Pueyrredon y Corrientes, so after that we turned off Corrientes and walked down Sarmiento. That was much quieter. At El Arranque the waiter remembered me, he gave me a good seat and even remembered what I drink. She sat quietly at the far wall, no longer in the flush of youth with mad red hair, nobody seemed to want to dance with her. I remembered her from before and when DiSarli was played she was my choice. Easily the best dance of the afternoon, coming very close to the Biagi tanda that I did with her later. I have a couple of favourite ladies here, chosen purely on their dancing abilities. Viv said she had some wonderful dances, as well. Mark this as one of our new regular milongas. I am getting the hang of these collectivos now. Instead of turning right out of Bartolome Mitre we turned Left and headed for Rivadavia. Once there we could pick up our old faithful 151. Best of it is it is not yet full here so we got a seat all the way to our front door.

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Roger

Time for some shoe therapy. We had a lot planned for today, but first we have to go to Arenales and the Comm Il Faut shop.

Roger is in town so in between the shoe shopping we are also trying to make arrangements to meet up. It has become something of a tradition now that after Comm Il Faut we go to La Tekla on Talcahuano and Paraguay. So we asked if Roger would like to meet us there. Unfortunately I said Uruguay and that got confused with Talcahuano as they are parallel. In the end I sent the directions by SMS as it was easier that way.

When Roger and Mirta arrived there was much kissing all round (even two men from Wales can learn to kiss here) and we had a lunch that lasted for nearly three hours.

We have so much in common, both engineers, both from Wales and we have both wrestled with the Argentine system with varying amounts of success and failure in equal measure. We could talk all day about our Argentine experiences, and then of course there are all the interesting artifacts hanging up In La Tekla. What? For instance was that crank shaft out of? Five bearing and big enough for a three litre engine and there, in the casting it said BMW. The severed head on a singer sewing machine? Could it be Christina? Nice cam chain! And all those phones! I had an Underwood typewriter like that once.

Two litres of beer, and two lots of Coffee, time to head off for some afternoon kip ready for the night ahead. We had to postpone the meal with Philippe, there will be time enough tomorrow.

We rejoined them at Gricel later and danced with them, took photos of them dancing, they took photos of us dancing and just enjoyed each others company. The night just flew by.

When Viv had had enough dancing I tried my hand with the locals, but did not have a lot of success here. One lady I danced with had her own ideas of what she was dancing, kept moving and it had nothing to do with me. Because I had taken her from the table I never saw her shoes, she had loose clumpy sandals that were totally unsuitable. The next lady I danced with was huge (in every way) I tried to lead, but I think I was on a loser. She kept apologizing, but I just said “no problemo” and carried on to the end of the tanda. She had (I think)two daughters with her and they decided to video as we reached her table. Well there comes a time when you should break the rules, this was it. For the sake of her daughters I opened my hold and led her, as best I could into some crowd pleasing moves. Leave them happy, that is the main thing.

I managed one good dance before we left, but the hour was late and we needed to catch our collectivo.

Now last week we had arrived at the stop just after quarter to the hour and waited nearly an hour and a quarter. By this calculation I guessed that the bus must come normally at or about quarter to. So we arrived just before half past. (No point in taking chances).

The bus arrived just as we did, good job we did not wait until quarter to.

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Profesionals?

It was always going to be hectic, too many things to do in too short a time. It all started when Viv was asked to help at the WI. At first it was “teach them some simple Line dances” then it became “you could do some tango as well” Trouble is, how do you do a demo of Salon tango to people who’s only experience of Argentine tango is Strictly Come Dancing.

So it soon became a talk, and then a demo, after that it was a simple case of leave the line dancing to Viv.

Our day started late (because of a night shift the night before) with a practice, our small dance room gives us only enough room to warm up. If we had a choreographed routine, it would either not fit here or it would be lost in any decent sized room. So we warmed up and Viv worried that I would miss out all our best moves. For me though it is better that I just relax, nobody knows all our moves and they probably would not care.

Viv was also worried about the music, she changed her mind daily. I had to put my foot down on Saturday and say “whatever we choose today, that is it” In the end we settled for Champagne Tango By Carlos DiSarli, Corazon de Oro and El Portenita by Angel Vargas. I wanted Café Dominguez, but Viv did not like the talking at the start. I held it in reserve anyway.

We also had to rearrange the music systems. The speakers from my power amp are large, to say the least, so in order to save space they have taken over in the dining room. They look less conspicuous when in use and my usual speakers can be hidden away.

Everything had to be restored to working order for the night’s practica after the speakers were removed, so there was much cable pulling and reconnecting to be done.

Finally, with everything set up at home and all the show gear in the car we set off for our venue. When we arrived they were already setting up the tables in a ring around the room. “We thought you wanted the middle of the room” they said. Trouble was, with the sound gear on the stage, set at a volume we could work at, the people at that end of the room would have the backs of their heads blasted off.

They were very accommodating and soon things were arranged to please us. Next problem was the floor, it was a school hall you see. There was a tile missing in the middle, that was bad enough but worse there were two Comme Il Faut heal size holes in the floor. I figured out that these were bolt holes for the wall bars when they were swung out.

We needed a practice to find ways of avoiding the obstacles. Finally set, we then waited for the crowds. A few of the ladies came over and asked some awkward questions “are you the man who teaches on Tuesday?” “Do you teach in the church hall?” It took me some time to realise, they thought I was a line dance teacher. The Suit, tie and Oxford shoes should have given it away. Line Dancers wear jeans and boots, and I had no hat or sixguns.

Viv gave a very good talk, with me interrupting where necessary, hopefully the ladies of Rossnesni WI now know the difference between salon and show tango. They were very attentive, and even had a few questions for us afterwards.

Our demo went off well, as always I forgot some of our signature moves, but we kept it moving and stayed with the music. So in my eyes anyway, it was a success. The ladies seemed to enjoy it and thanked Viv profusely when she finally left.

Me? I had to rush off, someone to pick up for the practica and I had one very helpful neighbour, who was attending the house, in case anyone arrived early. Anyway there was no point in me being late as well.

We had a great practica, numbers were up and just one extra female. Viv finally managed to arrive in time for a last couple of dances.

So we had another great practica, enjoyed thoroughly our demo and on top of that we were rewarded for our efforts.

I guess that now make us professional Dancers. Bookings are now being taken.

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Distant Tanguera

Unusually this week we started the dance in full sun. It was nice for a change to have all the doors and windows open.

Numbers were a bit disappointing, but I suppose everyone was out with their barbeques. Still the numbers were boosted at about half eight when Candi arrived with her partner Yanis (is that the right spelling?). We had some Comme Il Faut shoes for her and she was just itching to try them out. The best thing for me about Viv bringing shoes over is I get the virgin dance almost every time. There really is something special for the ladies when they dance for the first time in their Comm Il Faut’s, so it is a real honour for me to lead these shoes into their first dance.

Candi has travelled all the way from Stoke to be with us tonight, so I am more than glad to pass on a few moves, we have to be careful though as we don’t want this to turn into a class. Another benefit of her coming is that now she realises just how far it is. I get frequent invites to Stokies and much as I would love to go, the distance makes it impractical. When I work nights, obviously it is impossible, but when I am on days I would have to leave about nine in order to get a decent sleep. I would be just too tired after work, so that leaves about one day in eight. Oh well maybe someday soon.

 Tonight we had Angel D’Agostino and Francisco Canaro as our artists. Candi quizzed me about Canaro and I am afraid my knowledge is not as good as it should have been. Part of the problem, of course, is that no one has ever quizzed me before on the artists, from now on I must swat up before the dance. It really is good to have someone who is interested, and it makes me learn as well.

Just for Candi; Canaro played Violin and made recordings from 1915-1973. (despite dying in 1964) I hope I am forgiven my lack of knowledge.

Arriving a bit later meant that she missed my favourite D’Agostino track “Café Dominguez” but I danced it with Viv and for three minutes was transported back to Confiteria Ideal in Buenos Aires.

Our practicas look less like dances with every passing one, when Candi arrived she commented that she was sorry to have arrived in the middle of our supper. I suppose the sight of everyone sat around the table eating, and no one dancing must have confused somewhat. Still we were soon up dancing again, although the draw of that fabulous Stilton was proving too hard to resist. (There was little left at the end of the night).

I must have had some sort of premonition that it would be a long night, normally I time La Cumparsita to come on at eleven, tonight though it was almost twenty to twelve and there were still four of us, eating, dancing, and talking rubbish, fuelled by Argentine wine, Ginger beer, and the last of my Gin.

I did not take much rocking when I finally hit the sack at after one o’clock, I will get these people into the Buenos Aires way, one day.

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Result

I was feeling a little down and today I had a few difficult things to do, still no point in worrying about it, just get on with it. Before we set out I made sure we had extra money with us, my credit and debit cards, and most important here, my passport.

Viv had brought a coat with her last time. It was good quality but it belonged to a friend of our daughters and fitted her like a sausage skin. It was totally unsuitable for any of our friends here so she just wanted to put it out with the trash. I was having non of this and said it is far too good to go in the rubbish, I would take it to the ferria around the corner. Now I did not expect much, the shops are full of stuff and I don’t think that they have a rapid turnover. I would be happy for $5 or $10 if not I would take it to the next one and just say “have it”. The guy in the shop looked at it called the lady from the back and she examined it then offered me $30. I tried not to look too pleased as I accepted her offer. No doubt I could have haggled her up, but hey this was going in the bin. I gave Viv the $30 and we set off for town.

I had the location of Monedero Central from the link that Janis had sent me, so that was our next stop. Again Viv had been badgering me to just throw the non functioning card away, but I had a kind of emotional attachment to my card and I know that we use this same type of card in work for the vending machines and there they can recharge them. We found the office, and as usual there was a queue. It did not take long to deal with the two in front of me so soon we stood inside the little glass office. “esta tarjeta no funciona” I said. She held her hand out for the card and I passed it to her. She asked me for my passport (I knew it would come in handy) and said it had $32. She then showed me the new card and said “es el mismo” She put my $32 on it and said “listo”.

Result, two out of three and already $62 up. The next stop we did not think would be so easy: A pair of shoes Viv had bought on our last visit had a wonky heel. She could not sell them and we needed to exchange them at Comme Il Faut. Now Alicia can seem a bit short at times and even I did not think we would have a great success but we went in, anyway.

The girl who met us could not have been more helpful. She tried straightening it up then said she could send it back to the workshop for repair. I asked if we could exchange instead, to which she agreed. So Viv came out with a new pair of Comm Il Faut’s and even Alicia came out and gave us a smile. Unfortunately they do not have the mouse mats any more, but hey on a day that’s going so well it would be churlish to complain.

In the end it was Viv’s idea, every milonga we have been to we have sat together and only danced with those we have arrived with. Tonight though she said “tonight we will sit at separate tables”

I danced the first tanda with her, but after that it was slow for her. It takes time to get known. For me though, mostly, I had little difficulty finding partners. It is the same wherever you go, more women than men and the men choosing only their favourites. I saw one guy ask her to dance, then chicken out when he realised that she was not as short as he was. Still it picked up for her and in the end she had a good night, more dances here than she sometimes gets in Manchester where we are known.

I found the floor difficult in Sueno Porteno, a lot of barging and bumping. I worried that it was my inexperience and the women would not want to dance with me again. Later when I did a Vals with Viv, I asked her if it happened with other men. I was relieved when she said “yes”.

I had some interesting conversations with my dance partners; They cannot grasp that Wales is a different country that shares its law making and executive with England, but has a separate language all of its own.

The night, I think, was a success. I finished with a milonga, with a lady who said she did not milonga, typically she was too modest.

Time for a long walk home, to be passed by our collectivo around the halfway point. He passed us (at a stop I should add) like his arse was on fire. Good job I have learned that there are some very considerate drivers here, or I might make the assumption that they are all arseholes. Fortunately they are not.

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Funny Thing

Funny how people come and go. If all the people who have been to one of our practica nights came at once, we would have to dance in the streets.

Still it was nice to see some long-lost friends again. The numbers never get too many; again we only had about half a dozen but an almost totally different crowd. Apart from one or two stalwarts I get a different bunch each time.

Our artists of the night were Canaro and Fresedo, but because of requests and questions, we in filled with some Pugliese, just to show the difference, and even threw in some D’Sarli at the end.

I just love the way Canaro treats milonga, and for some time the floor was left free for Viv and I to just do our thing. It meant I could really use the floor, a rare luxury when we have so little space. The small space does help though, for anyone who wishes to go to Buenos Aires it is good training on how to manage your dance and avoid collisions.

The question came up again, as it often does, about Ganchos. I was happy to demonstrate (and prove that even though I do not do them, I can) that to work well they should be led. And show why they should never be done on a social floor, I was ably assisted in this task by the owner of some new Comme il Faut shoes. The heels of which proved to be very much the lethal weapon that I hoped they would.

It is not supposed to be a class, but somehow that is how it always ends. That is the way I like it; teach people what they want and need rather than what I think they should learn.

Something else came up as well; the question of keeping it simple and as always it is the women who bring it up. I know that I have spoken of this before, but this time it was a woman who broached the subject to me. Men still have this mistaken belief that they must have a huge repertoire to impress the women, when all they want is a simple dance done well.

In an area as small as our living room there is not the space for big moves, it is essential to keep it simple. If the ladies are to enjoy the dance then they do not want to spend all their time trying to figure out what the man wants, ladies are naturally more musical (sexist comment of the day) so if you move to the music and show some musicality this will impress her far more than boleos by the dozen. I have been to hundreds of workshops in my time, and I doubt if there is a move I have not done (maybe not well and probably forgotten, but done none the less) but I choose to keep it simple because that is what I believe the ladies want.

On this subject I have been asked what did I learn from Jorge Garcia, I learnt to walk better is my reply, and that is exactly what I wanted, hopefully the women I dance with will appreciate the difference, and the fact that I am not putting them through an ordeal of new moves that they do not know and I cannot lead.

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Spring to Winter in Twenty four hours

Our last day in Argentina as always was just packing and cleaning. All the bedding went straight into the washer and Viv got busy cleaning the floors.

My only job was to call the taxi. Now whether my Spanish is getting better or they are better at listening I don’t know, but it all went very smoothly. Over the phone is always difficult as you cannot gesticulate or make any signals, but they even got my name right this time.

I had only one other thing left to do; I wanted to get to our shoe repair man. As he had been so fair when we had taken Viv’s dance shoes I thought I would go back before we leave and get some laces and polish. Funny enough it came to exactly eighteen pesos same price as the repair, so I felt my conscience was salved.

Our taxi driver was very chatty; he wanted to know all about Wales and why we had bought property in Argentina. He said he was surprised when we told him we had a daughter the same age as him and then the conversation moved on to stars that still looked young.

I could have done with all this intense Spanish practice when we first arrived, and not so much as we were leaving. Still the journey passed very quickly. Viv surprised me again, because as she has done before, she hears the questions in Spanish then answers in English. I think the days of me being able to have complete conversations without interruption are numbered.

Unusually there was a queue at the Air France desk, but not unusually some one was having baggage problems “don’t these people ever read their instructions” we moaned, words that would come back and haunt us.

We got to the desk and after all the usual questions, passed as always with many a“si” we got to the final one “how many bags are you checking in”, “three” we said. Our check in operator then said “Your ticket only allows for two”, “we brought three out with us”, “your ticket only allows for two”. We just stared at him, “what were we supposed to do with our case, just leave it at the airport?”

He said we could take it as cabin baggage, but there was no way we wanted to take it through Paris and struggle taking it on and off two planes, after all we already had enough cabin baggage. I had my travel bag and my computer. Viv had her travel bag and Comme il Faut’s, no it was not going to happen.

The guy said we must then pay fifty dollars excess baggage, so frustrated, and realising we could not win, I got out my credit card. He said “not here” and proceeded to lead us across the airport to the main Air France desk. There was now an irate queue, wondering where these stupid people who do not read instructions were taking the check in operator.

He left us there with a docket, in yet another queue. When the girl got to us she said “would you prefer to speak English” as this could get complex, I said “yes thanks”

Again we went through the, your tickets state only two bags, but we came with three routine. Viv said “but we are still underweight, what is the problem” The girl said “this has been the rule since March” shame nobody told us “the only exception is if you have a Flying Blue silver or gold card”. So I whipped out my silver card and, surprised, she proceeded to start typing my number and other details into her terminal. For a while I was worried as, I think my Silver status has now expired. Then, eventually she said “Sorry for the mistake” and handed me back the docket and we left without having to pay the charge.

On our flight, joining us on our row of three seats was a Romanian girl who had been on a South American tour. Seating her with us was not wise, as she was terrified and the fact that it was raining scared her even more. We did our best to reassure her but little that we said helped, and the fact that Viv is a poor flyer herself is something she cannot hide.

The plane took off as normal and started to turn to get on track, and then suddenly, about thirty seconds into our flight it dropped.  I don’t know how far or how long, but now we were in no position to reassure anyone, because now I was quaking as well. On top of my terror I now had Viv’s nails buried in my arm.

We had no more fight problems even the intercontinental convergence zone was quiet tonight; although we did have some turbulence there, it was a lot less than we usually get.

I saw a funny thing at Paris DeGaulle airport; they were selling souvenir Iffel Towers in union flag colours, I cannot think how many levels this is wrong on, and to sell them in the place that is named after the very man who said “non” to a common market application by Britain, well, it surprises me that they did not have pickets outside threatening to burn them along with our sheep.

After nearly four weeks away The Manchester terminal looked different to us, we could not work out how but it seemed smaller. Then I remembered that Air France had changed their terminal building while we were away. So instead of coming in at Terminal two as we usually did, now we had arrived at Terminal three.

I stood outside, in the rain, to call our taxi and, shivering, I realised that in less than twenty four hours we had been transported from spring to winter. Then I heard our driver tell us he did not expect us home until the eleventh. How this could have happened I do not know, but it meant he would not be able to get here for an hour and after nearly twenty four hours travel we did not need this. We retired back into the lounge for a coffee.

After about ten minutes we got a call back, seems our driver had a friend who was already out this way, so we were fortunately saved from further delay.

We finally arrived home at Three o’clock Thursday exactly the same time we had left our apartment on Wednesday. (Only twenty one hours actual journey time because of the three hour time difference)

I finished our two day adventure with a curry from the local take away; it was the perfect antidote to our vegetarian tenador libre.

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