When my friend Leasey took me out clubbing in Cambridge with her friends recently, they made a point of avoiding “Ballare”. I now know why.
Like many other passengers on the sinking ship that was the Human Genome Mapping Project Resource Centre, a lovely Swedish girl is leaving it next week. I am with her, her husband, and a posse of other nice young Campus types at Ballare. At the start of the evening it’s just me and another old timer from the institute. He is fluent in Spanish so I ask him what “ballare” means. He says it’s a bit like the future tense of “to dance”, but not much. That has one “l” for a start. Eventually the others arrive.
This gang is in the middle of the packed dancefloor. I’ve joined in because the DJ has just begun to play some decent hip hop and R’n’B. I am finally getting to swing my pants to something with a groove rather than a relentless four-to-the-floor thud. Sadly this music is being played by the David Brent of DJing. He is technically incompetent. He is devoid of charisma. He is completely unaware of both of these things. He interrupts literally every twenty seconds to coin such timeless epigrams as “Everybody on the floor get shitfaced!” (as if they need encouragement), but he does not understand the meaning of the word “fader”, simply cutting the music dead to deafen us with his inanities. (The music itself is already shockingly loud and distorted. Even through my fancy earplugs I can hear bass coils close to burnout as they are overdriven by a straining amplifier.)
I am on the point of walking across to his console to tell him to shut up when a woman I have never even seen before sinks the fingertips of each hand into my buttocks. This seems to have been the result of a dare because, when I turn round, she and her mates are laughing heartily. Just before I turn back to the HGMP gang, I notice that the thin, short, male half of a newly-formed couple next to me has his wrist wedged under the broad belt of the fat, short, female half. The belt is the only thing marking out her waist. His hand is busy. He could be masturbating her; he could be looking for his car keys; he could be performing a circumcision. She has consumed so much alcohol already that the anaesthetic effect must be almost complete.
The mindless thudding recommences and I retreat to shake my head in disbelief at so many people getting so drunk at four quid for a small a bottle of beer. My shoes stick to the broken glass, in turn stuck to the carpet. The track playing is the sort of thing that a fortysomething Dane called Gunther who thinks “funk” is just the German for “radio” has written in his studio in Aarhus and released under a name like “Mikey Zee”. A man wets my ear with his mouth as he groans, “My leg’s fucked.” From my expression of complete mystification he concludes that I haven’t heard him. “My leg’s fucked from rugby,” he says, holding up his overpriced lager and grinning like a loon. It is not a chat-up line. He is obviously straight and I am not wearing my gay trousers.
I make a vain effort to say goodbye to the party girl. She and her husband seem to have left.
I go home alone to update my ‘Blog.
“Ballare” is Flemish for “Purgatory”.