Books Letters from Elsewhere

Letters from Elsewhere: Beth

Letters from ElsewhereI’m delighted to welcome Beth to the blog. Beth has a few questions about what her friend Flora is getting up to in a little village in Portugal. She’s even nipped out of Forest Dancer by Susan Roebuck to ask them. Over to you, Beth.

Darling Flora,

You can’t even BEGIN to imagine how much I miss you. Even the Ballet Master (the old bastard) said the same the other day. Anastasia had to come out of her understudy role in Swan Lake and actually dance as Odette. I hope you don’t mind me mentioning it, because she got that audition over you, didn’t she (well we all know why with Daddy being such a big donator?). But she’s a better Odile – she’s got that wicked look down to a tee – but she just can’t be sweet Odette. So she’s grinning like a monkey and fawning over Prince Siegfried like a sack of potatoes, and that’s when the BM said, “Perhaps we should’ve picked Flora after all.”

You see? Maybe all’s not lost. Come back, Flora. I know you lost your house (what WAS your father thinking of, leaving you a measly cottage in the middle of nowhere in Portugal?). You could stay with me here in London.

Mind you, we’ve got a new choreographer for Don Quixote who is driving me mad. She wants us to do cardio-work-outs and pilates, as well as rehearsals from midday to seven, when we’re not performing Swan Lake. She’s mad. She’s even talking about us taking a run at the end of the day. Give me the pub any time.

Well, enough of me. Tell me about this forest ranger that’s got you all riled up? You said he was living in your cottage with his wife and daughter. Flora – are you getting involved with a married man? Tell me you’re not. And I speak from experience as you know.

The little village of Aurora sounds sweet, up there in the cool mountains, and your descriptions of the Portuguese cakes that they sell in that funny-looking kiosk sound delicious – our choreographer wouldn’t let us eat them though. I think I’ll take a little holiday and visit, and get fat.

You know? I’m beginning to think ballet isn’t for me. We couldn’t get out of the Corps de Ballet, could we, although you should’ve been at least a Coryphee ages ago. Unlike me, you love it, don’t you? I remember you saying that ‘the feeling you have when you are dancing and your whole heart and soul are in it is indescribable’. You’re a proper dancer.

Send me all your news soon – and think about coming back. Please.

All my love,

Thank you, Beth. Now I want to know the answers, too. I wonder how I’m going to find out. Hmm, I think I know…

Forest Dancer - Susan RoebuckAbout Forest Dancer

Forest Dancer is a story that fans of Polina will enjoy with characters that are genuinely flawed yet decided on bringing out the best in themselves. Flora Gatehouse has just recently lost her father, but she has also suffered a devastating blow in her career: her failed audition that sees her moving to a small cottage in Lisbon, Portugal, the only inheritance left to her by her father. Follow her story as she embraces the life of a small village with its dark secrets, and falls for the forest ranger, Marco. But can she totally become part of this little hamlet and can she ever reconnect with her dream to become a principal ballerina?

You can find Forest Dancer (paperback and ebook) on Amazon.

About Susan Roebuck

Susan RoebuckSue Roebuck is British born and bred, but when she met her husband (who’s Portuguese) in London she was then exported to Portugal and now lives by the Atlantic Ocean watching the cruise ships arrive and depart. She loves her adopted country and believes that her novels about it can bring the beauty and diversity of Portugal to the rest of the world.


Find Susan on Facebook and Twitter, and on her blog.

Social anxiety

Dancing – a Metaphor for Life?

On Tuesday, I was a guest author on the The Story Ape’s blog, where I wrote about Israeli folk dancing.

Ailsa Abraham commented:

I started in late middle age with Breton dancing and although exhausting it was such fun to be moving in rhythm with other people. Metaphor for life, perhaps?

The comment got me thinking about my relationship with dancing.

It began at the age of four with ballet. I had private lessons because the class was on Saturdays and I couldn’t join that for religious reasons. But I was allowed to take part in the annual concert, which was also on a Saturday. We walked to the hall because travel wasn’t allowed, and the teacher took the clothes I had to change into and wasn’t allowed to carry. I enjoyed ballet. I would probably have enjoyed the class more than the private lessons. I’d have enjoyed dancing in rhythm with other girls, but religion prevented me from doing that. I took some of the ballet exams. The best remark I got was that I had a very good sense of rhythm.

I don’t remember how I picked up the twist. Maybe from watching it on the telly. Maybe we did it at summer schools. I remember being good at it. I remember dancing it on the last day of primary school.

There were never many occasions to dance while I was at school. A wedding here, a party there. It was something I knew how to do. I watched what everyone else did and copied them. I always had confidence in my ability to dance. They laughed at me when I spoke, but never when I danced.

Being different (with a dance group in an Indian village)

At university there were several opportunities to dance. I loved them all. In particular, I liked dancing to the Rolling Stones’ song, Brown Sugar. I didn’t know what it was about; I just loved the music. And I loved jumping around in time with the music and in time with all the other dancers. This was something I could do at least as well as everyone else.

People I worked with were surprised to see me dance at all, let alone better and in a more liberated way than most. They assumed anxiety over talking must extend to every other activity. They were wrong.

I don’t know why it took me so long to discover folk dancing in Israel. For once, this was an activity in which I could be in step with everyone else. In everyday life I was always out of step. The only problem is that there’s more to going dancing than dancing. It’s also a time for talking.

My conclusion? Dancing is not a metaphor for my life. It’s a metaphor for what my life might have been.

If this post seems a bit confused, I think that’s because writing it has confused me. In the words of Fagin in the musical Oliver, I think I’d better think it out again. Can you help? Help me get my feet back on the ground? No, Beatles. I’m happier jumping in the air.