Jeff Lawson makes 50... not out
And so Jeff Lawson, that doyen of the rapper world, decided that the time was right to turn fifty. After all, his logic went, he'd looked that old for a few years now, and he was comfortable with it. But how should this momentous occasion be celebrated? Something special was clearly required, but what? Suddenly the solution became obvious: Jeff's 50/50 Challenge.
To explain: fifty dances, in fifty different pubs, in fifty hours, with Jeff dancing each one. Actually, that should be the 50/50/50 Challenge, but that didn't sound as good. And in truth, Jeff didn't intend to do every dance, but Sallyport and North British were unexpectedly shorthanded so he had to fight against his encroaching years and perform like the young man he no longer is.
The teams Jeff currently dances with were invited to join him in his endeavour, and dutifully they answered his quinquagenarian call: Lamb & Flag, North British and Sallyport, not to mention a surprise guest appearance by Southport Sword.
The challenge was to be held in Jeff's home town of Chorley, along with nearby Preston and Adlington. The schedule was to be punishing but achievable, and was driven along by the dictatorial skills of Andrew Kennedy, which of course left very little chance of our slacking out of it once we started.
Friday night's dancing was in Chorley itself, with a mere fifteen pubs to be done. At six o'clock we set out for the first of our venues, where Lamb & Flag opened the proceedings with a creditable performance, and the rest of us gulped our pints in anticipation of the task ahead of us. Once the dance was finished, and the drinks were downed, we set off for the second pub (look, I could give the names of the pubs but frankly they'd just break up the narrative flow and detract from the main story (OK, OK, I admit it: I've lost the list of pubs)). Anyway, North British took to the floor. This was the pattern for Friday night, since Sallyport were sadly not quorate until late in the evening, and even then most of them were in trainers. Nevertheless, they manfully helped us in the drinking of the beer, and Vince gave a most enjoyable display when rejecting three pints of cloudy vinegar which was masquerading as beer.
At closing time on Friday then, fourteen pubs had fallen to us, with no injuries sustained, sustenance had been provided en route by (a) beer and (b) Mr Cockle, who sold us lots of seafood in small tubs. Surprisingly, no one was ill in the night, and everyone was raring to go on Saturday morning...
...which began rather fuzzily following the heady mixtures of vodka, sloe gin, calvados and cider that we had to celebrate the successful start...
After an exemplary breakfast, courtesy of Jeff and the ever-tolerant Liz, we ran like buggery to catch the train to Preston. The details of who danced when, where and how well are a little hazy, but the three teams took it in turns to wow the audiences, while Messrs Hanley and Ratcliff collected as only they know how.
Speaking of teatime, we had by then another twenty or so pubs under our belts, with only about ten to go to keep to schedule. However, as the wait for the splendid curry lengthened it appeared that it was all to much for Mr Rutland, as he lay his head on the shoulder of another dancer and very slowly, and in a very dignified manner, he fell asleep.
Fully restored by large amounts of delicately scented food, we set of for a second evening's dancing. Sadly, the extra weight we now carried made the first dance by each team somewhat more pedestrian than those earlier in the day. However, this was but a short-term blip, and we soon powered our way through the remaining pubs, finishing in the one pub whose name I can remember - the Fox and Grapes - where North British closed the day with a surprisingly energetic dance.
The score, then, at close of play on Saturday was forty six pubs down, four to go.
Sunday morning started like Saturday's, with no one feeling – or at least admitting – that they were too tired to continue. Lamb & Flag had mostly retired for the weekend, but there were a couple still with us as we made our way over to Adlington to mop up the last four pubs required to reach the Magic Fifty, and once there, someone proposed that we do one extra dance in case of miscounts, arguments or pedantry. This was agreed by all as A Good Thing.
It has to be said that those final dances were remarkably easy. North British had the honour of performing the fiftieth dance Sallyport did the anti-pedantry one glasses were raised to Jeff, photo: were taken, and everyone visibly relaxed.
It was over. We had done it. Fifty dances. Fifty pubs. Fifty hours. The only thing is, next year Mr Hanley is 40 and Mr Tasker is 60 add them up and you get the 100/100 Challenge... hmmm...