The Ballet Family Again by Mabel Esther Allan

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What a snotty book is this?!   All right, you expect a bit of snobbery in GO books, but I do *not* expect metropolitan elitism, especially in a book written by someone from the Wirral!   According to the late Ms Allan, who was from “over the water” in Wallasey, all women over 40 who live in Lancashire (specifically Rochdale, but all urban and industrial areas in general) are fat and have “worn” faces.  Oh well, that explains where I keep going wrong, doesn’t it?  Apparently, if I moved to a posh house in an expensive part of London, employed a Swiss housekeeper, and changed my name to Delphine or Pelagia, or possibly Tarn (Tarn is a name?  And, BTW, Pelagia is the name of a fish factory in Grimsby), I might become slim and glamorous.  Oh, and better-educated, and capable of much more interesting conversation.  Although probably not, because the Ballet Family’s cousin Joan Bradshaw only escapes her fate because of her genetic connection to them on her mother’s side.  Was MEA for real?!   All this might have sounded quite funny if said in a comedy sketch by the late, great, Victoria Wood, but it was obviously meant entirely seriously.  How flaming rude!!

She did redeem herself a bit by showing Joan writing a ballet set in Manchester during the Forty Five (had she been reading Harrison Ainsworth?), and calling it “Farewell, Manchester” after the song.  The first time I ever came across that song was in the letters page of the Manchester Evening News, when I was about 13, and I was rather annoyed to find that there was a historical ballad about Manchester and no-one had ever told me about it!   I think she’d got a bit confused about the route which the Jacobites took through Lancashire, though, and it was also quite frustrating that she didn’t seem to realise that Russian surnames have separate masculine and feminine forms.  However, I have to admit that I had no idea that “Lochaber no more” was an 18th century Scottish song: I thought it was just a line by The Proclaimers 🙂 !

It might not have been a bad book if it hadn’t been for all the snobbery, but I really couldn’t get past it.  I shall be sticking to Lorna Hill for ballet books.  Her characters are always delighted to get back up north!  Meanwhile, I shall go and try to lose some weight and ameliorate the worn appearance of my face by chasing the whippets and clearing the coal out of the bath …

Had it not been for the metropolitan elitism – honestly, it’s bad enough that it’s been causing divisions in the country for years, without coming across it in a GO book written nearly half a century ago! – this might have been quite a decent read.   It was about, as the title suggests, a family who involved in ballet.  It was nice to see a ballerina who’s in her 40s, married with children and still the star of the show, rather than everyone over 20 being shoved into a corner, and it was also good to see children who chose not to be involved in their parents’ professions being allowed to go their own ways.  There were some realistic storylines about teenage friendships and romances, and a bit of gentle mocking of GO tropes which was genuinely quite funny – girl falls in river but tells the admirer who rushes to save her that she’s quite capable of getting herself out, girl has accident and undergoes a personality transplant but it only lasts five minutes.

But all the snooty stuff about Joan, the cousin from Rochdale, just did my head in.  Andy Burnham was joking the other week about massing the troops at Knutsford Services.  If he ever does, LOL, he might want to hand out copies of this book to remind people what they’re marching about!!