Friday, 10 November 2017

On Salsa Family, and Stephen Jones

I didn't know what to expect when I first started salsa.

After all, the idea first came when I googled, "Things to do in High Wycombe". As I mulled the idea over and spoke to people about it, more things seemed to mysteriously point to it being A Good Idea.

I'll tell you what though. It was absolutely one of the scariest things I'd done in my life to that point. Terrifying. I did not possess any innate dancing ability, so basically here I was making an absolute arse of myself in front of a whole load of people.

And yet... I really enjoyed it.

The particular class I started with was wonderfully friendly. You always had to make sure you learnt the name of your partner, or you were bound to get asked what it was and consequently stand staring into your partner's eyes desperately willing some braincell to fire and remind you.

Within weeks I was getting invited to peoples' birthdays. Saying hello and goodbye with a hug or a kiss. Learning to be comfortable being so close to people. Seeing these same, wonderful, mad people, week after week.  Several times a week. Before long, you're at each others' houses. You're sharing rides to salsa parties and other venues. Talking to them about life, the universe, and everything.

I found these people didn't just become friends. They became my extended family.

If you'd have told me that beforehand, I'd have nodded and smiled whilst quietly disagreeing. After all, your family is your family!

But we are, without doubt, a salsa family.

One of the most wonderful things that can happen within the salsa family is when two people meet through salsa and fall in love. You get to see, almost feel a part of, that whole relationship - of them as growing as individuals, and then growing together. Salsa weddings can be wonderful, joyous affairs; full of love, and laughter, and dancing.

All of which brings me to Steve and Bryony.

Steve and Bryony started salsa as a couple, but we got to see and share so much of their time growing together that they "feel" like a couple who found each other through salsa.

Steam Punk-themed New Year's Eve, 2012. You can plainly see how happy they are here - the only thing that came as a surprise was when they got engaged about two weeks later... They were so perfect together, I think we'd assumed they were already married!

Their wedding, in 2014.

One of the things that I loved about Steve was that you could tell he didn't always find dancing easy.

I think that gave me a lot of hope. I loved to watch Steve dance because he was a bloody good dancer, but you could tell he had to work at it. If you've ever watched Strictly, Steve is like one of the people who starts "ok" but as the weeks go on, he gets better and better and you'd find yourself really rooting for him to win, believing that he could.

I adored their wonderful wedding dance.

Can I tell you how much I adored it? IT MADE ME FUCKING LOVE A JAMES BLUNT TRACK! THAT'S how much I enjoyed it. Steve and Bryony danced a simply beautiful bachata together (Three times, as it happened).

Honestly, I now love that song, and every time I hear it it reminds me of Steve and Bryony. I noticed recently that they had the words to Bonfire Heart framed in their home, and it really made me smile.

I loved to watch both Steve and Bryony dance. Both together, and separately. They're a joy. Something else that sticks in my mind is how much I loved to watch one of them watching the other dance with someone else. I remember only recently watching Steve watch Bryony dancing. It was a face of happiness, of joy, a face that proudly seemed to exclaim, "that's me bird!" (although, perhaps not in those words).

By this point, much excitement was in the air as Steve and Bryony expected their first baby.

Tragically, Steve was taken from us in a motorcycle accident six days before their birth of their first baby.

Some people, you don't know what they're really thinking, or how they really feel. I never once felt that from Steve. He was warm and genuine and passionate and honest. In my head, I can still hear a cheeky chuckle from him, perhaps a 'reluctant' agreement to have another drink, if you're offering. Steve always made the effort to be inclusive, to talk to everyone, at the expense of no-one.

I really liked Steve.

Steve, I wish I could call you an idiot and give you a hug and this all be a huge misunderstanding. You were a bright light at salsa, at parties, in friendship, and you will be missed so very much by so many people. I am glad for the light you could bring to us for that time, and that it will live on through Bryony, through your daughter, your family, and all of your friends and those who knew you.

With love,

Colin xxx

A first draft of this post appeared as a series of Twitter posts.

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