Dancing feet

I grew up in East Grinstead, West Sussex which meant there was a 20 mile journey to visit Tunbridge Wells and there was rarely any cause to come here. But as a little girl when I started my ballet lessons at three years old, there was only one place in the region to get my uniform - and that was in Tunbridge Wells. Later, a dance shop opened in East Grinstead and from about 1972 there was no longer any need to come to Tunbridge Wells.

These quests held a really special excitement because they were dedicated to me alone. I didn’t have any sisters. There were aspects of the route that were still vivid in my memory when I re-travelled the route as a adult; the Holtye Road leading out of my town, the Holtye golf course, the first glimpse of the town centre as you turned off Mount Ephraim onto Church Road with the pretty row of houses on London Road, looking out over the Common. I remember the Town Hall at the crossroads and I remember the pink building on an unusually angular junction, with the door right at the apex of the triangular shop. Inside it was filled with shoes and leotards, ribbons and bun nets, tutus and tights, with names such as Gamba, Freed and Bloch. It had a special smell, and most of all, it was pink.

Thirty-odd years later I now live in Pembury. When I moved here in 1992 and started to browse the streets of Tunbridge Wells again, I was stopped in my tracks by a sight on Victoria Road, unaltered since my earliest memories. The shape, the colour and, yes, even the smell were the same. I have never dared ask any questions of the young girls who work there, as I go to buy things for my own three daughters; about the history of the shop and its owners and to ‘witter on’ about how much affection I hold the place in. After all, it must be unspeakably improbable to these lithe dancers of today that I was once one of them, let alone that they share my nostalgia from 20 years before they were even born!

For anyone remotely connected to the world of dancing, there will be no mistaking the subject of my eulogy, but to everyone else, it was and indeed still is, the Dancing Boutique.

Caroline Mazzey, 44
Gardener, writer and teacher