Driving on education business to Crewe,
a quarter of a century ago,
I stopped for petrol on the Nantwich Road,
and there in a rack with Blur, Celine Dion
and Bon Jovi was Fred Astaire, Volume 2.
How my life changed! So many favourites
on one disc! I put the CD in the slot,
drove off the forecourt, and pressed the switch.
‘Heaven, I’m in heaven, And my heart beats
so that I can hardly speak, And I seem
to find the happiness I seek When
we’re out together dancing, cheek to cheek…’
and the track finished with his immortal feet
tap dancing in my company car.
I thought of Israel Beilin – as I parked
at the college to provide advice
on pedagogical strategies –
leaving school at eight to sell the New York
Daily News on the Lower East Side,
plugging songs at eighteen in Tin Pan Alley,
becoming Irving Berlin, auto-didact,
maestro of the music and the lyrics,
making witty, eclectic American
art from those spirited, Yiddisher streets.
When I drove away the car filled again
with Astaire’s light, pellucid voice: ‘Before
the fiddlers have fled Before they ask us
to pay the bill And while we still have that chance
Let’s face the music and dance.’