Vicky Ewan: We've never given up our dancing shoes

Torbay Weekly

I was amused and abashed in equal measure lately to hear about Michael Gove's appearance at a nightclub in Scotland one recent evening.

Apparently, Mr Gove was partying alone, and created quite a stir once he hit the dance floor, not least because he was so unusually attired - unusually for this era, at any rate.

My husband, a few years my senior, will often harken back to the halcyon days of nightclubbing, in the 1980s.

This idyllic period, when music already seemed to have a sense of its own nostalgic appeal, attracted a far more fashion-formal crowd than do nightclubs now.

My husband has told me many a time about the young men who adorned themselves in sharp suits and shiny shoes, the girls always garbed in dresses; admittance would regularly and resolutely be refused should clients not comply.

I myself recall far less leniency applied to clothing standards; once, without preamble, I received through the post a selection of free and discounted tickets for my 18th birthday from a local club, whose proprietors hoped that I would accommodate an evening at the premises in my celebrations (spoiler: I did - they gave me free perry!).

Emblazoned across the sheet of invitations to tear out and distribute to my friends were the inspiring, if slightly threatening, words: 'Dress to impress!'

And my friends and I always did, donning cunning clothes for every visit.

As the years passed, the command mellowed somewhat: gradually, in relation to their dress code, clubs would proclaim: 'smart denim okay by us' - with hindsight, the beginning of the end.

These days, the words 'dress code' are rarely uttered - partly, presumably, because, as the song says, Heaven knows anything goes.

The sector has indisputably seen a relaxation of the clothing criteria, but perhaps Michael Gove, who hails from a similar era to my husband, had been largely unaware of this development.

His political career must have demanded the vast majority of his time and, for all we know, he may not have set foot in a club since the suited and booted sartorially-stringent 1980s.

Oblivious to the various changes, he may have trusted his instinct; let's face it, he would be both comfortable in a suit and fairly sure that he wouldn't cause any offence by wearing it - in fact, he may prove rather attractive to others, though whether it would be as an anachronism or a natty dresser is hard to identify.

I heeded with interest the coverage of the politician's night out because that very weekend I had enjoyed, for the first time in 18 months, my own foray back into the clubbing world.

When my husband and I were courting, we liked nothing more than supping and toe-tapping the night away.

His younger brother was a talented DJ in local venues, and we were guaranteed a warm welcome in clubland, partly because of the familial connection and partly because of the frequency of our visits.

Throughout our married life, we have never lost the love of an evening in a club - the delight of dressing up to the nines (a habitual practice), the electric atmosphere, the tantalising thump of the bass line issuing forth irresistibly from varied venues in the vicinity, like a siren call speaking to our secret selves.

As the years passed, our growing family fairly knotted up the laces of our dancing shoes, and we had limited liberty with which to take to the floor, but we never gave up on that pastime; it's inextricably intertwined into our lives, and the restriction makes the freedom all the sweeter.

These days, I should acknowledge, we are old enough to be parents to offspring of an eligible partying age.

Several times, we have bumped into friends and peers of our elder children in licensed premises; I'm not sure who is more disconcerted, but the youngsters are always gracious enough to express pleasure at the encounter.

I like to think we can still hold our own on the dance floor, although I acknowledge these days we are more inclined to stand at the side of the action rather than in the central throng - well, we do throw some pretty special shapes, and I would hate anyone to feel usurped. Michael Gove, eat your heart out.