Wednesday, 25 February 2015

No. 85: I am now a Turkish Dancer

I have spent the last 2 days at the WEX (Water and Energy Exchange) event in Istanbul. WEX is always a great event. For me it stands out as one of the best conferences on the water circuit. It was the first to adopt the 121 meeting format and it always has a good vibe. It’s annual Gala Dinner is always a highlight, and last night was no exception.

Fully embracing the local Turkish culture, the event kicked off with a troupe of local dancers. In full Turkish dress they took to the stage and enthralled the audience. Turkish dancing is my sort of dancing: the blokes spend most of their time strutting and stamping their feet, while the women look graceful and demure and ‘float’ around them. The dances got progressively more enthusiastic and vibrant (ever more stamping and strutting) and reached a climax when the lead male dancer came on stage with a small wooden board and a set of 6 knives, each of which had a sharp point at one end and a flame at the other. He then proceeded to balance the knives in his mouth and flick them majestically at the wooden board, each one landing perfectly. The crowd clapped and cheered enthusiastically.

It was at this point that the dancers decided that it was time to get some audience participation. I was one of half a dozen hapless victims encouraged onto the stage (to be fair, I clearly love this sort of thing so to call myself a ‘victim’ is a tiny bit disingenuous). Anyway, we then had 5 minutes of strutting and stamping while the women floated around us. Thus far I was having fun.

Then it got a bit weird.

The lead dancer took the three blokes who had ‘volunteered’ and got us to lie on the floor. They brought out the wooden board that had been used earlier for the knife throwing and placed it over the top of my groin. Panic set in immediately. They then asked the other two blokes to get up, leaving me prostrate and alone on the floor with a wooden board over my tackle while the lead dancer circled me with his knives. I was horribly uncomfortable.

A few seconds later a knife went up to his mouth and with a quick flick it hit my wooden board with a sickening thud. I confess that that was the point when I abandoned my New Years’ resolution not to swear. He still had 5 knives to go.

4 knives later I was still thankfully unscathed. There was one knife left. This was when the lead dancer decided it was time to let one of the women volunteers ‘have a go’ at the knife throwing. Of all the people to choose he selected Fiona Griffith, a senior director in Isle and someone with whom I have worked for many years. This was the moment when I would find out if she respected me or bore a grudge. Rather worryingly she looked like she had never been happier. She also didn’t look like she was concentrating too much on aim. Call be a doubter but the tears of laughter streaming down her face as the crowd cheered and clapped didn’t inspire confidence.

Within seconds it was all over. I was alive and fully in-tact. Apparently the whole thing has been captured on mobile phones. I am not sure I am ready to relive it yet.

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