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Hussey's Riot: 'Sweep Me Off My Feet'

Photo by Gemma Whelan: 'Rod Lightning and the Bear Cupids'

Patrick Hussey attends a romantic flash mob (or rather a 'Stolen Moment') at the steps of Eros.

It could have been a snippet of a dream, something caught warm on the lip of waking. How had this ember of strangeness drifted into plain light? There were chubby legged men dressed in togas, a dashing ringleader in crimson trilby, two Alpine songbirds lilting in time on the steps of Eros. And round them we danced – strangers, couples, even the huge hoard of backpacky foreign teens. And even, dear reader, even I was dancing- a man so heartbroken I've been thinking of applying for disability benefits.

What was it then? A dream. No let me take you back to that cursed dawn, the morning of Valentines Day…

It was a freezing 10 or so AM when the call went out. Outside my window the loveless world lolled in it's February costume; knee high skies and pewter gloom . I sat on my sofa, gazed into my muesli and thought about what had rolled round. Valentines, that bad penny of a day. That booby trap so fiendish and unavoidable because some idiot built it into time itself! O hurtful day! O Gregorian anti-personnel device of the truly fucked!

There was only one thing to do, slouch on that sofa, dig in and watch the Wright Stuff. No point wading into that cold wasteland outside till this bad joke of a day packed it's million novelty hearts. But what's this, I thought, as my phone lit up and hissed like a cockroach. A text!

'Invite' it said 'Enticement to Riot…'

At 5.50pm sharp it said, Bearlesque Cupids it said… an accordion band? Could that be right? Yes, yes it could and further more it wasn't a flash mob it was a 'stolen moment'. That afternoon in a dashing reprisal against reality the Run-Rioters had decided to stage a waltz round one of London's most romantic landmarks. No, not Monument! EROS!

At last fate had reached out and offered me a date, a date to dance with all of London. It was then I fell asleep, determined not to experience any more consciousness than strictly necessary but hopeful of waking near sundown and with a chance of redemption. I wasn't wrong. All the way on the Piccadilly Line (a purple, venal, penile line if ever there was) I tried to picture the scene that lay ahead.

Running up the steps into the trafficky, neon bowl the scene was at first typical. A bored hotchpotch of foreigners and tramps sat on the steps of the fountain that forms the base of Eors as flecks of water leaped into the cold night around them. I watched them for a while, the flecks taking on the Coke adverts cherry light, the tourists huffing and sighing.

Then on the other side of the statue it was happening. A tall man in a expertly cut coat, neat mustache and bright crimson hat was addressing the tourists.

'Ladies and Gentleman! I invite you to Sweep Me Off my Feet!' Behind him the band struck up, a pair of expansive, bearded Cupids dashed into the crowd and two handsome dancers began to step. Suddenly people were dancing, the cupids grabbed smiling strangers and began to twirl them and even the Spanish teens began whooping and spinning each other. This was it, a street waltz! People were joining in! And this is my moment I thought as a complete stranger slid her hand round my waist.

'Hello' she said.

'Hello' I said.

What a beautiful ten minutes it was, a stanza hacked out of normality. The two singing girls sang sweetly in their lederhosen and the accordion keys dipped in honey and solemn polkas. Hundreds of passers by stopped and smiled, many taking a twirl themselves and all the while the traffic curled round us. That London scene, of flashing adverts and the tiptoeing statue, of busses and cafés and the trudge of weary sightseers had became a poem of moment.

Too soon it was ending, the waltzing accordion was slowly and the crowd trickling away. The Spanish teens said 'Gracias!' to the gentleman ring leader and he beamed down at them.

As they walked off, chattering in excited lingo the ringleader raised his hat.

'Ladies and Gentleman! You have indeed Swept Me Off my Feet!'

The girl took her arm from around my waist. We were the last two, even the tubby cupids seemed to have disappeared.

'Thank you.' she said.

'No,' I said 'thank you.'

With that she turned and walk to the other side of the square, I lost her at the edge of the road, her body blending with the other pedestrians. I waited a second before heading back to the Tube. At the top of the station stairs I turned and looked back at the scene. Where had the magic gone? Once again reality had swept back over everthing - the tourists, the tramps, the fountain. For just a moment we had dragged it off I thought, waltzed it into submission. Me, the teens, the cupids. That was good enough for me, even for Valentines I thought, as I descended with the crowd into the fuggish mouth of the station.

Enticement to Riot owes big thanks to:
Rod Lightening: ...
Bearlesque: ...
Les Apache: ...
Rag Roof Theatre Company: ...