Monday, 22 June 2015

C for Cumbria - D for Dalston - V for Victory


photo courtesy of Keith Shaw Buckley

The Smart roadster is humming. In spectacular sunshine, with long, clear views towards Great Ormside we slide effortlessly west along the A66 through Westmorland towards Cumberland.

Our destination today is the Sunday tango tea at Dalston, to the south of Carlisle, and east of little more than the Irish Sea. Last mentioned here in this blog in June 2012, we really needed to update our Dalston experience - to see whether we could recapture the delights of our visit three years ago.

It may be because Dalston lies west the M6 and east of the Solway coast - a stopping point for only deepest Cumbria or Dumfriesshire, that you have not heard of this place. Dalston unfolds around the village green, beyond which is situated the 1921 Victory Hall. Despite it's prettiness in the afternoon sun, it is hard to imagine other reasons to visit - save for tango, the enveloping Cumbrian welcome, and the prospect of a delicious tango tea.

We arrive almost simultaneously with Angie and Anna, with whom we had discussed our trip and pre-negotiated tandas. Kai leaps from the car, clearly keen for tango. We believe that Kai is one of a very small band of tango-loving dogs, so gaining his acquaintance is a privilege.

The strains of tango are not yet to be heard, but the hall is already filling with Cumbrians and those, like us, that have ventured from the other side of the Pennines. Our arrival is greeted with hugs. Here, it is as if we have arrived in the 49th bario of Buenos Aires. The first of Tim's sixteen tandas, De Angelis' Zorro Gris opens the milonga. This will be a tango journey that takes us through Manuel Buzon, D'Arienzo, Di Sarli, Calo, Canaro, OTV, Tanturi, Biagi, Pugliese, Firpo, Troilo, ending with the fabulous and lyrical Rodriguez - a Cumbrian smörgåsbord of Golden Age orchestras.

The Dalston tango tea is very much a traditional event, where cabeceo and mirada are encouraged (but not demanded), and where the courtesy of floorcraft is expected. This is a place for the mature dancer - not necessarily by age, nor by experience - but by approach and mindset. Beginners pepper the tables and are brought to the pista by experienced tangueros. The young are assisted on their tango journey by the old; mirroring the traditional milongas of Buenos Aires. Tango skills are highly evident, but as important is the 'milonga etiquette', making the Dalston tango tea a very special moment, however experienced or new to tango.

And then there is the tea! I have already been taken to task on Facebook for speaking of tea - and not of cake. Today, cake abounded, including for Stephanie,  preciously, Joanna's magnificent gluten-free chocolate cake. It is, of course, the summer solstice, approaching midsummer's day, so strawberries and raspberries dress the table. Quintessentially English, silhouetted against quintessentially Buenos Aires.

So, Dalston tango tea, ending with Rodrigues' 'Cafe', followed by Troilo's La Cumparasita was an unsurpassed delight. For those that want to step back to the Golden Age of both tango, and of tea - this is your place and destination.

We loved:

  • Tim's playlist, together with the printout left at each table;
  • The formal, traditional setting and atmosphere of milonga;
  • The warmth of reception, and inclusion of dancers;
  • The tea (including Argentine Maté) - and the cake (including English strawberries);
  • Everything!