8.45am on a Sunday. La Glorieta. Me. Carlos. Julie-Anne Cosgrove (fellow Brit, friend and photographer fabulosa) behind the camera. Despite the heat, I’m in several layers of clothes that will allow me to strip off into different outfits without revealing my knickers to the whole of Belgrano. I’m also in two minds about whether I am made of sufficient ‘model material’ to enable me even to contemplate appearing on the cover of my own book. Carlos is wearing a black DJ bought in a UK charity shop and has the awkward gait of a man who is wondering why I’ve dragged him out of bed at such an ungodly hour on his only day off.
Thankfully there are just the three of us in the bandstand. The Sunday I did the reccy it was a morning after heavy rain, I arrived to find a man sleeping on a cardboard sheet directly beneath the centre peak of the roof, and he did not stir until the 10am Tai Chi class turned up.
We all breathe sighs of relief that for at least an hour La Glorieta is ours and ours alone, and we set to work. None of us have a clue what we’re doing with respect to to what makes a good book cover shot, or how we are ever going to portray what I actually mean by Happy Tango. So we say, Let’s just start somewhere, anywhere, and see what happens. We make Carlos dance to the music in his head, with his knees bent so that the camera can see my whole face. Because I am convinced that my arms are my worst feature, I decide to keep my cardi on, and eventually we check the images and find we’ve caught the lovely romantic shot from which I cropped the above. I am delighted because I’ve always rather fancied owning a pic like that (like the ones you always see of strangers on other people’s websites) of me dancing, but as far as the book cover goes it doesn’t shout my rather joyous meaning of Happy Tango (on the outside anyway) to any of us.
We decide to try a slightly more open embrace, but Carlos just can’t seem to grasp the need to be dancing with what feels like oceans of space between his heart and mine, while turning me into the camera’s gaze, while dancing on the tiles marked by the gorgeous shadows from the railings, while laughing (or at least smiling). Take five? suggests the calm Julie-Anne and Carlos spontaneously launches into singing and dancing the Chacarera.
I strip off a layer of clothes and go from black to red. We sit on the steps ourselves and start to play. We talk about how I want to make a little video: a clip to go on YouTube, or even an audio podcast of the story of how the book came to be, a little interview with myself – just for fun, for creativity’s sake, for the laugh we’d have doing it. I take my tango shoes off, hold them in my hand. Carlos starts acting: chatting me up after the milonga, inviting me for ‘coffee’ – in Spanish, in broken English, in jest. Julie-Anne snaps away. We sit him on the railings and he does it all over again, and again.
It’s almost ten by now and the Tai Chi-ers start to arrive with their bright yellow banners and so do two mates of mine who’ve been up all night dancing, but who’d promised to come and help us if they could. They are young, happy, and add a freshness to our mix. I start directing: you up on the railings, this hand here, that leg there, you two a bit farther apart, 1-2-3-laugh… er Carlos, I said laugh... God knows what the pictures are going to be like but I find myself loving every minute. Perhaps I should start directing photo shoots when I’m not writing, indulge my ‘little Miss Bossy’ side.
Afterwards the five of us walk up Echeverria towards coffee and medialunas, and I say,
Guys. Stop a minute… I’ve just got to tell you. I am sooo happy. I need to pinch myself that this is my life… When I think back to the day I arrived here… knew no-one… could barely dance a step. Now I’ve nearly written a tango guide book for God’s sake. And I’m here with you all, photo shooting in La Glorieta for the cover. Bloody hell!
I shout the Bloody hell! bit, like I always do when I’m excited, and I know that my friends understand me. We hug right there on the pavement. We celebrate. We have to. We know that the streets of Buenos Aires aren’t paved with gold, and some days it’s impossible even to find a few monedas never mind a bucketful of self belief. We are the friends who see each others tears too.
Later in the week I see the photos. I love them all (thank you, thank you Julie-Anne). A few tell us that we’ve hit on ideas that could work. One of them I can even see on the book. But we think we need to tweak, explore, try again when the sun is not quite so bright. So the journey continues, one day at a time.
And I say thanks to my morning in La G. It’s confirmed what I already know but what I also sometimes need to be taught all over again. For sure I won’t stop imagining Happy Tango in your tango shoe bags or ploughing through the redraft that will get it there, but I might be knocked over by a Buenos Aires bus before the book is ever printed. Joy en camino is my mission.
If you’d like to see a few of my own snaps of La Glorieta on reccy day and on photo-shoot day, check out my flickr PhotoSet called La G.