Many people complain of their droll middle aged existence in Sofia. And, other than the copious consumption of alcohol in the privacy of their own home, or the occasional outward appearance at formal functions - where well known platitudes are traditionally exchanged - there seems very little to do. It is at these traditional formal ‘gurgitations’ of enormous mounds of free food, that one can see the great and good, performing their supercilious re-enactment of the ‘I am here to be seen’ social symbiosis. One often wonders if it has any real bearing on reality, although the thought that diplomatic peace and tranquility can be calculated in direct proportion to a set number of egg mayonnaise canape - with twiddly bits on top - sends the mind racing at times.
This is what has made Dinsdale Astaire such an immediate attraction in Sofia. After a long career as President of the World Organisation for Brothers Bereft of Legs, etc., - the well known acronym being WOBBLE - he has chosen to open a school of dancing for one legged people here in the capital. I asked him about his experience.
Why did you come to
I believe that everyone should have a chance to dance and to enjoy life. As the past President of WOBBLE, I have always believed in our world wide motto which is ‘Join WOBBLE, and learn to stand on your own two feet!’ It has stood me in good stead for many years, I can tell you.
Has being a uniped been a problem for you in the past?
Not really. Although, when I was an actor in my youth, I was very disappointed not to get the lead part in the film Tarzan of the Apes. That upset me a bit.
Why didn't you get the part?
Well the director Darrell Ivanosovitch was quite nice about it actually. He said that although I looked good on camera, he felt that I really needed two legs for the part. He said that he didn't have anything in particular against my right leg, but that, I didn't either.
You must have missed out allot on sport?
No way. The members of WOBBLE even had a football team at one time. We actually played Manchester United in a friendly game a few years ago, it was quite an occasion.
What was the score?
2,000:1 to Man United, but we didn't care. It’s nice to have a little hop around before you have a drink.
Who scored your goal?
Well the ref did actually. He went flying down the pitch blowing his whistle, and booted it into the back of their net, shouting at them and calling them a bunch of bastards.
What sort of dancing do you teach at your
? Sofia Academy
In the beginning I used to teach the Viennese waltz, and the Pasodobles, but it didn't work. Everyone used to end up in a pile on the floor, laughing, and waving their leg around. It was hopeless. So we went on to Warehouse, and Techno. I expect you have seen some of our students dancing at Lipstick or Ivolo as its known here in Sofia; mind you most of the people who go there look as though they are dancing on one leg, don’t they? And, if you stay their late at night, everyone looks completely legless anyway.
Can only unipeds join your club, or are duopeds or multipeds - as it is more politically correct to say - welcome as well?
Only the women! But, two weeks ago I noticed an older man dancing - I think he was a British diplomat - who had two legs. I told him, I would give him seven days to have one of his legs cut off, or I would revoke his membership. Well you have to put your foot down sometimes, haven’t you?
THIS IS NOT A JOKE.
Thousands of very often young innocent people loose limbs to Land Mines, all over the world. Not just in Africa, the Middle and Far East, South America, or
Asia, but also here in the
Balkans. They are the scourge of normal societies, and there are no innocent
There are thousands of hectares of mined land between old enemy’s, and new enemies as well. In Kosovo and on both the Serbian and Albanian borders, there are thousands of land mines, and anti personnel mines planted in the ground, capable of disabling farm workers, or innocent country dwellers.
Please spare a thought for these tragic victims, and try to understand their hopeless plight. It is not just a matter of removing old and occasionally unstable mines, but often giving a new limb to a family provider. If you care about this problem, please contact the SWN, and we will put you in touch with specialist organisations that are presently helping those afflicted. Remember Diana, many do not!
This was written by me in 1997/8 for the Sofia Western News magazine. What has changed?