Take a line for a walk…
…see where it leads you.
Mr Beckenkrager tells me his name is Prussian. We are in his conservatory in Seaton Carew; a seaside passing though point just south of Hartlepool. He is 80 now and spent his early life in the navy – but he is keen to tell me about the Rink and the moment he met his wife to be.
She had gone with her cousin, who was supposed to be escorting her home, but John (Mr B) had spotted her and worked his charm. The other guys were getting nowhere with her as she didn’t know that particular dance, however John was savvy and told her it was just like a waltz and he would steer her round the dance floor. When he kissed her on the cheek after walking her home that night he shouted back to her; “I’m going to marry you!”
Yes it sounds a tad like a scene from a romantic movie…and a modern script would call for twists and turns in the relationship, but for John and Pat it seems it was written in the stars. This year would have been their diamond wedding anniversary but she didn’t quite make it.
“Without wanting to pry too much” I say ” it must be quite a change for you now”
” it is, yes” he responds.
I can see he is going a little misty, and I really am not in the business of letting the camera run and exploiting that, so I shift the subject a little;
“you said you were thinking of maybe taking up dancing again?”
“yes, I just have to be careful with my knees, but I would really like to try that”
He shows me photos. “She looks a little stern in that one John” I say
“Oh you wouldn’t want to cross Pat when she was in a mood” he laughs.
It’s a shame that the dance sessions I was filming earlier in the year in the retirement homes aren’t still taking place so he could join in, but we get onto the subject of how things have changed. I ask him if he would have done anything different in his life, but all in all he seems pretty contented with his lot.
His lot has included being a naval man on Christmas Island at the time that Britain was testing the H bomb. There he is smiling in his all white ‘anti-flash’ suit.
“Weren’t you concerned about radiation?” I ask
“No we were ok as the wind was blowing away from us. There was a Soviet cruiser downwind though and we were radioing them to get out of the area”…
He has a picture of the mushroom cloud in all its disastrous beauty.
He left the navy to bring up a family and didn’t go back to the Rink now the pop era had arrived. They were family focused, and played cards a lot. For them the Rink had a certain time and place in their lives and he only recalls it being derelict when he returned to Hartlepool, although it was in fact still a thriving venue by all accounts. It has a particular place in his life; forever fixed.
But John has another side to him. He heals people. He sees dead people. He can ‘remote’ and sometimes receives instructions to lead souls towards the light if they are lost.
His particular dance with death is one in which he partners souls. He feels Pat enter inside him when he heals people and has glowing testimonials from people who have been helped by his healing hands. He believes we are reborn and he is guided by the spirits of North American Indians.
Ever one to be looking for clues to this cosmic puzzle, I quiz him a little more. If he has taken people to the very door of the afterlife, what does it look like? what is the purpose of life and where did the universe come from?
John has a mild smile on his face;
“the flowers are very bright on the other side” he says
but I’m not sure he knows.
Perhaps I am asking the wrong questions.