Gary Guinn

Literature of the Ozarks

Category: Travel (page 1 of 2)

Guest Post: Daisy Mae and The Blue Danube!

A Very Special Christmas Present

by Daisy Mae

Blue Danube:

One, Two, Three … One, Two, Three … When Johann Strauss composed the Blue Danube – he had no idea how much this would change my life. This piece of music – the most well known Viennese Waltz of all time – and of course the Viennese Waltz itself –  would become my lifetime ambition! Photo of Johann Strauss

Here’s the thing – I have never been a dancer. But somehow, at 52, I felt the buzzing in my veins, the urge in my feet, and the rhythm in my body.

I phoned my local dance school in trepidation. Was I too old at 52,  I asked? Silly question of course – their oldest member is 91!

Any dance to me, is good dance.  But it was the Viennese Waltz that always took my imagination. That glitzy, floaty, whirly, twirly, ultimate fantasmagorical, fairy tale dance.

Could I do that?

Would I ever do that?

Who would do it with me?


As a child I had tap-tapped my heart out in any open space I could find, most often on a deserted railway station platform. Thinking no-one could see me, I would flit up and down off the benches and pirouette beside the Ladies Toilets. Why did I think no one could see me? Only a child could answer that.

Edward was my inspiration to fulfil my Viennese Waltz dream. When we met during my Dating Daisy, internet dating escapades, I found he shared my fascination for dance. His mother had been a ballerina. He was a pianist and a sportsman. He had natural ability, athleticism and musicality. Here I found my Fred Astaire. We had started dance lessons together as soon as we met and were having the time of our lives, dancing everywhere and anywhere as often as we could possibly do so.

My mind was racing faster than my feet. Could we get to Vienna, to a Viennese Ball, to do a real Viennese Waltz in a real Viennese Ballroom? … Yes, we could. And it would be a Christmas present! The best Christmas present I could possible imagine for us both!

I did it – in true Daisy fashion. I bought tickets for the Johann Strauss Valentine’s Ball at the Kursalon Palace on 13th February 2016. It was  July when I booked the tickets, and I kept it a secret for a whole 5 months! Yes – I told a few friends at the dance school, but they were sworn to secrecy!

On Christmas Eve we went to bed and I couldn’t sleep. Roughly once an hour, I poked Edward in the ribs and asked what the time was.

“It’s only an hour since you last asked,”  he groaned wearily – “Please can we get some sleep! … “

“I can’t sleep,” I whispered – “I’m just so excited to give your present!”

I think it was about 6.30am, when he finally capitulated and turned on the bedside lamp. With childlike enthusiasm I thrust my gift at him. He had to open the card first. I had bought and assembled one of those cards which when you open it up, plays a tune! And Yes, I stuck a  picture of a beautiful couple Viennese waltzing onto the front of it. And when you opened it up – you probably guessed this! – Yes it did play the Blue Danube!

Edward was suitably overjoyed – but in typical male fashion after a few hullabaloos – he did go back to sleep! (By the way – I was not fazed by his present  for me – which we laughed about afterwards – was  a  box of soap! He is very generous to me all the time – but not present minded shall we say! – I just think it’s funny!)

Holiday of a Lifetime:

Fast  forward to February 2016. This turned out to be a holiday of a lifetime. We flew to Vienna on Austrian Airlines, and were presented on the aircraft with a beautiful breakfast of homemade pastries and champagne, courtesy of our hotel, The Do & Co, a sumptuous hotel situated right in St Stephen’s square, opposite the Cathedral. A limousine escorted us from the airport, something I had not specifically requested and was a fabulous surprise. Our hotel room was exquisite. Having recently been refurbished, the furnishings were lavish and so comfortable.

The breakfasts we had in that hotel were undoubtedly the best I have ever had anywhere in the world. Our personal chef cooked us smoked salmon and scrambled eggs, while we drank freshly squeezed orange and banana juice, and groaned over the mouth watering homemade breads, cinnamon whirls, chocolate brownies and apple Danish pastries. (I’ve no idea how Austria does not have the fattest population in the world!)

Everything about Vienna is still vibrant in my mind. If you have never visited the city I can’t recommend it highly enough. I’m focussing on dance in this article, and we had two, two hour Viennese waltz lessons the two days before the ball, in a Viennese Dance School. BUT, Vienna is famous for coffee shops and delicious Sachertorte – and we certainly fitted in more of these than we should have done!

The night of the Ball we dressed with great care and sophistication. I had chosen a full length gold dress, satin with a taffeta overlay. I curled my long hair, adorned myself with jewels, wore a fur cape with a diamante clasp and my new high heeled gold dance shoes. Edward wore his Black formal Dinner Suit, with a gold cummerbund and bow tie. We were a real life Cinderella and Prince Charming off to the Ball!

The most embarrassing thing I recall was having to walk across the pedestrian precinct in our attire, as there is no vehicular access directly to the hotel for taxis! – So we walked to our taxi, picking our way, myself in my high heels,  through crowds of tourists snapping photographs and thronging in the plaza. I felt very self conscious!

The Kursalon Palace lit up the night sky.  We walked through the majestic entrance and were greeted with rows of waiters and waitresses with trays of champagne. Many were in traditional Austrian dress and we were invited to take pictures. I spoke to a lady standing next to me, and it turned out she and her husband were English. Soon, a few other English speaking couples had joined us. There was a couple from Ireland, and four young people from Australia. The Kursalon Palace

Inside the palace there were 3 ball rooms. We were seated in one of these for our meal, which was a beautiful banquet. The dinner was served, the wine flowed, the company was sparkling and we were all eagerly waiting for the dancing to start.  Eventually, the orchestra struck up and we all left our seats and crowded round the dance floor. The debutantes danced onto the floor and displayed their routine. It was mesmerising. We clapped and clapped … and then … suddenly … the moment we had been waiting for!

Yes – you got it – One, Two, Three, … One,  Two,  Three … the Blue Danube!

We ran to the dance floor in high anticipation! This was it! …

BUT… What was this?! … something we had never anticipated! …

…  The dance floor was jam packed, and in fact so crowded we were squeezed in like sardines! Viennese Waltz? … We could hardly breathe in and out! … As we soon discovered, there was no way you could do a Viennese Waltz at a Viennese Ball … just because there were just too many Viennese people on the dance floor!! It was a shock realisation!

In truth, as the evening wore on, and people drank too much,  got tired and went home, the dance floor thinned out, and yes, we did do some Viennese Waltz! The orchestra  also played other dance music too, so were able to dance all our Ballroom and Latin routines – and of course visit the disco upstairs! But it was a sad truth, that we did far more Viennese Waltz in our two dance lessons before the Ball, than we ever did when we were actually there!


Reflections? … I loved it. I want to do it again! That night, I did eventually manage to do enough Viennese Waltz to feel I had lived the dream!  The  feeling of dressing up and being a princess for a night is such a precious memory. I savour it, and bring it out whenever I feel sad. Memories are something so special, as they can never be erased – these memories will be with me forever.  And that’s what Edward calls me now … ‘precious!’

Yes, in my life,  Johan Strauss has a lot to answer  for!

Daisy Mae x

Dating Daisy … now an Audio Book!

See (Ask me any questions about sexual health, menopause or internet dating? – I’m now an Agony Aunt!).

Plus see my Sexual Health blog – Daisy Mae – at The Huffington Post UK (

Follow Daisy Mae on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.         Copyright © Daisy Mae 18/11/2017

Caye Caulker Last Day

Caye Caulker to Belize City to Houston to Northwest Arkansas.

The things I’m going to miss:

The quiet, sea-smelling dock first thing in the morning, doing a little yoga. The pelicans.

Sitting under the palm trees reading, the ocean breeze brisk,  wind surfers, paddle boarders. The sun bright off the ocean. The palm fronds shifting gently overhead.

Street-food lunches–Chef Kareem’s grilled chicken, Otis’s pork chops, and especially the little red shed and their jerk chicken, rice and beans, grilled plantains, slaw, and onion sauce.


Sunsets from the dock with a glass of 1-Barrel Rum. How things got quiet and slowly dark. Bellikin Beer.

Wish Willy’s.

Our neighbors Chris and Wendy.

Frigate Birds.


And more than anything else, spending long lazy days with my lover, Mary Ann.





Caye Caulker Birthday

Muddling along on Caye Caulker, I woke up this morning and lay face to face with my sixty-ninth birthday.  I don’t do much about birthdays. I have never been bothered by the decade years–you know what I mean, the “Oh my God, I’m forty” or “Oh, my God, I’m sixty” thing. Today is a beautiful day, with a clear sky and a soft breeze off the ocean. And it has started perfectly. I slipped out on the porch as Mary Ann finished sleeping and the sun finished rising, and sat in the cool air and listened to the mourning doves calling. The yellow-orange blossoms of the oleander moved in the the breeze. An oriole fluttered around in the leaves, flashing its yellow and orange feathers.  An old Belizean man, his head wrapped in a white bandana, rode by on a bicycle and waved hello. The long fronds of the palm trees across the street waved slowly above clusters of coconuts. Frigate birds patrolled the air above.

When Mary Ann got up, we walked down to the dock for some quiet yoga. The dock was ours, as it is every morning. The peace of the wavelets slapping against the piers, broken by the occasional whine of a small boat headed out into the bay. A pelican or two gliding across the surface of the water. The two of us moving slowly through our sun salutations. A dozen sailboats rocking gently, moored in the bay, aligned with their noses into the wind.

A half hour later, our joints and muscles loose and warm, and our hearts and minds relaxed, we headed out for a birthday breakfast at a new little French cafe right on the beach, just around the corner from our cabana.  They make their own jam, sweet and a little spicy, on toasted french bread. Strong coffee.  Fresh orange juice and pineapple juice.

Now I’m back on the porch. Happy. Waiting for the day to come to me.

Back to those first waking moments this morning. As I lay there in the cabana,  watching the ceiling fan turn lazily, listening to the mourning doves calling back and forth outside the window, the question did cross my mind, What have I done in sixty-nine years? But I tossed that useless question and replaced it with, How have I lived my life? Who have I been? The questions that really matter. Much too big to answer here. Maybe later.

Aside from the obvious things that give life meaning–my wife, my kids, my faith, my friends (all of which give deep and true meaning to life)–the thing I felt intense gratitude for at that moment was the students who became part of me over the 35 years I taught at the college. Someday I’ll write an open letter to them all, because it will take a while to explain how it is they who make it possible to look back on a life that has no grand accomplishments and to feel a deep sense of satisfaction,  a sense of having spent those years on something worthwhile. And so . . . for now . . .

Being this age, on this day, at this moment, in this place, with my heart beating and the air sweet in my lungs, content, and a day spread out in front of me that holds . . . what? It’s enough.




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