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Shake A Tail Feather - the Blues Brothers (featuring Ray Charles)

The youngest of Henry's residents was a guy called Alec Fitzgerald, known to one and all as simply "Fitzgerald". He was twenty years old, but constantly dressed in shorts, long socks pulled up to just below the knee and an open neck white shirt which made him look as though he was in school uniform. As he was extremely well built and over six feet tall, he resembled one of those "super children" popular in comics such as "Obelisk" in the Asterix cartoons. He was always strolling vigorously around the grounds, his red hair shiny in the sun, like a Scottish laird inspecting his estate and often gave demonstrations of his prodigious strength by moving bits of outdoor furniture such as garden seats, swings and once a statue of a water nymph, anything up to ten yards, just for the pleasure of doing so. Luckily he never ever got annoyed and had a very placid nature. He hardly ever said anything, and seemed to have a vocabulary of only a few words, like "I", "me", "you" and "food", not that he wasn't up for having complex and intense silent conversations with me, which were so funny that they often ended with the pair of us lying on our backs crying with laughter. Fitzgerald always carried around with him an airline - I think BOAC - shoulder bag, that he would carefully pack each morning and unpack in the evening and which contained a plastic knife, fork, spoon, plate, bowl and mug along with two empty squeegee bottles, the kind used almost exclusively for washing up liquid, which he would fill with water. Once, when he had accidentally spilt soup all over himself, I rushed to get a spare shirt from his locker only to be festooned in a mountain of fifty odd plastic bottles which I had to cram back in.

If he found himself in any kind of stressful situation - for instance, if one of the others shouted at him - he'd just smile, put his face close to them, give them a thumbs up and say clearly and concisely, "Alatek. Toowee". This phrase had such a talismanic quality for him that I was puzzled as to what it might mean. One day he indicated that he'd like me to buy him some chocolate when I was out and gave me some money. When I asked him which type, he mimed writing something, so I fetched pen and paper. To my amazement he wrote in a childish but clearly legible hand "Mars Bars please." He could write in perfectly fluent English and we were from then on able to converse, me talking and him writing. It was incredible that no one had told me he could write, and I had no other way of knowing, as medically untrained staff were not allowed to see the "patient files". I took the opportunity to get him to write down "Alatek. Toowee." which he did promptly, as if surprised I didn't understand. The words he wrote were "Holiday. Two weeks".

I broke the rules. I checked the file. His parents used to visit him regularly, two or three times a year and take him on holiday with them every summer, but, as was usually the case, the visits dropped off. Four years before, a year since the last visit, Fitzgerald was told his folks were coming in two weeks to take him on holiday. For whatever reason, this never happened and they hadn't been to see him since. Which might explain the perpetual readiness to leave, his travelling bag and plastic, camping cutlery and the phrase that could ward of all evil. "You can't touch me, I'm out of here. You'll see." As with everyone, everywhere, in the Royal Earlswood, people had dreams to keep themselves going.

Following on from the success of the Contours dance orientated stomper "Do You Love Me" in 1962, the Five Du-Tones had a minor hit with the twist oriented "Shake A Tail Feather" in 1963. It was Ray Charles who made it a vehicle for a dancelist, namechecking (in order) the twist, the fly, the swim, the bird, the jerk, the monkey, the watusi, the food, the mashed potato, the boogaloo, and the boney maroni (whatever that is). Fitzgerald did the lot, never knowing he was doing them. He loved to dance, he would gyrate like there was no tomorrow - maybe deep down he knew that for him there was not much of a tomorrow.

The track famously came from the great film "The Blues Brothers" which should have been called "the Soul Brothers" as it's a celebration of soul music, not the blues. Whatever it is, the track's a stone solid dancer with a great "kick-in" moment where the song takes off 17 seconds in.


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