Our initial job is to play for the first dance. They have selected something fairly harmless, which is a relief. You'd be amazed what people choose for this ritual. I was once asked to play 'You are my sunshine' which is the most horrifically depressing break up song you've ever heard. They just hadn't bothered to read the lyrics. And thankfully today's couple haven't attempted to choreograph any serious dance steps either. That's another clear recipe for disaster. This first dance thing is one of life's ritual humiliations to be avoided, that's my view. At the end of the chorus, the dam breaks, and hundreds of hammered guests pile onto the floor, a slurry of frocks and hired suits.
Our dance caller bravely begins the ceilidh. She has no chance. If you'd shouted "This place is going to blow! Run now and save yourselves!", you'd have been met with a joyous, multi-tonal chorus of 'I am the one and only' performed by a wall of blokes with arms round each other's shoulders, bottles slopping beer over ironic facial hair, shirt tails flapping as they bounced gleefully out of time with one another around a ticking, flashing bomb.
At some ceilidhs, the problem is getting people to come onto the dance floor. Here it is quite the opposite. The scene before us looks like the exact moment before everything goes wrong in a Hieronymus Bosch painting. There are people everywhere, in a state of great animation, and they cannot be communicated with. Drunk people go solo, Irish stepping in a whirl of sloshing beer, people join into dances half way, barrelling in on a tangent, dropping glasses. Collisions occur, people go down, get up, carry on, screaming and braying. It's like watching a rugby match between 5 different teams all wearing the same shirts, high on drugs, and playing for big cash prizes. The floor is awash with drinks and broken glass. Bare footed women plough through the detritus and feel nothing. I swear I'll never be surprised at an election result again. The only thing that keeps us safe is the slope away from the stage, and the irresistible pull of gravity keeps the hordes at a distance.
By the side of the floor, a man is attempting to drink a gin and tonic, but the end of his tie has gone in the glass and each time he lifts it to his lips the tie concertinas up and baffles the drink. This confuses him, but unable to focus his eyes on the source of the problem, he simply lowers the drink before trying again. The G&T slowly wicks away up the cloth of his tie.
The floor is by now a screaming morass of hammered chaos. Some people are upright, some have fallen over, and all stages between. It's like we're performing in zero-g. I become immune to the madness and play happily on auto-pilot for a minute whilst thinking about weeding the onion patch tomorrow afternoon. 'That'll be nice' I think, as a guest finally makes it up the hill to the stage and crashes through the monitors at the feet of the bass player.
Finally it's over, and we get the instruments away as quickly as possible. There's just one more inevitable ritual to go through, and here it comes.
"I thought you guys were fucking brilliant, amazing!" says the beaming father of the bride. "Exactly what we wanted!"
I drive away quickly, remembering the final lesson. Never look back.