THE concept of a list of things to do before it's too late becomes more urgent when you start to collect your state pension.

Top of my short leet is to dance the tango. I already had a brief encounter with the dance at school. A gym teacher decided a bunch of sixth-years would put on a Come Dancing-style demonstration to liven up the first-year Christmas dance. The dance was the tango. The school was Lourdes Secondary. There was no miracle. I did not put a foot right all night. My partner (a fiery Italian) was not pleased.

I have been wary of the dance floor ever since, apart from the Gay Gordons after a few dry sherries.

My desire to learn the tango is hampered not only psychologically but also physically. There's the gout and a touch of arthritis, and a new affliction which feels at times as if you are walking with a marble in your shoe. It's called Morton's Neuroma. I didn't know Morton's did foot ailments as well as breakfast rolls.

Why the tango? My friend Mark Bratchpiece, the stand-up comedian and journalist, has spent much of his early retirement gliding across dance floors.

He says: "Tango has everything. It flows like a foxtrot. It is sensual like a rumba. It has the Latin American feel of a samba. It can be slow and elegant like a waltz or fast and fiery like a salsa. The tango has it all."

I have been entertained by authentic Argentine tango street dancers on Las Ramblas in Barcelona. I have seen it on stage, but not TV since I do not watch Strictly. I aspire to learn to tango like Richard Gere did with Jennifer Lopez in the movie Shall We Dance? But it could turn out like Joe E Brown in Some Like It Hot, tangoing with Jack Lemmon in a frock and having to say: "Daphne, you're leading again."

In the real world, I have put myself in the safe hands and feet of Alistair MacDonald and Shona Barr, who do regular classes in Glasgow.

Before committing to a course, I have a reconnoitre at the tango club which meets in the basement of the Blackfriars pub in the Merchant City. I see some intense dancing going on with a lot of fancy footwork and sinuous movement. I am set to make an excuse and leave when Alistair and Shona find a quiet corner to give a short taster lesson.

Alistair explains that tango is just like walking. One foot in front of another. Shades of Chic Murray and the best way to walk. He adds encouragingly: "The man just navigates and the woman does all the work." I haven't started yet, but I'm loving this dance already.

Shona takes me by the hands and we prepare to walk. But first we rock gently from foot to foot. It's all to do with synchronicity and the upper body sending signals which will become more subtle with experience.

I lurch forward and Shona magically moves backwards. The first walk is a blur. Alistair is full of praise: "Great posture, Tom. And you're doing all sorts of things without us telling you. Keeping your feet neat and brushing next to each other instead of doing John Wayne steps. And you're turning corners. I couldn't do corners on my first lesson and ended up shuffling along a wall."

The next bit is the embrace, or getting to grips with your partner. "The principle of the embrace is to encircle and contain the woman," says Alistair. So here is me encircling Shona and I should be nervous but I am too busy concentrating on my wonderful posture. A gentle signal and I'm walking forward and Shona is walking backwards. "We don't just walk," she says. "Sometimes we take side steps."

We do some sidesteps and there is no collateral damage to feet. Then comes my favourite bit so far. We halt as if we're stopped in traffic and then gently sway back and forward. We're rocking.

A big part of the tango seems to be getting your signals right so the woman can get her feet out of the way. Alistair says: "Remember, the man is responsible for navigation and for making the women look beautiful, or they won't dance with us again."

The tango can be whatever you make it. It can be complicated. Once I've mastered the walking, stopping and swaying, there are many more exotic steps to contemplate.

Such as the Needle, which the man does with the working foot vertical, toe into the floor, pivoting while the lady dances a grapevine around him. Or the Viper, the little snake, when the man places his right leg between his partner's legs using a back and forth slithering motion. Some of the stuff in the tango could have you questioned by the police for inappropriate conduct.

My friend Mark's advice is to ignore the jargon and terminology. Good teachers keep it simple, so just do what they say. He recommends doing Argentine street tango, which is more intimate, almost canoodling, and jazzy rather than the ballroom variety which is staccato, not very relaxed and a bit jaggy.

"You might look at a street tango and think there's almost no movement. That's because there is no need to go rushing around. It can be simple, elegant and beautiful. Especially done by older Argentinian dancers." There is no ageism in the tango.

So, what advice for dance-floor nerves? Learn the steps but then try not to think about them.

Concentrate on moving with the music, which is easier with the tango. Dance through your mistakes. Keep moving. It will work next time. Remember it's better to be a pretty average dancer than not a dancer at all.

It helps that for most exponents of the art, tango becomes an obsession and it is practice that makes perfect. Alistair says: "Bear in mind that the people on the dance floor doing the intricate steps and the elaborate twirls all started by learning to walk the tango."

I have been doing a bit of practice including a tango with Mark, which was good because he didn't lead once. But I don't want to get off on the wrong foot and I am waiting for Alistair and Shona's next course of beginners' classes later this month. They are held at Notre Dame school in the west end of Glasgow. Maybe there will be a miracle this time.

Shona and Alistair's next beginners' class starts in Glasgow on April 24. Visit