Sunday, 21 December 2008

It's the Final Countdown...

Or rather it was.

You may or may not have noticed I didn't get round to posting about last week's Strictly Show. This was partly due to lack of time, and partly because I thought the whole voting debacle was a pile of crap. It was so patently obvious that they wanted three couples in the last show. It was also patently obvious that the maths didn't add up to make Tom able to go through. Why they couldn't have just dispensed with last week altogether I don't know. None of the dances rocked my boat particularly, but I thought Tom deserved credit for attempting a jive when the girls played safe with ballroom. Yes, yes, yes, I'm sure technically they were much better, but hell Tom's jive was so much more fun.

Anyway. Onwards and upwards as they say.

I have to confess that despite thinking I had lost total interest in this year's competition since Austin went out, I thoroughly enjoyed last night's show.

Rachel's foxtrot was pretty flawless. Did it deserve forty points? Not sure. They seem to have given out tens likes smarties this series but when I watched the previous champions dancing together I thought not one of the finalists was a patch on any of them (except possibly Darren Gough).

Tom and Camilla's clearly wasn't as good technically (I still think it's harder for the bloke - if you're a crap dancer and being led by a professional, that has to be easier, doesn't it?), but I just loved his style. So I think the judges were a bit harsh myself.

Lisa and Brendan's was lovely to watch, but I found it strangely uninvolving. I know, I know, she made the best improvement overall, but I couldn't help feeling the judges were marking her ridiculously high to make up for the fact that the public were clearly voting for Tom Chambers.

Moving swiftly over the return of the previous contestants (who reminded us all why they went off so quickly), I did enjoy Rachel and Vincent's rumba, but I couldn't quite rave about it as much as the judges did. Tom's samba was a lot of fun - again - and Lisa's Cha Cha Cha may have been technically improved from last time, but didn't do anything for me.

I think losing Lisa at this point was the right call. I still can't understand why the judges saved her at the expense of Austin, who by rights should have won this. But hey nonny nonny no, the Great British Public do occasionally get it right...

I'd also like to point out here (in the absence of Marie as she is on holiday) that some weeks ago she pointed out the similarity of Rachel Stevens' brothers to the Mitchell boys - Tess, you're just too slow...

The second wave of returning dancers reminded us what we lost in terms of fun from Mark Foster (yes, we were right, he really was that bad), Heather Small (who was much better last night then on any of the shows. It must have been nerves), Cherie Lunghi (who was as good as I remember, but I am still irritated that she and James were such poor sports) and John Sergeant, who was just as much fun as I thought he was.

The third wave just made me a) wonder again why oh why did Christine last so long?, b) miss Jodie and c) wish I could have seen a final with Austin in it.

I thought it was very nice they gave Lisa an opportunity to do her show dance, but it confirmed for me that yes, she really should have been in third place.

Now all the way through this competition, I haven't really got Rachel. I think she dances beautifully, but she lacks emotion somehow. I have to say that in her show dance, for the first time I thought she really came alive and lit up the floor. It was wonderful to watch, and I was convinced she had it in the bag. The judges seemed to be so down on Tom, and technically he clearly can't compete with Rachel.

But then.... Oh then... Tom and Camilla produced the most hilarious witty, entertaining show dance. It was fantastic. The return of the penguin. And with so much style...Tom leapt and gurned his way around the stage, looking as if he was having a blast. I laughed the whole way through it. If there were people wavering, I think that dance won him the competition. It was fabulous.

While they filled in time we also got to see the returning champions's show dance, which was great fun, but also Kristina and alien faced Brian (as Marie calls him - and in Marie's absence I feel duty bound to keep the faith) did an amazing Cha Cha Cha to Duffy singing Mercy, which I can't unfortunately find on You Tube.

But here for your delectation and delight are firstly Rachel and Steven, who were fabulous too.

Just not a patch on Tom and Camilla. Worthy winners in the end...

Tuesday, 2 December 2008


We've finally lost boring Christine. Do you think that the judges were getting their revenge for not having had the opportunity to vote John Sergeant off?

As I had a manically busy weekend, followed by my pulling my back out yesterday I've only had a chance to catch up on the dances on the SCD website.

From what I saw I think it was Christine's time to go. Didn't think much of either of her dances. Can't say Lisa wowed me that much either, but the judges seem to like her.

Tom's samba was every bit as camp as Bruno said it was, and I liked his waltz, but I thought Rachel's and Vincent's was better.

Laughed out loud at Rachel and Vincent's paso doble. Might have known Len would object to the cloak. But it wasn't a patch on Austin and Erin's which oled all the way to being the best latin dance of the series I'd say.

I think Austin has to win it, for overall consistency and sheer entertainment value, but I'm really not sure who should be in the final with him. I think for dancing ability it should be Rachel, but the judges seem to really like Lisa for some reason I can't fathom, and Tom when he hits a high really hits it. But I suspect he isn't quite good enough. So my money is on it being Austin FTW and Lisa in the final, but then again, I've been dead wrong before.

And if like me you're suffering from a maniacal life at present, and haven't seen Austin and Erin's paso doble, here it is in all it's glory.


Monday, 24 November 2008

Oh No!

Now that Jodie's gone, who do I vote for?

I thought it was a real pity that she went last night because not only was her jive highly entertaining (and boy did we need some entertaining on Saturday night - I thought it was a peculiarly flat and odd show myself), she was clearly so ill she hadn't had much time to practise. But hurrah for Jodie she was dignified and gracious in defeat even though her dance this week was much better then Christine's. Do you think all John Sergeant's The One Show voters have switched allegiance. Now WOULDN'T that be funny? They can't vote for John but they vote for Christine who'll end up winning because she's the closest the public can get to voting for John.

Mind you, that wouldn't be right would it, because once again I found her dance bland and dull -was it the cha cha cha? (see I don't even remember). I also found Lisa's quickstep bland and dull. And Rachel's foxtrot was lovely but full marks??? I don't think so. Are the judges proving a point do you think? See, public you wanted an old man who couldn't dance, but we're going to inflict another young beauty who can for the final...

Jodie's jive, I thought was great. Tom's tango less great. But the dance that made my night was Austin and Erin's cha cha cha which was fun and cheeky and ENTERTAINING. Got that judges? We like being entertained. You clearly didn't because they got an unremarkable score, and I was worried they were going to end up in the dance off. Anyway, they lived to fight another day and my money is now on them and Rachel and Vincent for the final. I think I want Austin as he's shown the most consistency through the series, and while I like Tom I don't think he's quite as good as Austin. Mind you having said that in the group dance Tom and Austin both shone and the girls just looked limp and decorative - but I think that's probably the fault of Arlene's choreography. Is it just me or do you think there is something pervy about the way she leches after younger men - can you imagine the furore of Len did that to Rachel? (Can you tell I have really really gone off Arlene?)

Finally of course we got to say goodbye to John, which was touching and sweet, and I so love Kristina who is charming and beautiful and has a wicked sense of humour and deserves a really great dancing partner next year. But boy oh boy, did you notice how po faced Arlene looked? And the judges were the only ones who didn't stand up. Miserable so and sos. I was in hysterics when John thanked them for their help in allowing him to stay in the competition - Arlene's face was a picture. In case you missed it, I leave it here for your delectation and delight. Strictly is just not going to be the same without them.

Thursday, 20 November 2008

Strictly Crap

I don't normally watch It Takes Two given that it's on when I'm either hoiking children round town to various activities or cooking their tea. But last night I wanted to see what John and Kristina had to say, so I left the dinner cooking and sat down (in between settling disputes between the ten/six year olds and filling in the husband on what had happened when he came in) to watch.

I really wanted to know what persuaded John to step down - my gut instinct says he's not the type to be bullied. It seemed clear to me from watching last night, that he had just got fed up with the media storm, which had taken the fun out of if for him.(Caused in no small part it has to be said by the likes of Arlene who was told Breakfast News on Monday that "When [other celebrities] put hours in the practice studio they are constantly working. They do not sit down, and I know with John, he sits and reads the Guardian. A lot of time he and his dance partner spend fooling around." , and was busy telling Jeremy Vine on Monday lunchtime John shouldn't still be in the competition.)

It strikes me that as well as being a perfect gent, John Sergeant is fundamentally also a very kind person, and it clearly bothered him that other people were getting stressed by the whole thing, and that he was uncomfortable to have got through on Saturday when Cherie didn't. I suspect that too, had something to do with his decision.

However, while I'm not sure about the whole bullying thing, I do agree with Marie, that facing a choice between people being rotten to you and going on a cruise, most of us would opt for the latter. And judging by the incredible bitchiness James (and to a lesser extent Anton and Kate Garroway) displayed when interviewed after him, I don't blame him. James was full of venom, spitting out malevolently that this "wasn't the John Sergeant show" - no, and I don't think for one moment John Sergeant thought it was either. Unlike James, he clearly has no ego to speak of, and was diplomatically getting out of the way so that other better dancers don't get voted off this week and he has to face the whole barrage of criticism again. I think sometimes the story gets too big for the person (I'm thinking here not just of the recent Brand/Ross nonsense, but also the whole Angus Deayton debacle a few years ago) - and John Sergeant recognising this decided to get out while the going was good. He's done so, as he's done everything in this show, with gravitas, dignity, and not inconsiderable wit. I love him more then ever (and can't wait to do the rewrites to my Christmas book so I can polish up my character into proper John Sergeant twinkly lines).

Everyone else (with exception of Claudia Winkelman who was flounderingly trying to get her interviewees to be more positive, and Brucie who just looked confused) who appeared on It Takes Two last night looked small minded, mean spirited and downright pathetic in comparison. For Arlene to say that she was "sad" he'd left and he should have stayed, and for Craig to call him a coward was breathtakingly hypocritical. I believed Len the most, even though he was pictured on Saturday moaning about the result.

And let's not forget that Len and Arlene the two oldest judges in the competition have been outrageously rude about John Sergeant's age. We all know it's a competition where the young and beautiful have more hope of winning. This time around John Sergeant gave all the dad dancers hope and Cherie Lunghi had been striking a blow for the older woman (ironic that my favourite older man was responsible for knocking my favourite older woman out), but to hear Len and Arlene go on about John's age you'd think he was practically senile. It's been nasty, obnoxious and makes the idea of having older competitors in this pointless. Why not just say next year, anyone under the age of 35 is banned? You'll have a bland show, but then you won't get to be embarrassed by watching geriatric shuffling either.

I'm not yet sure whether I want to carry on watching this year's SCD. Ironically I thought last week produced the best dancing yet, but I don't want to watch great dancing without seeing John Sergeant's cheeky little face cheering me up every week. I'd have accepted him going out in a vote and the judges getting rid of him in the dance off. But this is the worst of all possible worlds.

And the only one who's come out of it with any dignity is John Sergeant. I hope when he's back from his cruise, he'll also be back on our screens in some other amusing capacity soon.

The nation, deserves a bit of gaiety and it looks like we're not going to get it from SCD anymore.

OTOH, as Marie suggested maybe we should all go for Jodie For The Win. Get phoning peeps!

Wednesday, 19 November 2008

Oh even MORE crap

So John Sergeant has been pushed out of Strictly for being too old, too rubbish and winning the public's hearts. I appreciate what he's said about it, but bugger it. I think the public should have got to decide who they wanted for the final and the judges should have shut up. Arlene Phillips has been foul this week and I've lost huge amounts of respect for her.

Marie has said it all much better then I can here , but while I sit here steaming, I leave you with my favourite John Sergeant moment of the series.

Who's going next do you think? Cos Jodie sure as hell won't be able to jive but the public love her too...

Monday, 17 November 2008

Oh crap

I missed last night's dance off because I was out, but I cannot believe Cherie has been voted off and John is still in. There is no justice in the world.

There is however, as John sweetly pointed out on Saturday, the power of the electorate...

Sunday, 16 November 2008

Sudden Thought...

It has just occurred to me that the reason the judges were so nice to John Sergeant last night was because they were still in shock after watching Terry Wogan dance...

How exciting was that?

Well knock me down with a feather. Everyone (even John Sergeant) raised their game this week.

First up was Jodie and Ian with a wonderful quickstep - she was light and fleet and graceful. I was so pleased for her after last week's dreadful samba. This was definitely her best dance of the series, but as she clearly is never going to get Latin my money's on her going next time she's got to do a latin dance.

Then it was Lisa and Brendan (Lisa resplendent in the weirdest orange dress I've ever seen - but much loved by my eldest daughter who adores all things orange) doing a not desperately exciting samba. I thought she looked stiff and awkward and lacked hip movement, but the judges seemed to like it, and only Bruno mentioned the hips.

Then Christine and Matthew danced a waltz, and whoopeedodah, I actually liked it. I thought it was charming and graceful and rather lovely. Maybe she's not boring after all. Perhaps she is just very very nice and therefore the waltz is her dance. I;d say that was her best dance of the competition also.

Cherie and James then danced a cha cha cha (or is it cha cha?)and while this wasn't her best dance of the series, it was definitely her best latin attempt, though I'd be inclined to agree with the judges she does it a little too neatly. Somehow at the moment her latin lacks fire in its belly, but I hope she's done enough to keep her in as I still want to see her in the final.

Austin and Erin's tango was the dance of the night for me - I thought it was superb, and I think having been rather dismissive of Austin I'm finally getting his appeal now. I loved the bit when they showed him going into his daughter's school. Wonderful.

I actually also really liked Rachel and Vincent's rumba which seemed rather more tender then sensual in a way. Not sure I agreed with all those tens but she can't possibly be in the dance off this week can she?

Then it was John and Kristina who were abysmal as usual (though not as bad as last week) and made me laugh as usual. It really is time that he went though, so I do hope he's voted off tonight while people still like him. (Mind you the children are adamant he should stay as they prefer the entertainment value to the dancing...) I loved the way they scooted off upstairs without waiting to hear what the judges had to say. But they were pleasantly surprised by the judges being NICE to them - Arlene even went so far as to say she got why the public like him (which may actually have been calculated to get the public voting him off, who know?) So, if he does go out this week at least he'll go out on a high...

Last but not least was Tom and Camilla. I loved their salsa which was steamy and hot and such a lot of fun. It made me want to get up and bop along with them, and even had the effect of my dance shy husband admitting that maybe he would give it a go (little does HE know what I'm planning to give him for Christmas...)

My money is on Lisa and John being in the dance off, but you never know how the public will vote so it will probably be Tom and Rachel.

And in the meantime, if you missed Children in Need on Friday, here's Terry Wogan showing that actually, John Sergeant isn't half bad...

Friday, 14 November 2008

Are they human or are they dancers?

Today is Children in Need Day and Tess Daly and Terry Wogan are going to go head to head in a Strictly Come Dancing bonanza. Judging by this, Sir Tel is every bit as bad (if not worse) then John Sergeant, so it should be hilarious, and of course it's all in a great cause. So if you haven't donated yet, what are you waiting for???

Wednesday, 12 November 2008

Strictly Too Serious...

I know. I know. I said on Sunday he can't dance and it really is time he went, but I think the judges are getting a bit over excited about things. This is a DANCE competition, yes, but it's not as if anyone on it is really going to get crowned Champion at the World Ballroom Dancing competition is it (unless he's called Anton du Beke, and he did it dancing with, oh yes, a fellow professional...)? Half the fun of Strictly is watching the judges squirm as the public stubbornly and persistently vote the opposite way, and I agree with Alice over at Strictly TV, they should have learnt by now that moaning about it is only going to make things worse. (Have just found two Keep John Sergeant In groups on Facebook where people seem really quite riled that the judges are daring to presume to tell them how to vote.) Mind you, perhaps it's all a big plot and the judges say these things to ensure the public votes the wrong way and therefore interest is kept in the competition.

But all in all I think it's just getting a tad silly. And I know he or Jodie should really go now, being the worst two dancers in the competition as that would be fair (but since when was life fair, hmmm?), but it is hard not to be entertained by someone who makes a virtue out of being so bad in such a disarming manner. Here's his dance from Saturday again. I defy you not to smile....

Monday, 10 November 2008

Oh dear. Oh dear

I think that's what you call a travesty.

I missed Saturday's show because we had far too many children running around in the back garden in the rain and wind while my husband manfully tried to light soggy fireworks, but I caught up via the SCD website and Marie's blog.

The dances I loved were Tom's (hilarious hilarious but so fleet of foot), Cherie's (way to go Cherie, but you need to crack Latin if you're going to get into the final), surprisingly Lisa's as I haven't been that fond of her up until now, and Rachel's.

Heather's tango was by far the best dance she's done all series, and Christine's jive was just ... dull. I cannot understand at all Christine's appeal. I can only imagine she has a lot of fans on The One Show (which I have never ever watched so don't get at all why she's so popular).

My two personal favourites in the competition John and Jodie were both rubbish this week (although John just makes me laugh out loud, the way he hams up his crap dancing), and I have to reluctantly concede that it isn't actually fair any more if either of them stay in because they can't really dance and all the others (including boring Christine) can.

So I was convinced the dance off was going to be between those two and that John would be kicked off because you can just SEE the judges are desperate to get rid of him (1 from Craig for entertainment? C'me on I get the 1 for the lack of dancing ability but John certainly entertains, if not necessarily for the right reasons).

But then blow me down with a feather the great British Public voted (if ever there was a reason for not giving the masses the vote its watching how they behave on competitions like this) so Heather and Brian were in the dance off with ... Rachel and Vincent. Neither of them deserved to be there, though Rachel is definitely the best dancer so the best woman won, but still...

Any more of this and I might have to boycott the programme.

Surely next week we have to see John in the dance off? Much as I love him it is time for him to go. (Besides I've finished the book on which I've modelled his character, so I don't need him anymore...)

But with the great BP in control of the voting, who can tell what the outcome will be? We'll probably end up with Austin and Tom in the dance off when really they should be both be twinkling their way to the final...

Monday, 3 November 2008

Halfway House

So we're at the halfway point in Strictly and the competition is certainly hotting up.

I much preferred this week's episode, which felt a lot more fun then last week's.

I loved Jodie's waltz. Really lovely, even if she was dressed as Cinderella (she reminded me of the people who dress up in Disneyland. Odd to do that when you're not four). She definitely does better in the ballroom dances as she's so graceful, but though I do do love her, I can't see her making the final three. She's working hard at it, but I wouldn't say she has much natural talent.

Christina looked lovely, and was tremendously graceful, but I still find her a bit of a nonentity personality and dancing wise. I'm sure she'll be in a dance off soon.

Lisa and Brendan's tango was great. I love the tango, so stylish and sexy, and I think they pulled it off. Lisa has improved hugely. I'm still not convinced she's going to be in the top three, but she's biting at the heels of Cherie and Rachel in a way I wouldn't have predicted a few weeks ago.

Cherie's salsa was sadly disastrous. I was hugely relieved she didn't end up in the dance off, as I feared she might. Hopefully, she'll get a dance more suited to her again. I still want her in the final, but am coming to the conclusion she won't win because she can't do the latin dances.

Heather was also a disaster, which was a shame after last week. And she always looks so much better in training. Though she survived this week, I can't see her getting through next time (except if she has to dance against John Sergeant, whom the judges are no doubt going to vote off without even watching him.)

John was as ever hilarious to watch. I still love him to pieces, but it is getting to the stage in the competition when he is going to have to go because the only people remaining are the people who can dance, so it wouldn't be fair to keep him (even for my research purposes).

I missed Tom's cape action, and Rachel's jive, but I think both are still demonstrating they are top contenders. Have a feeling if Cherie has another slip up Rachel will bag that place in the final.

Austin and Erin were simply the best this week. I think they are the clear front runners. Everyone else has a lot of catching up to do.

Which just leaves Andrew. Finally, finally. He got voted off. And rightly too. We were in stitches watching him dance, those hand movements. That bottom sticking out like a pregnant duck (though I suppose it kind of matched Ola's weird flamingo costume). But, he was utterly charming in defeat, and I thought his thank you speech was lovely and well meant. So hurrah for Andrew. (And also hurrah for not crying. Am getting very fed up with seeing people crying on TV, particularly men).

I predict Heather and John will be in next week's dance off, with John to go, and Christina and Jodie to be following soon. I'd still really love Jodie to suddenly develop into a dancing queen, but I can't quite see it not really. (She has given me an idea for a character for my next book though. I had no idea when I started watching Strictly what a good research tool it was going to be.)

The results show was as weird as ever apart from Anton and Flavia's hilarious dance. I thought that was brilliant, and made me wish I'd had more time learning from the master...

Sunday, 26 October 2008

Freckles and bullfights.

Last night watching Strictly Come Dancing was a hugely educational experience. I learnt that Paso Doble (which is a dance I've managed to miss seeing before somehow) is about bull fighting and to dance the Viennese Waltz properly you apparently need freckles...

It was also quite hard work watching it in our house as the eight year old had a friend for a sleepover, so whereas normally it's just the six year old squealing her way through SCD, last night we had three small girls screeching their heads off. So if I've badly misinterpreted all the dancing you'll have to forgive me...

I decided watching Lisa and Brendan I could really get into the Paso Doble. I totally "get" that dance is also about story, and you could do a great story with that. I did like their dance, but wasn't totally wowed by it, although overall they probably made the best fist of it.

Cherie and James had their worst score, because Cherie unfortunately tripped at the beginning and was so put off she forgot to act the story. I kind of agreed with Arlene that it would have been great to see her do it again. Am sure if she hadn't tripped it would have been the best one of the night. (Though what DID they give her to wear? I liked the swirling skirt, but not in gold...)

Mark Foster (thankfully minus the seethrough top), probably did his best dance so far. He's trying so hard, poor love. It's just a shame he was so completely out of time the music stopped before he did. I was in hysterics with Arlene's puzzled bewilderment about how he must be in time in swimming but can't seem to get it in dancing. (I swim a bit, and I can completely see that the rhythm you get into for swimming is a totally different thing - like he says you're going one way, and it doesn't matter how you look!).

Christine's dancing is always enthusiastic, but somehow unmemorable. This was so unmemorable I had to think quite hard to remember if she'd done Paso Doble or Viennese Waltz. Oh dear.

As usual I loved Jodie, even though the judges didn't. It probably wasn't as good as last week's, but there's something about Jodie which I just find irresistible (it is probably because, judging by my five minutes with Anton, I would be just as useless as her if I were doing it.)

The funniest though, had to be John Sergeant's. It's becoming more and more clear that he can't dance at all, but I just love the interpretations he puts on things. He was just hilarious stamping his little feet and trying to look serious. And I loved his comment about being in the position of the favourite runner up in a bye election. I do hope he's still in next week...

The waltzes were better, I thought. Even Andrew Castle didn't do too badly - and thanks to Ola having had him strapped to her waist all week (how DO these dancers manage to keep a straight face when they do things like that?) his bum didn't even stick out. But PLEASE Great British Public, it's time he went. He can't dance for toffee.

I loved loved Heather's waltz. All the way through this we've watched Heather sing and thought, there's a show woman, but she hasn't seemed to be able to translate it to the dance floor. And last night she did, in a dress, which my ten year old pronounced a perfect princess dress (it was very pink). I really really hope she's saved the dance off this week.

Austin and Orla were predictably good, but I didn't think they quite deserved the nines they got.

Rachel and Vincent's waltz was charming if a little unexciting. Rachel also got a great dress (but very very weird gloves).

The hero for me this week had to be Tom though. I didn't think there was anyone to fancy on SCD this year, but I have changed my mind. Tom is utterly my new hero and I don't even watch Holby. He was soooo sweet talking about his wife (who must be very very longsuffering to put up with Camilla on her honeymoon) and then danced a lovely romantic waltz and dedicated it to her. Ah bless... For me it was the dance of the night, and I think I may have a problem now choosing between him and Cherie.

And as a measure of how much more relaxing it is to dance in your own lounge after a glass of red, then in a huge loft surrounded by strangers, I boogied round the lounge with the two big girls for hours... IF only I could have been that relaxed on Thursday....

Friday, 24 October 2008

Dancing with the Stars

Well, one, specifically...

Several weeks ago I was interviewed for the Express about my experiences learning to dance (such as they are). As I'd talked about dancing in the kitchen with my husband (actually I do it without my husband too - Friday nights usually finds me boogying to Chris Evans' All Request Friday, it's a great stress buster I can tell you), they were going to send a photographer down to take a picture of me in the kitchen complete with pinny and marigolds.

I'm very glad they didn't.

Last week I got a phone call asking me if I'd like to come up to London for a photoshoot. Would I ever? When the most exciting thing that generally happens to me in the week is the Sainbsbury's shop, I didn't need much persuading. Particularly when I found out that I was going to get a makeover, have my hair styled and wear some fabulous dresses. No girl could say no to that...

And even if I was mad enough to turn such a fabulous opportunity down, when they told me I was going to be photographed with Anton du Beke, you could have heard me squeeing from here to Timbuctu. I didn't stop giggling for a week.

I was however very nervous. I've never done anything like this before, though I have done a fair few radio interviews, which I quite enjoy because NO ONE CAN SEE YOU.

I realise I should have taken my own mantra from the book and just pretended no one was looking but it was quite strange to go from the normal domestic routine to joining the commuter crowd (which I haven't done for years) and end up in a lofty studio close to London Bridge surrounded by people measuring me up like a kind of prize cow.

As I was the first to arrive (I was being photographed with a wonderful lady who also happens to be the receptionist at my publishers and a fabulous dancer who gave me lots of great info for the book), the lovely make up girl started doing my make up. I was suddenly terribly self conscious about my hair which needs a damn good cut, but somehow in my busy life I haven't found time for that recently. However she did a great job of making it look curly and natural, and I wish I knew what she'd done as I've decided this is a Look I must keep forever. Apart from anything else she made me look twenty again, which is no mean feat...

I also (shamefully at the great age of 43) had my eyebrows plucked and my lashes curled for the first time ever. But probably not the last now (I realise in my middle age I have inherited my father's bushy eyebrows. NOT a good look.)

While I was being made up Anton arrived. He was charm itself, introducing himself to us straight away and promptly chiming in with comments about what we were going to be wearing. He sat down next to me and once he'd found out I'd written a book was polite enough to appear to want to know what it was about. He also read out his own hilarious interpretation of the story (wasted as a dancer, that man I tell you), before pointing out that (ouch!) in the beautiful picture of the couple dancing on the front the man's arm is in the wrong position. I should have known that, but didn't even think about it when I saw the cover as it is soooo beautiful. So to all you dancing fans out there who've noticed, mea culpa. Should have spotted that one!

I then went to try dresses on while everyone else got made up, which was fantastic quite frankly. I tried on two lovely turquoise dresses (one strapless one made me feel like a million dollars but I didn't get to wear it in the end because it didn't have a swirly enough skirt), a purple dress I wasn't so keen on and a fantastic red dress from John Lewis which I absolutely HAVE to own...

By now Anton was dancing with my friend. I watched in envy as they made it look so easy, and in fact their photos together are going to be amazing as she was natural and funny, and gorgeous.

I on the other hand felt like a total dork. The photographer kept trying to get me to relax, but I think the first pictures he took just showed me looking like a rabbit caught in the headlights. He kept telling me not to look so scared, but I was absolutely terrified. Anton like the true pro he is made me laugh by taking the piss out of my inhibitions. Well frankly, I was waaaaaayyyy out of my comfort zone (telling me to put my hand on a man who isn't my husband's thigh in the middle of the morning was slightly disconcerting to say the least). At the risk of sounding like a total alcy I could have really really used a drink at that point.

More disconcerting for poor Anton probably was the number of times I trod on his toes, but he seemed to cope with it manfully. In the space of half an hour I had the experience of simultaneously being Katie (who is supremely unconfident at the start of the book) and Emily (who steps on toes all the time). Oh dear. That wasn't how my vision of the day went...

Luckily it did get better, and after discovering that to make the muscles in your face relax you have to blow your cheeks out, I ended up giggling my way through the rest of the shoot. But jeez it's hard. My chin always seemed to be in the wrong place, or I wasn't looking at the camera, or my shoulders were out. Who'd be a model, hey? Not me, that's for sure. (Not that anyone would be asking me ever, after yesterday's performance!)

I would have LOVED to have had the opportunity to get a proper dancing lesson from Anton, because he was quite brilliant at choreographing the photo so we got the right poses, and it was enormous fun. I suspect he wouldn't like me all that much as a pupil though, thanks to the stepping on toes thing, though he was kind enough to say at one point that I had shown a smidgeon of natural ability.

The session ended all too quickly, Anton keeping up his very witty repartee till the very last moment.

And then it was back home on the train, to sort out the kids' stuff for their tennis lessons, and then go and stand in a windy playground which played havoc with my wonderful hairstyle.

At one point Anton was teasing me that I probably spent my life in jeans and teeshirts - well er yes. Much as I love to dress up, that gorgeous red dress, and those lovely red shoes wouldn't be at all practical in the playground...

You can see the results of my day in the Express on Monday, but I hope to get some pictures up here at some point if allowed.

In the meantime, as Tess and Brucie would say, Keep Dancing!

Monday, 20 October 2008

Strictly the Best

Unfortunately I was away for the weekend (again - I know, I know. It's a wild life I lead), so missed Saturday's show.

However, I read Marie's brilliant round up here, so I didn't feel I'd missed too much. And I did go and look at the dances online to get back up to speed.

I think my favourite dances this week were Tom and Camilla's American Smooth which just glided across the floor and Rachel and Vince's samba which was very energetc and raunchy. Tom and Camilla were fabulous. I think if I were his new wife, I might think that was worth having my wedding postponed for, so long as he danced with me like that. I also really liked Jodie who IS graceful and not at all storklike when she's doing ballroom. I was sooooo pleased she didn't end up in the dance off again. I watched the results show with the ten and twelve year olds and the ten year old and I whooped like crazy people when she was saved. (The twelve year old is far too dignified to act like a crazy person). We whooped even more when John and Kristina were saved. I love John. He is like a great cuddly bear, and he is so so charming. He didn't dance at all on Saturday, but carried it off with such aplomb.

I was very sorry to see Heather and Don in the dance off, as I thought that spot should have gone to Andrew Castle (who is dreadful, but clearly has a lot of support from GMTV viewers) and Mark Foster who's samba was nearly as astonishing as Gary Rhodes' first effort.

I think Heather did have the slight edge, so Don probably should have gone (mainly for pulling such terrible faces when he danced), but will miss those velvet tones. Now if he could only dance the way he speaks...

The competition is definitely hotting up now. Cherie, Austin, Mark and Rachel are all in with a chance I'd say, and Christine and Lisa were much better this week. I just find them a bit bland (and Rachel too, if I'm honest).

If it was on character alone, I'd be saying John or Jodie FTW, and until they're knocked out, I'm still hoping...

Wednesday, 15 October 2008

Hurrah, Hurrah.

Jodie's still in! And surely with the likes of Andrew Castle and Mark Foster about she's got a chance to stay for a little while longer... I did feel sorry for Jessie though.

In case you're interested, I have an interview up at Trashionista. You can read it

Sunday, 12 October 2008

It's Ladies Night...

Or rather it was, last night, but I got a bit distracted by The X Factor followed by 50 years of Blue Peter. It's all go in my house I tell you...

So this week it was the girls turn to show us what they're made of, and as with the boys, there are two clear leaders, who make the others look distinctly banal.

First up it was Christine and Matthew who performed an unremarkable quickstep, although Christine at least looked like she was having fun.

Then it was Jodie and Ian. I love Jodie. I think she's fab. But oh dear god was she out of her comfort zone. Not surprising really. Rumba to me is a dance you should do with someone you're very very intimate with. With anyone else it just looks pervy. Jodie was clearly trying to find her inner sensualist, but sadly, despite her best efforts she failed. Sadly, I think this means she's in the dance off again. Which is a shame because I think she is great fun and she tries so very very hard...

Then it was Heather and Brian. Great choreography, but Heather didn't exactly inspire. It all feels a little inspid I have to say. Mind you, it's easy for me to talk, just remembering those steps must be a nightmare, let alone putting some energy into it. But still, it didn't stand out, despite her best efforts.

Then it was Cherie and James. Once again Cherie pulled it out of the bag and delivered an AMAZING rumba. Amazing. Being an actress has got to help with getting into character and demonstrating the story of the dance, but that aside, she's graceful, she's fluid and a complete joy to watch. I also LOVE how driven and competitive she is. I really really want her to win because I think it would be a great boost for older women everywhere (and sadly I am beginning to include myself in that category). So hurrah for Cherie. Top that boys!

From the sublime to the ridiculous. Poor old Jessie Wallace. She looked completely out of her depth (again.) I must have been going bonkers to even consider her as a contender (which I briefly did from the first show). She seems to lack rhythm and plods around the stage like a carthorse, but she was clearly devastated by the judges' comments so maybe she'll get a sympathy vote. On the performance though, she should be in the dance off with Jodie. But we all know Strictly isn't always about how people perform otherwise Kate Garroway would have never been in it so long...

Then it was Lisa and Brenda with another rumba, and they made a pretty good fist of it. Lisa is definitely chasing third place among the ladies, and this was a huge improvement from last time, but not up to Cherie's standard.

And finally it was Rachel and Vincent. I loved this quickstep. I thought Rachel looked elegant and energetic. She moves beautifully and has great timing. Like Cherie she is incredibly focussed and driven and I think she's going to go a long way. Though the judges awarded this dance second place, I have to say I was a bit torn between her and Cherie, and I think I'd give this the slight edge. The public will probably end up voting for the young and beautiful so no doubt she will make it to the final along with Tom and Austin, but I think it will be close between her and Cherie. Very very close.

For the dance off, it should by rights be Jodie and Jessie, but the fickleness of the British public is renowned (never is the argument against the people having the vote more amply demonstrated then by their responses to TV competitions), so who's to say who'll end up there. If Jessie gets the sympathy vote, it will probably be Heather or Christine with Jodie, and sadly I think we'll be saying goodbye to her.

Though I do hope not.

Wednesday, 8 October 2008

Strictly Love Competition

I have been immensely neglectful and ommitted to mention that the competition winners have been posted on Rob's blog

My thanks to all who entered and to Rob for kindly hosting it.

Monday, 6 October 2008

Still playing catch up....

From my weekend away (for more of which, see the other blog), but I did manage to see the dance off last night. Gosh they pad that programme out, it could all be over in half an hour.

Still it did allow me an opportunity to glimpse the extraordinary headbanging tango of Andrew and Ola of which I had heard tell on Marie's blog, and from the little I saw of John Sergeant's I am more in love then ever. John Sergeant for the final. The campaign starts now...

Gary was awful. So was Mark Foster - must be something to do with being tall but he and Andrew Castle were both so stiff.

Don was fabulous this week though, which I'm quite pleased about as I do love to hear him speak, and it was nice to see he can also dance.

Without a doubt the two best boys are Austin and Mark, who jived their way comfortable to the top of the leader board. My money is on Austin for the final though (if by any chance John doesn't get there)- I think he has the slight edge.

I watched the girls group dance and apart from seeing Jodie bobbing about like an ungainly stork again (I think the more graceful dances are going to be her thing) and Jessie looking desperately ungainly, I couldn't really make head or tail of who was doing what, though Cherie stood out. I'd love to see her in the final too, but it'll probably be the youngsters.

Looking forward to next week, and on last night's showing would predict Jessie and Jodie for the dance off. Though I rather hope Jodie lives to fight another day...

Friday, 3 October 2008

Let's Hear it for the Boys

Unfortunately I am going to be away for the weekend so will be missing my weekly dancing fix. On the plus side, here's the reason.

Although to be completely honest... I'm seeing the divine Mr Tennant in Love's Labour's Lost, I'm going to have to wait for December for Hamlet.

Having briefly watched the boys practising on It Takes Two, my money is on either him...
or him going

From the little I observed it is a toss up as to who is the most stiff and least natural dancer. Although I'd say Mark Foster was running a close third.

My eldest daughter was in convulsions about the fact that Craig kept mentioning how Andrew's bottom was sticking out. And once he'd pointed it out, it was hard not to agree.

I missed seeing John Sergeant, whom I presume is going to tango. I do hope so as I think he will be loads better then wet fish Mark.

However, I did think the little glimpse of Philip I mean Don looked alot better, Mark looked hot to trot comme toujours, and as for Austin. Well blow me down with a feather. On the strength of that jive I'd put him in the final. He was amazing. It'll be fascinating to see if he keeps it up.

I've also discovered an even more burning reason to go on Strictly Come Dancing. Apparently Austin's lost two stone. TWO stone. I could do with some of that...

Thursday, 2 October 2008

Strictly Love Competition!

Tomorrow is the last day of entries for the Strictly Love Competition, so don't forget to enter!

You've got to be in it, to win it!

Details are here

Friday, 26 September 2008

Welcome to the party...

Thanks for dropping by and celebrating the launch of Strictly Love with me.

And to get you in the mood here are the incomparable Fred and Ginger dancing to Smoke Gets in Your Eyes. To dance like that...sigh. Well I guess we can all dream.

Of course it being Saturday, it's Strictly Come Dancing night. Hurrah!

So while you're here let me know who tops your poll as the most likely candidate to lift that trophy this year. Judging by last week, it's unlikely to be a girl I'd say...

You can also share your most romantic dancing moment, play an SCD Wed em, Bed em and Dead em special, AND you still have time to enter the competition over on Medium Rob's blog.

And if that isn't enough do pop over to Marie's hilarious blog to read her take on this week's SCD action. I guarantee it will bring a smile to your face.

So get on your glad rags, put on your dancing shoes, and take to the floor!

Don't forget...

Don't forget, Rob's fabulous dancing competition. To win copies of Strictly Love

More details here.

So dance on over there and enter right now!

Save the Last Dance for me...

Dancing of course is a really romantic thing. My couples all get together on the dance floor. Absurdly it wasn't till I was asked the question for a magazine interview I've just done, that it occurred to me thatthe reason my husband and I are together is because he literally did ask me for the last dance. Well actually the last two to be precise. It was March 15th 1984, and we were at a Rathbone Hall disco at Liverpool University. We were standing chatting, and one of his friends was poking him in the back saying Go on, ask her to dance. Needless to say, I was totally oblivious till he did. And the rest as they say is history.

I can't remember the order we danced them in, but I will remember which two songs we danced to till my dying day. The first is by Cars. And it's Drive You Home Tonight (well he walked me back to my room does that count?)

The second is Do You Know What Love Is by Foreigner. Corny and all as it is, I still get a little shiver every time I hear it. And I didn't really know. Not then at any rate...

Since then we've danced to many things on many occasions, but the song we've come to claim as our own is You Really Got Me by the Kinks. And this version of it has even more meaning cos we were actually there. And we did dance. And it was fab.

So what I want to know is what's your most romantic dancing experience and why...

Who knows I may pinch it for the next book....

So it's cards on the table time...

Ok Folks, so who didn't trip the light fantastic? Which zedlebrity won't be dancing back on our screens next week? And while your about it, who do we fancy for the final? Or is it just to early to tell?

In no particular order, will it be....

Rachel and Vincent

Lisa and Brendan

Jodie and Ian

Jessie and Darren

James and Cherie

Heather and Brian

Gillian and Anton

Christine and Matt

Answers on a postcard please.

Or preferably post them here....

Wed 'em, bed 'em or dead 'em. A Strictly Come Dancing Bonanza

As I'm a bit short of time this week, I give for your delight and delectation, the boys... Or well some of them at any rate...

First off - what was he doing last week? Cooking a dance? Dancing a meal? Not really doing a Cha Cha Cha anyway...

It's that lovely chef, Gary Rhodes....

Second up - the man who can't dance to save his life,but looks like he might die trying - Don Warrington. Who probably wishes he could dance the way he speaks. And here he is in his previous incarnation as Philip, included because he was much better at that then he is at dancing.

And finally. It's Mr Cuddly Teddy Bear. The man who first charmed us by asking Mrs Thatcher that awkward question, and now swept us off our feet with that lovely waltz. Mr John Sergeant.

So who's it going to be folks? Don, Gary or John? You get to wed, bed or dead one or possibly all three. The choice my friends is yours...

Monday, 22 September 2008

Competition time!!!

Thanks to lovely Medium Rob I am happy to announce that you can win copies of Strictly Love by entering his competition.

More details here.

So dance on over there and enter right now!

And cos I loved it so much...

Here is John and Kristina's waltz.

One, two, three, say aaaaahhhhh....

So it's back...

... bigger and better then ever, etc, etc.

I have to fess up here and say I am not a veteran SCD watcher, having only really got into it last season when I was researching Strictly Love, so my point of reference isn't huge in terms of how much bigger and better it actually is. I'd say they're going to be hard pushed to top Alesha, but then having seen Mark Ramprakash dance (I missed the year he won) I suppose it probably seemed hard to top him too.

To begin with on Saturday, I felt the whole thing lacked the sparkle and enthusiasm we've come to expect. Brucie's jokes fell as flat as a pancake (ok I have never been a Brucie fan, though I do think it is fantastic that an 8o something is fronting such a popular show, but crikey he was working hard for not a lot of return), the audience seemed lack lustre, and the judges were working overtime to use the most ridiculous metaphors/similes they could (well, ok maybe they always do that).

I managed to miss the first two dances as I was on rabbit and guinea pig cleaning duties (or rather I let the kids off finishing cleaning the pets so they wouldn't miss the beginning). I think I am probably very grateful to have missed Phil Daniel's dance judging by his stiffness in the Dance Off last night - he looked like a constipated turtle. Tom wotsit who is the cute one from Holby City was thoroughly demasculated by a horrible green shirt as far as I could tell (the children think alot of the contestants must have really upset someone in the costume department. It is hard not to disagree with this.), but I have no idea what his dancing is like.

Then it was dear old Don Warrington, who has the disadvantage of age, carrying excess weight and er, the fact that he can't actually do it against him. He looked distinctly uncomfortable, although I think Arlene was right that when he relaxed there was a sense that he could have been better.

So far so absolutely dire, then luckily Austin Healey came on and did a waltz, which was a bit of a revelation as he could actually dance. I'm clearly not an expert, but I didn't think it was THAT good to deserve Len's 9. Maybe he was suffering from it's-all-crap-so-anything-halfway-decent-looks-exceptional fatigue (anyone who has ever judged a writing competition will recognise this syndrome. The standard is so dire you are losing the will to live. Something turns up which catches your attention and you think you've discovered Dickens. You then realise when you go back to it you've actually got a rather poor Jeffrey Archer. I suspect Len was having a dance judge equivalent moment).

Both Gary Rhodes and Andrew Castle unwittingly supplied huge amounts of entertainment with their absolutely dire Cha Chas. They appear to have been taking lessons in how to be windmills. Maybe they're going green. It looked very odd is all I can say. And I fail to understand how Arlene could detect Andrew Castle could dance as we couldn't actually see him as he was completely obliterated by Orla and her astonishing Barbarella outfit.

Mark Foster did a passable but dull waltz. He really is a wet fish, and unless he cracks the performance side, I think his chances of reaching the final to sport his swimming trunks are probably about zero. Although of course, the fact that he is such a hunk will probably see him a very very long way.

I'm saving the best till last.

I now really really REALLY want to see John Sergeant in the final. He probably won't get there because he's too old to manage the faster dances, but his waltz was just fabulous. It was charming and romantic and old fashioned, and suddenly the older character I am writing in my latest book has metamorphosed into John Sergeant because he is so lovely and self deprecating and wise. I also think it would be GREAT if someone could win it who hadn't started off as a dancer and wasn't young , thin and beautiful. But that is probably too much to hope for and I expect Rachel Stevens will win...

Couldn't quite work out what is going on with the girls, though my fellow SCD blogger Marie Philips thinks they're all heffalumps, but I'd still like to see Jodie Kidd hang around for a few weeks as she's good value and can't dance at all. She looked like a very gangly stork. And what on earth did they dress her in? She must have REALLY pissed off the costume department...

So next week we get to see the girlies dance - are they going to be as bad as they look or will one of them turn out to be an Alesha in the making? Only time will tell.

Oh and I think the right person got booted out last night - Don may be crap, but at least he looked like he was enjoying himself and got a bit more hip action in. But I suspect he'll be off next time. Unless Gary Rhodes really cocks it up...

Thursday, 18 September 2008


Just had my first online feature published here.

Exciting or what?

So it's nearly back....

Strictly Come Dancing is waltzing into our living rooms on Saturday and so they keep telling us it's bigger and better then ever.

There are sixteen couples this time around - SIXTEEN - I ask you. I keep forgetting who they all are (even if I did know in the first place).

However, I did enjoy watching them all meeting their partners and trying on costumes last Saturday, so I kind of think this could be quite fun.

First impressions are that Jessie Wallace is incredibly orange. Which doesn't go very well with the pink dress she chose. And why has she got a Cleopatra hair cut? Or maybe it's a wig...

Phil Daniels displayed a hitherto unremarked camp side by diving for a pink shirt that was way too small for him, while Mr Muscles Swimming Man (sorry forgotten his name - what can I say? We were on holiday and missed the most exciting Olympics ever) could well turn out to be the Cheesiest Contestant this year. All brawn and no... Well maybe that's unfair. At least he looked very pretty I suppose.

Which is more then I can really say for Andrew Castle - eek. What a smoothie. Hope his wife wasn't watching as he chatted up his dance partner.

Don Warrington also turned out to be a bit smoother then I'd have liked. I suspect he's a crap dancer too. But I do like listening to him talk. Sadly there isn't much of that on the dance floor.

Hmm. Who else is there? Gary Rhodes looks far too full of himself.The guy from Casualty is GORGEOUS, but must have a very long suffering fiancee - would YOU miss out on your honeymoon so your husband could dance on the telly with some fit bird?

There's a rugby player I've never heard of, but who at least looks like a laugh, and I am really hoping John Sergeant stays in at as long as possible because I think he's going to be great value. I particularly liked the fact he had persuaded his Russian partner that he was REALLY REALLY famous here...

As for the rest of the women. Well, apart from the Enders and Cherie Lunghi, I barely know any of them.

Heather wotsit looks like the best dancer by far, but I suspect she's going to be a huge diva.

Cathy Beale - I mean Gillian Taylforth was very determined to prove what jolly good fun she is and how much of a good egg she is, and how she really really wants to put Cathy behind her and people to know her for being Gillian Taylforth, which makes you realise just why she put herself through the humiliation of THAT trial, because she clearly has no idea of the jokes that go around about her name. (Incidentally, when I was researching Strictly Love I watched a series of programmes about celebs who've made the mistake of going to court. Among many funny stories the Taylforth one still stands out as a real corker).

I missed the Cherie Lunghi bit, so have no idea if she can dance, Rachel Stevens probably can but did make the point that jiving about in front of a mike isn't quite the same thing, I have no idea who Christine Bleakley and Lisa Snowdon are, so haven't formed an opinion, but my favourite favourite woman has to be Jodie Kidd. She can't dance to save her life. Well that's how it looks at the moment. But she was so down to earth and NORMAL even though she is a super rich supermodel. I just loved the fact she was filmed feeding her horses with - horror of horrors - NO make up on.

Forget the dancing. I want to see Jodie and John in the final....

I Can't Get No Satisfaction...

But I try. I really do...

It used to be the case that I danced around the kitchen to Chris Evans while I prepared the tea, but we are often out now at that time doing various activities, so it hasn't happened of late. (The experience also wormed its way in to Pastures New, where I had Amy headbanging when Ben came to call).

The children are also getting a little bit old to enjoy it. Of late when I dance to any music that comes on the radio, the twelve year old rolls her eyes and starts muttering about parents under her breath. I keep telling her it is my function in life to embarrass her as MUCH AS POSSIBLE, but somehow she doesn't seem so keen on this, I don't know why.

However, this morning the twelve year old had already gone to school, which means the ten year old reverts back down to her proper age instead of playing a teen wannabe and isn't so relentlessly determined to look down on her mother.

I was busy making sandwiches and I Can't Get No Satisfaction came on. That is a song that cries out to be danced to, whatever time of day or night it is. So dance I did. Much to the amusement of the children. They even joined in, jigging away at the breakfast table like something from some insane dance musical where everybody bursts into song and dance for no particular reason.

"Please stop, Mummy," the six year old said in the end gasping away like a dying guppy, "Or I'll choke on my porridge."

Well that would put a downer on the day and no mistake.

I stopped.

Which was a shame.And I still can't get no satisfaction in the dancing department, however hard I try...

Friday, 12 September 2008

Strictly Come Dancing Eat Your Heart Out!

Here's a little taster of Strictly Love...

Cours de Dance

Oh look, I said to my husband on our recent holiday, you can do dancing lessons here.

And indeed you could.

We sat one evening (after the circus debacle) watching a group of French people being taught how to dance.

Now I was tempted, I sorely was, but... it's hard enough to follow instructions in English let alone in French. All I could understand was something about your left pieds back and your right pied forward and then the instructor would bark, "Recules, Recules," which I think means go back because that's what everyone did.

The children were very keen (apart from the ten year old who was the only one who ditched ballet early) as at every available opportunity they put on the karaoke machine and work out dance routines. But when I pointed out the French problem, they demurred and agreed that perhaps it wouldn't be quite so easy.

During the first week of our holiday the entertainment (barring the circus) seemed fairly tame, but as the second week progressed it seemed that an aspiring DJ was in our midst, as every night we were listening to a mixture or rap and heavy metal (rather a strange combination it has to be said), which got later and louder as the week progressed. The kids were all desperate to go, but being as the disco seemed to start around 10pm we kept saying no. (Mind you we felt like pretty strict parents, because as far as we could tell everyone else stayed out all night with their offspring however late it got. What it is to be an uptight Northern European).

We'll go on the last night, I promised, as we'd twigged that the previous week the last night party had been fairly wild.

Except they changed the programme for our last night. I do speak French to a reasonable level, but not well enough to cope with the subtleties of things changing at the last minute. (I disastrously took us on a castle tour which I will be blogging about at the other place due to a slight misunderstanding. The kids still haven't forgiven me.)

It turned out that for the last night there was going to be a spectacle, but not in the outside bar area, but in a hall inside. Given that the kids' French is minimal we decided this would be a waste of time and sat outside and had a drink instead.

The only problem with this was the weather. Somehow (I don't know how, but I swear there is a big black cloud that follows us wherever we sojourn in Europe), we had managed to bring rain to the south of France. So we sat at a table which was luckily under a canopy and gloomily looked out at the rain. Though the bar staff had promised dancing later, we somehow doubted it would come to pass without the outside speakers creating a huge electric shock for anyone who went anywhere near them. We were sitting quite close and they were sparking intermittently and unnervingly...

At 10pm people poured out of the hall, the spectacle being over, but most of them voted with their feet and went to bed. Which was odd as the other times we'd looked earlier in the week the whole world and his wife seemed to be out, complete with children whatever age they were.

We were going to call it a day until eventually Madonna's La Isla Bonita started blaring from the speakers. At which point all the people who'd attended the cours de dance earlier in the week immediately leapt up and showed us all how to recule, recule, recule.

The eight year old was a picture. She couldn't stop her feet tapping but was utterly intimidated by the grown ups on the dance floor so stood making up a little routine of her own next to us, before disappearing to the play area in the pouring rain with the French friends she'd made.

The twelve and ten year olds had eschewed the play area as too childish, and I could see the oldest (who has been to dancing lessons since she was four) was desperate to get on the dance floor, but also far too self conscious. Eventually a huge group of teenagers got up to dance and the pair of them snuck off into the far corner, where no one could see what they were up to.

By now the music having gone over to cuban rumba stuff, had reverted to 80s rock, which was pleasing us grown ups no end. And when Billy Idol's White Wedding came on, I couldn't resist anymore, and neither to my amazement could Spouse. I may have mentioned before that he is a good mover when he gets going, but it takes a lot to get him going. The combination of enough beer, being on holiday and the fact that we were never ever going to see any of these people did the trick, and he kicked off his sandals and we took to the floor.

And it was so much fun. We danced our way through a selection of nostalgia before the DJ took us back to the Kings of Swing and Frank Sinatra. By now it was chucking it down with rain, we were drenched through (but luckily it was warm so we didn't care), the two oldest children were utterly mortified as we were the only ones left on the dance floor and we had a blast.

The little ones however had really had it, we had a long drive ahead of us the next day, so all too soon it was nearly for bed.

But we couldn't go before the last dance, which very appropriately was Singing (and dancing) in the Rain.

And so we did both.

Which was actually rather magical...

Saturday, 6 September 2008

Strictly Newsflash!

It won't have escaped the notice of readers of this blog I'm sure that the new series of Strictly Come Dancing is out in a couple of weeks. And here's a taster of who is in it this time. No I haven't heard of most of them either, but so long as some of them can dance who cares...

Coincidentally, I have a dancing related book coming out on 22 September, though you can buy it from 18 September. If you're really keen, you can get a special bind up version complete with free learn how to dance book at Tesco's, but otherwise you can purchase it in Asda's, Sainsbury's, Woolies, and Smiths. Online, I believe Amazon are already taking orders. So now you have no excuse. My publishers have done me proud and it is a thing of much beauty. Whether it is a good read or not, I leave entirely up to you. If you like romantic fiction, peppered with a little sardonic take on our celebrity obssessed culture then it should be up your alley, otherwise, you've only yourself to blame. If you do buy it and hate it, I am very sorry, but please don't rip it up as one disgruntled reader did last time. I can't abide waste, so if it really turns your stomach, do at least recycle it somewhere.

I am, of course, hoping that you don't hate it and send me flattering letters telling me how wonderful I am. This will give my husband the perfect excuse to keep me in my place and tell me to stop getting bigheaded, and I do like to keep him happy...

The Circus is Coming to Town

I have I realise, been slightly quiet on both my blogs as since I got back from my hols my feet have barely touched the ground.I am going to be blogging about the holiday mainly at the other place, but there are a couple of particularly joyous things to share from our holiday experience.

The first is quite frankly one of the most bizarre things I've seen in my life.

We were staying in a holiday village type thing which had an outside bar and little stage area where we repaired occasionally in the evening. One night we arrived back from the beach to see signs promising Cirque parmi vous. I had seen signs in the town we were staying in featuring clowns, so I assumed it would be in town. We were therefore rather stunned to wake up the following morning and discover in a genuine circus parked outside the village. The circus evidently was going to be among us.

So with (it has to be said with not the highest of hopes, our last circus experience was at no 2's infant school and quite hilariously bad) we set off at about 8.30 to watch the circus.

To our astonishment they had set up a small ring in the centre of the stage area, and we were treated first of all to the amazing Pikkachu (how come its named after a Pokemon character? said my eldest. Quite frankly, who knows?), a small shetland pony whose party trick was jumping over a stick held out by the Chocolat the clown.

After that we were treated to some pretty good juggling (well anything had to be better then the last lot we saw) and a very funny turn by Chocolat, even if I was the only one who got the jokes, as it was all in French.

We also saw: a snake, two very frisky llamas who also had to jump over Chocolat's stick (lucky lucky Chocolat) and an even a camel, whose party piece was walking disdainfully round the ring and pooing as he went.

But the piece de resistance had to be the quite bonkers elderly couple who brought on their dancing dogs, who I kid you not were dressed up, and then got them dancing the can can. A more surreal sight I have yet to see in my life. If I can work out the technology of transferring the video we took and putting it on here I will share it with you.

The evening was brought short by a sudden downpour (probably just as well, the dancing dogs had finished me off), and in the morning we got up to discover the circus had vanished, as if it had never been. Perhaps the Pied Piper turned up and they danced away...

Tuesday, 29 July 2008

Dancing Queen (reprise)

Well of course I went to see it again. Besides, I'd promised the kids...

The oldest one was the last to finish school, so as a treat last week, we went to see Mamma Mia! straight after she'd broken up.

And do you know what? I think it was even BETTER second time around. True I didn't laugh quite as much because I knew all the jokes (although Julie Walters still proved to be the funniest thing in it), but oh god that wow! joyous fun factor was even better the second time around.

And I forgot to say last time that I LOVED the stag night guys dancing in their flippers to Lay All Your Love on Me, and that Colin Firth's rendition of Our Last Summer was incredibly touching (and he can sing - well better then Pierce Brosnan at any rate).

It's also interesting watching a musical, which I have seen on stage twice being interpreted by non musical folk (although apparently Meryl Streep has a singing background). The dancing wasn't always very fluid - Meryl Streep's movements are sometimes a little stiff - and Pierce Brosnan tends to sing with a pained look on his face, but I think because they're actors they capture a lot of the pathos better then the stage actors do. Second time around I found Pierce and Meryl's duet of SOS really touching. While the scene with Meryl Streep and Amanda Seyfreid singing Slipping Through her Fingers had me crying again (yes, yes, I know utterly wussy, but with four daughters I can see that moment really clearly.)

And of course, being as I write romantic fiction for a living, the ending was just great. Although the TRUE romantic hero of the film has got to be the greek islands of Skiathos and Skopelos where it was made. If EVER a film would make you want to go island hopping, this is the one...

I also made a mistake in my first post about Mamma Mia! in saying that the cast dance through the Greek village to the title song. They don't, they do it to Dancing Queen, and it is one of the many toetapping moments of the film, so I leave I give it you now for your delectation and delight. (And see if you can spot the Benny Anderson cameo...)

And if you HAVEN'T seen Mamma Mia! yet, what's stopping you?

Sunday, 13 July 2008

Dancing Queen

I have a confession to make. When I was fourteen, I hated Abba. Being more of a headbanging rock chick manque kind of girl, I just didn't get them at all. The suits. The corny lyrics. The whole shebang. My best friend at the time was a keen fan and insisted I was missing out. But nope. I wouldn't be convinced.

When I met my husband I discovered he was a closet Abba fan (well you had to be in those days, they just weren't cool). So much so he watched Abba the Movie, twice, sitting through the programme again. That's a tad obssessive I thought, but remained unmoved by his pleas that I couldn't see that they wrote really really great music.

It wasn't till the 90s, when I saw films like Muriel's Wedding and Priscilla Queen of the Desert, that I suddenly saw the appeal. And making up for lost time went straight into full nostalgia fest and bought Abba Gold. It has been known for my husband and I to come back from a night out and dance to that album for hours. It has also been known for me to do Gimme Gimme a Man after Midnight on karaoke. But alcohol usually has to be involved for that...

Several years ago when I was still immersed in a world of small children and nappies and the chance for a night out in London was fairly slim, my niece persuaded me to see Mamma Mia! the musical with her. I have to confess I wasn't quite sure how they'd make a musical based on Abba songs, but from the moment they pushed the rowing boat on the stage and I realised it was called Waterloo, I knew I was going to enjoy myself. Which I did. I think that occasion was only the second time in my life that I'd danced in the aisles at the theatre, but NOT to dance would have been criminal really.

I saw it again a couple of years back, and it was just as much fun second time round.

So as soon as I realised that they'd made a film of it, I was determined to return the favour and drag my niece to the cinema.

And boy oh boy. Did it live up to expectations.

Meryl Streep is just brilliant as Donna, combining comedy and emotional fragility wonderfully. Julie Walters and Christine Baranski are hilarious as her best friends. Pierce Brosnan, Colin Firth (as you have NEVER seen him before) and Stellan Skarsgad also entertain as the three possible dads for Donna's daughter Sophie. While Dominic Cooper (who is rather cute). and Amanda Seyfried who play Sky and Sophie are also really great as the young romantic leads.

What I think I enjoyed most about this though, was that for once we had a love story which features a middle aged couple - the older characters in this have infinitely more to say and do then the younger ones (much as I enjoyed their story too). It's so rare to see that from Hollywood, and I have to say I was nearly dancing in the aisles again when Julie Walters launched into Take a Chance on Me.

Mamma Mia! is fun light summer froth, with great music, and wonderful dancing. It reminded me just how wrong I was to think all those years ago that Abba were crap. They weren't. They wrote fantastic memorable songs, which hit the spot emotionally Meryl Streep's version of The Winner Takes it All was just heartrending, and Slipping Through my Fingers is not only on my soundtrack for Strictly Love, but has huge personal resonance for me as my oldest daughter grows up far faster then I'd like. Just as in the stage show, the film camps up the songs with hilarious results from Does your Mother Know? to a fantastically tenous Chitiquita. And the scene were all the Greek women come out of their houses to join Meryl and co dancing to Mamma Mia! is brilliant.

Mamma Mia! might not be to everyone's taste, but I loved every minute. In fact, I loved it so much, I might just have to go and see it again...

Wednesday, 9 July 2008

Music and Lyrics

I've blogged about this before, but as I am feeling my way into the new book, I thought it might be interesting to revisit the way I use music when I'm writing. Plus sharing with you two of my current favourite songs.

It's been my experience, both when writing Strictly Love and it seems to be happening again now, that a character whom I wasn't expecting to have too much to do with has suddenly upped the ante and wants a much bigger part.

In Strictly Love that character is Rob, who starts the book as a serial commitment freak and who ends it... well I won't tell you how his story ends, you'll just have to read it and find out won't you...

But, when I started Strictly Love it was Mark's story I wanted to tell - he being the dentist hero who popped into my head first. Then I found my way to Katie, and then Emily. But Rob. Rob, was just supposed to be the happy-go-lucky best mate, who came along for the ride. Except he wouldn't let me do that to him. The more I wrote him, the more depths I found, which is a great experience for a writer.

I can't remember which way round it happened. Whether I heard this song on the radio first and had that YESSSSS!!! moment that told me this was HIS song, HIS theme..., or whether I started writing Rob and realised he needed a song all his own, doesn't really matter. At some point I found a song for Rob. And boy did it help me write his story.

The song in question is Feel by Robbie Williams and I share it with you now. I can't do a lot of clever high faluting music criticism because a) I am about as musical as a stone and b) I find a lot of music criticism quite pretentious.

But... for me, always when I'm drawing on songs, it's the depth of emotions that the song calls from me that helps me shape my stories and characters. And this song is so heart tugging and poignant, and makes me want to wrap poor little Robbie Wiliams up in my arms and say there, there (even THOUGH my head is saying, bad idea girl...), that is seems to sum up Rob's particular set of problems.

He starts the story as a bit of a jack the lad, a commitment phobe who enjoys women but who will never settle down. But behind the smile there is inevitably a great deal of pain. I've known blokes like that and enjoy their company. But I'd never want to marry one. I hope by the end of the book if you're a woman you might consider marrying Rob. And if you do, this song is why...

The current book is going to be a Christmas story. It is somewhat more ambitious in structure then anything I've attempted before. I'm using flashbacks. Yikes. And four characters in two locations. Double Yikes.

To start with I was going to go for three storylines, following the fortunes of Gabriel, a shepherd who starts the story as his wife leaves, and Marianne who moves to the country only to get dumped. Their strand of the story takes place in a fictional village I've based on the place where my mum lives in Shropshire, while the other strand is following the fortunes of Catherine who lives in London. Catherine and I have a deal in common, as we both have four children. But I hope that's where the resemblance is going to end. I gave her four children, mainly because for plot purposes she needs a great deal of chaos in her life, and believe you me four children do that to you.

Once again, Catherine's husband Noel was going to be an also ran, a necessary but secondary character. However, like Rob, he was having none of that (my characters certainly like bossing me about), and as soon as I started writing Chapter One he took over and said, hey what about me. As background material I watched It's A Wonderful Life for the first time. Inexplicably it was one of those films I'd always meant to see but never had (can't think why as I adore James Stewart), and when I did see it it blew me away entirely. And THEN I really got what Noel's story was going to be. In some ways it's at the heart of the story, and is going to pivot round a very important scene towards the end of the book (this also always happens to me when I'm writing - I have a scene in my head from the very beginning which occurs near the end, but has immense significance for the outcome of the story. I've never tried writing that scene first, though it's very tempting, but I think I need to live through the story myself before I get there).

And THEN... I heard Neil Diamond's new song Pretty Amazing Grace and it blew my mind, and I realised this song is at the heart of Noel's story. Like Feel it sends shivers up my spine and takes me into the soul of who I want Noel to be, and what his problems are. I'm not sure if I've explained that very coherently. But that's sort of the way it seems to work for me.

So here it is (along with Love on the Rocks, as an added bonus)

I defy you not to have the hairs on the back of your neck rise...