Wednesday, 27 February 2008


On Monday it was my husband's birthday. I had intended to buy him and me a dancing lesson, but Izobela was away last week and rather inefficiently I hadn't got round to booking one with her before she went.

My husband like a lot of men I suspect mostly stands on the side drinking a pint when I start hitting the dance floor. This is not because he is too embarrassed to show off his dad dancing, but because he needs several pints to give him the confidence to go up and strut his funky stuff. Which can be very funky indeed. Particularly if he is throwing me round the dance floor to the dulcet tones of Ray Davies and You Really Got Me. Indeed, I rather suspect if he hadn't grown in a house bristling with testosterone and had had dancing lessons like his older brother (who hated them), he might have been rather good at it. I have been very very keen to get him dancing ever since I went to salsa lessons a few years ago, but time, inclination and not enough beer has prevented him from taking me up on the offer.

As it was his birthday, we went out for dinner with several friends on Saturday night to a tapas bar. Helas, no dancing there either, but much red wine and good cheer (and in my case too much talking to get round to eating, but rather a lot of red wine drinking - oh dear), and after a lot of both we staggered on home via two pubs. We ended up in our local (which has as promised for years to several drinking buddies, made a cameo in Strictly Love - I have made a lot of stuff up about it, because quite frankly you wouldn't believe the stories that really exist about the place). Sometimes they have bands on in our local, and it has been known for us to strut our funky stuff there after dark. But helas. There was no music on on Saturday. Just a lot more wine. But no dancing...

We eventually staggered home at just gone midnight, and I have vague memories of watching the rugby, which our oldest daughter had videoed for the man in my life. They were so vague I still didn't know who'd won in the morning. Then we decided to sit in the kitchen, opening a bottle of wine we needed like a hole in the heads, and listening to the new Alison Moyet CD my husband had bought that day.

At that point, enough red wine and good cheer had been consumed for him to suddenly realise that Alison Moyet just begged to be danced with, which she most certainly certainly does at one in the morning when you are nearly too pissed to stand, let alone put one foot in front of the other. I was trying really really hard to remember Izobela's strictures about 3/4 time and whether it is back step, side, close, forward, and spin, while trying to impress on my husband the importance of him following me into dancing heaven without falling over.

I am pleased to report, we didn't fall over, I did feel like I'd got the hang of snake hips (in vino muchos exagiteras me thinks) and it was ever so much fun.

But I think like Alison Moyet, it would have been better to be invisible...

Following on from such a triumph, we had a sneaky day off together without the children on Monday, and then treated ourselves to chinese for tea. The children decided that as it was a party (the great thing about there being six of us in the house is we can have instant parties), we had to LISTEN to music. The first song they inflicted on us was Grace Kelly by Mika. I have had this shoved down my throat ad nauseam since the eldest bought his CD recently, but I have to confess it does make my toes tap. So as is my wont when I am loading the dishwasher, my toes were soon tapping and so where the childrens' - although the older two affect nonchalance at the embarrassment of having a mother who boogies round the kitchen while putting the dishes away.

This was then followed by a swift run through The Hoosiers new album, which we'd bought my husband for his birthday. The children's favourite is Worried about Ray, which has the most barking video I've seen in a long time. But as I like naff SF movies, it kind of works for me.

And it certainly makes your toes tap...

But just as well you can't see me dancing from here...

PS As my lack of grasp of video sharing technology seems to prevent me from sending a video direct to this blog you can hop over to the other one to see the nuttiness of the Hoosier video in all its glory.

Friday, 15 February 2008

First Steps...

Well I survived my first dance lesson.

What am I talking about survived?

I had an absolute blast. The best best thing about being a published author is I finally feel I can justify taking part of a morning off to go and learn how to dance in the interests of research. It's my job, you see. But how lucky to be able to have so much fun while you're doing it.

The morning didn't start too auspiciously as I wasn't quite sure where I was going and when I arrived, realised that the dance studio was on a main road with no parking for more then twenty minutes and a police car across the road. I drove round fruitlessly for some little while before parking on a yellow behind another car and hoping that the policeman wouldn't notice me.

I did feel quite nervous as I walked through the doors of the studio. Was I too old for all this? Too awkward? And when I saw the calibre of the sexy young couple strutting their stuff on the dance floor, too amateur by half?

However, I needn't have worried, as my dance teacher, whom I can now reveal to be Izobela Hannah who featured on SCD in 2005, was not only delightful, but instantly put me at ease.

On discovering that I wanted to get the feel for several dances (I have worked out rumba standing on my own in front of a computer screen, and tried to waltz with a nine year old following a dvd, but it isn't quite the same) she kindly showed me the basic steps of rumba, tango and social foxtrot.

In rumba apparently the thing to do is to keep the top half of your body straight and tall, but the bottom half should be lithe and lissome, so you can perfect your snake hip type movement. I had got the idea about snake hips from my computer forays, but actually executing it in the fluid way Izobela does is a whole different ballgame. Like most things in life, if you relax it's easier. To start with nerves were making me stiff as a post and I was so worried about not getting the basic steps, back, side close, forward side close, trying to keep your feet in between your partner's WITHOUT tripping up, takes some doing I can tell you. As I am the sort of person who has never been able to master that trick where you rub your head and your tummy simultaneously in opposite directions, you will understand that I really get muddled with my left and rights.

However, Izobela did manage to get me moving more fluidly, and thanks to her explanation of how to listen to your partner's body movements, I have a much better sense of how sensuous this dance could be, which is perfect for one particular scene when one of my couples get drawn closer together (and thanks to watching Ashes to Ashes last night, I've also given them the perfect tune to dance to: Body Talk).

After mastering a simple routine, Izobela then took me on to the tango. Here I felt like a complete prat I have to say. I'm not tall, but Izobela is much smaller then me, and with the tango you don't look at your partner, so I found myself staring in the mirror and wishing I could move as easily as she does. It was however very funny learning how to stretch myself right back with my head flung right back, before coming forward again and doing this funny rocking thing (which if I did it with my husband I wouldn't be able to cope without falling into fits of giggles), before doing that wonderful side stepping bit which the tango is famous for, and then ending it in a spin. I have a tango scene at the end of the book, and I can really see how that works much better now.

I can also see how to get my other couple (who are hopeless at dancing) into some wonderfully entangled situations, where they can trip each other up, or just keep leading with the wrong foot.

Finally Izobela took me onto the social foxtrot. This apparently is a good one to use when you're in a crowded room. When proper competitive dancers do it, they should, so Izobela told me simply glide around the room (and she demonstrated this brilliantly with her next pupil), but it's common for beginners to fumble and for the men not to lead properly. Again. Great material for the couple who can't dance, and watching it done properly made me itch to get up there and really have a go.

If I had world enough and time... And all that.

Unfortunately time is something I'm rather short of. Izobela does run a beginner's class, but on Monday evenings when I am out swimming (and as I appear to have finally committed myself to taking part in a triathlon this year I can't let the swimming go), so I'm planning a few lessons with her spread out over the next few months and hope with that and the help of my dvds, I might actually get to grips with this.

Because I haven't had such fun in a while.

And however hopeless I am. I do love to dance...

Thursday, 14 February 2008

Like a Virgin...

I'm just off to my first dance lesson.

I feel absurdly nervous. I can't think why. It doesn't really matter if I trip over my feet after all.

Made the mistake of telling my other half what it's costing, but promised him I'd put it down as a business expense. Which it is of course...

Will report back I hope later about how it went, but it's a busy day and I may not get back here till tomorrow.

Hopefully I won't take a leaf out of my offsprings' book and trip over and hurt myself...

Wednesday, 13 February 2008


Bugger. I've fallen at the first hurdle.

Thanks to a domestically challenged night, I didn't make it last night.

However, I have got a lesson I booked tomorrow. And little does my husband know (luckily he doesnt' read my blog) I am going to buy us a lesson for his birthday...

Last night's lack of dancing has led me to realise this is likely to be a rather common occurence, so I hope you'll forgive me if some of the blogging about learning to dance is done via the books I'm reading and the DVDs I've purchased...

But I will let you know what happens tomorrow...

Tuesday, 12 February 2008

Dance like no one's looking

Today I was given a mission by my editor.

In order to properly research my latest book I have agreed to undergo dancing lessons. In order to maximise the publicity possibilities inherent in this, my mission should I choose to accept it is that I shall thereafter blog about my attempts to do so.

Given that I have two left feet and no sense of rhythm, this could be highly amusing.

On the other hand I do love to dance...

So tonight I am going to attend my first ballroom dancing lesson. Excitingly given by someone who was on Strictly Come Ballroom in 2005. Which is just a bit exciting.

I'm going to have a one to one lesson with her on Thursday, which is even more exciting.

And little does my husband know it, but I'm buying us both a dancing lesson for his birthday...

At the heart of my latest book (which bears the tentative title Strictly Love) is these four lines, which are attributed to everyone from Mark Twain to a Chinese Proverb.

I don't care where they're from.

I just love them.

Love like you've never been hurt
Dance like no one's looking

Work like you don't have to
Live like Heaven on Earth

I sincerely hope no one is looking too much tonight...