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...