Strictly for the ambitious

The last time my youngest came with us on holiday (16/17 years old, I think. Isn’t that  terrible that I can’t remember? What kind of a mother am I?) everybody we met asked him the same question: What do you want to do when you leave college?

He got very bored, very quickly, as he’d gained an apprenticeship and knew exactly where he was going (mechanical engineering).

I know it was a long time ago, but I honestly can’t remember being asked that question. With feminism relatively new at that time, I suspect it was because a) no-one cared and b) they assumed I’d eventually marry and have kids and that was the ultimate ambition for a woman back then, apparently *eyeroll*. I personally had no interest in that though (hence my earlier failure). 

My dad’s ambition for me was to go to university (he never had the opportunity) and my careers adviser’s ambition for me was to be a policewoman (on account of being tall).

But when I was a teenager, I had just two ambitions: To go skiing, and go to the Caister Soul Weekender.

Skiing was fine, apart from that time my nice hire skis got stolen and replaced by a pair of planks, which caused a triple somersault with added twists and resulted in a broken skis. Just the skis, thankfully.

Caister was completely mis-sold to me.I was told everyone wore pyjamas for a whole week, no-one goes to bed, and there’s sex and drugs on tap. Erm, nope. It was still brilliant though.

It never occurred to me to have any other ambitions.

Then a fellow writer asked on Facebook: What’s your non-writing ambition? (It goes without saying that we, as writers, all want to win awards and earn lots of money, doesn’t it?) But fame and fortune is an ambition I’ve personally never really had. I mean, a simple BAFTA would do.

Having thought about it, I realised my ambition was to be just famous enough to appear on Strictly Come Dancing. Not too famous, not Eastenders cast member famous, more Stacey Dooley levels of “Who is that woman? Where do I know her from? She seems familiar but I just can’t place her” type famous.

Yes, I’m rubbish at photoshop-type stuff

If I can earn a living as a writer without having to appear on telly (except for House of Games and Pointless, I’ll do those, and not because I fancy Richard Osman. Really, I don’t) then that would suit me very well.

I’ve got it all planned out. I’d have to be with Giovani, Aljaz or Johannes because, tall, remember? Preferably Giovanni but that’s for purely selfish cougar-like reasons. Hubby hates Strictly so I can work on invoking the Strictly curse.

 I would need to find out in advance if I can choose my music though, since I’m extremely fussy. The thought of having to dance to some piece of pop pap makes me shudder, quite frankly. It could even be a deal-breaker.

Should we make it through to Movie Week, I’d beg for a Paso Doble to the ‘Help Arrives’ score from Avengers Infinity War, done up like a female Captain America. Seriously, it’s a bloody fantastic epic piece of music, perfect for a Paso. And yes, in case you don’t know me well, I’m extremely sad when it comes to both Strictly and Captain America. I’d even be prepared to jump off the gantry into a superhero landing, though I do have vertigo and would probably break a leg, as well as throw up. 

It’s a no-brainer to do it though, isn’t it? Even if I had a major memory block, an embarrassing wardrobe malfunction and went out first, I’d still get at least three weeks full time dance training with Giovanni, and two weekends of being BUBARred (blinged up beyond all recognition). What’s not to love?

The People’s Strictly Blub-Fest

The People’s Strictly kicked off last night – and shares in Kleenex must have soared!


With an audience potentially split between this, The Brits and Wolf Hall, it quickly became clear that for depth of character, drama, passion and all round life affirming goodness, BBC1 was the place to be.

This wasn’t just any emotional rollercoaster. This was us being more emotionally rollercoastered than ever before, as we met three of the deserving Strictly Come Dancing fans being given their chance to shine in the Strictly ballroom.

Michael, Cassidy and Heather are three of the most inspiring people you’ll ever meet. Their selflessness in the face of shattering adversity in their own lives just serves to remind us how powerful the human spirit really is. Read all about them below, along with Trishna, Anna and Phil, who we’ll be introduced to next week and whose stories are just as incredible.


From left to right of the above image (top row and then bottom):

The couples will compete for the People’s Glitter Ball in a live show on March 11, hosted by Tess and Claudia. We’ll vote for our winner, who’ll be crowned The People’s Strictly champion during Comic Relief on March 13.

The Twitter timeline was awash with virtual tears and tributes to these amazing people. Here’s a selection (to prove it wasn’t only me sobbing my heart out!)

The Three Heroes (click to read the quotes) 


The Heartbreaking One

photo 3







The Men Sobbing










The Competitive Edge










The Unashamed Tributes (a fraction)



































The Last Words











Official images courtesy BBC

Tricky lifts and dancing


… and watch out for the B word.

Yes, it’s the annual week-before-we-go-to-Blackpool bonanza.

But back to my original reason for coming here. OLA!!! Steve can dance – just because he can throw throw you from one side of the dance floor to the other doesn’t mean we didn’t want to see those amazing Charleston moves again that we saw so brilliantly in the quickstep, and all too little of, in this Charleston. Grrr – so frustrated last week, – that could have been the dance that netted them the undying devotion of a whole bunch of viewers, just like it did for Team Cola. Such a missed opportunity 😦

It was the same disappointment I felt when Natalie walked out in a leotard with Ricky Whittle, and similar repulsion for Lisa and Brendan. As for the World Champion Show Dancers, well, I’d rather watch Scott and Joanne’s foxtrot again. Seriously – I agreed with Len, re the dance off – Scott’s foxtrot was much cleaner than Alison’s, and the whole routine was a pretty decent effort, considering where he’d come from.

Frankie and Kevin stormed the dance floor again with their tango – such an emotional song and they danced it perfectly, she’s become a strong favourite for me. Mark and Karen have brought themselves right into contention – and the training footage for tonight looks to cement that position.

Caroline is still being Miss Consistent, Sunetra still has her lovely arms, I too noticed Jake’s flappy foot a couple of week’s ago, and Steve will hopefully put in a strong showing in the Paso – he needs a big dance. As I write this, Carmen’s Overture has just begun playing on the radio – a good omen, perhaps? Let’s hope so!

The wait for a Paso Doble to Pirates of the Caribbean continues …

I love Movie Night on Strictly. This, combined with one of my favourite songs from a favourite movie being used by one of my favourite couples dancing one of my favourite dances means I was a very happy bunny last weekend.


Team StevO did everything and more that could possibly be asked of them, with a fun, bright and lively routine to I Wanna Be Like You that must have cemented them as firm favourites of those who like their dancing with bucket loads of personality. And that’s the last use of a word threatening to usurp the ‘J’ word with an ‘F’ word!

I thought I’d reserve judgment until three weeks in, so I could get a good look at all them doing Latin and Ballroom. In the meantime, we’ve lost Gregg and Jennifer (and, very sadly, the lovely Tristan 😦 …)  and I’ve decided I’m only going to concentrate on those I enjoy the most (rather than having to be positive about those I don’t – because I’m not an Internet Troll and don’t say nasty things about people – regardless of what I might be thinking!).

So Team StevO, having stormed upon us with a fantastic tango, followed with a passable cha cha that just needed a bit more hip action – which we have seen – so I’m hopeful for tonight. You might remember that Ola and Chris Hollins began with a terrific tango, and Steve is pretty much a bigger version. Normal, happy, fun, keen to learn. I’m just sayin’ … There is a danger we could see the rise of an ‘N’ word as we go along. I can’t be doing with grumpiness and tears (see earlier Strictlyfied post).

Frankie and Kevin’s Paso Doble blew me away. The passion and attack were brilliant, her timing, the acting – it was fierce. A lovely waltz and a slightly strange yet wonderful charleston-come-jive means she’s in my top three as a beautiful dancer but very natural and n… down to earth.

Caroline and Pasha I think are brilliant together. The rumba kept moving with some lovely shapes and lots of action, especially those twirly things – supported promenades? A sassy cha cha and a dramatic tango, all delivered with real commitment. And she’s n … n …. oh, what the hell. Normal. No drama, no grumpiness, just like one of us.

As a fiction writer, I know conflict is everything, and I know TV producers probably encourage it. But Strictly (as with the Great British Bake Off) is a different animal. We want cosy, we want cheesy,  we want to sit there wearing a soppy smile along with our sequinned aprons. Which is why, as an audience, we generally vote for the down to earth, good dancers, who aren’t having to work hard in front  of the cameras. One piece of constructive criticism for Simon – don’t be grumpy! That’s the only reason you ended up in the bottom two.

Tapping on the window, looking in at my top three are Jake, Alison and Sunetra. Jake’s salsa was incredible and his waltz and tango showed off his acting abilities with great technique. Alison is fabulous, so groovy and bags of personality brought onto the dance floor with her in all three dances so far, cha cha, foxtrot and jive. Sunetra is going to get better and better I feel, and will be challenging the top of the leaderboard – a 9 from Len for her American Smooth? Come on! She’s also shown how nifty she can be in Latin.

So will things change around tonight? Will someone else make a breakthrough onto my shortlist? Will one of the above have a complete meltdown and totally shred my musings into the nearest bucket and be thrown into recycling? I hope not …

I’m getting Strictly-fied!

It’s back, and with Tess and Claudia in charge as many of us wanted, so Yay!


First impressions … Greg was wearing a permanent, infectious grin and Jake looked pretty nifty but too stoney faced. Frankie and Pixie, as expected,  were trim and precise, but Alison outshone both with bags of oomph. Judy seemed a little stiff but her posture looked good – she’ll no doubt warm up, while Thom could well be the whole package – as long as he’s not too earnest. Tim made me laugh – twice – his partnership with Natalie (hurrah, she’s back) already very charming and natural – and he likes flinging himself around, which is something I always want to hear. Simon clearly has a lot of talent, as we’ve seen before, and Caroline can channel the Strictly on Wheels experience to good effect. I didn’t see enough of the others to pass any judgement.

The ‘Unfair advantage’ lot are already pointing fingers, so let’s stop for a moment and discuss: It’s bullshit. Learning to dance ballroom and Latin is totally different to shaking your booty. The pop stars may have the timing, but the sporty folk have the stamina and discipline and the actors bring character. The TV and radio presenters have less experience being on stage but the nature of their jobs is to make the most of their personalities.

Which brings me to the Dos and Don’ts of how to win Strictly:

Don’t be too earnest and over analyse everything – let yourself go and enjoy it.

Don’t moan, cry or complain – we’d give our right legs to be in your position. Which would make things bloody awkward but you get my drift.

Do what your Pro tells you.

Don’t backchat the judges – they know better than you. However, they (and we) love a bit of banter – learn the difference.

Don’t keep telling us how funny you are. It’s like laughing at your own jokes, don’t do it. Make us laugh without meaning to – see note re Tim above.

Be confident, not arrogant.

Do fall in love with dancing – it’ll be obvious to us if you don’t.

Do realise that the worst case scenario of falling over, forgetting your steps or having a major wardrobe malfunction is still massively offset by being given, at the very least, four weeks intensive training with a professional, and two days of pampering and spangly frocks/tuxedos to play at Cinderella or Prince Charming.

Easy, isn’t it?