I absolutely can’t believe I’m in Blackpool. I never imagined I’d make to to Halloween, never mind the Tower Ballroom. Yet here I am at the Mecca for Ballroom Dancing. Me and the “Viennese Walk”. There’s no point in calling it a waltz. As judge Bruno said last week: I’ve reinvented dance as we know it. It’s more like a form of walking.
I’m amazed to have stayed in this long. I’m perfectly aware the public vote is keeping me in every week. If I go into the dance off, I’m toast. I’ll struggle not to cry when that happens. Not with the disappointment of losing but because it will be so hard to say goodbye to such lovely people who have become really good friends and to a very, very patient, (sometimes trodden-on) and fabulous partner in Anton.
We arrived here in Blackpool gone midnight on Wednesday. It was cold and windy and when I say my hotel room is right on the Pleasure Beach, I mean it. There’s a roller coaster right outside my bedroom window. Marvellous. I could open the window and jump straight into a carriage it’s that close. Believe me, doing that would be less terrifying than coming out on the dance floor but, beyond the terror, this has been one of the most fun experiences of my life.
Whatever people have said and however critical they’ve been, I’m loving it. Although it’s a dance competition, it’s also Saturday evening entertainment. There needs to be things that entertain people and clearly my dancing entertains people somehow. When I watch it back I find it hilarious. So does my partner, Anton du Beke, which is just as well. I think if Anton had been somebody very serious about the competition who didn’t necessarily have the patience to teach a total rookie, it might have been very different. Instead, he’s made it very special for me. He’s so much fun to be around.
He’s also fiercely protective of me in front of the judge, which is just as well because I’m usually too out of breath to speak. In fact, last week Craig just said “I give up!” That’s some sort of victory for me. But I do get the feeling the judges actually enjoy watching us, not because the dancing’s good but because it’s a laugh. I’m a good opportunity for them to try out their funniest lines.
We don’t see very much of the judges behind the scenes but I do quite often run into Craig in the After-Show bar. I usually walk up to him as if I’m a robot - hand by my side and legs stiff and he’ll do the same back to me. Then we just laugh. He’s been a bit foul to me on the show the last couple of weeks, but it’s just like pantomime. He’s the Strictly baddie.
And, whatever anyone says, yes I have learned to dance. A bit. I’m definitely picking up steps quicker than I used to. This week we have two group dances to factor in as well and I thought, oh my goodness, that’s going to be impossible to learn alongside with my “Viennese Walk”. But I actually picked up the dances quicker than I’ve ever done before. I’m really pleased. It doesn’t mean I’m any good but come a wedding or a birthday in future, I’ll be up there waltzing on the dance floor. Or doing the dance walk!
Mind you, I’ve always had a go at Scottish dancing. Maybe I could suggest that to the BBC. We definitely need a Strictly Highland Fling.
Speaking of which, even Andy’s been waltzing. Behind closed doors in his hotel room. I stayed with him at his tournament hotel this week near the O2 this week just to catch up for a while. He said: “Show me that dance again Mum” because his best friend, Ross Hutchins, is getting married soon and Andy’s the best man. He’s thinking maybe he’ll have to dance with the one of the bridesmaids, so we had a practice in the hall of his hotel apartment.
“It’s pretty easy, isn’t it?’ he said.
“Uh-huh” I agreed. “When there’s no music and nobody else around.”
“Yeah I’ll manage to do that,”
I’ve got a feeling it might be a different kettle of fish when he’s in the middle of Ross’s wedding. But at least I’ve given him a head start.
Tennis-wise, despite the disappointing result against Roger Federer at the O2 this week, Andy will end the year at no. 6 in the world. That’s pretty impressive considering he’s only 12 months on from back surgery and he's had an incredible back end of the season. He knew he had to play more tournaments and more matches than he had done in years and years to boost his ranking and confidence. He must be exhausted now because he’s done six back-to-back tournaments across two continents and there was just no breathing space. But he’s back in the top 8 which was his aim for the Australian Open in January, so job done.