When I was at school the English teacher was called Mr Shakespeare. His first name was Geoff.
Our music teacher was Mr Tune. Donald. He had a cupple of sons, one of them, Pete, played the violin.
The history teachers were Mr ‘Ginger’ Hale and Dick Hutchinson, a passionate cricketing Yorkshireman from Wales, a fast bowler who worshipped Geoff Boycott and who introduced us to the Romans and to the god Mithras.
Please forgive the lack of specifics, detail and theological debate but Mithras was a pre-cursor to Christianity, and there are many coincidental similarities between both belief structures. Mithras performed miracles, sacrificed himself for the good of Man, ascended to heaven, had twelve companions, was, is, omniscient, had Sunday as the sacred day and was born of the virgin Anahita, on 25th December. Mithras Day was in December.
The reason I mention it is because that is where the comparisons end. Mithras is celebrated in December and Christmas in the twenty-first century is now feted in November. But on the 25th nonetheless.
It’s true. The John Lewis Christmas ad was launched on November 9th, the same date as last year, its flagrantly rude M&S rival just two days later, and on Saturday our fair city’s Christmas markets had already started their second week of trading. The Winter Wonderlands and Fairs were in full flow, radio stations were torturing us with all sorts of yuletide drivel, a Male Voice Choir harmonised near a gallery, the silent Sally Army had the decency to wait for Advent calendars to open their first window, and the shoppers were basking in what used to be called the Christmas Sales, traditionally starting on 26th or 27th, of December, now piggy backing on Black Friday which, we all thought, was a reference to the day that the BBC binned Top of the Pops.
In town on Saturday it was a bizarre experience. I went to a fete once. That was bazaar. Amidst the shoppers and the opportunists a girl actually walked her ferrets down the main thoroughfare. On leads obviously. There were people with placards protesting about animal rights, at the forefront the anti-fox hunters who, in their ranks, had a section fighting against hunting mink, something that was banned in 2005 but which still exists now in a non-violent format. They used to go after otters, then mink got the gig. A friend of mine used to be a mink hunter.
This random Saturday continued down at Elstree when the Surviving Seven drew straws for dances and themes a bit like the tombola at the Village Hall. There was a Quick Step danced amidst the skyscrapers of New York, a Samba dunn in the bedroom, a bit R Whites, a dishonest Roomba and a Smooth danced with a sailor that was more Popeye than Nelson. Thankfully we were blessed with a smidgen of real tradition to keep us occupied. And there was a Paso Doble-thon, no, honest, where the dancers constantly tested their profiterole vision, a perfect time to put the kettle on and to take a natural break. All the cupples acted out the Pamplona Bull Run at the same time, a clear advantage for those who did the same dance just last week.
Susan is only wee, 4‘11 tall, the same height as Kylie but that is where the similarity ends. I suppose it’s handy if you want to sneak in and out of schools or stand up in the back of a black cab, an expensive hobby, but not for gracefully getting on and off of a park bench. Why wasn’t it lower?
KFG wore his finest yachting colours, blazer and slacks, straight from Grimsby Marina, and the story line was that he was officially courting his partner. Wrong clothes Kevin, old lad, you’d have more chance in drag. He may be the master choreographer in the Clifton household but not even that could save their finale; once named in the dance off it was a foregone conclusion despite Susan’s comedic protestations. Miracles do happen but there’s more chance at Easter than Christmas. Sorry, November. The Calmanator, as she calls herself, met the Terminators.
We were all taught that the Spanish for Rumba is indeed Roomba. We also learnt that you can step on every beat in this sultriest of dances rather than hold on the one as all text books tell you and that you can move to whatever timing you choose. A bit of self-selection, artistic pick and mix.
In a stripy swimming cozzie, like a modern day Pocahontas, Alexandra was seated next to her beau under a giant halo. Obviously she was dancing with Simon Templar if there was to be any dancing but by the looks it was straight to the Premier Inn to test the Hypnos beds. A pretty good plan really given the options.
Juddges Aggie and Lulu both spotted it early on in the series; they don’t believe Alexandra. They listen to bodies, they read language and both struggle with authenticity. Alexandra’s biggest weakness. Her vulnerability is in her vulnerability. Desperate to be liked, her performance packed with drama, the honesty was missing. In desperation Alexandra oversteps sincerity. Get her wired up to the lie machine. When she talks and when she dances. The dance off was a wake-up call.
Trying their hardest to get Gemma to be there instead the pesky producers were at it again, the Bury Bombshell getting to Samba to Billy Joel, ‘The River of Dreams’. You really couldn’t make it up.
In bright red devil outfits left over from the Halloween Special and last year’s Man United Christmas do, they began in bed fast asleep and ended back there after a hallucinogenic nightmare, a sleep walk of an effort that would induce a coma in any insomniac. This is a notoriously difficult dance that thrives on the beat, a party and some boom-boom, preferably of this hips. It isn’t on your wish list when you’ve been drugged by Rohypnol.
In the summer, in Novigrad, North West Croatia, one of the streets was almost covered by multi-coloured umbrellas, high to block the sun and firm to deflect the rain. The council couldn’t afford to roof off the entire pedestrian zone so brollies it was. The same happened in Bath in the summer. Best get that poll tax up.
The brollies showed up as Mollie and Akbar James did the second Quick Step of the night, very much in the shadows of the first, a belter, to the song Umbrella made famous by a German rock and roll combo from Berlin called The Baseballs. Terrific they are, The Stray Cats meets The Undertones.
Terrific is nearly where Mollie was after the compulsory thirty seconds of faff that her partner has perfected beautifully over the last series and a half. So young but learns so fast. Reduced to one minute, and in hold, and in the frock of the night, an off the shoulder number, random lemon triangles bedecking the bodice, Mollie’s confidence gladly returned as she scooted like on a hot tin roof. Okay, the repetition of the contra checks was a bit much, and the use of rolling pivots, three times, did grind a little, but you want the celebs to go well and she did. It’s a shame that HRH stole Mollie and Albert Jonas’s thunder announcing his engagement to Angela Merkel this week. Maybe they can have a joint wedding?
A cupple of factoids for you.
Syreeta Wright used to be married to Stevie Wonder.
Billy Preston is often referred to as The Fifth Beatle. There are others, please don’t write in.
Between them they sing one of the most exquisite duets of all time, ‘With You I’m Born Again’, a ballad where a man dedicates his love to his chosen princess, and vice versa, which is beautiful in its intrinsic sense but slightly odd given his reported penchant for men. Oh well. It was to this song that Darverd and the Steam Team were asked to Waltz, his stunning partner, young Nads, looking every inch regal in the finest of white nuptial robes; I wondered where our net curtains had gone.
Darverd was dressed immaculately too in white tie and tails, a matinée idol in the making, and he spent the entire routine looking after his girl. The Waltz is clearly the greatest dance of them all: the look, the feel, the romance, the care, the affection, the love, though you sensed that this was a brother/sister pairing rather than a challenge to the aforementioned dedicated duos. It was delivered beautifully in spite of the occasional dropping of the right shoulder, 35 points his norm for the last month and that would have been even higher had the swarthy fella managed to find his razor blade.
If you had to choose someone to dance for your life between Joe and Debbie you would go for Debbie. A pro versus a novice. If you picked one to win this contest you would reverse the order. A man with a journey ahead, the chrysalis, or a woman who has already been a butterfly for a number of years . . .
The lovely Debbie McGee’s Argentine Tango was a tour de force, an effort worthy of a gong in the New Year’s Honours List. Somehow it scored just 38. Watch it again if you can. And then again. And look for the balance, the lines, the mastery and the shapes. That said I hid behind the sofa when she twice did the splits. It was a bit like picturing your mam with a gigolo.
Talking of whom, Gio dressed in spats and a pin stripe, like a Mafioso from Sicily, no type casting there then, the choreography was perfect, the first half Debbie’s showcase, the second his chance to shine. There is no truth in the rumour that the person who selected the genuine tune ‘Por Una Cabeza’, to win by a head in a horse race, was taken out of the studio at dawn and summarily executed for breaking ranks.
Since Joe’s voyage of discovery began he has flattered to deceive. His Jive, right at the offset, was fabulous, fast and funky but apart from his Charleston the rest have been middling, good efforts but nothing worthy of any great fanfare. Which makes his Quick Step even more remarkable, the same score as Debbie, his first tens since an over-marked Paso in Week 5.
To give Joe a high level of credibility the dance had to be hard and how best to add jeopardy? Dance on girders on a skyscraper. And do it dressed like Bert the chimney scamp from Mary Poppins. They even had lunch up there. He had an unlikely accomplice; women weren’t allowed on building sites in New York in 1932 let alone 800 feet up during the construction of the Rockefeller Center. Women had only been voating for twelve years in the US by then.
But in spite of the risk it was a routine to cherish. Quality, speed, unity, timing, super-smart accents and synchronicity, they covered the ground, faultless, smooth and full of energy, chasses and flicks. Splendid. The section when they were back to back scored highly for innovation. The bars that followed, midriff to midriff, no hands, were inspired. She’s good is Katya, oh, so good. And Joe responded.
What a treat.
With three more Saturdays remaining, four including Mollie, for now, we know that two more cupples will be jettisoned before the Big One. Everything depends on the dances allocated now, everything. Producers, fill yer boots. As if you wouldn’t. If things go to form it will be two boys and two girls who make it to Christmas but maybe there are more twists to come?
On another note it is great to see that Jonnie Peacock has been nominated in the BBC’s Sports Personality of the Year shortlist.
And finally, as it’s that time of year, Happy Valentine’s everyone.
December 1st 2017