We knew when we signed up for Strictly that it would be a big commitment, but I don’t think any of us realised quite how big. It takes over our waking hours and even some of our sleeping hours, too: the first thought in the morning and the last thought at night is “Can I remember my routine?”
Two nights before my waltz, I woke in a muck sweat, panicking that someone had broken into my head and taken out the file marked “choreography”. I got up, plugged in my iPod and danced around the bedroom, bouncing off the furniture.
Every time I spun around, the iPod jumped to the next tune, a salsa. After half an hour of waltzing to a combination of Barry Manilow and hot salsa (which, incidentally, was Hannibal Lecter’s last meal request), I slumped back into bed, exhausted.
I’ve grown accustomed to the pitying looks I get when my wife catches me yet again checking my frame, my line or my footwork. You can’t help it. The supermarket, the hotel room, the train platform, all become an imaginary dance floor – the platform’s the riskiest, particularly if you’re heading backwards as the 8.52 to Paddington approaches.
When Erin gave me my Broadway number – with top hat and cane – it was all I could do to stop myself from grabbing an old lady’s walking stick in a shopping mall to perfect my cane-work.
But despite the aches and pains, I’ve lost half a stone and two inches round the waist. I feel fitter. And I’ve never known a show that connects you with the public like Strictly. Taxi drivers shout at you, “Oi! Twinkletoes! Has she worn you out already?” It’s an amazing experience.
Arriving at the BBC the other day, the driver assured me there’d be no problem getting past security. “They all know you!” he said, before greeting the gateman with a cheery, “’Ello! Can we get in? I’ve got that Robbie Bremner in the back.”