Blisters! I have blisters. You won’t be surprised – except I have a confession to make. They’re not from training, they come from ordinary new shoes that don’t quite fit, but which I insisted on buying a week before our first live show and wearing for a whole day. My mother was with me and said, “For an intelligent woman, you make some foolish choices!” For the record, the beautiful shoes I’m given for Strictly are supremely comfortable. So it was entirely my mistake to buy a new pair of shoes just at a time when I needed to protect my feet. What was I thinking?
Well, it’s hard to think too clearly at the moment. The helium-rich atmosphere of Planet Strictly has gone to my head. It’s making me giddy and clouding my judgement. And it’s not just me.
Others on the show are walking round inhaling heady puffs of fake tan and glitter. Strictly is running through their veins now, and they glow. Three weeks of rehearsals since the launch show and finally we have performed in front of a live studio audience – and for Strictly fans in their millions at home. Dancing makes you feel fantastic, and dancing on Strictly is addictive – all you want is more.
In the meantime, no more new shoes that aren’t from Strictly’s wardrobe. And other forms of exercise are out. I’m resisting the urge to go for my weekend run. Blisters I can manage, but not a twisted ankle or a stress fracture. So my running shoes are currently shelved, jealousy eyeing my ballroom heels.
I’m trying to keep a well-organised diary, too. I’m making my way up to Salford to present Breakfast alongside Bill Turnbull two days a week. He has already told Craig Revel Horwood that he’ll be having words in the bar if he’s too mean. And my family are being understanding. Grandparents are helping out with the children – it’s precious time. I’ve promised to cook dinner for the boys every day but show days. My partner Dom and I are making sure we spend time together, and I’ve pledged not to practise my steps. But friends to whom I’ve promised nights out, dinners in or bar chats are still waiting for the call. Birthdays are being remembered late. I’m not sure if I’ve mastered the art of slotting rehearsals into my life or whether I’m guilty of squeezing my life into the gaps between rehearsals.
Meanwhile, I dream of sleep. I’m used to going to bed late, often after Newsnight, and then getting up at 4.30am to go to the Breakfast studio. But my few hours’ sleep are now punctuated by panicky starts as I wake and go through my steps horizontally. They say you’re really learning a language when you start to dream in it. The trouble is, I’m still awake and dancing perfectly is just a dream.
A sleep-deprived brain finds it hard to learn. Kevin wears his patience thin teaching me new steps. I nod, hearing the words, seeing his movements, but am unable to fix them in my mind. Is it dance training I need, or memory training? We rehearse, repeat, retrace our steps. I insist it’s impossible. And then there’s a moment, at the end of the day, when we dance it through. And it’s stuck. The fog has cleared. The dream of being able to dance is a little nearer.
And what a wonderful dream. At some stage this Planet Strictly fairy tale will come to an end, and I’ll be able to sleep and rest and socialise. Meanwhile, I need to keep my head out of the clouds and focus on my feet. Even if they are covered in blisters.
Strictly Come Dancing continues on Saturday at 6:20pm on BBC1