My cab pulled up outside the secret location. A man with a very long zoom lens arrived simultaneously in a Mini. He jumped out, aimed the camera and asked, “Where are the celebrities?” I had no idea – which turned out to be a bit of a theme. This was my first Strictly day.
Walking into the building, I could feel my brain trying to tell me something… something to do with online poker? But for now, all I had to do was go through the big double doors and say hello. Smile at Daniel O’Donnell and Anita Rani (not difficult), drink tea with Katie Derham and Helen George, wave to Peter – wait, is that really Peter Andre? He’s here, too?
I’d been on holiday in the Highlands with no mobile signal. That’s when it hit me: “If Andre is here, it’s serious. And I’m actually going to have to learn to dance.” So began the most awkward, inhibited, cranky, gangly, loopy, rickety attempt at a group dance: and that was just me. At one point my left hand flew out and landed on Kirsty Gallacher’s right breast, like that moment with the Australian woman in Fawlty Towers. She gasped and I apologised.
We’ve put it behind us Admission time: you can’t help but size each other up. It’s a contest, after all. You look for a suspiciously toned bottom or an overly graceful movement by the tea urn. But as I gazed around, the thing that worried me was: there was no buffoon. No idiot. Nobody who couldn’t dance.
As I stood in that mirrored ballroom in Roehampton, surrounded by grace and beauty, I remembered the rule for online poker. It might even have been the doyenne, Victoria Coren, who taught it to me. “You play with three other people from all over the world who join your table. One of them is going to lose all their money. And Jeremy, if you can’t see who the buffoon is – it’s you.”