Yesterday, I participated in a Strictly Come Dancing competition. I must immediately apologise to my glamorous partner, Elaine Bates for the inadequacies that led to our failure to triumph. I must admit that I'd been dreading it, but it turned out to be a marvellously enjoyable night out for everyone involved.
The 'event' was organised to raise money for cancer research and the local Forden Church - and the inspiration behind it was a young man, who died of Colocrectal Cancer in his early 30's and with whom I'd spent some time sharing my personal experiences of the disease. I also know his parents, for whom the pain of Andy's death is unimaginable.
I readily admit that I approached the training sessions a touch too 'cocky'. Ballroom - no bother I thought, until I discovered it was the Valletta (?) followed by the St Bernard's Waltz (?). When the actual arrived, Elaine and I started off looking into each other's eyes, just like they do on TV, seeking to project some 'personal chemistry'. But I completely forgot which leg to start off. Immediate panic and don't think I caught Elaine's eye until after the session was over. Personal chemistry - nil points. Not a great start.
And then it was the folk. I was really worried here because I had to wear breeches (which looked ridiculous on my Banwy Valley legs - our dance coach's words). I was desperate not to be photographed. I'm trying to leave this sort of total pillock photography to my political opponent. The only problems that we men had was with a hand clapping routine - where if you used the wrong hand, it became a straightforward lunge for the lady's breast. It is entirely possible that I was guilty of what, under normal circumstances, would have been sexually harassing behavior - but the pressure was such that neither of us would have any idea if it happened! I thought we did OK.
And then it was the jive. Now, Mrs D and I are respectable exponents of the jive - and we have been known to clear the floor with everyone gathering around us - as happened with John Travolta and Olivia Newton-John in Grease. I think I've heard the word 'flamboyant' used. But this was an entirely new routine. The 'pull-through' was OK - but the 'Death Roll' was another matter entirely. In practise, I did have one nasty moment - which I regret to say was filmed (but I'm promised for local showing only). We were just completing the move when Elaine fell to the floor - with me on top of her (no other way of putting it). As we fell, the dance coach shouted out to Elaine "Don't open your legs". What the hell did she think I was going to do? What sort of animal did she think I was? Turned out she was just pointing out the defect that had led to the fall. Anyway I'm now a master of the Death Roll and Mrs D will be expected to add this little move to our routine. I think it will be introduced to the world at the Welshpool Golf Club Dinner in three weeks time. I don't think I should say much about the Disco Dance, except that my dignity was retained.
What I really liked about the night was that throughout the 5 hours before I left, there were over 200 people having a fantastic night out - and I didn't meet one single person looking over my shoulder to see if they could see someone else they wanted to talk to more. After several years in politics, this was a very new experience. Oh, and we raised £3,500-00.