Sunday, 8 November 2009

Close Encounters of the Strictly Kind, Pt 3

Didn't get tickets for Blackpool. In fact, between us, Frankie and I have never got tickets for any live Strictly show, despite applying every year since 1233AD. Marvellously luckily for me however, a good friend did get them and allowed me to tag along (as part of my birthday present - which also included balsamic vinegar, olive oil and, mmm, bread...) So here's the story...

Woke up all nervous - partly due to the pressure of not knowing if we'd get in and partly due to the pressure of speaking n the radio that morning. I haven't even listened to myself on that. I don't think I'm going to as last time I sounded like a mouse. On helium. But by the by, with that over and done with (and feeling slightly less nervy), it was then just a case of getting self to Blackpool and in that damned queue.

Being a control freak, Type A personality, uh, type, I insisted that the E-tickets were posted by my friend (let's call him Chris...because that's his name) through my letter box early in the morning. I was going to queue early even if he wasn't. So, off I went to Blackpool...dressed up to the nines...sliver sparkly tutu...and got extremely confused looks from the other people on the Number 7 bus.

Arrived there thinking ooh-well-maybe-I-can-get-some-lunch-first, but then the queue had started already. Thinking ahead (and knowing North West weather all too well), I decided to grab my place under the shelter that surrounds the promenade side of Blackpool Tower. Note: better to queue four hours dry than two hours wet. Had a quick chat to Helen, who brings her lovely little girls into the library and had got there before me (mutter mutter mutter) and then joined the end of the line with Peter and Sharon from my ballroom class, who just happened to arrive at the same time. Phoned Chris and begged for flapjack and crisps to be brought to me.

Time in queue went science-defyingly quickly. Love the bonding that goes on in these situations. Special mentions go to Chris (another one - who later peed next to Ian) and Jenny, all the way from somewhereMidlands, for entertaining us with stories of how the children in her class don't watch Strictly - but their grandmas do. Crowd of women behind us singing Sweet Caroline. And the Strictly theme tune. They were, uh, happy? Anyhullabullo, time did fly and it wasn't too cold. Local knowledge meant we could sneakily use the Tower Lounge toilets and we were happily under cover at all times. Had fun laughing at those who turned up later...a sea of unbrellas...and all soaking wet. Suckers.

Doors opened at 3.15pm and we were ushered in to stand in the circus queue for another hour. I was concerned we were going to be herded into the circus instead to get us out of the way, locked in and forced to watch bendy Hungarian women hang from string for three hours. Luckily, that didn't happen. Chris went for a pee. Peed next to Brendan.

We were then escorted in to the ballroom and give our seats. Right behind the judges table...and a pillar. I was really disappointed and concerned I wasn't going to be able to see a thing, especially the latin dances that tend to stay in one spot. However, it was fascinating to listen to the production team's mutterings and see what goes on behind the scenes. Alesha sits on two (extremely sparkly) cushions behind that desk, yer know. And the make-up people dash out like ferrets to powder the judges' noses (and tidy Len's combover) when the VTs are running...

The Rod Stewart segment was filmed first and I found, to my utter delight, a lot of , nay most of the dancing, would take place straight ahead of me in that little gap between the table and the next row of people. So I had a near perfect view of Penny and Matthew...and later of Ricky and Erin, amongst others. Soo exciting. It was at this point I realised that Chris had managed to sneak a sausage roll in with him and wanted to ask Len if he'd swap it for a bottle of water.

So, Chris stole a bottle of water from the crate under the chair next to us (and promptly hid the bottle under the chair of the person in front - you can't take some people anywhere...) The pros filmed a gorgeous (imagine that in Craig R-H's voice, darling) Viennese Waltz around chandeliers and it was all ballroomy and Blackpooly and soooo like the old Come Dancing (not that I remember that but hurrah for Youtube!)

We then went live and I think I nearly dislocated my shoulder from all the clapping. Ricky and Erin were on first and got a good reception. I couldn't see all of the dance, but then tango-ed past my view from time to time. When they'd finished, I twigged that the curtain to the left of me concealed...Tess' Area! I could hear voices from inside! You don't know how tempting it was to stick my head through there...but it meant that all the pros and celebs walked really near us on their way to collect their scores! Flavia is tiny.

Natalie and Vincent got a massive applause for their quickstep but I think the biggest cheers went to Chris Hollins and, of course, Craig Kelly. It was his home crowd and looked so delighted to be there. The atmosphere was amazing and I heard members of the production team comment that they should do the final there - or at least go every year! I caught their eyes and nodded vehemently. I hope they knew I could hear them...otherwise they prob just thought I was doing an impression of the Churchill dog. It was a complete surprise that Jill Halfpenny was there and she danced like a demon as always - I still say, best female contestant ever! It did mean Lilia had to dance with Brendan (my friend peed next to Brendan!) which was a tad surreal.
It seemed almost perfect that Craig had his last dance in Blackpool and he didn't look disappointed or sad. After the cameras stopped rolling, we went on to the floor (resisting the urge to dance salsa) and I found it very bizarre to be surrounded by all the celebs and pros. I had a quick word with the lovely Brian Fortuna who was being mobbed by other batty fans at the same time, so left them to it. One batty fan at a time is enough. Was terrified of Brian. However, spoke to Craig Kelly also, which wasn't scary at all - probably due to the familiar local accent. Chris shook hands with 'the pretty girl from Hollyoaks', so he was happy. Of the very kind.

You might not get to see as much of the dances as you would watching it on TV but there's really nothing like being there live. Actually, no, I lie. It's rubbish. Watch it from home people. And if you get tickets, send them to me...

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