EVERYONE around me seems to be finding this whole ordeal hilarious, but there’s just one person not laughing – me.
Don’t get me wrong, I laugh on the outside when people comment on my dancing blog or when dance partner Michael Carillo busts a move that has no place in the waltz – but inside I’m absolutely freaking out.
Perhaps I wouldn’t mind as much if I had brought this affliction on myself, but as I have pointed out in previous weeks this is all down to boss and newspaper editor John Francis, who instead of dancing for the hospice took the easy way out by joining a slimming fundraiser instead. You can follow his progress on page 14, and I’ll let you decide who got the short straw.
Now there are just two weeks of dance training left before the big night and, let me point out here, that means an audience of around 500 people expecting to be entertained.
I have about half of the waltz routine and about the same in jive steps still to learn. Michael, on the other hand, has still not got to grips with any of it, which, it has to be said, is mostly down to his lack of effort.
My ever reluctant partner is now refusing to co-operate. This week he asked me to pass on a rather rude message to my boss who he blames for all of this, despite the fact he has dodged all my attempts to get him practising.
With my stress levels escalating, I’ve put in a request for extra lessons with dance teachers Shirley and Brian.
And on Sunday night I hit a new low – the dancing has now invaded my dreams.
On the plus side, there was cake at this week’s rehearsal, thanks to fellow dancer and Spanish student Aintzanne Rebolla who was celebrating her 21st birthday.
And all dancers had something to celebrate as event organiser Fran Martin announced that so far through sponsorship and ticket sales, dancers have raised £13,000 for the hospice.
Please help us boost the funds further by sponsoring me at http://www.justgiving.com/victoriaandmichael
A visit to Froxy Lady in Hemel Hempstead has seen me secure my waltz gown.
Elaine White, who runs the dress hire business from her home in The Copse, is loaning an outfit to each lady dancer for free on the night.
The company is well-known for supporting good causes and also provided dresses for the hospice’s debut Strictly event in 2010.
“We have always held dress sales and donated a percentage to the Hospice of St Francis,” said mum-of-two Elaine, 46.
“Last time it was good fun, everyone seemed to enjoy themselves.”
Find out more about Froxy Lady at http://www.froxylady.com/index.php
Meet the couples
James Apps and Victoria Roberts
James and Victoria are dancing in memory of some very special people who have been cared for at the hospice, and are dedicating their performance to their friends, families and loved ones – as well as those they have lost.
Les Bayliss and Veena Kantaria
Les has always wanted to learn to dance – so seeing the advertisement for Strictly in the Gazette was the perfect challenge for him. Veena has always loved music and dancing, and wants to light up the lives of the people around her.
Tim Campman and Marion Hurley
Learning to dance is a dream come true for Marion – she’s a big Strictly fan and was thrilled when Tim agreed to be her partner. Tim is a student at the Rudolf Steiner School in Kings Langley, and is adding dancing to his many other talents.
Michael Carillo and Victoria West
Gazette news editor Victoria learned to dance as a child and was persuaded to take to the dance floor again by her boss – this time, dragging Michael with her.
Maurice Chapman and Dianne Parry
Maurice thought he could dance – but unfortunately the thoughts hadn’t quite made it to his feet. He also wasn’t quick enough to get away when Diane twisted his arm to join her on the floor. Diane claims to be tone deaf, have two left feet and to be feeling past her sell-by date.
Geoff and Norah Crammond
Geoff and Norah are more used to putting on their golf shoes to help the hospice – but have swapped them for dancing shoes just this once. Both avid Strictly fans, they’re hoping that a turn around the dance floor will put a spring in their step when they’re back on the fairways.
Dave Dixon and Toni Godbold
Toni is a real TV Strictly fan – and we’re sure she’s only being modest when she claims to be “more Edwina than Chelsee”. Dave claims to have been talked into this after a drink or two but is very happy to be taking part, knowing how important the hospice care in his local community is for patients and families.
Trevor Fernandes and Helen Irving
What a team! Trevor, a well-known mover and shaker in the local health service, has graced many a local dance floor – often without his wife’s knowledge. Helen can’t wait for the chance to show she is a better dancer than her big sister. Both have fabulous new dancing shoes – and they can’t wait to show them off.
Paul Francis and Trisha Buller
Trisha Buller’s Berkhamsted hair salon, Ciente, is a proud supporter of local charities, and the hospice is even closer to her heart since the loss of her mum – a big Strictly fan – last year. Paul was delighted that someone thought it would be funny to sign him up – but is now so proud of all he’s learned and all the fun he’s had.
Gary Keogh and Elaine McQuade
Elaine has worked at the hospice for three years now and loves her work there. Gary tells us he’s an international jewel thief, whose dancing – and seduction – skills have been honed in the international hotspots of Monaco and Liechtenstein. What can we say?
Ryan Huffer and Gemma Smith
Gemma learned to love dancing when she was a little girl, dancing round her nan’s living room in sparkly dresses – and the chance to put on a sparkly dress again was one she just couldn’t pass up. Ryan is hoping for more than a passing resemblance to Patrick Swayze on the dance floor. Watch them go!
Marc Liburd and Helen Percy
Marc and Helen both love a new challenge – as well as the chance to entertain their friends – and the opportunity to give something back to their community.
Mark Myatt and Janine Dines
Mark is taking part tonight because his six-year-old son told him to – but he also told him to do the ‘headbanger,’ so who knows what will happen on stage. Janine Dines, a dancer from the hospice’s 2010 strictly event, has stepped in to replace Mark’s wife Trina who has had to pull out of the competition for health reasons.
Paul Richardson and Aintzane Rebello
Paul met his wife at a dance class when they were just 17 years old, and he is dancing tonight to remember the wonderful care she received at the hospice in her final days. Aintzane came to England to learn English – and is now learning to dance as well. She’ll be celebrating her 21st birthday by trying not to tread on Paul’s toes.
Carl and Anne Rodgers
Anne simply popped into a hospice shop in Berkhamsted to buy some Christmas presents – and before she knew it, she and Carl had signed up for Strictly. They’re celebrating a new year without chemo – and a chance to get a bit of glamour back into their lives along with Anne’s renewed confidence.
Jon and Louise Rogers
Following some valiant attempts at weddings and parties, and Jon and Louise decided it was time to learn to dance properly. They are both hoping to bring some laughter and maybe even a shapely step or two to the bright lights of Berkhamsted.
Jack Stevenson and Hannah Parry
Despite disputes over who is supposed to be leading at any one point, Jack and Hannah have embraced the challenge of grasping the tricky steps with no dance backgrounds whatsoever. It’s difficult to tell which one of them is most looking forward to wearing the posh frocks and shiny shoes.
David Tinworth and Angela Moretti
David brought his two left feet to Strictly with the encouragement of his work friends – but we’re sure his toes will be twinkling on the dance floor. Angela loves music and dancing, and feels more alive when she dances.