Food was simple fare, served with juice - again, one-part-per-billion-low-dose homeopathic juice. Trading Standards might have raised a quizzical eyebrow at the billing of 'orange or blackcurrant'. If it wasn't for the colour, you could probably have sworn they were the same thing. Never has so much juice been spilled. The equivalent of Lake Michigan must have been slopped over tabletops as the wee darlings failed to grasp the concept that liquid will spill out of plastic cups with sodding great holes in them. Don't they teach 'em physics these days? Sigh. Anyway, it was all good fun, they enjoyed themselves immensely and after two hours we packed them back off to their parents full of sugar so they could experience the inevitable crash. We're good like that. SBOTH got loads of fabulous pressies from his mates as well, for which he is very grateful.
Round two was hosting Family. 18 assorted adults, teens and small children in a bijou semi-detached house. For bijou read smallish. Like, two rooms downstairs smallish - including the kitchen. Said adults are all in various stages of speaking to each other (or not) and there was enforced friendliness, lots of brittle, polite conversation, aches and pains one-upmanship, that sort of thing. HOTH had cleaned the house from top to bottom and I had spent about three hours preparing a big buffet - the hot dogs went down particularly well (mostly down buffet buff brother-in-law & his son, to be honest). HOTH put on a spectacular fireworks display, teens waved sparklers ironically - the whole caboodle. We mingled as much as one can mingle in near scrum conditions making sure everyone was fed and (beered) watered. I should have been a diplomat. All I'm missing is the squirrel poo chocolates in shiny gold foil.
Take it from me, SBOTH is NOT having another party until he's at least 50. And NEVER in the house again. I may have become well acquainted with a bottle of Bombay Sapphire when they'd all gone.
Anyway....I digress. Strictly round up. Right. Where was I? It's week seven and ten couples remained. The Blackpool show is hurtling up on us in a couple of weeks, so who will be there? Let's have a look........
Sweaty Southern Hemisphere Singer Peter Andre opened the show with a complicated corker of a Charleston to Do Your Thing. That song was made with Charleston in mind. Janette Manraraahaharomaromamagagaoohlalawantyourbadromance had put together a quick and clippy routine. There was a lot of swivel, cross, bounce and Charleston content and scissor movements so sharp you could cut yourself. Peter definitely took things to the next level and added some character to his dance for a change. Len was so chuffed he got to his feet, dodgy knee and all. The judges loved it, scoring it a season high 38 out of 40, which might have been a tad too high. Replays showed Pete wasn't as quite in synch as they may have thought - at some points he was a good half-beat behind. But what can you do, eh?
Jamelia was out next probably hoping, for once, that the viewers will judge her on her dancing and not her comments. She and partner Tristan performed a fairly nice Viennese waltz to Trouble. And trouble there was. The couple crashed into the prop guitar case on one of their turns and nearly came a cropper, but they recovered well enough. There was still some hint of Jamelia being dragged around a bit and there was some gapping, loss of form and line, but there was a hint of grace and she chucked in a fleckerl for Len. It was better than previous weeks, but will it be enough? The panel awarded 28 out of 40.
Catastrophic Carol Kirkwood followed with a lumpy, bumpy American Smooth to Man, I Feel Like A Woman. Sadly, the dance was about as smooth as sandpaper. Coarse grain sandpaper. Poor Carol really isn't coming on at all. She seems to have a default setting of 'standing with hands on hips wiggling your bum with a bemused expression'. Really, it's been in every dance. I sort of think it's her 'go to' stance meaning 'Help. I've forgotten the routine again' as Pasha seems to sweep to the rescue every time she does it. This was a wooden dance with Carol looking like a tailor's dummy at times, stiff in the shoulders and lacking any style or grace. There was shoddy footwork and flat feet throughout. The judges advised her to start with sorting out her footwork and the rest will follow - but surely week SEVEN is too late to start learning footwork? The routine scored a dismal 17 out of 40.
Up next was effervescent Helen George dancing a rumba to Hello (by Adele, not the one by Oasis. That would have just been weird). For a rumba, this was a lovely routine. The romantic theme was beautifully acted by Helen - no real surprise given her day job - and there was great choreography from Aljaz. It was powerful, passionate and told a story. Maybe it was more of a show dance than a technical rumba, which explains why I quite enjoyed it. It certainly upset Len who was infuriated at the lack of classic content, in his opinion. He was rounded on by the other judges who loved the contemporary feel and modern interpretation. What really counts though is that I liked it! A respectable 31 out of 40 from the judges.
Jay McGuinness offered up an amazing Argentine Tango - the first of the series. I'm given to understand that the 'normal' tango is a watered down, tamer version of the AT which was thought to be too hot & sexy for polite society. The tango is about ignoring each other, the AT is a prelude to getting it on. Jay brought it on last night, alright. He was powerful and masterful - if a little restrained. HOTH & I think he may benefit from a couple of acting lessons to bring him out of himself a bit. It certainly worked for Louis Smith a couple of years ago. The routine was full of AT content, powerful lifts and great footwork. At times it was like watching a pair of the pro dancers perform. A shame there was only a couple of ganchos (the classic AT leg flicks and entwinings) but that's down to Aliona's choreography, not Jay's talent. The judges gave him 34 out of 40.
Katie Derham followed with a classic quickstep to 42nd Street. Ah.......42nd Street. I fell out of there a few times in the late 80s / early 90s (it was a club in the city where I live. One of the Places To Be back in the day. Well, one of the Places I Could Get In, anyway - until I developed a modicum of taste and started going to The Brickhouse instead). Anton was back in his comfort zone with ballroom, but fell back to spending half the routine messing about with hats and canes before starting any dancing. It started off well enough but, like Schubert's 8th symphony, came across a bit unfinished. There were missed kicks, trips in the promenade steps and loss of control and form as the dance got away from her. It was ambitious, but sadly Katie couldn't keep up. A decent enough 26 out of 40 from the judges, though.
Up next was the lovely Anita Rani who is showing herself to be a very capable dancer. Saturday night saw Anita and Gleb (in overalls and bandanna) dancing a jive to The Boy Does Nothing by former Strictly winner and judge Alesha Dixon. The boy definitely does something for me, I can tell you. He's also a rather splendid dancer and choreographer and last night was no exception. Anita coped brilliantly with tricky footwork, sharp kicks and flicks, prop work and mop work. There was a very risky lift that paid off and the dance was full of energy, content and fun. Anita had plenty of attack and was on point and together with Gleb all the way through. A rather good 34 out of 40 from the panel, who knocked off marks for not-quite-pointy-enough toes.
Kellie Bright followed with a lyrical waltz to Love Ain't Here Anymore by Take That. Kellie is always enjoyable to watch, and finally got a slower routine than she's had previously. However, the reduced speed showed up some little flaws for the judges. She seemed a bit tense through the shoulders, especially the right one which kept rising up and spoiling her top line a bit. But this didn't detract too much from a smooth, graceful routine with lots of lovely double reverse turns and heel leads (apparently quite difficult) and rise and fall in the footwork. There was a wobble when Kellie lost balance but it was well covered. The judges scored her 32 out of 40.
Somewhat inexplicably starting on a giant model horse, Jeremy Vine trotted out a tango to Go West by The Village People. Maybe he should have done YMCA instead.(You're Mighty Crap Aintcha?) Jeremy tried a tango face but it looked more like he was trying to hold in some particularly painful wind. A cowboy outfit does not mix with a tango. It's not a comedy dance. Jeremy was more Woody (and wooden) than Wayne and spent most of the dance horsing around than dancing. Yet again we had wacky waving arms and loose limbs that had Darcy in hysterics. There was a twizzer chucked in there for good measure and a smattering of staccato, but not enough to trouble the top of the leaderboard. The judges could only pony up 21 out of 40.
Georgia May Foote closed the show with a spicy little samba to Volare. She seemed to spend a lot of time sitting down this week and she lost some timing and togetherness as the dance went on. She had lovely legs throughout the routine and really went for it, but she still telegraphs her moves and there were teeny errors sprinkled through the routine that caught the eye now and again. Don't get me wrong, it was a difficult and decent enough routine and she coped very well. The judges enjoyed it and gave it a very good 35 out of 40.
So here we are on Sunday. Look through Len's Lens, if you dare. Did you spot what the judges did? Did you agree with Len or Craig in Rumbagate? Do you care? (I do. I've got Helen in the work's sweepstake.) Seal showed up singing his latest number to entertain the audience. I once knew a bloke who genuinely thought Seal sang with Adam Skis. As in a bloke called Adam slides down snowy mountains on two planks. Which he was as thick as, come to think of it (the bloke, not Seal).
After the usual strung out tension designed to torture the poor celebrities it was announced that the bottom two dancers were Carol Kirkwood and, inexplicably, Kellie Bright. In the words of any Eastenders male hard man actor - 'woss gahn on'? Seriously - what? This was the first undeserved dancer in the danger zone. Has her character done something awful in Eastenders? Has she dug up Ethel's Little Willie and worn him as a muff or something? I can't fathom it. Carol, yes. But Kellie??
Anyway....it was a pretty foregone conclusion who'd be booted off wasn't it? Even if it was KevinfromGrimsby's first ever dance off in his Strictly career. Kellie had scored almost double what Carol had and, well, is just a better bloody dancer. Of COURSE Carol was voted off the show. Don't do that again, voting viewers! There are far more deserving candidates for the chop than Kellie and we all know who (cough...Jeremy.....cough.....). I'm relying on you to see sense next week. But, until then..............KEEP DANCING!!!!!!