Sunday, 13 November 2011

Strictly Fun - yes, we got tickets, hurray!

I kept thinking of things that could go wrong: we would be so queue weary that by evening we (husband and I) would be slumped in a corner fast asleep; our car would be parked miles away; it would surely rain and there would be a line of 100 people before we even arrived!

But no! The most unexpected highlight (arguably) comes later, but now the smug bit starts, and I am safe in saying that, since no demons struck us at the midnight hour; we are home and dry.

The sun struggled through mist; absurdly warm for November; my husband dropped me off and I found myself 5th in the queue at 8.25 am, clad in a black-sequinned evening dress barely concealed by a winter coat. Emma and her daughter Gracie from Leicester had been there from 7.15; it was Emma’s birthday and they had splashed out on a London hotel. Nos 3 and 4, Katy and Tania from Peterborough, had nipped off to fetch coffees and soon rejoined our little group. Husband was soon back, having parked easily in a residential road, introducing himself as another ‘sad person’ and thus, we were 6! If justice prevailed in the Strictly world, we would have good seats.

Another irrational fear I had was lack of facilities. We took a bagful of food just in case there was none available within walking distance of Wood Lane. I might have guessed the BBC had done this thing a trillion times before, so it would all work out. Access to loos was easy in BBC Television Centre reception. No, there were no nearby mobile food or drink vendors, but Westfield massive shopping complex is five minutes walk away, certainly not too far for taking a welcome walk and fetching back some coffee.

Friendly Rory Bremner dropped by to say hello to people in the line. Various dark-windowed vehicles rolled up, containing we knew not who. Husband spent some time settled on our picnic rug with The Telegraph, or chatting to fellow queuees, then we watched a parallel queue build up for Children in Need Strictly recording. This disappeared and by 12.30 we were ‘validated’ and our tickets allocated with a number. Yay!! Now we could go away until about 3.30, giving us enough time to pop back to the car, eat, adjust clothing, make-up and have lunch.

After a browse in Westfield, we returned to a long queue but, of course we were numbered so it didn’t matter. As we were among the first 14, our place was assured.

To save handing in our mobiles we left them in the car; so I just had to hand in my coat and a shoe-bag. Then we had time to while away with our new friends and a big screen showing endless clips from previous shows. We were now well into the zone, Strictly land, excitement mounting. I imagined the nerves that the celebrities must be feeling at this time, so close to appearing live before millions of viewers. We even managed to buy a glass of wine; a bonus, as we had been led to believe alcohol was forbidden! (certainly not allowed in the studio) We sat down on the floor and chatted to Nos 7 and 8, sisters probably younger than our own children, one a dentist, the other a lawyer …

Anyway, we filed in and were told we (the first 14) had the best seats in the house: the front row facing the dance-floor, opposite the orchestra. We were also told we could be in shot throughout as cameras swoop round; but were obviously not in the highly visible crowd that sit behind where Bruce and Tess stand, or the judges. It was a perfect position; so close to the dancers we would almost be touching them.

The audience over to our right were friends and family of the performers and rumour has it that the people most on camera over on the left side, are in fact connected to the production of the show. If anybody reading this knows something different, put me right!

By now, it all became rather dreamlike. The warm up man was making us relaxed and happy. Everything seemed to me smaller and more intimate than I imagined – the dance-floor, the judges’ desk area, and all the professionals and most of the performers are incredibly fit, lean, neat, taut and lovely. OK – Russell is a hoot, very likeable and actually, a good dancer, given his ‘stocky’ frame. How much slimmer he is than he once was, too.

We sometimes had to peer between and round cameras, but on the whole our vantage point was brilliant.

We spotted Nancy dell'Olio – easy as she was standing up and looking around quite a lot! How tiny is she?  Brian May was there and a lady who is, apparently, one very proud parent of Harry. I caught sight of Chris Evans over on the left side, just by the staircase up to Tess’s Tower.

Sir Bruce did a bit of a warm-up himself; this is what he loves to do, he told us – contact with a real, live audience. He greeted Nancy, who stood up for hugs. And later …

… then it did become a bit surreal. He was walking down towards our section and our eyes met! He swooped on me – yes me! His face was very close! Suddenly he was shaking my hand, saying something like, “Oh hello, dear! (mmm, oh well) How are you? so you did get here then. How nice to see you … etc” somehow giving the impression that he knew me, I’m not sure how he did that. I am fairly sure he then invited me round to tea at his place, but please if anyone there can remember exactly what he said, do let me know – via Twitter. Amidst general laughter, he wandered off …

To say more would be to give too much away to those who have yet to experience it. It was great and I would do it again.

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