Farewell, Fleabag

Before we begin, I want to re-iterate that this isn’t a Phoebe Waller-Bridge fansite (although it probably looks like it). I want to talk about Fleabag and that ending.

(SPOILERS AHEAD. You’ve been warned.)

Admittedly, I came to Fleabag later than most as part of my research into Phoebe Waller Bridge’s work. I was hooked and watched the whole first series in one afternoon. It was sharp, witty and the heroine was like most of my friends- slightly messed up carrying a tote bag in place of the handbag we’d have been expected to have twenty years ago (I’m convinced that those of us in our 30s today are ‘younger’ than our parents were twenty years ago.) She had an emotionally frigid family and seemed determined to pinball her way around London and a host of men who were the very epitome of ‘meh’, screwing up but doing it fabulously, Nancy Mitford for the 21st Century. Honestly, I have a whole Twitter thread on how Waller Bridge is the reincarnation of Mitford.

It was funny and weird and voiced those thoughts we have in our heads that we think no-one else thinks and she’s voicing them directly to us as she breaks the fourth wall. The fact that Fleabag is nameless, along with many of the other characters, means that we can project ourselves onto her and those around her. This is a common transference we make whenever we watch TV/read books, but it’s unusual to be so included in the process, invited into a character’s life in such a blatant way.

And whereas Series 1 one is about a character (and her family) who can not and will not communicate properly with those around her, the finale finally allows them to admit how they feel, albeit obviously in a very British, middle-class reserved way. The seeds are initially sown during a squirmy counselling session foisted on her by her father early on, but the process is there throughout Series 2, culminating in her father’s wedding when everything that has been so contained finally spills forth. Her sister Claire, the very epitome of a Type-A personality, admits her feelings for both her husband and Finnish Klare, as well as admitting that she loves her sister; closure is achieved with her father as he dithers over marrying her divinely vile stepmother; and, after two series, we finally see Fleabag as properly emotionally vulnerable. We’ve seen flashes, but it takes her realising that the priest will never be available to her in the way she wishes for her to allow her to show us emotion. It’s at this point that she walks away and does not allow us to follow- we’ve seen her having sex, her best friend’s death, but this is a step too far for us to go any further- because she has finally achieved a calm that has eluded her until this point.

To me, the acceptance of the priest’s semi-rejection (he loves her, but of course he loves God more) it feels like she has achieved a maturity and moved away from the class clown persona she’s sometimes cultivated. It’s raw and hard won, a fitting end to something that has gripped so many people. It feels like it was always going to have to end this way- we knew, deep down that the priest would never leave God for her and I think she does, too. So she has to change and to change, she has to leave us- her co-conspirators- behind.

And, because we feel like her friend, we let her go.

Shakespeare, the Kardashians and modern role models

Today, I WAS planning on writing a blogpost about why I love RuPaul’s Drag Race so much, but something else has caught my eye- a headteacher at a girls school asking girls to be more like Shakespeare’s Cleopatra than Kim Kardashian. She does also mention other characters- Beatrice, Rosalind and Viola- but it’s Cleo who really has captured the headlines.

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I love Shakespeare, but have a few problems with this comparison. Firstly- yes, OK. Cleopatra is a ruler in her own right and is very powerful. But the story in the play revolves around her love affairs (and her power is somewhat tangled up in all of this) and she eventually kills herself as a result of her love for a man. So far, so feminist right?

Plus, I always find there’s an innate snobbery implied by suggesting that people turn to Shakespeare over modern media, as if it’s somehow better. As an English teacher, I know that Shakespeare is seen by the kids-and teachers of other subjects- as elitist, boring and unnecessarily difficult, that it’s not there to be enjoyed by everyone. Hell, I went to one of the worst schools in Leeds as a kid and could feel the antipathy radiating off my co-students whenever the name of Shakespeare was mentioned. (Also, it’s not just the kids who subscribe to this view. The one time I asked that we tried teaching Manga Shakespeare versions of Macbeth, I was looked at by some in my department like I’d grown three heads. Graphic novels also come under the ‘vulgar’ heading, apparently.) It drives me mad. Shakespeare writes about real life: feuds, scandal, romance, businesses gone awry, power-all of human life, in its devious and imperfect glory is there. Plus he could often be kind of a bit… sleazy. He would have loved the Kardashians.

Shakespeare would have been intrigued by today’s celebrities; imagine all the storylines he could have nicked off social media! I think he would also hate to have been seen as an either/or proposition; we kind of forget that he was a slightly shady character himself for much of his life and that acting and theatre owning wasn’t seen as a particularly illustrious career unless you got in with the royals, as he obviously did later on in his life. There was a reason that theatres were on the same side of the river as the bear bating pits and brothels.

Girls are not going to go out and change their behaviour because the head of a private school has created some lessons looking at how ‘inspirational’ some of Shakespeare’s women were (and let’s be honest- there’s scant pickings there. I think most of his women were weakly written, serving a purpose as a foil or a love interest. My favourites are Beatrice and Portia, and even they have issues.) However, I can’t dismiss any attempt to make Shakespeare’s work more accessible and enjoyable- I just wish we were more playful, more imaginative when it came to getting students to access the plays. I say this as someone who once got a bottom year 11 set to work out the issues in Macbeth for a speaking and listening exercise by performing a scene in which the characters were taking part in a Shakespearean version of Jeremy Kyle. It was… interesting, but they ended up doing pretty well in their coursework essays.

Would I choose Kim Kardashian as an ideal role model for young girls? Probably not. But then anyone I suggested as a role model would probably be viewed with suspicion because I’m seen as old, even though I’m a relatively young teacher. But here’s the thing- elders always recommend role models that they think are suitable because they see more ‘modern’ role models as ‘unsuitable’; it’s the old chestnut about the generation above despairing of the one below, forgetting that they too were once interested in people their parents disapproved of. And I bet they would have baulked at the suggestion that they go read Shakespeare instead of idolising whoever it was they had on their bedroom wall, too.

 

Spinning plates

Hello! I feel like it’s been ages since I sat down and actually blogged properly. Truth is, I’ve been super busy with work and stuff and it’s all kind of run away from me a bit. It happens.

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It’s always busy in the spring- it’s crunch time for getting Year 11 ready for their exams and I have to make sure that their coursework is all present and correct (this can sometimes feel like I’m herding gigantic kittens and managing a large load of printing at the same time). I also have to keep up with the rest of my work in a job that has recently made the top 5 most stressful jobs. Yay!

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Then, of course, I have a three year old at home- which is like herding many tiny kittens at the same time, with the added bonus of a really thick actual cat thrown into the mix to add to the fun. I’m not complaining though. I’ve learnt a lot about Lego Star Wars in the last few weeks and Bronte brought in a slow worm, which led to an interesting discussion with D about creatures that live in the garden.

I also recently started taking on a bit of freelance work: mainly proofreading and copywriting. It’s good to do some jobs that bring in a bit of extra work and money, and I’m choosing jobs that I can fit in around everything else. I’m not daft- I take work when it’s quiet elsewhere- but I enjoy it and I prefer it to signing up to do exam marking, which is way less flexible.

So, the upshot, I’ve been busy. But definitely in a good way. I’ve still managed to do bits and pieces that I liked (I’ve been working in the garden and I have three books on the go at any one time, as per), but I’ve appreciated them more than normal. I’ve also been sleeping BRILLIANTLY, which really is no surprise.

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The fact is, if I actually admit it, is that I like being busy. It shows me that I’m well and that my mental health is OK. It may be that it’s not always the right thing to do, but at the moment it serves me well. I like feeling useful and I like getting stuff done.

BUT! I am looking forward to the long weekend! I finished marking all of my Year 11 coursework (a Very Big Deal Indeed) and I have no work to do this weekend, bar prepping some display stuff. D is staying at his grandparents’ tomorrow and I am looking forward to just taking it easy. And I will very much enjoy and appreciate some downtime. After all, I think I deserve it.

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“‘Ave you seen ‘er?” On Victoria Wood

An Audience with Victoria Wood, Dec 1988

Growing up, I always knew about Victoria Wood. My mum had her videos and we had a couple of signed books, too. I remember feeling dead grown up, aged about 10, when I was allowed to watch some of her stand-up. Here was a lady, who wasn’t thin or glamorous- but she was funny. Even as a kid, I knew she was unusual.

As I’ve grown older, I’ve realised that she’s had a huge effect on me. As a northern, working-class kid, she talked about things I understood. I even own an orange raincoat (although not a fetching yellow hat to go with it.) My sister and I have been known to say “I’m looking for my friend, Kimberly. ‘Ave you seen ‘er?” to each other. We don’t know any Kimberlys.

In restaurants with slow service, it won’t take long for Benn or I to whisper to the other “Two soups?”

I’ve always felt a bit suspicious about prawns too, thanks to this sketch:

And I remember seeing her programme about tea. Of course.

The thing is, Victoria Wood’s humour was funny and warm; it was grounded in real life and it was never cruel, either. I’ll miss her.

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I think I’m turning into Amy Farrah Fowler

You know when you go through life, consuming pop culture, minding your own business and then one day it hits you- you’re turning into a character from a TV show? I have recently had that epiphany. And it’s not someone cool, detached (like my beloved Scully, or Buffy, another favourite), but Dr Amy Farrah Fowler from The Big Bang Theory.

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A bit of background on this- I am currently teaching The Big Bang Theory to a GCSE Media Studies class (they have to learn about scheduling and audience pleasures and how the two combine), so I am watching A. LOT. of it at the moment. And although I look nothing like the actress who plays Amy, Mayim Bialik, I have noticed some similarities.

Our dress sense- Despite the fact that, in my head, I dress more like Bernadette, I know that it’s with Amy that my TV wardrobe lies. There is waaay more evidence in that direction. Fabulous knitwear that cool people would never wear,  in similar colours to the knitwear I own? Check. Glasses? Check. A sensibly proportioned handbag, often worn cross body, despite sometimes being hideously unflattering? Check. Sensible shoes? Check. A love of tights in interesting colours? Yep. We also share a deep-seated love of SHINY THINGS.
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Our significant others- I am married to a Sheldon. OK, Benn is nowhere near as bad as Sheldon in terms of social awkwardness and he’s sporty, as opposed to geeky. But he does like routine (you can set your watch by our meals in my house) and he does get very, very passionate about the things he’s interested in. He also looks very similar to Sheldon- tall, slim and short cropped hair. We could definitely do cosplay as Shamy any day of the week. Plus, Benn really likes cats.

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I appreciate my friends- a lot. Like Amy, I was badly bullied growing up and I know how hard it can be as a kid, not knowing who your friends are on any given day. This means that I love having a solid group of friends now that I’m an adult- although not enough to commission larger than life-sized portraits of them. Amy’s alone with that one.

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Car dancing- We both enjoy a good spot of car dancing, although Amy dances to Neil Diamond. I’d like to take this opportunity to apologise to the man in the Jaguar in the traffic jam on the A27 Monday night who was ahead of me and my friend for about five miles. I’m hoping you found my enthusiastic rendition of the dance routine to the song ‘Stop’ by The Spice Girls entertaining, rather than alarming although judging by the way you sped off as soon as you could, I’m guessing the latter was the case.

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Amy may not be as sexy as Penny, or as cute (and scary) as Bernadette, but golly gosh darn it, there are worse people to realise you’re a bit like. I’m keeping my knitwear and sensible shoes- and I WILL be proud of them.

 

Which TV character do you most resemble?

 

How women on TV shape my career goals

Now that D is three- and will be starting school in September 2017, eek!-I’ve started to think more about where my career is and where I would like it to go. At the moment, I’m happy where I am and what I’m doing, but there are things I would like to achieve (if I had a Five Year Plan, this is where it would come in.)

If you follow me on Twitter, you’ll know that I LOVE TV. I like to say it’s because I teach Media Studies, but it’s really just that I’m a telly addict and have been forever. I love Netflix and I love a good binge-watch. What’s surprising is that I’ve found career inspiration in some of my favourite shows and that by watching these four women, I’ve started to think differently about my own job and the way that I work.

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Leslie Knope- Parks and Recreation

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Leslie Knope is a ball of contradictions- sometimes she’s brimming with self-confidence, other times, she’s on the floor with self-doubt. And although Amy Poehler (one of the greatest comedians of the 21st century, IMHO) plays Leslie for laughs, there is something in her character that most women can relate to; she’s a visible embodiment of someone with imposter syndrome. Leslie’s key strength, though, is her love and support for her colleagues. Yes, she looks after herself, but she cares deeply for those around her- and not in a self-sacrificing way.

Dana Scully- The X Files

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Scully (and Gillian Anderson) has been a heroine of mine since I was twelve. Although I’m not very good at emotional detachment, I’ve always admired Scully’s dedication to her job, her dry humour and her dogged pursuit of what she thinks is right. At work, next to my desk, I have a poster with a picture of Scully, reminding me that if I have a bad day I should think about what she would do. It stands me in good stead.(I also like Stella Gibson, Anderson’s character in The Fall, but don’t really feel the same connection to her. Did I mention I just really love Gillian Anderson?)

Viv Deering- No Offence

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If you haven’t seen No Offence yet, I urge you to seek it out (the series is on All 4). I loved Viv as soon as I saw her- northern and bold as brass, obsessed with clothes and very, very sweary. She’s sort of like the old stereotype of the northern, working class matriarch but updated and promoted to DI. She presents a tough-as-old-boots persona and won’t take nonsense from anybody, but isn’t vile to work for. Her sense of humour, ruthless determination to do her job well and her ability to stick up for those working for her make her an excellent, if occasionally slightly scary, boss. I want to be more self assured and trust my judgement a bit more- Viv’s the woman to look up to. (Also, when the young PC answers the above question with a hesitant “..Seven?” Viv replies “Oh, good. I do love a man who isn’t bothered about career progression.”)

Alicia Florrick- The Good Wife

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The Good Wife is my current obsession. I love it because it’s full of interesting female characters in addition to Alicia (Kalinda, Diane and my personal soulmate in the world of work, Elsbeth Tascioni), but my focus in terms of career is Alicia. She mucks it up sometimes, she often feels like she’s struggling to parent her kids and she has to deal with an on/off husband who is a bit of a git. Yet, she manages something that resembles a work/life balance (she also drinks a lot of red wine) and looks amazing at all times. I am currently debating whether I am going to grow my hair into an ‘Alicia’. But it’s the way that she negotiates her career that impresses me. It doesn’t always go right, but she brushes herself off and starts again- and this attitude is one worth holding on to at times of disappointment.

I guess all these women have a lot in common and represent idealised versions of women in the workplace. However, I reckon if I can channel just a little of what they have in my own job, I can see improvements. We’ll see.

Tell me- who do you admire in a career sense?

 

Strictly Come Dancing 2015: Week #6- Hallowe’en Special

I hope you raised a cup a soup in honour of Ainsley’s defeat last week (HOW IS KIRSTY STILL IN?) and that you’ve been preparing yourselves for a slew of terrible Hallowe’en puns in this week’s show. Although there’s a rumba this week- The Lovely Carol and Pasha- most of the dances are my favourites, so I’m hoping the only scary thing is Craig. It’s also worth noting that no women have yet left the competition; will this week be the week? The leader board is so chaotic at the minute that anything is possible…

Katie and Anton- Paso (Phantom of the Opera)

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Now, obviously we all wait and see whether this will be A Good Week, in which Anton has created something that Katie can a) do and b) looks good doing so, or A Bad Week where Katie looks like a startled foal. This week, Katie looks completely unrecognisable- the dance was OK. Some of it looked AMAZING, such as the ILLEGAL lifty twirly bits and some of it looked a bit messy. I agree with Len that this could have been more fiery.

Scores: Craig- 4 Darcey-6 Len-6 Bruno-5 TOTAL: 21

Kirsty and Brendan- Charleston (Bad Romance)

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Oh. Kirsty does not do well when she’s not being dragged around the floor by Brendan; she needs the support of being in hold to control her posture/nerves. But then again, Jamelia did surprisingly well in the Charleston, so there was hope. But, alas. although she was trying (God loves a trier), this was clumpy and not a fun, light Charleston- and not even fun to watch. Boo. (Not in a Hallowe’en way.)

Scores: Craig-3 Darcey-5 Len-5 Bruno-4 TOTAL:17

Jeremy and Karen- Salsa (Thriller)

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Like Ghostbusters, this is legally required by the laws of Strictly to be performed on or around Hallowe’en. Which is nice, really, as it suits Jeremy’s ‘Dad dancing after having a few at your auntie’s third wedding’. Also, I know that Jez hasn’t been on his Radio 2 show all week. Has it meant an improved performance? No. Did I care it was messy? Nada. I think Len summed it up when he said it had “awkward charm”. I think he could make it to Blackpool- like many a ‘novelty’ dancer before him- and leave at that point.

Scores: Craig-4 Darcey-6 Len-6 Bruno-6 TOTAL: 22

Anita and Gleb- Waltz (Once Upon A Dream)

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Last week’s tango was really good (even if I am ambivalent about Gleb The Man, I am happy to admit I like his choreography, which really does suit Anita) and Anita’s make up was phenomenal. If I was at all interested in Hallowe’en, I would totally have copied it. Anita looks amazing as Maleficent- and I hadn’t twigged that this was the actual song from Sleeping Beauty- but the goth-y version suited a dark and accomplished waltz.

Scores: Craig-6 Darcey-8 Len-8 Bruno-7 TOTAL: 29

Jamelia and Tristan-Jive (The Time Warp)

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Whenever I hear that someone’s going to dance to The Time Warp, I instantly think of Spaced and Tim’s rant. Anyway, back to the issue at hand, which is NOT about first year drama students, but rather an ex-popstar. Jamelia did really well in the Charleston, so I had hope for her in the Jive (they’re not that dissimilar) and maybe she’s saved herself from a third time in the dance-off. I’m not convinced- Tristan seemed to be holding on to her a lot and she seemed a bit wooden, there wasn’t a lot of the side by side that we’re used to. I wonder if Jamelia has lost a bit of confidence?

Scores: Craig- 6 Darcey-6 Len- 7 Bruno-7 TOTAL: 26

Jay and Aliona – American Smooth (Lil Red Riding Hood)

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Apparently Jay has replaced Peter as the bookies’ favourite and every week my Twitter timeline explodes with declarations of love, crushes and general goodwill towards him. He has been the genuine surprise of this year’s contest (and I’d like to KEEP REMINDING YOU that I’ve called him the dark horse from the first time we saw him dance.) Jay has struggled with being in hold before, but I think this was a sophisticated, old school American Smooth- despite the makeup.

Scores: Craig- 8 Darcey-9 Len- 8 Bruno- 9 TOTAL: 34

Kellie and Kevin- Paso (Schools Out/Hedwig’s Theme)

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Oh, I had high hopes for these two- could they do for the Paso what Jay did for Jive? Although Harry and Hermione Do Paso is a bit of an eccentric idea, it just.. worked. Powerful and a proper Paso. (Even if we all know Hermione would never, ever dance on a table.) I was expecting a higher score, though.

Scores: Craig- 7 Darcey-7 Len-7 Bruno- 7 TOTAL: 28

Carol and Pasha-Rumba (I Think I Love You)

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It is well established that I love these two, but that I equally loathe the rumba. Also, weird song choice AGAIN. I mean, the rumba is supposed to be slow, non? (As an aside, I liked the rumba danced by Peter and Janette last week, but I think that’s the only one I’ve ever liked. Ever.) This didn’t look like a rumba to me. At all. It was a lot of walking, a bit in hold and then.. meh. Oh well.

Scores: Craig- 2 Darcey- 4 Len- 4 Bruno- 3 TOTAL:13

Georgia and Giovanni- Tango (Ghostbusters)

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Well, it’s Hallowe’en, so it’s legally binding that SOMEONE had to dance to Ghostbusters (or The Monster Mash) and this year, these two drew the short straw. A tango? To a song about Bill Murray running round with a glorified vacuum strapped to his back? OK then. However, this was a GREAT tango and fantastic to watch.

Scores: Craig- 8 Darcey- 9 Len-9 Bruno-9 TOTAL: 35

Peter and Janette- Foxtrot (Ghost)

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This week, according to The Mirror, Craig cast doubt on Peter’s ability to stay in the competition much longer, citing the fact that he’s one of a number of strong contestants and that he’s been overtaken by others (*cough*JAY*cough). He’s also no longer the favourite and it’s got to sting a bit, right? I mean after all, this is man who is a perfectionist. This was a pretty dance, but not my favourite.They are brilliant at showcasing their strong relationship, which is a really useful skill, but I think they could do more.

Scores: Craig-7 Darcey-7 Len-7 Bruno- 7 TOTAL: 28

Helen and Aljaz -Samba (Take Your Mama)

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I LOVE Scissor Sisters, although this feels a bit slow for a samba? Mind you Helen can literally do no wrong in my eyes. This week she was clearly channelling Jane Fonda in Barbarella. Now, traditionally, samba is a dangerous dance, but of course these two nailed it. Even while dressed as mummies.

Scores: Craig- 8 Darcey- 9 Len-8 Bruno-9 TOTAL: 34

So we end this week with GEORGIA at the top of the leader board and CAROL at the bottom. Could a woman be going this week? I’m predicting that Carol and Kirsty will be in the dance-off tomorrow.

Strictly Come Dancing 2015: Week #4

Last week, Anthony left the show after a tense dance-off against a man with penguin markings painted painted on his bald head. Welcome, once again, to the delightful absurdity of Strictly Come Dancing!

As things stand for me this week- I’m still astounded by the coolness of Jay’s jive (and rooting for him in a massive way) and I’m still not convinced by Kirsty. And just how will The Lovely Carol perform an aggressive paso- and will it somehow be spuriously linked to the weather?

Anita and Gleb- Samba (Hips Don’t Lie)

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Who can forget that weird bug-like movement from last week? (It wasn’t sexy. It was creepy. Twitter doesn’t seem to agree with me.) Gleb really likes sliding round on the floor, doesn’t he? Anyway, it was OK, but not amazing- for me, anyway. And what do I know? Pleased to see Gleb’s growing facial hair again though.

Scores: Craig-6, Darcey-7, Len-7, Bruno-7. Total: 27

Daniel and Kristina- American Smooth (Fly Me to The Moon)

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This feels much more like Daniel’s natural home and also more of where I like my American Smooth to be- none of the fancy sexy lunge-y stuff of Anita and Gleb last week. American Smooth should be all Ginger Rogers and Fred Astaire. He actually suits the pilot-y look, too. This was great and felt more in keeping with Daniel’s character. Nice going. Although I’m not sure Daniel O’Donnell will ever be ‘more dynamic’, Craig. HE’S DANIEL O’DONNELL.

Scores: Craig-5, Darcey-6, Len-6, Bruno-6. Total: 23

 Kirsty and Brendan- Paso Doble (Beautiful Day)

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I have yet to meet anyone who’s rooting for Kirsty (please let me know if you are). My mind did baffle a bit at the pairing of the paso with this song. Brendan does generally perform a good paso, but this is definitely an odd choice of song. Brendan kept Kirsty very close and she seemed desperate to get back to him when he released her (paso is about fighting him off, no?) Meh.

Scores: Craig-4, Darcey-6, Len-6, Bruno-5. Total: 21

Georgia and Giovanni- Quickstep (Reach)

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Ah, appealing to Georgia’s youth here by playing this classic from every school disco since the late 90s. This was on my running playlist for a while, but it was too bloody chirpy for when I felt murderous as I ran around hilly Brighton on a cold day. Did this dance make me feel murderous? Not really. It was.. cute. Even if the set dressing looked like that time Ashley and Cheryl (then) Cole advertised the National Lottery.

Scores: Craig-7, Darcey-7, Len-9, Bruno-8. Total: 31

Jeremy and Karen- Jive (Splish Splash)

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Karen has definitely been casting Jeremy in a sort of old-school, gentlemanly style of dancer and this fits that pattern. I think he’s certainly improving in confidence (although I’d say he’s always been enthusiastic!) and whether his technique was improving remained to be seen. This was definitely back in dad dancing territory- and we all got to fight off the mental image of Jeremy in the bath. Karen looked nice though. It definitely looks like Jeremy is now in the ‘comedy dancers’ categories, with the likes of Ann Widdecombe. Fun.

Scores: Craig-3, Darcey-6, Len-6, Bruno-5. Total: 20

Kellie and Kevin- Foxtrot (Dream a Little Dream)

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I love this song- I used to sing it to D when he was colic riddled as a tiny baby- and so I’m glad that it’s being danced to by two of the better dancers! Expectations are going to be high all through the series and I’m glad. It’s impossible to not like them. I loved the story behind this dance (imagining her grandparents’ first dance) and this was gorgeous. Beautiful- proper lump in the throat stuff. If Kellie’s not in the final, it’ll be a travesty.

Scores: Craig-8, Darcey-8, Len-8, Bruno-8. Total: 32

Jamelia and Tristan- Charleston (Straight Up)

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The Charleston is meant to look a bit messy, but should still be precise. Jamelia has tended to look a little uncoordinated in previous weeks, which I think has surprised a lot of people (me included.) However, this week, I thought she looked much improved and did a great job. Also, EXCELLENT FRINGING.

Scores: Craig-8, Darcey-8, Len-8, Bruno-8. Total: 32

Jay and Aliona- Quickstep (My Generation)

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Jay had a LOT to live up to after last week’s brilliant, brilliant jive, so the pressure has definitely been on. This took a long time to get into the actual dance, but looked really good once it got started- although the mistakes happened. Mind you, the quickstep looks properly brutal. Let’s hope he’s back on form next week.

Scores: Craig-5, Darcey-7, Len-6, Bruno-7. Total: 25

Carol and Pasha- Paso Doble (Espana Cani)

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My first thought when seeing that The Lovely Carol was dancing the paso- can she really be as fierce as the dance requires? Can ANYONE in their right mind see her as a bull? Will she forget she’s meant to LITERALLY BE A COW and break into her sunny smile? She did give it a good go, even if it’s hard to believe she’s meant to be fierce. She’s just TOO NICE. And it must be hard to dance in a glitter version of those M&S fuller bust bras you get in boxes.

Scores: Craig-5, Darcey-6, Len-6, Bruno-5. Total: 22

Ainsley and Natalie- Waltz (What a Wonderful World)

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I always feel sorry for the surviving couple from the dance-off, as it must be really difficult to go in again knowing that enough people didn’t vote for you the week before. However, a waltz is a really safe bet, right? Especially with such a classic song- how can you go wrong? This was lovely- Ainsley was trying so hard and Natalie’s dress was beautiful.

Scores: Craig-6, Darcey-7, Len-7, Bruno-6. Total: 26

Helen and Aljaz- Salsa (Doctor Beat)

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Helen does both Latin and ballroom so well- and she has looked so beautiful so far. This salsa was a bit Carry On: fun and flirty and, despite the fact that she says she finds it hard to do ‘sexy’, Helen definitely manages to be. Every week so far, I’ve joked that Helen has resembled a film star- and this week it was definitely Barbara Windsor!

Scores: Craig-8, Darcey-8, Len-8, Bruno-8. Total: 32

Peter and Janette- Tango (Blue Monday)

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TANGO! And actually a weird, but very interestingly workable song choice for this. This was a much better dance this week, but I feel like Peter is being lost in the crowd- it was assumed he’d be a shoo-in for a winner, but the field is much better than I think many counted on. Anyway, a fine tango and a brilliant dance to watch.

Scores: Craig-8, Darcey-8, Len-8, Bruno-8. Total: 32

Katie and Anton- Viennese Waltz (If I Can Dream)

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Anton was under pressure this week not to waste Katie again like he did in that disastrous cha cha last week. The thing is, Katie can do so much more… maybe Anton was so used to having slightly duff partners and forgot that he had someone who actually can work their feet in a vaguely rhythmic way. But then, no one does a Viennese Waltz like Anton- this is firmly his territory and it shows. Lovely stuff.

Scores: Craig-8, Darcey-9, Len-8, Bruno-8. Total: 33

So we have a cluster of couples in second place with 32 points: Jamelia, Helen, Peter and Kellie, with Katie and Anton at the top. At the bottom there’s Jeremy and Kirsty, with last week’s leader Jay firmly in the middle. I think Jeremy and Kirsty will be in the dance off and it’s 50/50 who will be coming back next week.

Let me know your thoughts!

Strictly Come Dancing 2015: Week #3- Movie Night

Movie Night. The annual event in which a host of mild celebrities attempt to dance to songs with vague connections to films as the beloved Strictly singers murder cinematic classics. Last week, Iwan made a not-sad- exit from the show… who will go this week?

Carol and Pasha- Quickstep (Wash That Man, South Pacific)

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Thank God they didn’t foist yet another weather related song/routine on The Lovely Carol this week (Singing in the Rain, The Rain in Spain etc. Any other suggestions in the comments, please.) I do, however, think this is a good song choice for The Loveliest Couple To Ever Grace Strictly. Also, Carol has done much better in hold than when, er, ‘freestyling’. Anyway, tonight she looks very 50s Hollywood costume-wise (who doesn’t love a polka dot?), if not quite Ginger Rogers when out of hold. When she’s on her own, she looks a bit lost and as stiff as the bamboo shower screen behind her. What she lacks in skill, she makes up for in enthusiasm and LOVELINESS.

Scores: Craig-3 Darcey-5 Len-5 Bruno -4 Total- 17

Anthony and Oti- Paso Doble (Eye of the Tiger, Rocky)

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I LOVE HOW SUBTLE Strictly is when it comes to reminding us what occupation a contestant has. The Paso is one of my favourite dances (who doesn’t love a pretend bull and wooshy skirts?) Nice use of something he’s good at- er, boxing and standing still- though. Also wondering if Shock Absorber make spangly running bras like Oti’s.

Scores: Craig-4 Darcey-6 Len-5 Bruno-4 Total:19

Katie and Anton- Cha Cha (Pretty Woman, Pretty Woman)

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Oh, it wouldn’t be Strictly without either this or Dirty Dancing being rolled out at least once; both films I was forced to watch on a hen weekend for a doomed wedding (I was LITERALLY sat on so I watched it.) Did anyone else think this took ages to actually get started? Lots of Katie not doing much, which is a shame, because she’s really good. The judges were also disappointed and my Twitter feed seemed so too.

Scores: Craig-4 Darcey-6 Len-5 Bruno-5 Total:20

Kellie and Kevin- Charleston (Cantina Band, Star Wars)

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Here’s a shocking confession: I have never, in my 31 years on this earth, seen Star Wars. I did wonder if Charleston/Star Wars would work and… yep, it did- I especially liked the light sabres as canes; imagine what Charlie Chaplin could’ve done with one of those bad boys. The music was perfect and fun- and I might even watch the films now (but maybe not the one with Jar Jar Binks in.) These two are just. brilliant. Even Craig liked it.

Scores: Craig-8 Darcey-8 Len-8 Bruno-8 Total:32

Ainsley and Natalie- Cha Cha (Boogie Wonderland, Happy Feet)

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Ah, the Cha Cha, a dance that virtually guarantees UN-happy feet (wasn’t it, at one stage, the dance that saw people eliminated?) Apparently this is one of Ainsley’s favourite films. I liked that this didn’t have a faffy intro and that these two just look like they love EVERY SINGLE MINUTE of their routine. Plus bonus points for Natalie’s fringing, obviously. Ainsley did look like he was watching and waiting for Natalie a couple of times and forgot himself a bit, but overall it was loads of fun.

Scores: Craig-3 Darcey-6 Len-6 Bruno-5 Total:20

Georgia and Giovanni- Rumba (Writing’s On The Wall, Spectre)

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I heard this song yesterday. God, it’s dull. Mind you, so’s the rumba and these two aren’t that interesting either. For me, the Argentine Tango is the better ‘passionate’ dance. They did at least look the part though, so that’s something I guess? I do like it when Len puts his ‘Boss of Dance’ hat on and gets cross like he did with this though.

Score: Craig-7 Darcey-7 Len-6 Bruno-7 Total:27

Helen and Aljaz- Foxtrot (I Wanna Be Loved By You, Some Like It Hot)

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OF COURSE they paired Helen with a song made famous by Marilyn Monroe (what else were they going to do? Have her dance to Let It Go?) Some Like It Hot happens to be a favourite film of mine and many have tread the Marilyn shaped path before, so expectations were high. I thought she channelled Miss Monroe well- elegant and stylish- and the whole dance was very Old Hollywood. Divine.

Score: Craig-8 Darcey-8 Len-8 Bruno-8 Total:32

Daniel and Kristina- Cha Cha (Summer Nights, Grease)

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When I first saw this choice of song, I thought- hang on, Daniel O’Donnell playing the part of a teenager? Then I remembered that most of the actual cast were probably older than he is now when they filmed Grease, so I gave him a pass. His Charleston last week was a) weirdly hypnotic and b) strangely good, so I had high hopes for this. So Daniel looked like Morrissey if he didn’t work out and follow a vegan diet and the dance itself seemed a bit… stiff? I dunno. I enjoyed singing along. I will never unsee him doing that lip lick though.

Score: Craig-4 Darcey-6 Len-6 Bruno-5 Total:21

Kirsty and Brendan- American Smooth (He’s a Tramp, Lady and the Tramp)

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One of the more underrated Disney films, but a good song (I like the floozy dog who sings the song.) Kirsty seemed a bit better this week, but Brendan did keep a grip on her and looked to be guiding at one point- although at times she seemed out of sync a bit. She’s going to really struggle in Latin dances if she progresses further. It was also nice to see my hairdo from circa 1994 making a comeback.

Score: Craig-5 Darcey-6 Len-6 Bruno-6 Total:23

Peter and Janette- Paso Doble (He’s a Pirate, Pirates of the Caribbean)

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Let’s admit it- we all have high hope for these two, don’t we? So would a dance inspired by the high seas be a success? Well, I certainly didn’t expect to enjoy seeing Peter as Jack Sparrow quite so much. There were definitely some cool tricks in there and it looked the part, although I didn’t enjoy it as much as his other dances so far. It’s also the first week he’s not been at the top of the leader board.

Scores: Craig-7 Darcey-7 Len-7 Bruno-7 Total:28

Jamelia and Tristan- Salsa (Heaven Must Be Missing An Angel, Charlie’s Angels)

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I feel that this is scraping the barrel a bit, song/movie choice wise. Last week Jamelia was in the bottom two, despite looking like a beautiful Christmas tree, and that has to affect confidence. This was OK, definitely an improvement, but still felt a bit clumsy again at points… I love that she cried when she got a better score than the criticism hinted at though.

Scores: Craig-6 Darcey-7 Len-6 Bruno-6 Total: 25

Jeremy and Karen- Charleston (Top Hat, White Tie & Tails, Top Hat)

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Imagine, if you will, if Fred Astaire was your slightly inebriated but favourite male relative and was trying to show you a dance from his ‘youth’. Ladies and gentlemen, I give you Jeremy. His facial expressions were brilliant and his technique actually wasn’t as bad as I’d feared. He’s really improved and I look forward to seeing how he progresses. I love it when they come out and confound our expectations. Craig was a bit harsh, I thought.

Scores: Craig-3 Darcey-7 Len-7 Bruno-7 Total: 24

Anita and Gleb- American Smooth (Unchained Melody, Ghost)

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Ghost is one of those films I remember seeing at a sleepover when I was about twelve and not really getting. It’s also a film I’ve never felt the need to re-watch. To be honest, I was hoping that the team picked the Robson and Jerome version of Unchained Melody, which hinted at their future glorious careers as Channel 5 fishing experts and characters-in-quite-good-series-who-would-beat-you-up, respectively. This felt more like a rumba at points, than an American Smooth (I prefer my American Smooths to be a bit more Fred ‘n’ Ginger.) Also, was that actually Gleb? Where was the facial hair?

Scores: Craig-6 Darcey-8 Len-8 Bruno-7 Total: 29

Jay and Aliona- Jive (Misirlou/You Never Can Tell, Pulp Fiction)

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I recently saw Pulp Fiction properly for the first time and loved it. This could’ve gone one of two ways- really, really cool or really, really awful. Thankfully, it was the former. Jay perfectly channelled Travolta (no Morrissey, this time!) and it was just brilliant. A fantastic end to the show. Possibly one of my favourite dances on Strictly ever. Jay started as a terrified fella, but is swiftly becoming one to watch. I love him, becaue he seems genuinely unassuming. LOVE. LOVE. LOVE.

Scores: Craig-9 Darcey-9 Len-9 Bruno-10 Total: 37

So we find Jay at the top of the leaderboard by a country mile (well, five points) and Carol at the bottom. I’m not sure she’ll be in the bottom two tomorrow as she’s quite popular… it’s always the ones in the middle that are at risk. So it wouldn’t be a surprise to see Anthony, Kirsty, Katie (although will that happen?) or any of the others. Bit of a cop out, but I can’t honestly call it.

My complicated, love/hate relationship with running

Running. I mainly do it because I feel I have to do SOMETHING, even though my natural state would be slobbing out on the sofa, surrounded by crisp packets and Diet Coke cans whilst watching RuPaul’s Drag Race on Netflix (and I’m planning a Drag Race post soon. Bet you can’t wait, huh?)

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Anyway, I’m getting better and there are things I like about going for a run (which I never thought I’d say):

  • I definitely like feeling the relief-and occasional smugness- I feel after I’ve done a run. I’m not going to lie.
  • I like my running kit. I have bright pink Brooks trainers, my favourite leggings come from Tesco and I invariably wear a Tee Fury shirt (mostly Powerpuff Girls or Mario vs Sonic, but Doctor Who does make an appearance occasionally.)
  • I like meeting friendly dogs and nodding/smiling at other runners.
  • I’m still massively enamoured with Zombies, Run! I’m now a premium member.

How I feel after a good run.

How I feel after a good run.

I have quite a few things I hate though:

  • I never look good running. I don’t particularly care, but I do cringe when people say to me ‘Oh, I saw you running!’ Ugh.

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  • I hate how expensive decent kit can be- especially sports bras.
  • Why do people- mainly men, but not exclusively- feel like they can make comments about me when I run past? I KNOW I’m not built like that supermodel who was recently pictured pushing her pram. I’ve been told in the past that I’m ‘not built for running.’ I KNOW. And yet, weirdly, I still do it. But thanks for your unsolicited advice. I’ll be sure to look for your fitness DVD, Liam Gallagher Lookalike Monkey Man.
  • I also dislike running when it’s too hot. Or too cold.

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Despite all this, I’ll keep at it. I’m starting to see improvements again after neglecting my running for a couple of weeks.