No. No. Strictly NO, I’d said.
Which part of that had they not understood?
My protestations had been swept aside, only to be trampled on by a stampede of spangly stilettos. For there I was, railroaded into giving up my entire Saturday evening.
OK that’s not Strictly true (there goes that word again). But it’s fair to say I’d taken a hell of a lot of convincing to waltz into the role of compere at a glitzy dance contest at Sheffield City Hall.
Why did I relent? That magic word: charidee.
It was Weston Park Does Strictly; a glittering fund-raising event.
Seven left-footed lawyers from Irwin Mitchell would be on the ballroom floor, living up to their new brief after 10 weeks of rehearsals. Some 300 diners would be watching and waving tenners around. And at the moment, Weston needs those tenners; it’s trying to raise £1.3 million for a new research and treatment suite.
All I had to do, said the organisers, was glam up and be Tess Daly to former referee Uriah Rennie’s Bruce Forsyth. I’d be perfect, they said. Plus they didn’t have anyone else.
All? Didn’t they realise we journalists just sit behind computer screens and type all day long? We wield pens, not microphones, which means it’s really, really easy to make yourself sound interesting and charming and forthright. We’re timid as churchmice and as dull as ditchwater in real life, honest.
I was kind of terrified. Being Tess (more like Tess’s mother) meant non-stop talking and doing mega-watt smiles while swanning around on stage... For HOURS. Plus I don’t even like Strictly; I’m an X Factor girl.
Of course, I was thrown into the usual ‘I’ve nothing to wear’ quandary. Only this time, it was no exaggerated claim.
Two days before the event I’d dragged my evening dresses out of the wardrobe only to face up to something I’ve been trying to deny all year long; I’ve got fat. Too fat for most of my clothes. It’s all those food reviews – you can’t not have a pudding.
Course, my worries were nothing compared to the Irwin Mitchell Seven, each a-fretting about their footwork. But could YOU step onto a stage in front of 300 people looking like the Frocky Horror Show?
I begged accessories from my step-sister, a woman with an extensive eveningwear wardrobe. And right at the last minute, personal shoppers at John Lewis came to the rescue with a shimmery, sequinny, fringy sensation of a dress Daly would have died for.
“Nice to see you,” me and Uriah cried as we sashayed across that stage. And it was, actually. I gave it my all, as we showbiz people say. I definitely didn’t do as good a job as Tess, but at least I’d got the accent right.
Thousands were raised, head of family law Martin Loxley won with a Bollywood does kung fu routine, but only because his family and friends cast most of the votes (so, sue me Martin). And I ended up so hoarse the next day I could barely speak. Good game, good game all round, my husband thought.