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BeFunky_Chromatic_19As this was a long day, I will post this blog in two parts, so as not to bore the sequinned pants off you!

Along with all the Christmas good wishes I received online, there were also a fair amount of “come on, spill the beans… what happened at the Strictly final?” – The programme is undoubtedly much-loved and far-reaching and a lot of you want to know the ins and outs in minute detail so, here is part one:

“The behind the scenes expose of an audience member”

Grab yourself a cuppa and put your silver sandals  up for the next ten minutes as I Foxtrot you through it….

Struck down by the lergy three days before the final was not the best start. My nose a dripping tap, my voice box a Dalek impersonator. No chance of a quick nip to the shops for an outfit, but never mind, this is the day and age of internet shopping and from the comfort of my bed I order a lovely green frock and some suede shoes, paying extra for next day delivery. Sorted…..or so I think. What I did not account for was incompetent delivery drivers….I mean, what kind of delivery driver does not ring a doorbell? There followed heated conversations with said delivery company and a Tweet campaign against them. This resulted in lots of apologies but alas, no frock.  After a bit of a sulk, I took the “everything happens for a reason” high road.

As the wind howled at 5:45 am on the morning of the final, my snotty nose, my hacking cough and I crawled out of bed, showered, donned trousers, a nice top and boots, put my coat on and covered my head with a hat (black), which I then wrapped in a pashmina (pink). With hands in my pockets, the only flesh showing as I approached the station was around my eyes.

Train journey = uneventful.

BeFunky_Chromatic_1.jpgArriving at Borehamwood & Elstree station, I look about for a cab. Finding none, I call Heather and learn she is already in the queue. She has a quick chat with a fellow queuer and tells me it is just a ten minute walk. There is an Elstree “walk of fame” as you leave the station….A few stars lining the pavement. Funny how I can’t remember the names now and the only one I took a photo of was “Reg Varney” (famed for “On the Busess”) and that’s only because I know him to be an Eastender, like myself.

Walk = uneventful.

It’s 9:30 am and the queue is not that bad – From a quarter of the way down, I see a fully padded Heather squinting in my direction and make my way over.  It’s raining and neither of us have an umbrella. At this point, I have to tell you that I am not an umbrella person……above national average height, my eyes seem to be at the perfect level for other folks umbrella spokes which I find wildly annoying and bloody dangerous. Umbrellas are actually on my mini protest list, along with kindles and onesies.

We stand in the rain and catch up. We stand in the rain and earwig other people’s conversations. We stand in the rain.

Across the road from the studio is a large Tesco and inside that is a Costa Coffee. I do the sensible thing and “nip” over to get some take outs. This plan is not unique as half the strictly queue are already in the Costa one. I don’t actually mind as it is warm and dry in here.  As I wait my turn, the phone rings; Murat,calling from the village. At this point, I turn into a typical Turk and shout my half of the conversation into the phone, punctuated with aggressive sounding “ne’s,” as I become that person the rest of the queue sneak slightly nervous glances at.

Back in the studio queue, we have discovered the woman in front of us is a veteran. She managed the seemingly impossible and acquired tickets last year also. From here on in, we take her advice on everything and she becomes the Strictly font of knowledge. She even imparts a little spoiler and tells us that tonight’s special guest will be Robbie Williams. I am disappointed in that.  From our section, we hear how others have applied for up to five years on the trot for Strictly tickets and, how surprised they were this year when “yes” emails popped into their boxes. The Strictly font tells us that “they” will be out to validate our tickets around 12 noon. She also says there is a three hour parking limit at Tesco’s which incurs a £70 fine for anything over. Heather decides to move her car at this point….it’s now around 11:30 am.

It is at these times in life that you need a wandering bookie. Had there been one hanging around I would have laid odds on the guys who validate the tickets arriving when Heather was absent.  11:45 am and the crowd is stirring; tickets are being inspected and the guys doing that are working their way down the line…SH*T!!   I call her, but there is no answer so, I send a panicky text. With a few minutes to spare, Heather comes bounding round the corner.  Phew, crises averted…….but, that little episode will come back to haunt us later.

Our wrists are adorned with bands and then, we are set free for three hours and fifteen minutes. We spend them in Tesco’s. First, Costa for Panninis, second, a little mooch around the clothes sale section and third, we commandeer two sinks in the toilet. A toilet someone has just decided to permeate with particularly nasty odor…… very glam.

Out come the make up bags, hair clips, hair bands, hairspray, false eyelashes, and the eyelash glue as we begin our transformation.  “Studio lights” I say to Heather, mean extra make-up, just in-case you get caught on camera. Not only does the camera add ten pounds, but it also turns you pasty unless you are wearing a load of slap.

During our twenty-minute make-over, some thoughtful person tops up the odor…yeah thanks for that mate.

Drag QueenWhen we have finished, we give satisfied looks at the two drag queens staring back at us….wit woo! Now it’s time for a little wander around the aisles, looking like Hinge and Bracket. it’s the second time today I am on the receiving end of those nervous sideways glances.

Back in the queue for 3:15pm, we stand in the rain. I have given in and bought an umbrella (grrrrrrr) and this is now under attack from the wind. Ahead in the queue stands a tall elegant couple, he courteously holding a large umbrella above her head. She is dressed in a long black velvet frock and  I can see perfectly painted toenails peeping out from under the hem. Her hair is crafted into a delightful chignon and this is held in place with a diamond studded comb.  Gorgeous, I think. A few minutes later, the lady turns and profile on, I notice the square jaw and strategically placed choker….. regardless, she is beautiful.

rella rellaAt last, they are ushering us through the gates and into a portacabin where we are motioned through airport security (bags on conveyor belt and bodies through a beeping arch). Then we are relieved of our phones and given a ticket to pick them up later. After that, we teeter through puddles, past a bank of portaloos and into the “marquee” – Here is a long queue for the cloakroom and a bar. At last, it’s possible to see the glitzy dresses that peeked out under those gripped to the chest coats of the queue. Sequins here, lace there and plenty of silver and gold. Nice.

An announcement from staff informs us that we will be waiting for around half an hour and then we will be called in groups. Heather and I decide to head to the loo for a last-minute wee as apparently, once we are in, we are in and sat for hours. Of course, we don’t want to miss any of this so last-minute wee’s are necessary. Umbrellas at the ready, we fight against the wind, brave the portaloos and are making our way back when I hear someone say “Hello, how are you”

“Good thank you” says Heather in reply. I have no idea who she is talking to as I am holding my umbrella in-front of my face. Back in the marquee she tells me it was the hairy biker. Awwwww bless him, chirpy little chap.

More waiting about and then, finally, we are going through the back of the set, avoiding cables on our way.  Our seats are at first, pretty bloody awful. Back row, by the main stairs and at the very end. Hmmmmmmmm.  We watch as people who came later than us are ushered into seats behind the judges. Hmmmmmmmmmm. And then we try to fathom out why the first six rows are empty. I decide to ask and am told the first six rows are reserved for friends and family of production and crew. Hmmmmmmmm. As it turns out, from our seats, we can see absolutely everything. Not only an unobstructed view of the dancing, but also the touching up of Tess Daly’s make up and the zipping up of her frock before she makes her entrance (yes we are by those stairs).

Before any camera gets rolling, there is a warm up man who coaches us in shouting, cheering and clapping. Next comes Bruce, somehow still upright after his enormously long career. I have never known a world without Bruce in it and I’m delighted to see what a lovely man he is. He chats easily to the crowd, tells a few jokes, gets a woman up to dance with him and generally shuffles about, kicking a let up here and there. I am actually more happy to see Bruce than I am at the thought of seeing Robbie Williams later!

Now down to the nitty-gritty. You know that introduction? The one where you see first sight of the dancers filling the floor and hear the audience cheering and clapping? Well, that is pre-recorded. For the next few minutes, cameras roll and we watch the floor show through clouds of billowing dry ice as we clap and cheer as instructed. It seems our performance is poor however and the warm up man says we have to do it again. Before we do, Mister warm up says “1.5 million people applied for these tickets and you got them….make some bloody noise!” ……..

To be continued