We're fools whether we dance or not, so we may as well dance – Japanese proverb
Clic Sargent Ball
Those of you who know me appreciate that I've been going through a bit of a regeneration phase recently - I took up a new language (Irish), volunteered in a Festival play (Trilogy), and ...errr...had a phoenix tattooed on my backside. One of the other challenging things I put myself forward for was being part of a charity committee for a Strictly dance themed ball.
I thought that my dancing experience and bookkeeping skills might be useful, but actually, being on a charity ball committee involves just selling: selling tickets, tables, persuading people to donate prizes for the tombola and raffle. This was way out of my comfort zone, and I found myself regretting volunteering at all.
I did manage to persuade our accountants to buy a table, and get a donation of a bottle of vodka. So that wasn't too bad!
Despite being officially split up since the summer, Dai and I had still kept in contact, and he was keen to accompany me to the ball. In fact had been very useful in helping me shop for a dress and accessories (he has such good taste, that boy!) The shoes were very important, as I had to be able to dance in them, and I got him to waltz me round the shoe shop where I was trying on a pair of grey ribbon tied beauties (such a mover he is, too!) So, a week before the ball, we both admitted we still had feelings for each other, we put our rings back on 1 and I said he could come with me to the ball as long as he wore his kilt. Well, you might as well wear one if you have it!
We arrived to a champagne reception in Belfast's Stormont Hotel, just across the road from the famous parliament buildings, and not long after, the guest of honour, current Strictly champion Chris Hollins arrived, and there were obligatory committee photos. Then we made our way to our tables for the dinner.
Being a charity fund-raiser, no opportunity was lost to separate punter from cash, and so there was a tombola, a table raffle, a heads and tails game, and after the meal, an auction. I had to get back into committee duty here, and stand around the edge of the room spotting potential bidders that the auctioneer might have missed. The final item for auction was the first dance with Chris, and something came over me...here I was, dancing had been my passion all my life, and I had the chance to dance with a Strictly champ.....yeah I won the auction!
And all of a sudden I had to get to the dance floor! I remember I had a scrunched up tissue in my hand, and as I passed one of the tables I apologised and said "could I just leave my wee tissue there? Ta!". A microphone was thrust into my face and I said "My name's Linda and my mother is going to be sooo jealous!" Chris was delightfully enthusiastic and bubbly - "Shall we do a Viennese waltz?" he suggested. "I think we'd need something a bit more up tempo!" I reasoned. "I can do salsa, but we've already had a salsa demo this evening..." "And I haven't done salsa since week 4!" he replied. We looked to the band for inspiration. "A foxtrot or quickstep to Valerie?" the singer suggested. I looked at Chris and back to the band and said "Play Valerie, and we'll busk it!"
And so we hit the floor. Someone stuck on the Strictly theme tune and we did a twirl, and then the band started up. Chris is tiny, barely taller than me, but he and I managed to read each other's moves and played to the crowd: he took off his jacket at one stage and held it like a bull fighter's cape, so I put my arms above my head and pretended to charge. He did a bit of holding me and moving up and down my body, and as we did a walk round each other I risked a cheeky squeeze of his bum. And still the music played! Bear in mind that the dances on Strictly on Saturday night telly are 1 1/2 mins long, have been choreographed by professionals, and had about 20 hours rehearsal. We were dancing to a 4 minute song with no choreography, and no rehearsal, and we were rapidly running out of moves!
At last the music drew to a close, we managed to strike a suitably dramatic finishing pose (and thank God I'd shaved my armpits!) and we hugged, and thanked the band to the very warm applause from the audience.
Wow, I thought, what a night! What could possibly top that?
What indeed! Dai dragged me onto the dance floor among the merry revellers, held me close and said "You're amazing - I love you - marry me".
So it appears I am officially engaged! We're trying to find an engagement ring at the minute - something that goes with the titanium bands we still wear, and that isn't a boring solitaire.
It was great that official photographers were there - Dai managed to video the dance on his iPhone, and I'll post the YouTube link below, but the professional snappers were able to create me a super triptych of poses that I'd struck with Chris.
Knowing that my Mum is a huge fan of Mr Hollins, I asked him to sign a photo for her: he wrote "To Anne, your daughter is a better dancer than Ola!" which, while a blatant lie, shows just what a lovely and considerate man he is.
The ball raised over £23,000 for children with cancer, which is an incredible achievement in these straitened financial times, and I was bursting with pride at being a small part of such a result.
So what a night eh? I got to set the floor alight with a Strictly champion, and helped raise thousands for a good cause...but more importantly, I'm now engaged to a man who means everything to me. A man who's brave enough to confront his demons, who looks great in a kilt, who's happy to dance the night away, and who loves me just the way I are.
I really do know how Cinderella felt! Except I managed to hang on to my shoes...