I WAS touched by the honesty and humility of Sophie Ellis-Bextor over how her appearance on Strictly gave the foundations of her marriage “a good old shake”.
We joke about the “Strictly curse” and view its narrative with as much excitement as schadenfreude.
Every year, we wonder who is going to develop feelings for who.
But it’s people’s lives we are talking about and break-ups are no fun for anyone. Especially when marriage and children are involved.
As it happened, Sophie and her bass-player husband Richard Jones survived the curse, which is great news for them and their five sons.
But I know exactly what she is talking about and I know exactly what happens.
The 34 years I’ve spent in showbiz have inevitably meant being away on projects from time to time — away from my family or my partner or husband of the moment. It’s a volatile period.
It’s enjoyable and thrilling but can also bring about a vulnerability in relationships hitherto undetected.
Sophie’s husband is a well-established musician, so no stranger to time away or being on the road on tour.
Now, his wife was in the arms of former lothario Brendan Cole. It’s not like Brendan and Sophie were resurfacing the motorway together or stacking shelves in Lidl — they were embracing, holding each other tight and smooching on the dancefloor — all in the interest of entertainment.
In 1992, I had just left the weatherboard behind at TV-am after a three-and-a-half-year stint of insanely early mornings and effectively living the life of a nun.
Getting up at 3am is not very rock ’n’ roll. It forced early nights to bed and an ever-exhausted demeanour on my part.
I was married and my husband worked hard, too. We were often like ships passing in the night. We rarely went out, both of us dedicated and, in many respects, married to our jobs.
Then along came Gladiators, a spectacle the likes of which no one had ever seen before.
I was transported to a sexy world of loud music, an arena filled with spectators and a crew of hundreds, including outrageously muscly men and women scarcely clad in Lycra.
My eyes were on stalks. It was like being at a festival for three weeks.
You and the crew are forced together under very unusual circumstances in a bubble a million miles from any sane person’s normality. You’re staying in hotels.
There is tension and adrenaline, and with that comes a reliance on others in a way that is different from working together in an office day to day.
‘ENTICING AND FORBIDDEN’
It’s like a long school trip. You’re on a jolly. You’ve left responsibility at home alongside dreary domesticity.
You’ve swapped it for room service, working with people outside your friendship circle, late-night conversations in hotel bars, performance and pent-up tension.
I faltered. The second year of the show’s recording, a member of the camera crew caught my eye on the dance floor at a party towards the end of the filming. We ended up dancing together, albeit not Strictly-styley.
Not intimate but enough for me to get a taste of something enticing and forbidden.
Nothing happened but I developed feelings for this man and came home a much-changed wife. I didn’t want to be at home.
I wanted to be where the lights shone bright and the music was loud and where I was more than just a wife.
My marriage broke down and I was subsequently unfaithful.
Eventually we did manage to reheat the marriage souffle but I completely understand how going away on work trips and office parties creates an insecurity and excitement for both partners.
Sophie’s marriage was rock solid but her absence in 2013 clearly unsettled her husband and consequently doubt and uncertainty overtook him.
And his loyal wife was so uncomfortable dancing with someone who wasn’t her husband, she even considered pulling out before the show started.
They made it through but there is a lesson there: That no matter how strong your marriage is, there is always the chance a rumba can rumble you.
THE desperation and anguish on the face of the daughter trying to fight her way through Insulate Britain protesters was palpable.
They were blocking the Blackwall Tunnel in East London as she was rushing to see her 81-year-old mother in hospital.
If there was a face that reflected how the vast majority of us feel towards these selfish eco-warriors, then that was it.
Far from eco-warriors, these are ego-warriors. They couldn’t care less about anyone else’s agony.
To hear founder Roger Hallam say that he would stand in the way of an ambulance carrying a dying person tells you all you need to know.
There is absolutely no value to their protests whatsoever.
Not only are they achieving absolutely nothing but they are alienating the general public, whose frustration has now reached fever pitch.
Their message has been lost in their outrageous self-righteousness.
No one remembers their cause but can only recall with great fury their disruption.
Because they’ve forgotten the first rule about movements. That is, arousing empathy in those of us who might be apathetic.
I have tried all my life not to hate. Hate is a wasteful, destructive emotion that takes over. But I’m skirting the periphery of hatred towards this group.
And much of my fury is not just directed towards the disorder they have so successfully achieved, but the sheer number of police officers employed to watch over the demonstrations when we all know they could be out making arrests.
They could be investigating serious crime, interviewing domestic abuse offenders or rapists. That is what gets my goat.
Insulate Britain’s disastrous protests have been allowed to go on and on and it finally feels as if the entire nation is joining me on the perimeter of contempt and animosity.
And all the while, their pathetic mission has achieved sweet bugger all.
So over being a mum
COULD it be true that fiery 54-year-old Gordon Ramsay and his corker of a wife really want to have a sixth child?
With them having welcomed their fifth addition only two years ago, I find the prospect baffling.
Granted, I am a mum of four but my issue is not the sheer number of offspring but more Gordon and Tana’s ages.
I know men can seemingly carry on reproducing to infinity and Tana is 47, so it’s not outside the realms of possibility. But why?
I’ve written before about how I have been ruled by my strong, overbearing maternal instincts. I can’t lie.
When I met a man, my instinct was to reproduce. It was as if my ovaries let out a loud foghorn of maternal compulsion, signalling that I was a procreator in waiting.
Fast-forward some years and something within me has shifted. I don’t covet holding a newborn. I don’t coo at toddlers.
Perhaps because I’ve kissed more babies than the Pope.
I see a pregnant woman and I want to puke. Not at the woman but the prospect of all that comes with pregnancy and newborns.
I look at freshly baked babies and I think, “There but for the grace of God, go I”.
I feel a sort of inner gratitude and pleasure that I no longer want or can do that stuff.
I have subconsciously made some dramatic detachment from all that I ever wanted to be.
The contemplation of motherhood – something I yearned for nearly all my life – has utterly disappeared.
I feel I have lost a huge part of my identity. And it feels so strange.
I don’t feel lost, but I do feel as if I’ve become someone else. To have ached and craved for something all your life and then for that longing to have left you is perplexing. Or is it just natural?
I think I am going to make an excellent grandma. I look forward to that, I think.
But the way I feel now, I would rather drink rum and kiss a dog than cradle a baby.
Getting older doesn’t rock
THE bright and delicious presenter Anita Rani said in a recent interview that “getting older rocks”. I love the ignorance of youth.
Granted, Anita, is 43 but she looks about 27. And I hear this so often from women who’ve just turned the corner on 40.
I think I, too, may have asserted such confident, empty and optimistic statements when I celebrated my 40th year on this planet.
Forty is no age. I say this as an ageing 54-year-old. We all rave about how 40 is the new 30 and so on, but the simple truth is that things get considerably harder as time marches on.
Suddenly, you find yourself standing in front of the mirror staring at a face that used to take 20 minutes to get ready, but now requires a small army, logistical training and more tricks and magic than Paul Daniels had up his sleeve.
And it’s not just the aesthetic changes that require attention and camouflage in some desperate desire to keep looking as you always had.
It’s also the realisation that your body doesn’t quite function in the way it used to.
So it’s easy to say you’re embracing the ageing process. I try, I try, I try but I can’t always get my arms around it.
I have no desire to remain 20, 30 or even 40, but it can be a struggle to consider that my next big birthday will be 60.
By all means accept, welcome and own your forties but just remain alert to the fact that you’re still a baby – you’re barely toddling.
Wait till you have to learn to walk into your fifties and you discover that hangovers take three days to recover from, make-up is two hours in the application and you’re on the waiting list for a hip replacement.
On the plus side, it’s lovely at my age to not give a monkey’s about not going out on a Saturday night, or whether you are popular.
In fact, the only thing you really care about is that your electric blanket is switched on as you slide into bed with your fur baby and cocoa at 8pm.