AIDA AUSTIN: “Never mind her topline, look at her shaping”

HOME, 6.30pm, and I’m in the downstairs study where the Strictly Come Dancing theme tune is rapping out its staccato beat.

It is time to drown my intellect (such as it is), and as I sing along joyously (“da de-da da da da da”), I’m hoping I might be able to drown it in the way I most prefer: with my daughter beside me on the sofa, and the door closed firmly against male opinion.

And right now, as Strictly gets underway, it seems I might be lucky, what with my husband making shepherd’s pie in the kitchen and my son listening to a sports podcast in the conservatory.

My sprits lift, as time passes thus:
Daughter: Tess Daly shouldn’t wear yellow.

Me: Yellow body-con’s a hard look to pull off.

Daughter: There’s something weird about her right eye. It looks smaller than the other one.

Me: Botox probably.

Daughter: Or maybe she was just born with it.
Me: I’ve never noticed it before.

Daughter: Pass me the Oreos.

Me: No. Two’s plenty. You’ve got shepherd’s pie in a minute. Daughter: I hate shepherd’s pie.

Me: Well it’s not a hotel and there isn’t a menu. Oh my god look at Natalie’s footwork.

Daughter: Incredible.

Me: The musicality... and her timing! The armography! That deserves four nines, definitely.

Daughter: What on earth does Len mean — ‘it needed a tad more bounce?’
Me: Rubbish! It had loads of bounce. And the content... the technicality.

Daughter: Oh my god, Abbie’s topline!

Me: Never mind her topline, look at her shaping... the way she extends her back leg like that. Amazing foxtrot. Daughter: She’s a footballer’s wife isn’t she?

Me: Yeah, Crouchy’s.

Daughter: Who’s Crouchy?

Me: A Stoke player. Dad said.

My husband enters.
“Shepherd’s pie is ready,” he says. My husband stands for a while. He gives Strictly the total stinkeye as a portly celebrity chef called Dave shakes maracas at his dance partner, who is wearing a wonderful bowl of fruit on her head.

“I can’t understand the fascination,” he says. “I mean who are these celebrities anyway? And all the talk this programme generates... crazy...”

“They are learning how to dance,” I say. “We’ll have our shepherd’s pie later,” I say. “Just stick it in the oven on low.”

“I’ll leave you to your maracas,” he says, with lofty eyebrows. He turns on his heel, and exits.

Entering the kitchen after Strictly has finished, I find my husband and son huddled over a laptop with empty plates and a bottle of worcester sauce.

I plate up shepherd’s pie while they watch Jon Snow’s interview with Alex Ferguson.

Husband: Gareth Bale doesn’t seem to doing too well at Real Madrid.
Son: He’s had a few injuries.

Husband: At the price tag of over a hundred million, I think the pressure’s getting to him.

Son: Did you hear sponsors made Bale and Modric Benzima practice different soccer skills with different balls? Squash balls, beach balls... Husband: Yeah. Saw it online. Class. Bale was amazing with the rugby ball.

Son: Did you hear what Ferguson said about Roy Keane in his book? That the hardest part of his body is his tongue?

Husband: Bit harsh.

Son: And that Beckham thought he was too big for the club and made it his mission to become a celebrity.

Husband: Beckham was a great trainer... and wherever he went after United, he was successful... even though Ferguson always said “you only go downwards when you leave United”. Son: Yeah... like Pique! Left Untited and now he’s got two Champions Lague medals playing for Barcelona and going out with Shakira!

Husband: Poor old Pique... what a come down!

Son: Rooney came in for it too in his book.

Husband: Rooney’s hair plugs are so weird don’t you think? I mean he still looks like Shrek. But he’s playing really well since Ferguson left.

I reach between them for the sauce bottle. They both look up at me.

“Oh don’t mind me,” I say, with lofty eyebrows. “I’ll just take the worcester sauce... and then....” I say, turning on my heel, “I’ll leave you to your hair-plugs.”


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