Wednesday, 27 October 2010

Love Never Dies: worth missing Strictly, Anton and Flying Widdy for?

A few years back I read a great op ed in The Independent by Janet Street Porter. It was about how she really wasn't cool. To prove this she admitted she liked the two things it is just unacceptable to admit to liking in Britain: Wagon Wheels and Andrew Lloyd Webber musicals. Janet, I sympathise. Wagon Wheels are lush, especially the extra jam ones. And Andrew Lloyd Webber has written some of the most startlingly good musicals ever.

Now this is not to say that I think everything ALW does is brilliant. Because it isn't. Woman in White, for example, was cleverly staged with a good cast but musically awful. Bombay Dreams was just terrible. And I don't get Cats. It gave us Elaine Paige, for which I'll never forgive it.

On the other hand ALW has produced some works of genius. From big boys Joseph, Evita, Phantom and Jesus Christ Superstar to the criminally underrated Aspects of Love, Whistle Down the Wind, Tell Me on a Sunday and By Jeeves the man knows his stuff.

I have to confess, though, when I heard he'd decided to write a sequel to Phantom of the Opera my heart sank a little. I, like pretty much everyone else in the universe, was convinced it would join the Woman in White axis of awful. But then it started previews and the reviews - shock horror - weren't all bad. There was particular excitement about the show's star - the fabulously named Ramin Karimloo. I was intrigued, and when an opportunity to see the show for myself arose I jumped at the chance.

Actually that's a lie. You see, going to the show meant missing Strictly. Specifically it meant missing Ann and Anton's tango. Even more specifically it meant missing Ann flying. I was stroppy about this. So the attitude I went into the theatre with was 'this better be bloody good'.

And you know what? It damn well was. 

You must go and see this show if you have the chance. You just must. It is amazing, romantic, dramatic, beautiful; ALW at his very very best. I'm not going to give any spoilers - because as I said you must go and see it - but the show takes up 10 years after the original Phantom ended. The eponymous anti-hero is now running a freakshow come vaudeville theatre in Coney Island, NYC, with Madame Giry and her daughter Meg. He's still in love with Christine Daae and successfully contrives to get her to come to Coney to sing for him one last time. She brings husband Raoul (who suffice it to say is not the virtuous young gentleman he was) and son Gustave with her. And, well, I suppose a spoiler free way to describe the rest of the show is all hell breaks loose in an entertaining, musically superb, atmospheric and, ultimately, tragic way.

I really don't want to give anything away about the plot or the music - which is the best that ALW's written for a very long time - in this show, but I will say a few things. There are some standout songs in this score, notably Til I Hear You Sing, The Beauty Underneath (the best song ALW has ever written? Certainly the most ambitious), Devil Take the Hindmost and the title track. The plot hangs together with an amount of credibility very uncommon for a musical, and the ending is in turn genuinely shocking and completely, utterly heartbreaking. I've never been in a theatre audience that simultaneously bursts into tears in the way the LND audience did. The staging, too, is magnificent. There's a lot of clever borrowing of the bits that worked from Woman in White here; indeed in the first scene I couldn't tell which bits of the set were real and which were computer generated.

And then there's Ramin Karimloo who, it turns out, is not just fabulously named but fabulous all round. He has the sort of stage presence that demands attention from the moment he appears. The Phantom is a big part that it would be easy to get swallowed by, but he doesn't. His Phantom is completely his own creation and all the better for it. He has a range and depth that most 'straight' actors, let alone musical ones, would give their right arm for. And his voice. THAT voice. His voice is perfect. Literally perfect. The only voice that has ever made my whole body tingle and every hair stand on hair. Quite simply, he is a superstar. The best actor I have ever seen in the West End. If you think I'm exaggerating, go and see the show. I defy you to reach any other conclusion.

So, is Love Never Dies worth missing Strictly, Anton and Flying Widdy for? Yes it is. Every time.

Thursday, 21 October 2010

Lanvin Hearts H&M

I do love a good designer-highstreet diffusion line. And in recent years there have been some brilliant ones. Gold by Giles Deacon for New Look, Pierre Hardy for Gap and - more surprisingly, to me anyway - Kate Moss for Topshop have all been completely brilliant.

But when it comes to the diffusion, H&M is King. Their list of collaborations reads like a who's who of the recent fashion A-List. Karl Lagerfeld, Stella McCartney, Viktor and Rolf, Roberto Cavalli, Comme des Garcons, Matthew Williamson, Jimmy Choo (my personal favourite) and Sonia Rykiel have all designed a line for them, as well as ranges by Madonna (surprisingly good) and Kylie Minogue (less so). So it comes as no surprise that the most exciting diffusion line EVER is coming from them.

Lanvin. Beautiful Lanvin. Beautiful, genius Lanvin. If I could only wear one brand for the rest of my life it would be Lanvin. Everything they make from their gorgeous shoes to their perfectly cut, obscenely flattering dresses is pretty much perfection. When I heard they were doing a diffusion line for H&M I nearly died of excitement.

And then this week the photos started to leak. Oh the photos. Stunning LBDs with immaculate detailing, gorgeous bags, beautiful jewellery, and bang on trend sunglasses. Loads of fashion blogs have got the photos, but the best coverage - complete with very affordable price list - is at Vogue. Obvs. I want it all, and I want it now.

Sadly, I'll have to wait. The full range is launched on November the 2nd with an exclusive video on the H&M website. It then makes its way into 200 H&M stores on November 23rd. Which, conveniently, is one of my lieu days off from work.

So if you need me on November 23rd, you know where I'll be...

Monday, 18 October 2010

Strictly Week 3: raising the bar

Week 3: Strictly at its best. I genuinely thought that this week's show was the highest quality for this stage in the series we've seen in many years. There were some stunningly good dances here. Even I have been compelled to pull out my 9. Yes, really.

Kara and Artem: quickstep
As I've said before, I adore the quickstep. It's proper dancing at its very best. So I expect this is the point you're expecting me to complain that this wasn't a traditional quickstep. Well it wasn't but I'm not going to complain - I loved this dance. Kara is so good, by far the most natural of the girls. This dance, non traditional as it was, really showed her off. The cartwheel was a fabulous flourish which other celebs may have baulked at but she pulled off to perfection. An 8 from me this week.

Felicity and Vincent: rumba
Who knew Felicity Kendall was so damn flexible?! I loved this routine. Vincent does rumba choreography so well (Rachel Stevens anyone?!) and this was no exception. This dance was classy but sexy with beautiful lines and great fluidity. I have to admit I felt slightly wrong watching it - Felicity is a national treasure for gods sake! - but it was beautiful. Their best dance yet. 8

Patsy and Robin: quickstep
Now I love Patsy. I want her to do well in this competition so badly. But this dance was not good. The beginning was painfully out of time and it never really got back on track. The footwork was poor and the gorgeous floaty quickstep that should have been was rendered jumpy and unattractive. I also have no idea why that music - KT Tunstall's Black Horse and the a Cherry Tree - was chosen. It just didn't work. Must do better - but I think they can. 5 this week.

Paul and Ola: rumba
All I have written on my notes for this is the word 'heinous'. Guess I didn't like it then! The problem here is that Paul was never going to be able to do a passable rumba so they tried to copy Ann and Anton and make the routine funny. Except it wasn't. It was cringeworthy. 3.

Matt and Aliona: quickstep
Matt yet again proves his awesomeness. I was raving about this gorgeous, classic, floaty quickstep until it went badly wrong in the middle. I can see why the judges thought it was a bit maic, but I really enjoyed it. 8 from me this week.

Gavin and Katya: rumba
Poor Gavin just can't get his slinky hips in gear. He looked very nervous, uncomfortable and stiff throughout this routine. Katya had tried to help him out by giving him very basic rumba walks for most of it, which I understand but did just leave him looking like he was only walking. Not good. Hope he gets the tango this week, because I fear for his safety if he has to try and pull off a charleston. A 6 this week.

Scott and Natalie: quickstep
I've complained about Natalie's choreography every week so far. Not so this time. This was the dance of the night for me. The choreography was classic, classy and executed almost flawlessly. A genius song choice (I do love a but of Disney!) too. Brace yourselves: a 9 from me.

Michelle and Brendan: rumba
First of all, I have so much respect for Brendan dancing at all on Saturday night given he'd just found out his dad had died. I can't imagine how awful he must have felt - there's no way I could have done it.
That said, I now feel bad for saying I didn't like this at all. It looked uncomfortable (understandably perhaps) and Michelle seemed stiff and gangly. Her opening moves were just ugly. Michelle is dancing with Ian Waite next week whilst Brendan is at his dad's funeral. I hope she's still in by the time he gets back. For this week 6.

Peter and Erin: quickstep
And the award for most improved performance of the series goes to... This was a fab routine - Erin is not the Queen of the Quickstep for nothing! - and Peter really pulled it off. He was confident, his footwork was good, and the timing was generally good too. Nice work! A 6 this week.

Jimi and Flavia: rumba
Never have I agreed so completely with the judges. This dance was odd. There were flashes of brilliance sitting next to some horrifically stiff moments. I think Jimi was just trying too hard - it's clearly not a lack of talent. He tweeted a lot about having a tough week in rehearsals so maybe it was just the dance that he didn't gel with. Not a bad effort all in all though, and I do love Jimi. A 7 from me.

Ann and Anton: quickstep
Now fair play, this was a proper attempt at actual dancing from Ann. And I thought she did completely competently. It was by no means perfect, but it was by far the best actual dancing she's done and she had clearly worked hard at it. Well done Ann! And then there was Anton. Never have I been so excited at the sight of a top hat and cane. Oh my. Watching him dancing the quickstep causes me waves of near orgasmic joy. And that music..! Oh. My. Word. Overall, once again, Team Annton made me a very happy Billi.

Pamela and James: rumba
My other favourite couple are yet to disappoint me. I didn't like this as much as their other dances but it was still completely amazing. I'm with Len on the stupid lift at the end, but otherwise brilliant. An 8 from me.

And so to Sunday...

The results show this week was markedly less shit than last week, Peter Andre excepted. I adored the pro charleston and had appreciation for the pro 'tango' even if it wasn't a dance I actually enjoyed watching. I'm a traditionalist at heart, as you may have noticed.

When it came to the result, I was glad to see Paul go and unsurprised to see Michelle and Brendan keeping them company in the bottom two. The result was right this week, although I'm sad to see the wonderful Ola go.

Next week (which I won't be watching live as I have a prior engagement with my family and the new Andrew Lloyd Weber musical) sees the dancers taking on a charleston or tango. Oh. Yes.

Bring it on!

Tuesday, 12 October 2010

In praise of Pamela Stephenson

Now let's get something straight here. I am not defecting from Team AnnTon. However, I am going to cheat on them a bit. Well on Ann anyway. I could never cheat on Anton. Obviously.

I. Love. Pamela Stephenson. I just love her. When I grow up, I want to be her. To the extent I have one, she is absolutely my role model.

I would like to point out that this is not necessarily a new revelation for me. I can't remember the first time I saw the infamous Janet Street Porter interview take off, but I've always found it completely brilliant:

How can you not love that?! Especially as she met her equally legendary husband Billy Connolly on the show. I just adore this sketch.

I also adored the biography of Billy she wrote some year later. It's definitely in my top 10 biographies/autobiographies I've ever read. And I read A LOT of those!

So even before she waltzed onto Strictly I loved her. But on Strictly... WOW! I'm not going to bore you by rehashing all my opinions on how good her dances are, I've done that elsewhere. The thing that has really make me develop a serious girl crush on Pamela is her attitude.

She is working damn hard, but she's also having a laugh. She wants to do well, but doesn't ultimately care what anyone thinks of her. And she can save a potential epic fall and turn it into a smiling shimmy. How is that for a life skill?!

I finally decided I was properly in girl love with her after watching It Takes Two last night. I do love a good, giggly meltdown. I don't think I can describe it. So, for your enjoyment, here it is:

Pamela. I heart you.

Sunday, 10 October 2010

Strictly Week 2: THAT salsa!

Things I never thought I'd say: I love Ann Widdecombe. And, let's be honest, the build up to Week 2 was all about Widdy. How on earth would she cope with the sex of a salsa? Would we see some Widdy hip action? And just how much of Anton's chest would we be treated to? Of the latter not enough, but I'm getting ahead of myself.

Week 2 saw the couples taking on a salsa or a foxtrot, with varying degrees of success. Generally I thought the standard this week was much improved (apart from Bruce who had a bit of a nightmare) and it's nice to see so many of the celebs improving already. The foxtrot is one of my favourite dances, the salsa is my least favourite. As Anton said, it's just nonsense. Still, I thought the live show was great and saw some really outstanding performances for this stage in the competition...

Matt and Aliona - foxtrot
Let's be honest: Matt is just a great dancer. His foxtrot was no exception. Apart from a tacky ending (and, at the risk of sounding like Widdy, the fact it was a bit too sexy for me) this routine was fabulous and a joy to watch. An 8 from me.

Peter and Erin - salsa
Oh dear. I found this excruciating to watch. I love Erin to bits but Peter just couldn't cope with the choreography she'd given him. He was left on his own too much and his hip action was just nauseating. On the plus side he was clearly much more confident this week which stands him in good stead for a return to ballroom next week. They get a 3.

Tina and Jared - foxtrot
Another celeb who came out with much more confidence. I really liked this routine. It was elegant and classy with far fewer mistakes. She still needs to relax a bit but has bags of
potential. A 6 from me, and I can't wait to see how they get on in future weeks. They're so cute!

Patsy and Robin - salsa
Patsy was almost unrecognisable from the nervous wreck that danced last week! A confident and sexy salsa but still had some dodgy footwork. That said, if she can keep her confidence up she will be wicked. One to watch in future weeks, a 6 for this week.

Paul and Ola - foxtrot
Not as awful as I was expecting, but still not good. An improvement from last week though and quite cute in parts. Generally looked like dad dancing and there was a bit near the end when Paul was left to dance on his own that he just looked completely confused! A 4 from me.

Scott and Natalie - salsa
This disappointed me. The problem I have with Scott and Natalie as a couple is that, so far, all the choreography has been about showing off what Nat can do at Scott's expense. Which is a real shame because when he was given something to do in this routine he was really very good. Hopefully this will change in future weeks. An underwhelmed 7.

Michelle and Brendan - foxtrot
I loved this choreography. Good use of the stairs and a prop leading to a beautiful classic foxtrot. Michelle was still a bit shaky though; if she could just loosen up a bit she'd be brilliant. Either way, I enjoyed this. An adequate 7 with massive potential for more.

Goldie and Kristina - foxtrot
A routine full of character and individuality. Sadly not completely full of good technique. Definitely needed to be more polished, but good fun. A 6 from me.

Pamela and James - salsa
Pamela is such an amazing dancer. I have to admit I thought her Latin would be a bit dodgy. I was massively wrong. Apart from a hideously naff beginning and a slip after one of the floor turns this routine was amazing. Really quick and complex choreography executed incredibly well. Brilliant routine, brilliant execution and a brilliant couple. An 8 - and by far the best (conventional) salsa of the night.

Felicity and Vincent - foxtrot
Felicity is another celeb with loads of potential. This routine was elegant and beautiful, but all a bit safe for me. Can't wait to see more of her and Vincent, they work fabulously well together. For this week a 7.

Ann and Anton - salsa
Well, I say salsa... There are no words to describe how much I loved this performance (and I'm choosing my words very carefully there). Clearly there was no way Ann was going to agree to do a conventional salsa, although I thought the steps she attempted were done no worse than Peter. The genius of this routine was to build it entirely on the force of her personality and Anton's natural showmanship. I loved the shirt rip (obviously!), I loved the lift (who cares if it was technically illegal) and I loved the way Ann completely camped it up. More than anything I loved how much this routine made me smile.
There is a tendency amongst the Strictly faithful to be incredibly serious and stoic about the routines. This is a dancing competition, they'll shout, not a popularity contest! Well, I'm sorry, I disagree. What Strictly is is a prime time light entertainment show. It is not an international dance championship. It is, as Ann has correctly observed, fun. Eventually Ann and Anton will be voted off and the better dancers will be allowed to have the limelight to themselves. And that's completely as it should be. Until then can we all stop taking
everything so seriously?! One of the reasons I love watching these two is that they are clearly having a blast. The routine this week was hilarious and incredibly entertaining. Long may they continue!

Kara and Artem - foxtrot
My second favourite dance of the night. This was completely gorgeous, elegant and classy. The footwork was very strong - loved the heel turn - and the choreography was beautiful. Not as good as the 9 that Alesha gave them, but definitely worthy of an 8.

Gavin and Katya - salsa
Oh dear. Gavin was so painfully uncomfortable with this routine, which bodes ill for future Latin endeavours. This was so stiff and so nervous that not even a flash of Gavin's lovely abs could save it. Not as bad as the 3 that Craig gave them, but really uncomfortable viewing. A 5 from me.

Jimi and Flavia - foxtrot
Last but definitely not least! Another gorgeous foxtrot, dubious pseudo-Latin beginning excepted. I like Jimi a lot and this routine was fab. Another one to watch, and a 7 from me.

So that was Saturday. Fastforward to Sunday and the results show.

Time for my weekly moan: BBC what have you done to the results show?! In case you missed this, the dance off is no more. The couple with the lowest combined score from the judges and public just go. Now, to get one thing straight, it's not that I mind the public having more say in and of itself. I may disagree with the decision that the public at large comes to, I certainly did this week, but that's not my main problem. My problem is that the dance off was the only thing that really made the results show worth watching. It gave it some drama and a bit of an emotional core. Without the dance off the whole show just felt completely flat and ultimately quite pointless. This week was particularly bad with the musical 'special performance' being a pre-recorded and frankly not very good Robbie Williams. Bad move BBC. Bad move.

This week we had to had to wave goodbye to Goldie and Kristina, which was a horrible result. Especially when the other couple in the bottom two were Peter and Erin. Completely unfair, but such is the way with democracy. I can't help feeling Peter is on borrowed time now - he needs to massively up his game for next week.

On the plus side all my favourites lived to dance another day. Next week's show is going to be a cracker too with the couples tackling a quickstep or a rumba.

And let's be honest, whichever Ann and Anton gets is going to be... Well... Unique!

Thursday, 7 October 2010

A guide to hotel snobbery (AKA my favourite hotels)

And yes Anton does feature, briefly!

I was having a conversation with a friend the other night when we got onto the topic of holidays. We both love to travel and do it as often as our stupidly busy Lib Dem lives allow. Indeed we've had some amazing trips away together, a blissful long weekend in Shetland springs to mind, but this is unnecessary detail that I'm including only because I know the person in question will read this ;)

Anyway, the discussion got me thinking. I'm incredibly lucky that when I was growing up both of my parents were in well paid jobs. We had some amazing holidays and stayed in some stunning hotels. We still do. That rubbed off on me in a big way. If I'm travelling somewhere, no matter for how long, I demand a certain level of comfort. I cannot abide camping or youth hostels. I'll stay in budget chains when the need arises but I'd prefer not to. I have turned into a proper middle class hotel snob. And you know what? It doesn't bother me in the slightest!

So here are some top tips for places I've stayed that are, quite frankly, amazing. Hotels which are worth planning your holidays around just to stay there. They're not geographically balanced in any way - if you like Orlando and/or New York you'll like this list - but they are all just brilliant. In no particular order...

Hilton Manchester Deansgate
If you've got a train through Manchester recently you'll know what this hotel looks like. It's a sleek and beautiful glass structure with a gravity defying shape. I stayed there for a weekend in March - whilst watching Anton and Erin's last tour - and it was fab. The rooms are gorgeous, the service is perfect, but the abiding memory I'll have of this place is the bar, Cloud 23. Home of the best, and strongest, cocktails I've ever tasted you have to go to this bar at some point in your life. Grab a seat by the window and enjoy the Manchester skyline whilst getting implausibly drunk on beautiful drinks. And if you can work seeing Anton into your evening then more's the better!

Le Meridien, Barcelona. Not pictured: epic walk in wardrobe!
Le Meridien Barcelona
Stunning and huge rooms in an amazing location - right on Las Ramblas, not that you'd know it thanks to some genius double glazing - this is one of the best hotels in the world in one of the best cities in the world. I am not exaggerating when I say that the walk in wardrobe in the room we had is bigger than my current (double) bedroom. Also worth a mention is the amazing breakfast which includes free champagne. Natch.

The Waldorf Astoria, New York
World famous and justly so. We stayed at the Waldorf the summer after 9/11 when a lot of the rooms were still covered in dust. Indeed the first room they put us in was covered in dust! When their mistake was pointed out, though, the level of service and apology we received was second to none and included a free limo - with full free bar - to the airport. Sadly I was too young to partake, but it still qualifies as the most rock and roll thing I've ever done! The rooms here are even bigger than Le Meridien. The one we had had a separate lounge (not a suite, just a standard room) and the biggest bathroom I've ever seen. I also had the best meal I've ever had at the Bull and Bear Steakhouse in the hotel. It was for my parents' 30th wedding anniversary (and was eyewateringly expensive!) but OHMIGOD it was the best food I've ever eaten.

The Drake Swissotel, New York
Another favourite in NYC. A great location - near Trump Tower, my favourite place to have breakfast in the city - and a completely exemplary level of service. This was the first time I'd ever experienced the wonder that is a turn down service (where the maid comes in and turns down the bedding and the dimmer switches ready for you to got to bed), completely with a posh mint. The Swissotel will always have a special place in my heart as it's where we stayed the first time we even went to NYC: a city I now love so completely.

Hard Rock Hotel, Universal Resort Orlando
The most comfortable and funky rooms ever. All monochrome and arty prints with some kick ass media details including, as you might expect, an amazing sound system. Such an amazing atmosphere and brilliant service. Also has the coolest pool ever complete with an underwater sound system. Achingly cool but not pretentious, we're planning a return visit in summer 2012.

Peabody Hotel, Orlando
The Peabody chain is famous for having a resident of flock of ducks who live in a palace on the roof who parade into and out of the hotel every day in the company of a duckmaster. Seriously. Mad? Yes. Awesome? Yes! I love this hotel not only because of the ducks though. It has the most comfortable (and tallest!) beds I've ever slept in. The whole hotel is just beautiful and has the best waffles I've ever tasted. They've just expanded, and I'd love to go back to check out the expansion.

Tuesday, 5 October 2010

Today's BIG news: Anton is on Twitter! Yes, really.

When I logged into my Gmail this morning, I had an email from Twitter informing me that Anton Du Beke was now following me. I sighed. I'd been here before, got all excited, and then felt like a bit of a muppet when the account turned out to be a fake. Not thinking anything further of it, I took a call from my boss and got on with my day.

10:30 and time for my first cup of peach tea of the day. Peach tea is another of my addictions. I love it. Mug in hand, I returned to my desk (well, sofa... working from home is odd) and logged into Tweetdeck. There was that annoying fake Anton account in my new followers list. I decided to check it out a bit before I blocked it. 

SO glad I did! As it turns out this account is real. It's linked from the front page of his official website - as is his new Facebook  page. Anton is really on Twitter!! And he's following me?! Cool! I cannot tell you how much better this made my day. I am unapologetically completely made up! Clearly this is a man who recognises a superfan when he reads their tweets!

As yet, I'm not sure whether it is indeed Anton updating the account or whether it's managed by whoever runs his website - if it is the latter it's done very well. I'm not sure I want to know either. I'm much happier in the belief that it is him.

After being reminded - as if that was necessary - by the man's fabulous turn on It Takes Two last night quite how charming, articulate and funny he is, I can't wait to see what Twitter will make of Anton and vice versa. 

Will he be able to condense his trademark banter - "The salsa's easy. It's just nonsense. Nonsense in a short frock." - into 140 characters? I do hope so. 

Sunday, 3 October 2010

Strictly Week 1: A case study in why I love this show so much!

Have I mentioned that I love Strictly Come Dancing more than almost anything else in the world? Thought I had. And after this week's opening double bill I am reminded why. This show is better than sliced bread. It's the cat's pyjamas. The mutt's nuts. I. Love. It.

But first, before my not at all biased and completely inciteful thoughts on the couples, I wish to have a moan. I actively enjoying moaning and it's good that even Strictly provides me with material: over marking. Judges (especially you Alesha): it's week one. Get a grip please. The amount of completely undeserved 7s and 8s dished out this week was ridiculous. Stop offering stupid platitudes because you don't want to look harsh and start offering proper constructive criticism to help the celebs improve. Like Craig does, if you could ever hear what he said over stupid audience booing. I have particular problems with Alesha in this regard - something which I'm sure I'll return to as the series goes on. Suffice it to say, I am one of the legions of people who would weep with joy at the return of Arlene...

Anyway, griping over. Let's talk dancing.

Felicity and Vincent (cha cha cha)
One of my favourite couples - they're so cute! Felicity looked amazing in yellow. Forget Michelle Williams, it's Felicity's legs I want! Their cha cha cha was pretty good too. It was fun and energetic and Felicity clearly has the potential to do well in a Cherie Lunghi sort of way. I can't wait to see her ballroom! A good start from them. I'd give them a 5.

Scott and Natalie (waltz)
This was not for me. From the second Scott strutted out in a dinner jacket not white tie and tails - he looked more like a sommelier than a dancer - I was unimpressed. It was also not a proper waltz in my book. Too dirty, not enough proper waltz steps and too much an exhibition of how hot Natalie is. Technically I didn't rate it either. So stiff it may as well have been starched! Scott clearly has potential though and I'm looking forward to seeing him in future weeks. They'd get 5 from me.

Goldie and Kristina (cha cha cha)
This was a bit of a classic Strictly moment for me. Almost zero technique and few actual cha cha cha steps, but so much fun. I love Goldie and he's proved time and again how versatile he is. He can only improve - as can Kristina's choreography. A 4, but with a smiley face attached!

Patsy and Robin (waltz)
I find watching Patsy slightly heartbreaking. You can actually see the sadness in her eyes. She's had a god awful year and it shows. I want her to do well so badly. And I thought her waltz was really nice. Perhaps slightly controversially, I preferred it to Scott's - the choreography was much more classic even if new boy Robin looked ridiculous in his vest and braces combo. Patsy was almost cripplingly nervous but she did ok. Her progress in the series will depend on getting control of her nerves. I really hope she can. A 6 from me.

Matt and Aliona (cha cha cha)
Latin dance of the opening two shows by a country mile, Matt completely owned this routine. And, despite the fact I'm not a fan of the cha cha cha, I really liked it (apart from the naff beginning). Matt is shockingly snake hipped and got his footwork down well. The choreography was fab too - nice work Aliona. Great stuff, I can't wait to see Matt's ballroom now. A definite highlight: 7 from me.

Pamela and James (waltz)
Oh. My. God. This was so beautiful. Proper waltz choreography done with flair and grace. And James was wearing tails. Sigh. I'm not sure how Pamela will deal with Latin dances but if all of her ballroom is this good I'm not sure I care. My favourite dance of the two nights: the only one that justifies an 8.

Paul and Ola (cha cha cha)
Poor Ola. From champion last year to... Well... This. There was nothing I liked about this technically but Paul tried hard, bless him. Maybe his ballroom will be better. It couldn't be much worse. At the risk of being booed, 3 from me.

Jimi and Flavia (cha cha cha)
So onto show 2. Jimi appeared to be wearing a shirt at least two sizes too big and untucked, which annoyed me! His cha cha cha was pretty good though. Some nice choreography and he pulled it off well. Jimi is my one to watch this series: he has real potential. Can't wait to see more of him (in many senses...). A 6 from me.

Peter and Erin (waltz)
I love Erin. Her choreography is always spot on for the ability of her partner and this was no exception. Sadly Peter just couldn't pull it off. He was stiff and nervous. The moment at the end when he more or less dropped Erin says as much about her professionalism as it does his lack of dancing ability! A 4, entirely earned by Erin!

Michelle and Brendan (cha cha cha)
So disappointing. Flat, safe and (sorry Brendan) rubbish choreography. I genuinely don't understand why the dance wasted so much time at the beginning just walking down the stairs. I think Michelle and Brendan are a great couple though - and amazing characters - so I'm sure they'll be back with something impressive soon. Until then, a disappointed 6.

Gavin and Katya (waltz)
It pains me to admit this as I've never been a Gavin Henson fan in the slightest, but I really liked this routine. The choreography was gorgeous, the hold completely firm and the footwork near perfect. Gavin's rise and fall was spot on too - very impressive for week one. I'm excited to see how Gavin gets on in the series. He'll be a real contender if he can just get the acting side of the competition right. A 7 from me.

Tina and Jared (cha cha cha)
Such a cute couple! Sadly another disappointing routine though. The choreography was ok, but not a cha cha cha. And Tina was so nervous. Still, clearly these two have potential and I hope Tina can get control of her nerves so they can fulfil it. Especially as newbie Jared is uber cute! For this week, a 5.

Kara and Artem (cha cha cha)
Yes I know I'm taking this out of sequence. You'll see why, if you haven't already guessed..! I have to admit I can't really remember this routine beyond Kara falling over and Artem's chest. Mmmmmmmmmm Artem's chest... Sorry. They are clearly going to be contenders though. Having just watched them back on YouTube, I give them a 6.

Ann and Anton (waltz)
The performance of the two nights by a long way! By the end I was crying with laughter. Ann, bless her, tried so hard and clearly had a blast. And you know what? I love her for it! Overall, the routine went ok. It was genius choreography from Saint Anton (as I believe he must now be) which worked to Ann's advantage and showed off Anton at his graceful best. There were two moments of comedy gold in it though: the way Ann jogged round Anton when he was doing his beautiful leg extended turn and her attempt at a kick which was really more of a goosestep. Overall though this was nowhere near as bad as it could have been! And I literally cannot wait to see their "comedy" salsa next week. I'm not going to score Team AnnTon (I can't bring myself to actually objectively asses them!) but I do think Craig's 2 was incredibly harsh. And Anton, my darling, I love you even more now than I ever have :)

Bring on Week 2!

Friday, 1 October 2010

The quest for the perfect jeans

It's only a mild understatement to say I live in my jeans. They are the absolute staple of my wardrobe and, since I work from home, I wear a pair for most of the day every day. Subsequently I go through a fair few pairs. Which means I have to shop for a fair few pairs. Which means I am permanently on the hunt for that fashion holy grail: the perfect jeans.

Every woman knows that this is one hell of a hunt. Sizing for women's clothes generally is a colossal pain - but for jeans it's even worse. I guess this has something to do with the nature of denim as a fabric, but for me the problem is always picking a style that fits my oddly proportioned body.

There is no denying that I am an odd shape. I'm 5'7" - not small by any measure - but I have tiny legs. My bottom half is two sizes bigger than my top half if I'm in trousers, one size bigger if I'm in a skirt. My waist is pretty small relative to the rest of me and really high. I have a fat arse and thighs; good boobs and a ridiculously short neck. And I can't walk in heels to save my life, but that's another post for another day!

Buying jeans that fit and look good is therefore a bit of an obsession of mine. I tend to go for wide leg and boyfriend styles - they work with my generally laid back vibe. Skinny jeans are an absolute no no for me, and I don't like boot cut. Dorothy Perkins denim is my brand of choice. Indeed the current leg of my quest in inspired by the fact my favourite DP faded boyfriends finally gave up on life during Lib Dem Conference in Liverpool. One of the belt loops has ripped off - leaving a fabulously inappropriate hole in the back! - and there's a rip across the inner thigh. All very kinky, but not hugely practical for everyday wear!

So I was very pleased to discover that Asos Curve (Asos for women with a proper figure - tough luck skinny people!) had some real beauties new in - vintage peg legs. I'd not really considered a peg leg - loose through the thigh and calf, tapering tight to the ankle - before. But as I had a discount code for Asos I thought I'd give them a go. And they were only £30.

They arrived this morning and I LOVE THEM. They look fab and fit perfectly. I mean completely perfectly. They're great quality and some of the detailing - like the little off centre starts on the buttons and metal work - is really high end. I'll definitely be buying another pair (or two). They are just so good! And Asos do free next day delivery too, what more could you want?!

So there you go. Asos Curve denim. Go buy!