Strictly Come Dancing – the Sunday deception

I posted  about this a while ago after Claudia Winkelman’s daughter had her horrendous accident on Halloween which led to convolutions on the show and in the press as they tried not to give the game away. Claudia was ‘still’ with her daughter on Sunday so couldn’t be in the so-called live show. As the seriousness of the incident propelled that news out of the entertainment columns and into the mainstream, journalists were apparently compelled (or felt themselves so) to start using phrases such as ‘Claudia had to miss both shows’ in order to get around the truth, which is – SPOILER – that the two are recorded on the same night.

Celebs and even judges slip up from time to time but they soldier on with the pretence even though hundreds (thousands?) of audience members know how it really works and, if you don’t want to wait for the results, there’s a site that will tell you by about 11 pm on the Saturday.

In the grand scheme of things, this is small beer. But I’m not a fan of such unnecessary deception – a con that involves many people and requires them to collude with a pretence that has no real value beyond attracting people to a show they may otherwise not watch. And recently, three things have given me a heightened sense of concern at the implications this has for participants.

The first was when Anastacia was injured and couldn’t take part in the dance-off. As a result, ‘Twitter erupted, branding the decision “unfair”‘, presumably unaware that, rather than 24 hours in which she might recover sufficiently to perform, she had less than an hour. That’s unfair, and that’s important.

The second was when Will Young left the show suddenly. He didn’t make public his reasons and so this is pure speculation. But let’s consider Will; a sociable and well known man, and one who strikes me as a refreshingly lovely innocent who just might not have grasped the full implications of the Sunday purdah he would need to maintain for the duration of his stay. If that’s the reason, he has my admiration.

The third incident has just happened. Gorka, one of the professional dancers, was assaulted on Saturday night after the Blackpool show – the actually live show –  two teeth being broken in the attack. Unfortunately, he was dancing in the opening of the ‘Sunday’ show which led to the convoluted assertion that `The dance had been filmed in advance on Saturday night for the BBC results show that airs on Sunday evening.’ Fair enough but if that’s the case, it does rather pick away at the content of that show to the point where it begins to look like a stump, a leftover.

But supposing we accept that – what were these dancers doing going off to a club ‘in the early hours of Sunday morning’ on school night? How likely is that to be acceptable, do we think? Not at all, I’d guess. It was permissible precisely because it was not a school night. Luckily for him, it appears to have been just (just?) his teeth and nothing more serious, and because he’s no longer in the competition, no one has had to find a way of explaining how he managed to look unblemished for his supposedly live appearance.

Surely it’s time to put a stop to this deception? One that makes liars of participants (and their friends and family) who have to stay out of the public eye every Sunday until they’re no longer in the show? That asks audiences to keep secret the fact they saw both shows on the same night, just shuffled their seats and wore a different top? That leads TV audiences to believe that the whole shebang – stage set, makeup, costumes, and in this case a public venue (Blackpool Tower ballroom) – is recreated the day after it’s all dismantled? That dancers have a good night’s sleep and recovery or rehearsal time between the two shows? And worse, that people drawn in by injury or ill-health, people who may not be anything to do with the show, become unwitting victims stuck with the burden of this ridiculous pretence?

Surely it’s time the show was reformatted before an event occurs that can’t be ignored, because if that happens, it will lose its veneer of early evening innocence and with it, much public sympathy.

Update 18.30: BBC News reports that Gorka’s dance during Rick Astley’s performance, another feature of the Sunday show, was also recorded on the Saturday, which leaves very little content that is supposedly live. In addition, there are questions as to why this assault wasn’t reported to the police. I will be interested in Strictly’s reply.

‘Meeting Lydia’ by Linda MacDonald now in audio

lydiaYou might recall I reviewed this book when it first came out in paperback, well now it’s out as an audiobook and the clip suggests a deservedly professional performance. Here it is:

And here’s the press release:


Linda MacDonald’s first novel Meeting Lydia is about the powerful
long term effects of school bullying and of internet relationships.
First released in 2011, it has now been abridged and turned into an
audiobook, narrated by talented voice actress Harriet Carmichael.

When Marianne comes home from work one day to find her husband talking to a glamorous woman in the kitchen, insecurities resurface from a time when she was bullied at school. Jealousy rears its head and her marriage begins to fall apart. Desperate for a solution, she finds herself trying to track down her first schoolgirl crush …

“Edward Harvey. Even thinking his name made her tingle with half-remembered childlike giddiness. Edward Harvey, the only one from Brocklebank to whom she might write if she found him.”

“Many women have said they can relate to the character of Marianne,’ says Linda. ‘She’s in her mid forties and fearful of ageing and no longer being attractive to her husband. When a younger woman appears on the scene, she over-reacts and creates more problems.’ Linda adds that it was the arrival of Friends Reunited in 2001 that gave her the idea for the novel. ‘This was the beginning of the social media explosion which along with MySpace and Facebook, gave people a chance to find long lost friends and classmates,’ she explains. ‘We sent off emails without thought of where this might lead and the potential consequences to existing relationships. In Meeting Lydia, I wanted to highlight the issues. It’s quite an introspective novel and I’ve always felt it would be perfect for audio. Now my dream is being realised and I’m very excited by the outcome.’

Born and brought up in Cockermouth, Cumbria, Linda MacDonald has a degree in psychology and a PGCE in biology and science. She retired from teaching in 2012 in order tolinda focus on writing, and has now published three novels with Matador. She lives in Beckenham, and travels to speak to various groups about the Lydia series and the psychology of internet relationships.
For author interviews, review copies, articles, photos or extracts please contact Linda MacDonald: Email:
Twitter: @LindaMac1 Facebook:
Audiobook produced by Essential Music Ltd, 20 Great Chapel Street, London, W1F 8FW. Tel: 0207 439 7113. Email:

The Recovery Letters

The Recovery Letters are all written with the intention to try and alleviate some of the pain of depression, to make the loneliness slightly more bearable and above all to give hope that you can recover. We see recovery as self defined but can include living alongside symptoms or being symptom free, being stable on medication or medication free but most of all living a life with some meaning. [They] are written from people recovering from depression, addressed to those currently suffering.

More about this on my other blog

‘Let Me Tell You a Story’ – the eBook version

book coverOut today in ePub format, Let Me Tell You a Story is now a download for eReaders with additional links to sound files.

Problems with the ePub format? Try Calibre’s free converter to make a MOBI file and email it to your Kindle account. 


“Slick as oil over water, Katia headed for the house of the man whose dreams she needed to reprogramme. She shifted through his bedroom wall like damp through old bricks to wait by his cot for the right moment. Then, as his eyes began to flick back and forth and his long limbs twitched, she bent close to his ear, reintroducing the precious seed stolen by the Reversionists to demolish the future.”

In ZeroFlash in response to prompt including, um, zeros!

‘God’s Scrubber’

“Valerie’s mother is nagging and she’s doing it, frustratingly, from under the screwed-up paper towels and muddy-looking wipes in the sluice so Valerie can’t dig her out. She’s doing her best with the unfinished business but it isn’t easy with the constant interruptions. This time though, despite the noises, she hopes she has succeeded because, a few yards away in the communal dining room, Pete is turning blue.”

Excerpt from ‘God’s Scrubber’, finalist in the Coalition of Texans with Disabilities’ Pen2Paper competition and free to read as a PDF from their site Winners to be announced on October 30th.

Rapture by Phillippa Yaa de Villiers

Rapture, by Phillippa Yaa de Villiers, is dedicated to the protection of South Africa’s rhinos and is reproduced here in support of World Rhino Day. 

Rapture by Phillippa Yaa de Villiers

We have to keep going as if there is a future, but it’s the end of the world,
the rapture, screaming bodies hurled to heaven. Wars everywhere and the middle
east burning: the smell of bodies lost to wonder, the callous mistake of statistics
sunburnt holes in the sky and the ritual murder of elephants and rhinos
almost industrialized, like our responses as automatic as breathing
as automatic as pressing a button as automatic as autopilot settings
as bodies kept alive by machines, and we are asked what we think
like/don’t like and there’s the debate and the edge of the world subsides

into flames of not caring. The world will end and we are nowhere near
the ones we love and the cold voice of the airport tells us to hurry to our boarding gate;
the ark is only half-built, the launch of the new strategy for the state is still waiting
for a coat of paint.
Here’s our life spread out in Eliot’s etherized surgery, facing Soyinka’s unwelcome guest
who won’t care about whether or not it’s convenient for you, will come calling when he likes
and when death comes for me I want to be busy making light. It won’t do to blame politicians for
power failures, I thank them as I write you, poem, into life.

Not dead yet, I’ve still got the whole night because I am not the one who was shot, banned or
almost beheaded, I am not the victim of some gruesome experiment with power, I simply

stand and stare at our world and write down what I see and even though it is misunderstood
at times, it stands.
The world ended just a moment ago
for another rhino lying in its lonely blood but that might not be on the news tomorrow.
Probably not. The news is hardly ever of sorrow but of egos mortally offended, naked
emperors and a child’s laugh as he paints the funfair of history. The electricity of connection
fails to resurrect our community, we’re in the dark here, so take this small hand,
this poem, this picture, spark stolen
from a power failure in Johannesburg:
may it light your way till you find your own.

Audio here

First published in the 2013 anthology For Rhino in a Shrinking World (Ed Harry Owen) and subsequently with audio in the anthology Let Me Tell You a Story, 2016.

Phoenix and Marilyn by Tracy Fells

‘Are you sure you want to go through with this?’ Hannah paused, giving Lou a moment to consider, her fingertips tightly pinching the edge of the paper strip.

With eyes tightly closed her best friend nodded. ‘Do it.’ As Hannah tore the waxed paper downwards Lou let out a shriek, the piercing cry of a doomed creature caught in a snare.

‘Told you it would hurt,’ said Hannah, suppressing a smile. ‘Do you want me to carry on?’

They both appraised the runway, a rectangle of white skin trailing from kneecap to shin, bounded by the remaining forest of chestnut hairs. ‘You’ve got to do the rest – I can’t go out looking like a half-skinned bear in a dress.’


Tracy Fells was short-listed for the Commonwealth Writers Short Story Prize in 2014 and Phoenix and Marilyn won 2012 ChocLit Publishing’s Summer Short Story Prize. Read the rest of this story and others by Tracy Fells in Let me Tell You a Story and hear Tracy’s own narration by scanning a QR code on the page. Available from Lulu andAmazon.

In Memory of Shoreham August 22nd 2015

bridge with flowersOn August 22nd 2015, a display jet failed to pull out of a loop and ploughed into traffic waiting at lights on a main road near the airport. Eleven people died.

Two pieces – a poem and a story – in the anthology Let Me Tell You a Story were written in response by authors who lived nearby. These are free to read and hear from August 1st in memory of those who died.



News report Contains video and still images.