Tuesday, 10 November 2015


Almost everyone I know follows Strictly. This year has been amazing – so strong a cohort in the best six that predicting who will be the final winner is beyond me. Tentatively, I wonder if it may be Georgia and Giovanni?

I love the cheerfulness and the colour, love the courtesy and affirmation, the sense of family it manages to generate in such a short time. I hugely admire the dedication, discipline and sheer hard work; hats off to both the celebrities new to dancing and the professional dancers. I love the shrewd and creative choreography, showcasing the growing confidence and ability of the novice dancers.

I love the friendliness and laughter, the experienced critique and advice, the many choices to be gentle and kind, that I perceive in Strictly: It Takes Two during the week.

It’s such a positive, happy series, a real tonic of brightness in the dark months of the year.

I think there’s only one thing I would change.

The heels.

At the beginning of each episode, the judges are welcomed, and come sashaying and twirling down the stairs to take their place. Here’s Bruno and Craig, grooving away, and Len the head judge, so elegant and easy in movement (before his knee op grounded him for a while). And here – frustrating me beyond expression, comes Darcey.

Darcey Bussell. Prima ballerina for 25 years, president of the Royal Academy of Dance, once the youngest principal dancer in the history of the Royal Ballet; she has danced leading roles with Paris Opera Ballet and the New York City Ballet.
And down the stairs she comes at the beginning of the show, able to wriggle her hips and wave her arms about, but otherwise effectively crippled by those STUPID heels.

I have nothing against elegant clothes and classic feminity in dress. I’m not personally planning to shave off my body hair or cover the skin of my face with a dense layer of foundation make-up and powder. I shan’t be curling my eyelashes any time soon or wearing body-shaping magic knickers and strapless brassières – but I don’t mind if you do.

But those four, five and even six inch heels really upset me. The kindest thing we can do to our bodies is let them move, freely. 

On Strictly, the best dances, the ones that garner the most plaudits, are so often the ones danced in flats. Jamelia’s stunning Charleston, for example, was so good because her shoes let her move.

And how I would love to see Darcey come dancing down the stairs with the ease and grace she deserves.

Learning to walk in those outrageous heels is a difficult skill to master, but not an admirable one.

A one, two, even three inch heel – yes, fine. But beyond that is an inappropriate hobbling.

A show that celebrates dance should not make choices that inherently inhibit movement.


Nearly Martha said...

I love Jeremy Vine for his application and humility. I loved his reaction when someone on Twitter told him to leave because he was no good. He said that he didn't want his daughters to think that when something was difficult they should just give up. He just makes me smile.

Pen Wilcock said...

Yes - and I think they were wrong. His height and long limbs make him look a bt gawky at times, partly because his dance partner is so much smaller than he is. But though I think he is not among the best of the dancers, he does have musicality and rhythm, performance ability, charisma and a teachable attitude. x

BLD in MT said...

Heels. That is something I've never gotten--basically for the reasons you state. Any time I tried wearing them I wasn't able to move like I was used to, like I wanted to. They make me feel unstable. Its the same with itty-bitty skirts. I can't bend and cycle and move about like I want to. So, its flats and calf-length skirts for me. Glad you've found a show you enjoy so. There is so much negativity and violence on tv that its good to know there is a bright spot of dancing out there, too....you know how I love my dancing....I can't imagine dancing in heels like that.

Clara Baumgarten said...


I recently discovered your blog and I am in awe of your wisdom and insight seen in many of your blog posts. I am a huge fan of your trilogy "The Hawk and The Dove." I have a few questions about it ... if you don't mind answering. What inspired you to write it? What are a few of the major themes in the trilogy? What is your main message(s) to those who read this trilogy? Thank you so much for inspiring many who have read your books! You are a truly talented a gifted writer. Hope to hear from you soon.

Also a little side note ... have you ever read the book "A Tree Grows in Brooklyn." just out of curiosity. Thanks again:)


Pen Wilcock said...

Hi Beth - I'm thinking about you dancing :0) Nope. Heels would be NO GOOD! xx

Pen Wilcock said...

Emilio - Thank you for your kind note. I hope you say these gallant and encouraging things to all the middle-aged and elderly ladies you meet, not just me! God bless you today.


Pen Wilcock said...

Clara - hello! Thank you for your questions. I see you are homeschooling. My grandchildren are also homeschooled, and it is going very well so far. This message will have to be posted in three parts, as there is a character limit for comments on my blog.

Before I answer your question, there's something I discovered yesterday I thought you might enjoy to know. A class of children who call themselves Les Lutins (the hobgoblins), at little school in France, has sent on its journey round the internet a letter signed by them all, in the hope of receiving postcards from all around the world. If you would like to join in and send them a postcard from America, This is their address:
Les Lutins
1 Rue des Écoles 85330
Pays de la Loire

On to your questions!
I'm glad you enjoyed reading my Hawk & Dove trilogy; I know a lot of homeschoolers read it.
You asked "What inspired you to write it?"
Well, when I was a little girl, I always had imaginary friends and told myself stories. I was a fairly solitary child. I had five children when I grew up - all born within six years! So they kept me very busy at home. We didn't have much money, and their father was a musician so he often worked in the evening as well, playing in the theatres and clubs to earn some extra. I was a bit lonely at home with no other adults to chat to, so I decided to invent a community, for some company. And that's how St Alcuins Abbey came about.

Pen Wilcock said...

You asked: "What are a few of the major themes in the trilogy?"
Now, I think it might be interesting if you answer that question for yourself instead of asking me. A book is a relationship - the reader is as important as the writer. What you understand and perceive in what you read *is* the journey and experience of engaging with a novel. Still, since you've asked me - each novel in the series has its own theme, and each one also explores a text from the Bible.
Vol 1, THE HAWK & THE DOVE, looks at 2 Corinthians 12:9, and works with the concept that God’s strength is shown in human weakness; not that God supplants our areas of weakness with strength, but grace shines through our vulnerability.
Vol 2, THE WOUNDS OF GOD, looks at Isaiah 53:5, and works with the assertion that ‘by His stripes we are healed’, as characters take refuge in the passion of Jesus, whose work on earth was to realize the mercy of God.
Vol 3, THE LONG FALL, explores Isaiah’s prophecy (Isaiah 45:3), ‘I will give you the treasures of darkness and riches hidden in mystery,’ looking at hope discovered by love in even the most difficult circumstances.

You asked me: "What is your main message(s) to those who read this trilogy?"
My hope is that as people read these stories, what it means to love and walk with Jesus will enter their imagination so they can do it for themselves. In particular, I am hoping that the stories will help people to see what a difference is made by the way we treat each other - especially by making the choice to be kind. Life is difficult, there are always problems; if we trust in God and bring our troubles to him, and if we are gentle and understanding with each other, then, whatever circumstances we are in, we can make each day the best possible day it can be.

Pen Wilcock said...

You asked me if I have ever read the book A TREE GROWS IN BROOKLYN.
No – The title rings a bell, but I have not read it. Now I have put it on my Amazon wish list. I mustn't buy it just yet, because I have spent rather a lot of money this month, and I have two new books coming in the post. I suppose I ought to read them first before I go and buy another! But A TREE GROWS IN BROOKLYN does look good, and as the books I have ordered are non-fiction and this is a story, it will make a nice change for the next thing I read. I see there's a movie of it too, so I put the DVD on my wish list as well.
The two books I already have on order might also interest you, as a homeschool student.
They are Julia Cameron's THE RIGHT TO WRITE http://www.amazon.com/Right-Write-Invitation-Initiation-Writing/dp/1585420093/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1447226981&sr=8-1&keywords=The+Right+To+Write
and Ross W. Greene's THE EXPLOSIVE CHILD http://www.amazon.com/Explosive-Child-Understanding-Frustrated-Chronically/dp/0062270451/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1447227077&sr=8-1&keywords=The+explosive+child

Thank you so much for taking the trouble to write to me, Clara. Waving from England, this grey November day! xx

Julie B. said...

It was fun to "meet" Clara and see your answers to her, Ember. I am rather partial to that name, also. Hi Clara!

After reading your post, I spent some time looking at videos of some of the past dancers on Strictly, and see that it's our version of Dancing with the Stars, which I love. Three years ago I knew almost nothing about it, but then one of the contestants was someone I was interested in and I started watching to see how she did. I quickly grew to love the program and have found there are people each season that I marvel at and root for. Our Dancing with the Stars season is going on right now, and I'm tuning in every Monday night and hoping that Bindi Irwin wins, although I'm so impressed with everyone. She is a bright light in the world (anyone who doesn't know her might google her deceased daddy's name -- Steve Irwin) and like you, I find the camaraderie and physical challenges and personal growth on the show very inspiring.

Some of the most wonderful to me are the contestants who sign on and can't dance, can't be taught to dance, and still go on the show, not caring about how they appear to the world. This season Gary Busey was perhaps one of those, but in spite of a brain injury he gave it his all and I applauded him each week before he was voted off. A couple of seasons back, Sara and I loved watching young Sadie Robertson compete and what a dancer she grew to be after having no dance experience -- I still remember her Charleston. We also have Bruno on the judge's panel, and I miss Len Goodman this year too. If you had told me years back that I would get a little zing of happiness on Monday mornings because I knew DWTS was coming on that night, I would not have believed it. :O

I'm sorry this was so long!

God bless your day, dear Ember. xoxo

Pen Wilcock said...

Hello, Julie B! Waving! xxx

Anonymous said...

Pen, I've read 'A Tree Grows in Brooklyn'. It was recommended on a blog, but I can't remember which one. :( I loved this book, I didn't want to put it down. At the same time I didn't want it to end! I think I might put t g e DVD on my wish list, too. :)

Pen Wilcock said...

Hello, anonymous person - glad you enjoyed reading it! x

Pen Wilcock said...

Thank you so much, Emilio. That is so kind.