I don't watch Strictly but I'm in love with 'beacon of hope' Bill Bailey

Strictly Come Dancing's Oti Mabuse and comedian Bill Bailey. Picture: BBC/Guy Levy

Strictly Come Dancing's Oti Mabuse and comedian Bill Bailey. Picture: BBC/Guy Levy - Credit: BBC/Guy Levy

Now, more than ever, we all need some joy in our lives.

A regular little something to make us beam and fill with that warm fuzzy feeling of hope and better times ahead.

Who’d have thought that a weekly shot of joy would be delivered by a paunchy, balding (with an absurd back net curtain of wispy hair) comedian on a TV dance floor?

Someone I’d have switched off he he’d popped up on the TV before.

Yes, I’ve joined the growing not remotely exclusive club. My name is Rachel and I’m a Bill Bailey devotee.

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I don’t even watch Strictly Come Dancing, but catching up with Bailey’s graceful, gutsy and fun performances several times a day on YouTube offers the perfect pick-me-up.

How he approaches every new dance with gusto, passion and sheer enjoyment, oozing joy that he has learned something new and conquered tricky coordination in the right order is a tonic, guaranteed to bring a smile and a few minutes checkout time in the most miserable December in history.

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“Isn’t he just fabulous?” I declared to my partner, waving Bailey and partner’s Oti Mabuse’s Week 2 quickstep on my iPhone screen under his nose.

“It’s wonderful to watch old people throwing themselves new things and totally loving it. He makes it look effortless”

“Old! He’s younger than you,” he said, sending me straight to Wikipedia to discover he is indeed just 55. Sorry, Bill, but I’d put you a decade over that. It’s the hair.

There’s never been an over-50 Strictly winner. Older (read more clumsy, rigid and set in their ways) contestants are usually chosen for their cumbersome comedy value.

Perhaps that’s how Bailey ended up on this year’s list, as a past-it two left-footer to raise a few cheap laughs with his stumbles and wooden gait and be voted out quick.

If so, then the last laugh is on him. His nimble feet and light as a feather tread take him from the fiery pasa doble to a sublime Couple’s Choice to Sugarhill Gang’s Rappers Delight, winning a perfect 10 from Shirley Ballas.

Bailey is a beacon of hope, an example and sheer delight to all of us who could easily droop into the ‘can’t be bothered at my age’ mindset.

He’s showing us all, in leaps, bounds and twirls, that life keeps on giving whatever date is on our birth certificate if we open our eyes and embrace the new and challenging.

Unlocking undiscovered skills and talents lurking under our multi-decade experience charges us with new wonder and energy.

With every step, Bailey is telling us we’re never too old and it’s never too late to throw ourselves into something new.

Life need never be humdrum, dull or samey, or left to watch pass by from an armchair.

Life is what we make it.

What Bailey – who is also learning to play the lute - is telling us every week is that the older we are, the more we appreciate being able to try new things more.

Nothing should be taken for granted or put off until tomorrow. It’s about grasping opportunities and giving them a whirl.

After turning 50, who cares what people think?

Pleasure is hard to come by so why not seek it where we can?

I’m not alone in the non-Strictly but pro-Bailey club. YouTube is full of people saying they’re watching Bill but not the show.

“I don't even watch Strictly, Bill is the only reason why I log on to YouTube every week and watch the dance,” says Beth

Keep dazzling, Bill, showing that life is for living and loving. We’re revelling in your extraordinary experience.

His lesson to us all this year is do it now, don’t dally. The chance might not come again.

We can repay him the favour by making the first over 50 Strictly winner. Vote Bill!

Queen leads by example

This week has been all about example setting.

The Queen eschewed the prime minister’s three-household Christmas passport to announce that her Christmas would be spent alone with the Duke of Edinburgh at Windsor, forgoing the traditional Sandringham family gathering. Will others follow her lead with a solo season to avoid further lockdowns in the dreariest months of January and February?

Then Tesco announced it would be returning the £585m in business rates relief it had taken early on in the pandemic. Eyes turned on the other supermarkets to do the same.

And all the businesses that took support, even if they didn’t need it.

Supermarkets have been one of the few sectors to do well out of the crisis.

Doing well at the expense of the closed hospitality sector – supermarket alcohol sales surged by 22% -and then holding on to business rates relief leaves a bad taste.

I’ve watched a friend, driven, energetic, a hard worker difficult to match, who took redundancy in an organisation restructure to become self-employed with a mixed portfolio of services.

Unfortunately, her work dried up in lockdown and her predicted income disappeared overnight. Because she had been self-employed for less than a year, she received no support, and has reinvented herself with another portfolio of services to keep afloat.

It rightly galls her to see people spending their government ‘support’ on luxuries like new motor homes.

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