Mark Hopkins and David Watchorn of Elwell Watchorn & Saxton LLP were appointed Joint Administrators of Rosemary Conley Food & Fitness Ltd on 3rd of Feb 2014. The Joint Administrators manage the affairs, business and property of the company as agents and act without personal liability.
Sitting around our kitchen table, I was just in the closing stages of the interview for HELLO! Magazine when my husband Mike joined me and the journalist in late September to answer a few questions. Mike was particularly enthusiastic in his responses I thought. But Mike knew something I didn’t.
After the journalist left I went back into the kitchen for a cup of tea. Mike said: ‘Now. I have some good news and some bad news. Which do you want first?’ ‘Oh, give me the bad news...’ I said, to which he replied ‘there is no bad news. But the good news is ....You’re ‘in’ for Dancing on Ice!’
I leapt around the kitchen like a demented creature – SO, SO excited! I hugged and kissed him, kissed the dogs, phoned my daughter Dawn and ran upstairs to tell Jeanne, my mother-in-law. My Agent had tried to call me but I wasn’t answering my phone because I was chatting to the journalist so she tried Mike instead.
This was a dream come true – at last!
My ice skating journey started five years ago just before my 60th birthday. I was invited to audition for the show and had never ever ice-skated before. It was scary but I loved it and started having the odd lesson even though I didn’t get in then. I then had a two-year gap as I had to still deliver two more fitness videos for Universal Pictures and I daren’t risk a broken leg. As soon as the Real Results DVD was completed I was back on the ice for a lesson every other week as my diary allowed. I auditioned twice more but was rejected each time. In 2011 I wasn’t even asked to attend an audition but I sent in a two-minute DVD, which our TV crew had filmed of where I was at with my skating. I always lived in hope but as the end of September was approaching I had resigned myself to the fact that this was the end of the road. After I reached 65 I felt I really shouldn’t try again.
I was so excited and so happy. I had a permanent smile on my face. After a meeting at Alexander Palace the next week with the production team it became clear that I had to clear my diary for the next six months. With the great team that I work with in our various companies, I knew the business could cope without me and I was always at the end of the phone anyway. I was committed to this new challenge and I was going to give it my best shot.
Within a week I was having lessons on every week day that I could. Slimmer of the Year judging and photoshoots were the only interruptions to my schedule. I loved getting up every morning to go to Nottingham Ice Arena for my lessons with Beverly Carstairs, who had been coaching me up to this point anyway. November 7th arrived and this was the day I would meet my skating partner. Who was it going to be?
I had to travel to Blackburn ice rink and the camera crew were there in waiting together with one of the Dancing on Ice coaches, Steve. In the interview prior to the introduction I admitted feeling rather nervous. Surely this professional skater was hoping he would get some gorgeous chick to skate with, not an old broiler!
I was asked to turn my head away from the rink while my partner went through his routine on the ice. On cue I was requested to turn round and look at the man who was going to be my friend, coach and partner for the next few months.
As I watched this beautiful professional skater gliding across the ice like a ballet dancer, with his super-fit and incredibly agile body, I just put my hands to my face in disbelief as my eyes filled up with tears. Was this really happening to me? Was I really going to be partnered with this gorgeous guy? He took my hand as I stepped on to the ice and this was the start of a beautiful friendship.
Mark Hanretty is from Glasgow, he’s 26 years old, recently married to his very beautiful wife Kathy, and he and his wife are both full-time ice skating coaches in Sheffield. Mark had competed at the highest level both nationally and internationally in Ice Dance is an amazing skater.
From the first moment we just clicked and the friendship that has developed since is really very special. Mark is one of the nicest, kindest, encouraging people I have ever met and, on top of all of that, he makes me feel 25 again! I adore skating with Mark and I have learned so much from him. He has a gift of drawing the best possible effort from your performance. He will not entertain a negative thought and tells me off in no uncertain terms if ever I say ‘I’m so hopeless at...’ and ‘I can’t do ...’
So how does Mike feel about Mark? Fortunately, my husband knows how much I love him and after 25 years of marriage feels very relaxed about it. Mike also has seen how happy I am and he is enjoying the super-happy me! They have met on several occasions and get along really well. Mike is also very happy to be sitting next to Mark’s very beautiful wife in the audience at Dancing on Ice!
While we are in the show Mark and I skate together on every weekday for a couple of hours and we try and spend an hour a day off-ice in a studio to practise and perfect the lifts and the finer points of skating skill such as positioning, technique and synchronicity.
Going down to Elstree Studios for the first time was really exciting as we had to choose a costume to wear for the press shots. To see the rails of the most beautiful glistening twinkling dresses was awesome – a little girl’s idea of heaven! I like to cover my arms so I chose a vibrant pink outfit which had been designed for someone in an earlier series of Dancing on Ice. It fitted perfectly and Mark looked fabulous in his matching shirt covered in crystals and beads. They really are works of art in their own right – each dress reportedly costing around £1200! No, we don’t get to keep any!
After hair and make-up it was off to the photo studio which was set up with shining shafts of light beaming from the ceiling as though from a space ship. As we stood on the imitation ice shiny surfaced floor in our positions the camera flashed away. The smile you see on my face is genuine. It was a very special moment and I was beginning to believe it was actually going to happen! I really was going to skate on live television in front of an audience of 10 million!
As I write this I haven’t even skated the first week of the show. By the time you read it I may have been knocked out. The competition is hotter this year than ever before and the skating skills that are being incorporated in week one are moves that in previous years you wouldn’t have seen until week six or seven. I love learning the lifts and I feel very safe in Mark’s arms as he manoeuvres me around.
Meeting Jayne Torvill and Christopher Dean was a huge privilege and then to be given a private lesson by them was awesome. Chris choreographs the routines and when I heard that our music for our first programme was Fernando by Abba I couldn’t have been more thrilled. You are given an edited CD of the music for your routine and I must have listened to that first track two hundred times! You just need to get it in your brain so the words and the beats are automatic with the moves that you do in your routine.
A week before the first programme I pulled a muscle in my groin which was very painful and prevented me from being considered for Week 1 show. I am glad I am skating in Week 2 as I now understand what it feels like, what the judges are looking for and how supportive the other celebrities are to each other. That is the bit I had not anticipated. There is no competition between us – we are there to do our very best and to wish each other our best performance. The judges and the audience will determine who stays in and who goes out and I am really glad we don’t have to make that decision. For me, being in the line-up is an extraordinary privilege and the opportunity of a lifetime to try something new and exciting with the best coaches in the land.
I wasn’t nervous on the first show - just really excited. In fact, it was only when we skated out on to the ice to the music, presented to camera, then skated back to the others already announced that I actually believed that I really was in the show. In television you can think you are doing something and at the last minute it can all change. Only a week before, Chesney Hawks had been skating and had broken his leg! It was so sad to see him at the opening show on two crutches. No, this really was happening and I really was in the line up for Dancing on Ice 2012! I am loving every single second of the whole experience and I’m told I don’t stop smiling when I’m skating. I so, so hope that I can stay in the show for lots of weeks so that my dream continues and, if I do, I may be invited to go on the Tour which would be magical. Please vote for me wherever I end up on the leader board! I desperately need every vote I can get and would like to thank everyone who does vote for me from the bottom of my heart.
So, if you’re thinking you might be too old to try a new physical activity, you’re not. Go after your dream and you may be more than pleasantly surprised – physically and mentally. I have never felt so fit in the whole of my life and I’m having the time of my life!
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