Mulch in March

Cherry Butler

All Areas

A mulch is a soil covering of thick organic matter, such as bark or inorganic membrane, which helps to control weeds, keeps in moisture and retains soil structure.

Why mulch now!?

It looks nice and is better to walk on than bare soil. It also keeps annual weeds at bay (by smothering them) and helps reduce evaporation, keeping valuable moisture in the soil and protecting it from summer sun. Mulching also keeps plants clean (preventing soil from splashing on them in the rain), provides an excellent habitat for soil fauna and can feed the soil (depending upon material). It’s also a great way of recycling and composting and essential for reducing maintenance!

Choice of materials

Think carefully before using weed membrane; it’s an excellent solution for under gravel; large areas awaiting planting like an allotment. But don’t cover your whole garden in it because weed seeds germinate through it and you end up with a bigger problem! Fresh bark and wood chips can rob the soil of nitrogen; it is better to choose products already been composted. Fresh manure can be too strong and burn young stems, so ensure it’s well rotted. Spent mushroom compost contains lime so beware of this around acid-loving plants such as rhododendrons and camellias. Garden compost can spread weed seeds and slugs but we should all be composting kitchen and garden waste and returning to the soil (vis. my November article). All gardens benefit from the addition of organic mulch like manure or garden compost every year, ideally twice a year.

Cathie’s garden army and consultancy

Cathie can spend half a day in your garden identifying plants, advising on planting and design as well as helping you with tasks such as pruning. Lost control? Cathie’s qualified garden army can transform your garden in a day following a consultancy. New for this year, ask Cathie about small and exclusive RHS groups for dedicated students!Email [email protected], visit and follow Cathie’s Gardening School on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.

Home truths

Liz Nicholls

All Areas

Liz Nicholls chats to Barry “Baz” Warne of The Stranglers

Q. You’re just about to jet off to Oz – how do you feel about touring these days?
“Confident and excited! We had a great French tour in November that loosened up all the cogs and ironed out all the creases. I know we’re all getting on, but a five- or six-week rest over Christmas was enough before we started wanting to get back on it! We’ve spent the past two weeks in the West Country turning it up loud and blowing away the cobwebs. We’re ready to roll!”

Q. You mention ‘getting old’ which happens to us all! How do you stay sharp?
“I eat well; me and my girlfriend love to cook. She’s trying to get me into yoga, actually, but she’s quite a bit younger than me – I’m just a 53-year-old fart who’s trying his best to get his legs behind his head in the living room… but it helps! I played football as a kid but my shock absorbers are knackered so I can’t play with my grandchildren any more, which pisses me off. We go out on motorbikes, in Yorkshire where we live, for fresh air. When you get older you have to take care of yourself. All of us have burnt the candle at many ends over the years. While we still like that – we’re not monks – things slow down a bit!”

Q. You have Stranglers fans of all ages, don’t you?
“Aye; we get the die-hard fans who’ve seen us 50-plus times, and their kids and their grandkids’ generation, which is great.
If the kids like the Stranglers, or any band from before their time, they can find it at the touch of a button. In my day you had to stay up late to watch The Old Grey Whistle Test.”

Q. When did you first hear No More Heroes?
“It came out in 1977 when I was 13. I can’t remember the impact it had on me but it must have been profound. When it comes on the radio nowadays, it still sounds glorious and fresh.”

Q. Do you listen to much music?
“Not really. These tours are so frenetic and you’re living in this musical bubble for weeks and weeks, so it can be hard… I can almost hear your readers saying ‘bless him, poor lad; you wanna try working a nine-to-five like the rest of us!’ But working as we do, our whole raisin d’etre is to stay mellow for 22 hours before each gig, basically, to save ourselves for your two hours of nuts stuff! Putting on music can feel a bit like a busman’s holiday. I tend to have the radio on in the background with classical music on and crank it up now and again!”

Q. It’s your birthday on March 25th isn’t it?
“Aye! I was lucky enough to spend my 50th playing in Guildford – I had 2,500 people sing Happy Birthday to us, which was very sweet. This year I’ll be between Guildford and London.”

The Stranglers Live
The Stranglers Live

Q. Who’s your favourite guitarist?
“Ahh, that’s a toughie! I love everyone from Chet Atkins to Angus Young to James Honeyman Scott who was the original guitar player in The Pretenders and just sublime. But, while I do appreciate virtuosos who can make a guitar ‘sing’, I’ve always been more about serving the song which is the Stranglers way. Without rowing my own boat, I am a good guitar player; I can play a cracking guitar solo along with the best of them but I’d rather lock in with the group.”

Q. What’s on your rider? When I asked JJ that a couple of years ago, he was very amusing!
“Well yes, we do request some Filipino boys with palm leaves full of… no, only joking! We don’t even have big bowls of blue Smarties or any madness like that. We are partial these days to a good Bloody Mary – which I’ve become very adept at making – so we have vodka, some wine, beer, some cold cuts, a few sarnies… Really, you just want things like nice, clean dry towels! Some water and a lot of space. It’s nice to kick around the dressing room after we’ve finished playing and toast our roaring success. The usual crap, really.”


Bright Ideas

Liz Nicholls

All Areas

As winter rolls into spring, hunger strikes as our animal instinct is to fuel up. Our stomachs hanker for warm and comforting, yet nourishing food. Recipes from Katie Kingsley.

Blood orange margaritas

Refreshingly delicious, even sans alcohol. Prepare a jug of this to accompany your premier barbecue of the year and, even if the sun isn’t shining, your guests will bask in its nectarous harvest.

Chill glasses while you prepare the drink. Juice enough blood oranges to yield 300ml of juice, add 100ml of fresh lime juice and mix. Pour a small amount of honey on to a side plate and use a pestle and mortar to grind together 1 tbsp of salt flakes with 1 tbsp of demerara sugar to a course powder. Zest half a blood orange and add to the salt and sugar, using your fingers to rub to release the oils from the zest. Pour the juice, (two parts tequila and one part Cointreau or Triple Sec) into a cocktail shaker with ice and shake for 20 seconds. Take your chilled glasses and dip first in the honey then the salt and sugar mix before carefully pouring the cocktail into the glasses. Enjoy chilled or with crushed ice.

– Tip – Use a dash of orange bitters, sugar syrup or jalapeno sugar syrup depending on your personal tastes.

Ricotta and spinach gnudi

Lighter than you might expect and “nude” because the mix is a popular ravioli filling without the pasta jackets. I like to make these as a starter at this time of year when spinach emerges as one of our first spring crops. Feel free to adopt nettle tops if you can forage them! Place about 300g of spinach into a pan and pour over boiling water to wilt.

Transfer to a colander and when cool enough to handle, squeeze out as much liquid as possible and chop finely. Place 200g into a bowl then pour over 30g of melted butter and mix. Place 200g of ricotta into a large bowl, sieve over 100g of plain flour, add three egg yolks, 150g of grated Parmesan and half a grated nutmeg. Add the buttery spinach and combine but try not to over-mix. Check the seasoning, adding salt or pepper if needed, then refrigerate for at least an hour. Lightly flour a chopping board and bring a pan of salted water to a boil then use two spoons and the palms of your hands to help you create small balls (somewhere in between gnocchi and a golf ball) placing on the floured surface as you go. Cook in batches taking care not to overcrowd the pan and boil gently for five or six minutes and they have risen to the surface. Drain on kitchen paper and dress the little gnudi in a simple sage butter for all-round scrumptiousness; toss in melted butter and fresh sage until the sage turns crisp and serve with Parmesan.

Poached fish with creamy saffron leeks

If you want to see your future husband, sleep with a leek under your pillow but, if you want to reap the benefits of not only its mystical powers but hugely nutritional benefits, then this recipe is a great way of utilising this fine vegetable at its best. Try to choose a fish that is sustainable; shellfish such as mussels or scallops would also work well with this sauce.

Finely chop a shallot and sauté in a knob of butter for a few minutes before placing your fish fillets on top. Pour over 100ml of fish stock and 100ml of white wine then place a tight-fitting lid on the pan and bring to a boil. Once at a rolling boil, reduce heat and simmer for a minute or two. Remove lid and carefully transfer the fish on to a plate covered with foil so it continues to steam and keeps warm. Pour your poaching liquor into a measuring jug and pour 150ml back into the pan with a pinch of saffron threads, simmer for a few minutes before adding a small squeeze of lemon juice, a knob of butter, three finely sliced leeks and continuing to cook for three minutes, adding more poaching liquor if the pan gets a little dry. Add about 150ml of double cream and season to taste then stir through a handful of basil, cut into thin ribbons. Transfer your fish on to heated plates and spoon over the creamy leeks, serving immediately.

Winter Fuel

Liz Nicholls

All Areas

As the chill of winter bites, hunger strikes as our animal instinct is to fuel up. Our stomachs hanker for warm and comforting, yet nourishing food. Recipes from Katie Kingsley.

Saucy lamb shanks

This is a great alternative to a Sunday roast and guaranteed to satisfy at a dinner party. There is enough sauce for six lamb shanks, if you wanted to serve more people. I think these are delicious on a bed of risotto Milanese. Ultimate comfort food!

Preheat your oven to 180°C. Rub rapeseed oil into four lamb shanks and season well. Heat a pan to a medium-hot heat and brown the shanks all over (about two minutes on each side) then set aside. Add more oil to the pan if it is a little dry and then add your sofrito (two celery stalks, two carrots and a large onion) all chopped fine with four minced garlic cloves. After about five minutes and as the vegetables begin to brown, add 5 tbsp of tomato paste, cooking out for a few minutes before then adding 400ml of red wine, 200ml of white wine, 3 tbsp of white wine vinegar, leaves from a sprig of fresh thyme, two bay leaves, 2 tsp of black peppercorns, 2 tsp of juniper berries, five chopped anchovy fillets then bring to a boil and cook for five minutes to burn off some of the alcohol before adding 500ml of chicken stock.

Add your shanks to the pot returning to a boil before securing the lid and placing in the heated oven for one hour (or simmering on the hob). Remove the lid and continue to cook the lamb at a gentle simmer for three hours or until very tender, turning every half hour. The meat should be falling off the bone. Carefully remove the shanks and pour your braising liquid through a sieve, discarding the solids. If you want to thicken the sauce, simmer this down for longer then serve your shanks on a bed of risotto Milanese and pour over your sauce.

Smoked haddock and corn chowder

An excellent mid-week supper, really simple to put together, wholesome and nutritious, it ticks all the boxes! This can also be adapted to keep it seasonal, peas, asparagus, spinach or diced tomatoes are great additions, frozen sweetcorn is respectable instead of fresh and tarragon or dill can be used instead of or in addition to the thyme.

Melt a generous knob of butter in a deep pan, (I use a casserole) then add four finely sliced leeks. Sprinkle over your chosen herb (thyme leaves, chopped tarragon or dill) and cover with a circular piece of baking paper big enough to tuck down around the sides of the leeks. Put the lid on your pan, cooking the leeks for 10 minutes then lift off the lid and paper, add sweetcorn from two cobs and 250g of halved new potatoes, place the paper back on top, tuck around the edges again, replace lid and cook for a further 10 minutes.

While this cooks, poach a 300g piece of smoked haddock in whole milk (enough to cover the haddock in a small pan) with two bay leaves and a sprinkle of peppercorns for about 8 minutes. When cooked, empty the pan contents over a sieve, reserving the milk. Discard the pepper and bay leaves then remove any skin and break up the fish with your hands into chunks taking care to remove any bones. Remove the lid from your vegetables then add the haddock and milk bringing to a simmer then finish with a handful of freshly chopped parsley. Serve in bowls with crusty bread.

Rhubarb pudding

This dessert is not overly sweet, the sharpness of the rhubarb follows both recipes well as it cuts through the richness. I like to serve this with ice cream or thick cream. Make sure you bake the pudding in a shallow dish that fits into a roasting dish as you will need to bake it in a bain marie.

Preheat oven to 170°C. Trim and cut rhubarb stalks into 4cm pieces (you need about 600g) then lay them in an ovenproof dish. Scatter over 50g of caster sugar and 3 tbsp of water then bake for 20 minutes until the rhubarb is tender but intact. Butter a shallow two-litre baking-dish then carefully remove the cooled rhubarb with a slotted spoon and place in the dish. Separate three large eggs and beat the yolks with 175g of caster sugar until pale and light. Add the zest of two lemons and juice from 1 then fold in 75g of self-raising flour and 150ml each of single cream and milk. Beat the egg whites with 1/2 tsp of cream of tartar until stiff and glossy then fold into the batter with a large metal spoon. Pour the batter over the rhubarb and set the baking dish into a larger dish (such as a roasting tin) then pour in boiling water to reach halfway up the sides of your baking dish. Bake for an hour until puffed and golden, sift icing sugar on top and serve warm.

Irises in February?

Cherry Butler

All Areas

Winter and spring

The iris in flower during the winter months is iris unguicularis. It’s low-growing, pale mauve and even scented! During February and March the delightful Iris reticulata and Iris danfordiae come into their own in an array of mauves, blues, creams and yellows. It’s a miniature bulb so perfect for the rock garden or containers. There are many new hybrids available on the market.

Summer into autumn

Iris germanica or the bearded iris is probably the most widely recognised but often in the wrong place. They grow from rhizomes which they enjoy being baked in the sun on poor sandy soil. The range of colours is infinite! Cultivars like Cruise to Autumn, Autumn Princess and Autumn Circus as their name suggests can flower much later in the year so look out for them to extend the season.

Irises in the wet?

The yellow flag iris I. pseudacorus is a familiar sight grown as a marginal in ponds. I. sibirica can be grown in the bog garden. Both make large clumps and can be divided readily.

Surely not shade too?

Yes a few irises will grow wild in woodlands and hedgerows, notably I. foetidissima with its pale flowers followed by bright orange berries. Often called the stinking iris as when you cut it back the leaves are somewhat pungent!

Consultancy & Cathie’s Garden Army

I can spend half a day in your garden identifying your plants and teaching you how to look after them. I can advise also on planting projects and design as well as helping you with tasks such as pruning. If you have lost control of your garden completely we are here to help! A qualified team of can transform your garden in a day following a consultancy.

RHS courses

New for February small and exclusive groups for dedicated students!Email [email protected], visit and follow Cathie’s Gardening School on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.

Paloma power

Liz Nicholls

All Areas

We chat to musician Paloma Faith,

Q. Hello Paloma – thanks for your time and congratulations on your new arrival! How’s life changed?
“I’m trying to juggle being a mother and a singer. I have no idea how I’m managing, but I am somehow! I do feel my approach to music has changed since I’ve become a parent – which does have an impact. With difficult things happening in the world, you feel protective and want to make things comfortable for your family. I think things are changing in our history and maybe not for the better, which is something I’m concerned about. I feel there’s a sense of duty to talk about events.”

Q. You’ve been keen to shield your youngster from the press and paparrazi haven’t you?
“I value my privacy more so than ever now, as it’s a real responsibility being a parent. I want my child to know itself first rather than everyone else feeling that they know all about them.”

Q. Growing up in East London and studying at the Northern School of Contemporary Dance, did you always have an inkling you’d become a singer?
“Growing up in Hackney, I was surrounded by lots of different types of music – from my mum, I remember listening to plenty of revolutionary music from the 1960s such as Bob Dylan, while my dad was into jazz, which is where my interest in all that comes from. Later, when I was studying, I got into R n B dancehall, and originally I wanted to be dancer. Then I did my musical theatre, and I think music just chose me.”

Q. Your album Do You Want The Truth or Something Beautiful? hit the top 10, and proceeded to lodge in the album charts for the next 100 weeks – how do you look back on it?
“Well, that was nearly 10 years ago, and it was what it was. I think it is great that I’ve managed to sustain a career as unfortunately not many people get to make more than one or two albums these days.”

Q. Your vocal abilities have continued to garner contrasts with the late Amy Winehouse – how do you feel about that?
“I’m flattered by comparisons to Amy. It’s not something I am offended by, though I am quite different. When she met me once, she asked if I played an instrument, but I said no, and she said that was a shame as she would have liked someone like me in her group. I was a massive fan of hers, and after watching the documentary about her life, I actually wrote a song for her, Price of Fame, which is on the new album. Her death was such a tragedy.”

Q. You were nominated several times for a Brit Award, with your persistence paying off two years ago – hurray! How did that feel?
“It was amazing to win the Brit Award and to finally gain some acknowledgement. I come from a long line of people that haven’t really been acknowledged for what they did… But I think there are a lot of people out there doing important work, like doctors and nurses who don’t get that recognition they should.”

Q. We’re looking forward to your tour and hear that you’re going to design some of your trademark show sets – are you excited?
“The only reason I do what I’m doing is because I love touring – as when I’m out there I am excited and feel that I’m in the right place.”

Please visit

Treating urinary tract infections (UTIs)

Round & About

All Areas

Urinary tract infections (UTIs) are very common, especially in women. It is estimated that one in five women will have a UTI at some point in their lifetime and once you have had one infection you are much more likely to have another. The standard medical treatment is with antibiotics. The problem with antibiotic treatment is that, while it will tend to work in the short term (and is often an essential treatment to avert a more serious infection of the kidneys), there is an increased risk of developing imbalances in the beneficial bacteria (microflora of the gut and urinary tract). Antibiotic resistance has also recently been described as a significant threat to our future health by Professor Dame Sally Davies – England’s Chief Medical Officer).  Microflora disturbance and growing antibiotic resistance mean UTIs often reoccur.

Thankfully numerous clinical studies indicate several natural substances work well to help prevent UTIs and there is also considerable evidence to suggest they can work very effectively even in acute infection scenarios, as long as the intervention is initiated as soon as an infection is suspected.

The best studied natural agent to help with UTIs is D-mannose (a simple sugar, from any good health store), which also helps with infections caused by E.coli bacteria(as is the case with the majority of UTIs). When however E.coli is not the cause, the use of D-mannose is unlikely to help. A number of other bacteria can cause UTIs; often it is possible to find out which bacteria are involved through testing.

Another reason to consider, if natural compounds such as D-mannose do not work, is biofilm issues. Biofilms surround a collection of bacteria that are attached to the body, effectively creating a shield that protects them from being attacked/controlled – this makes this type of infection very difficult to control. The key to breaking this cycle is to therefore disrupt the biofilm, which can be done using specialised enzymes.

Call Mark BSc (Hons) BA (Hons) mBANT CNHC on 01183 219533 or visit

Sinless Sensations

Liz Nicholls

All Areas

With all the good intentions that emanate with the New Year, our tastes turn to fresh flavours, writes Katie Kingsley.


My family love this soup, it’s a great way of giving everyone a healthy dose of vegetables. A lovely warming supper for chilly nights and sore throats, too!

Heat 2tbsp olive oil and knob of butter in a frying pan. Cook 150g smoked, cubed pancetta until golden then add two finely diced onions. Add three minced garlic cloves for the last few minutes of cooking the onions, when they are starting to brown. Finely chop three carrots, two celery stalks and two skinned tomatoes then add to the pan, sweat the vegetables for about 30 minutes with the lid on the pan, stirring occasionally then add 1.5 litres of chicken stock and 2tbsp of tomato puree, simmer for another 30 minutes with the lid on. Finely chop two leeks and a quarter of a green cabbage and add to the soup with 100g of small pasta shapes and continue cooking uncovered for 10 minutes or until the pasta is cooked. Finally check the seasoning, stir through a handful each of torn basil and chopped parsley and serve with plenty of grated parmesan.

Salmon en papillote

This is a simple, fresh dish to add to your weekly repertoire that’s real healthy fast food and no washing up. I like to serve this with steamed Chinese vegetables and rice or noodles.

« Tip – I like to add half a lemon to my rice when cooking then squeeze it to taste and stir it through the rice when cooked.

Heat oven to 180°C. Place your salmon fillets in the middle of parchment paper measuring about 30 x 40cm. Finely slice a few handfuls of mange touts diagonally then place atop the fillets. Slice a two-inch piece of peeled root ginger into very fine matchsticks and lay over the mange touts then finely slice four spring onions and lay over the ginger. Carefully pour 1 tbsp of soy sauce and 1 tsp of mirin over each fillet then use an egg white to brush around the edge of the paper and carefully fold to enclose so the salmon has room to steam in the airtight parcels. Bake in the oven for 20 minutes.

Pear tarte tatin

If your resolution is to cook more and save money on expensive cake then this one’s for you. This can’t look anything but magnificent, in fact the more rustic the better and it takes only 10 minutes to put together. Pears, apples or pineapples all work beautifully in this tart.

Heat oven to 200°C. Add 150g of golden caster sugar, 50g of unsalted butter and a small pinch of salt to a cast iron skillet with a squeeze of lemon juice and cook for about five minutes over a medium heat until it turns a deep golden. Leave to one side as you prepare your fruit. Peel three or four firm pears, halve and core then place each half cut side-down and slice along vertically four times, leaving it connected at the top. Fan the pears out and place in the caramel then cut a circular piece of puff pastry just bigger than the size of your skillet and place over the pears, tucking around the edges. Cook for 20–25 minutes until puffed and golden. Invert on to a plate carefully while still warm. If you have excessive juices, you can always reduce them in a pan and pour back over the tart.

Delightful Daphnes

Cherry Butler

All Areas

Daphnes vary greatly in size, colour and cultivation requirements. Every garden should have one, although they are not really happy in containers. Most prefer a sheltered situation in dappled shade and do not like hot sun. They do best on well-drained moisture retentive soil with plenty of organic matter incorporated. They do not tolerate drought or waterlogging but are well worth the effort!

Daphne mezereum

This is upright and deciduous growing up to a metre high and wide if it’s in the right place. It has fragrant pink flowers in the winter followed by red berries. It prefers a sheltered position in partial shade but can be grown in the sun if the roots are shaded.

Daphne odora ‘Aureomarginata’

An evergreen bushy specimen with creamy margins to the leaves. It tends to flower in late winter or early Spring with dark pink flowers that have a scent living up to it’s name. It’s not keen on drastic pruning and can get to about 1.5m in dappled shade.

Daphne bholua ‘Jacqueline Postil’

I first saw this at Wisley and was completely knocked over by the scent. It really is the queen of Daphnes growing up to 2m in a sheltered shady situation.  As with all Daphnes established plants should not be moved. It flowers in the depths of winter and the scent is intoxicating.

Horticultural consultancy 

I can spend half a day in your garden identifying your plants and teaching you how to look after them. I can advise also on planting projects and design as well as helping you with tasks such as pruning.

Cathie’s garden army

If you have lost control of your garden completely we are here to help! A qualified team of horticulturists can transform your garden in a day following a consultancy.Email [email protected], visit and follow Cathie’s Gardening School on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.

Up swing

Liz Nicholls

All Areas

Liz Nicholls chats to ballroom dancer Anton du Beke

Q. Hello Anton – lovely to chat to you! I’ve just been shuffling about in the kitchen to your CD… Do you like January?
“Thank you – that’s exactly the reaction I wanted! Well, in January I’m so busy. I’m in the studio working on my tour. It’s incredibly exhausting and I have about a thousand steps to learn so my brain feels like it’s about to melt. I have songs to remember and chat to learn. Erin [Boag] and I tour every January, February, March. So I don’t get January blues. I always feel quite poor, though, because those credit card bills mount up and I’ve gone a bit too mad at Christmas again. 2017 has been the best year ever – getting married and doing so much great stuff.”

Q. Where are you now?
“In the living room at my house in Burnham Beeches. It’s a lovely part of the world. I don’t come from round here; I grew up in Sevenoaks and spent a number of years in central London. When I met Hannah she came from here and I’ve loved to be here and discover the area. Bucks is gorgeous and equidistant between the M4 and M40 which is perfect when I’m on the road. Take the dogs for a walk in the woods – we have two short-hair black-and-tan daschunds called Antoninus and Branston.”

Q. How do you stay healthy?
“We do eat pretty healthily. Hannah is a great cook and we never eat meals you grab out the fridge and shove in the oven. I don’t drink, I don’t smoke but I’ve always lived that kind of lifestyle – it’s not something I’ve worked at, it’s just normal for me.”

Q. Who were your early musical influences?
“Growing up, I fell in love with musicals. Fred Astaire and Gene Kelly were my heroes – I wanted to dance like them but didn’t know how I’d go from a church hall in Kent to being Fred Astaire! Sinatra and Sammy Davis Junior – those great entertainers – also impressed me, having an orchestra on stage. This album features a 36-piece orchestra who usually don’t do swing but were lovely. The string section were from the Royal Philharmonic – that’s how good they are.”

Q. It was a joy to watch you dancing with Ruth [Langsford] on Strictly at the end of last year! Did you get on with Ruth?
“Brilliant; she’s a joy. She and Eamonn are so funny and Ruth has the best ever sense of humour!”

Q. Do you see much live music?
“A little bit but I don’t go to many big concerts. I found when I went to a few when I was young that you’re just in the way of the performance if that makes sense at all? But I’m always listening to music on Spotify on my phone to find stuff to dance to! And I do love going to all the big shows.”

Q. Your good friend Bruce Forsyth died last year and I’m sorry for your loss. How have you coped with that?
“Thank you. It was a massive shame and a big shock. I spoke to him about two weeks before he passed away and he said he felt a bit better and had been on his exercise machine to start building his strength up. I’ve got a song on the album called Me And My Shadow which is about him and quite an important song to me. I still feel sad but lucky to have known him. People deal with it in their own way, but my life is better for having known him.”

Q. Have you got any dreams for this year?
“No! With the babies and getting married last year and the album and a great Strictly I feel really happy with my lot! All I’d like is more of the same, please… well, no more twins! Actually what I’d like is them to grow big and beautiful and happy.”