HOW did this happen?
How have I ended up in a room full of women, clutching a feather boa and being instructed by a complete stranger to shimmy around like a reject from Moulin Rouge?
Well, it all started with a conversation a few weeks ago.
A friend of mine suggested that with summer just around the corner, maybe we should try out some fun new exercise classes.
In my eyes, the words ‘fun’ and ‘exercise’ simply don’t belong in the same sentence.
Unless maybe you’re running to the shop in a last minute dash to pick up a bottle of wine before closing time.
As you may have noticed, I’m not one for breaking a sweat, and burning calories really does not appeal to me.
But the friend in question caught me at just the right time, as I’d finally cancelled my gym membership and was feeling a bit guilty.
It took 12 months of not setting foot in that gym for me to finally realise I was wasting money and should just throw in the towel.
But since then, I’d had a few tiny pangs of guilt.
Plus I haven’t been back to netball since my exercise buddy injured herself on the court.
I leapt at the chance to use her injury as my own excuse for poor attendance, despite me being completely uninvolved in the incident a few weeks ago.
Actually, now that I think about it, her little mishap was before Christmas.
Which I suppose, technically, means the last bit of real exercise I did was in 2013.
That shameful lack of dedication hasn’t really changed despite my friends’ and colleagues’ best efforts to get me out and about.
A colleague has been pestering me to try out British Military Fitness for months.
But I can’t think of anything worse.
The idea of some beefed-up army man bossing me around and making me do press-ups in the mud, first thing on a Saturday morning, isn’t exactly an attractive proposition.
No, lying in bed with a hangover and the cat is a much more enticing alternative.
But with her early morning exercise sessions and my boyfriend recently taking up rock climbing, I’ve suddenly realised that my laziness has reached a whole new level.
Which is why I threw caution to the wind and agreed to join my friend in whatever classes she fancied trying out.
When the word ‘burlesque’ was mentioned, I thought she was joking.
And so I found myself in a sweaty dance studio late last night with a pink, fluffy feather boa in hand.
“We’ll be like Dita von Teese!,” my friend tried to convince me as I looked into the huge mirrors in horror.
Oh how wrong she was.
I was already exhausted from climbing up the two flights of stairs to the dance studio and could feel the chocolate mousse I’d just eaten churning nervously in my stomach.
The next thing I know, I’m prancing around to Lady Marmalade.
‘Prancing’ is probably giving me too much credit.
Awkwardly stumbling, out of sync, to Christina Aguilera tunes is probably more fitting.
After some highly embarrassing thrusts and wiggles, they then brought a chair into the mix.
“It’ll be OK.... think of it as the champagne glass, and we’re the Dita von Teeses,” I hear my friend say again, as she desperately clings on to the facade that any of us look even vaguely seductive under the sweat and strain of the hour-long class.
Perched rather precariously on the edge of the chair, with feathers flying everywhere, I glanced over at my friend who was desperately trying to imitate the instructor.
With a sweaty brow and a look of exhaustion spreading across her face, I knew I was not alone in the struggle.
When you think of burlesque, you think Moulin Rouge, corsets, gorgeous ladies and glamour.
Shimmying half-heartedly in a sweltering room in an extra large Spice Girls t-shirt might not have lived up to those expectations.
But I made it to the shop in record time to get that bottle of wine the following night, so maybe there was something in it after all.
Time flies as Trinity Leeds celebrates its first birthday
About two years ago, I was shown round a busy building site as someone explained I was in the exact spot where a brand new cinema was going to be built.
The Everyman Cinema, I was told, would have plush furnishings, four state-of-the-art screens, a bar and even a restaurant, and would be one of the main attractions at Trinity Leeds.
Exciting as it sounded, it was hard to imagine at the time.
But now, in what seems like the blink of an eye, the cinema is up and running and the centre is celebrating its first birthday.
It was a year ago last week that thousands of us flocked to Trinity Leeds for the grand opening, which was curated by British fashion designer Henry Holland.
However there was a definite divide in opinion – some saying it would be a great asset for Leeds, and others fearing it would drag customers away from other areas of the city centre.
After 12 months, it seems those fears haven’t really materialised.
There are just a couple of shops that are empty from where businesses have relocated inside Trinity, but on the whole, it’s given other retailers the chance to move into premises they might not have had the opportunity to before.
Trinity has established itself as the focal point of the city centre but that’s not necessarily a bad thing – it’s meant more footfall for places like Albion Street and has been the catalyst for the opening of new venues such as Roxy Ballroom and Dish.
Really, 22million people hitting the shops in one year speaks for itself.
Inspiring campaign puts women at the forefront
Instead of the same, mundane celebrities we see day in, day out in various scandals, PR stunts and marketing campaigns, a refreshing idea from a high street retailer recently caught my eye.
Marks and Spencer (who, admittedly, I feel some loyalty towards seeing as they started in Leeds Kirkgate Market all those years ago) have launched their latest ‘Leading Ladies’ campaign.
M&S bosses have chosen a mixed bag of ‘inspirational’ women to model their new ranges.
Those involved include Stephen Lawrence’s mother Doreen, actress Emma Thompson, model Alek Wek, singers Rita Ora and Annie Lennox, chef Rachel Khoo, engineer Roma Agrawal and designer Lulu Kennedy.
Last time around, they had the likes of Helen Mirren, Leeds’ own Nicola Adams, Ellie Goulding and Katie Piper.
Obviously the campaign was a success, which is why they’re resurrecting it, and it’s great that big businesses like M&S are putting people who are actually worth celebrating at the forefront.
Let’s hope more big hitters follow their example.