Who would be a Strictly widow? Mike Bushell has leapt to his feet in his kitchen, keen to show me what to do when you find a woman’s thighs around your neck.
His wife, Emily, has stayed firmly seated at the table, but is looking on with more patience than many spouses would muster.
‘The first time it happened, it was a bit of a shock,’ says Mike. ‘Katya [Jones, his professional dance partner on Strictly Come Dancing] was behind me, so I couldn’t see what she was doing, but she said: “I’m going to do a handstand on to your neck. When you feel my feet around your ears, grab me.” ’
Mike Bushell received the support from his wife Emily during his stint on Strictly Come Dancing. He said he was happy to have left when he did so he would not have to face the dreaded rumba
How many times did he drop her before they perfected that particular lift?
‘Probably more than five, but less than ten. Overall, you are always landing in a heap. I ended up on top of her quite a lot.’
While the increasingly beleaguered Mike — dubbed ‘rubbish’ and ‘useless’ on social media with every passing week — was disappointed to finally leave the BBC show last weekend, after his fourth consecutive dance-off, he’s also relieved that he was booted out before he had to learn the dreaded rumba. ‘I’m not even sure what a rumba is, but it’s very sensual, isn’t it?’ he says. ‘Katya is nearer my daughters’ age than mine — I’m glad we swerved that one.’
One would imagine that his new wife Emily, 39, feels the same. Especially since the couple, who wed in May, are effectively still in the honeymoon period of their marriage. As 53-year-old Mike puts it: ‘It’s been a whirlwind few months.’
He clutches on to his dance partner Katya Jones on Strictly Come Dancing: It Takes Two, where they discussed his weight loss. Bushell has been balancing the show while moving into his first home with his wife Emily
In June, they moved into their first home together. Two months later, he was offered the chance to go on Strictly. In September, the intensive training began.
Most of the time since has been spent with him entwined in Katya’s limbs. Was this what Emily signed up for? Certainly not. She tells me, with a laugh, that the man she fell in love with is sweet, kind and clumsy, in an endearing sort of way.
‘He’s a bit like Frank Spencer,’ she says, which, I think, she means as a compliment.
Famously, BBC sports presenter Mike’s most ‘Frank Spencer’ moment was when he fell into a swimming pool during the 2018 Commonwealth Games while interviewing members of the England team in a live broadcast.
Meanwhile, Katya got into hot water last year when she became too entwined with her celebrity partner off the Strictly dancefloor.
The scandal of her illicit kiss with comedian Seann Walsh ended his five-year relationship and may have contributed to the end of Katya’s marriage. She and husband Neil Jones — also a pro dancer on the show — have since separated.
Striking: Katya and Bushell cut sleek figures in a dramatic dance routine on November 9. His partner Emily said she was not worried about the Strictly Curse since the on-screen dance couple's chemistry 'wasn't oozing'
Wasn’t Emily even slightly worried about the so-called ‘Strictly curse’?
‘There was some chemistry,’ she concedes. ‘But it wasn’t . . . oozing. We are newlyweds, really happy, and I trust him implicitly. And I just don’t think that every woman is after my husband.’
Nor would Emily ever have dreamed, before the series began, that her wholesome other half would find himself at the centre of a vicious and febrile social media storm.
Yet that’s exactly what happened when, in Halloween week, the judges voted to save him in his dance-off against the elegant, ex-Coronation Street actress Catherine Tyldesley.
The uproar — in the form of vicious online trolling and a death threat — ensued. ‘I didn’t actually see the message in question,’ says Mike. ‘Someone told me there was a post that said something along the lines of, if I didn’t withdraw from the competition immediately, I’d be a dead man.’
Emily and Bushell attend the ITV Palooza! held at The Royal Festival Hall on October 16. Talking about his transformation, Mike's wife said: ;He wasn’t huge before, but . . .’ Again, she searches for the kindest thing to say. ‘You just loved your beer, didn’t you?’
It left him and Emily reeling. After all, as celebrity villains go, Mike must surely be among the most unlikely.
Even now, three weeks on, she looks upset as he relates what happened.
‘I tried to look, but the account had been deleted and I couldn’t get details, but even then I thought: “You can’t get away with that.” It’s really not on.
‘Everyone has their opinion, and you can not like the judges’ decision, but, come on, guys, being abusive and personal is ridiculous.
‘At the end of the day, it’s an entertainment show. And it’s like football: the referee’s decision is final. You may not agree with it, but it’s not right to be nasty about it.’
The haters came out in force, though. Mike was told to ‘f*** off’, which he wasn’t expecting. ‘It’s too much. Why be offensive?’
Emily was livid enough to send a tweet herself, complete with an angry face emoji. ‘The show is supposed to be a bit of fun. It was just unfair,’ she says. ‘And we’ve been beyond gutted for Catherine. But to blame Mike for her going out wasn’t right.’
Katya and Bushell perform a fun routine on November 11 which pays tribute to the Charleston dance of the 1920s
Mike was upset when there were suggestions he had been kept in the show only because he worked for the BBC. ‘Nonsense,’ he says. ‘Of course people working for the BBC go out [of the competition]. Plenty of them have before.’
But he saves most of his fury for the woman who sent him a message telling him to accept his limitations and get off the dancefloor for good.
‘This is where I do think you have to stand up and say something,’ he says. ‘She wrote: “You are not a dancer, and you will never be.”
‘I was perfectly polite back to her, pointing out that I’ve spent 15 years encouraging people who aren’t necessarily into sport to get involved. They are put off because they think they’ll be rubbish. I always say: “Have a go. It doesn’t matter if you aren’t any good.”
The pair managed to stay in the competition after a dance-off against Viscountess Emma Weymouth. While Bushell thinks social media can be a force for good, he warns it can also destroy people. ‘I didn’t actually let it get to me too much. It wasn’t as if I was afraid to walk out of the front door. But I can see that someone with a