It’s the footwork, dahling… turn your toes in. And keep the hands open, and dahling, trust your partner.
I half expect to see Craig Revel Horwood sitting opposite, giving out and holding up a 2.
Thankfully I’m not being judged on my dancing but my tennis by my mixed doubles partner Judy Murray.
Yes, that Judy Murray, tennis supercoach, mum-of-two Wimbledon champions, and just as importantly in our house a Strictly Come Dancing legend.
Judy has had half an eye on Ashley, Faye, Lauren, Stacey, Joe, Charles, et al this series.
Only half an eye though as her main focus has been making tennis players out of the flotsam collection of wannabe racquet tyros I’m assembled here with.
In the new Campus sporting development in Quinta Do Lago in the Algarve.
Judy is running a series of tennis coaching lessons for young and old, good and bad, studious and messers, which, er, would be me.
In my defence her starter hooter was too inviting not to play keepie-uppie with.
Judy, though, as well as being very good at sport is a very good sport and even allowed me to waltz her around at the end.
Another very good sport and one that you won’t have heard so much about is padel which is more popular in the Iberian Peninsula than tennis.
Former rugby international Max Evans who with soccer great John Terry took to the game on a trip to the Algarve, describes it as the baby that tennis and squash would beget.
Played to the same scoring system as tennis, the big difference is in the non-string bats, the underhand serve, the fact that you can play off the side glass walls.
And, dare I say it, that it might just be better fun than tennis.
Judy’s work done, she gets a deserved breather. Me, I’m off to bother the gold pros.
For four days I will have a team of experts tasked with trying to make an athlete of me, just as they can for you too.
The professional at the Paul McGinley Golf Academy shows off the latest golf technology, tracking machines, sensory guides et al.
It can turn the most ordinary club member into a Rory or a Tiger, or at least on the odd shot.
If you concentrate that is.
But there’s always one messer who gets distracted.
In this case drawn to Paul McGinley’s buggy from when he captained Europe to Ryder Cup success at Gleneagles.
There’s a good reason why the big boys and girls in our party get to play The South Course, one of three Championship courses here at Quinta do Lago, while yours truly is kept to the driving range.
I do get to drive me a buggy, though not Paul’s Ryder Cup cart, which sensibly is kept where it is.
And I get to see the course, safely for me and the golfers, or at least that’s the plan before the boy racer in me kicks in.
And I cut up the buggy in front and almost drive into the lake that skirts one of the greens.
I dare say I would have come up with my pockets bursting with stray golf balls.
Maybe I’ll fare better on two wheels.
Quinta do Lago means Farm by the Lake and Quinta is at great pains to keep human athletic exertions and the natural world in perfect harmony.
The Ria Formosa reserve which runs parallel to the course, is more geared to Shiny Ibises and Spoonbill birdies.
And yes, get off your bike, get your binos out and you really will see these fascinating birds scoop up their prey with spoonlike beaks.
I’d like to say I planned my disembarkation but the truth is I took one sandy corner too many and too sharply in my obsession to lead the party.
Eyebrows may have been raised as to my suitability to go back with the sensible ones on the roads, but hunger called.
That hunger was sated as it invariably is in these parts by the harvest of the seas.
The world literally is your piscine pleasure in Portugal and no fish is safe, so I felt not a pang of guilt in devouring Dory’s pals, the lobster, prawns, clams, seabass both here at the island restaurant Casa do Lago at the Campus.
And more of that later.
For golfers, there is a green in the water for diners to shoot at but it was wisely out of bounds for us on the day.
The appeal of The Campus is its infrastructure and expertise.
Why else would it attract Premier League side Burnley, Champions League winners Olympique Marseille and Rio Ferdinand who runs a soccer camp.
While Irish Paralympian, road race great Brian Rohan runs The Bike Shed, which is so much more than just that.
Ask him kindly and he might even let you hold one of his Olympic gold medals.
Of course when it comes to sport we’re all of us experts, and so my last night was spent at a sports bar where I watched THREE soccer games simultaneously on the big screens (and who said men couldn’t multi-task?).
I’d like to say all the games were thrillers but I was in my element all the same.
I was tackling (cleanly) a chicken casserole for two, to soak up the beer you understand, while exchanging sporting trivia with my Portuguese hosts.
I was less good at the Halloween pub quiz I have to admit but always back myself against any Dancing Dad when the house band appears.
There’s always a price to pay of course for revelry and that is invariably a sore head the next morning.
Yes, the art deco style Magnolia where we are staying specialises in fixing that too…
The Mag burger, beef, bacon, cheese and lettuce burger and fries, with a special peppery sauce the secret of which the Chef, naturally wasn’t sharing, and a pineapple, OJ, coconut and SPINACH smoothie.
I felt invincible again and was ready to show off to my new No. 1 fan with my moves, a dive into the pool (yes, strictly against the hotel rules).
But nobody was watching apart from Judy Murray that is.
So, this is where Marilyn finally found her rest from the lascivious attentions of the manipulative men who hounded her to her death.
Unsignposted and in an unassuming square at the back of a Los Angeles office block lies the Westwood Village Memorial Park Cemetery.
But who’s this lying next to her?
Only Playboy owner Hugh Hefner who bought the drawer next door for $75,000… he was surely the last man she would have wanted to spend eternity with.
Marilyn and Hefner had history.
It was Hefner who bought the nude pictures that she had posed for in her sallow youth before she became famous for just $500 and put them on his first cover of Playboy.
She never got a dime.
Marilyn doesn’t deserve this company.
She should be shining brightest in a galaxy of stars.
And on Hollywood’s Walk of Fame, she is.
The actress is one of 2,600 famous characters, human, animal, animated, immortalised on a mile and a half of sidewalk along 15 blocks of Hollywood Boulevard and three blocks of Vine Street.
Her hands and feet are outside Grauman’s Chinese Theatre with the imprints of a century of Hollywood celebrities.
Hers are worn out from the millions who have wanted to touch a bit of her.
If you feel her presence on the stairs of the Dolby Theatre where the Oscars are held then her spirit is playing tricks on you as her only appearance was at the nearby Pantages Theatre.
Still we all pose for a diva’s shot in homage to her anyway.
Marilyn seems to be everywhere I turn. I see her looking down, smiling from out of a window on Venice Beach.
Brightly dressed and warm as the sun. We lift our heads from our catch of the day in Larry’s diner off the boardwalk, in my case the lightest calamari, and smile back.
Jim Morrison is all swagger on the other wall.
Today’s Venice Beach though has its own characters, a rasta artist on rollerblades playing guitar, an old man who wheels his grand piano up the strand to tinkle the ivories.
And a random Latino Conor McGregor who is punching and kicking the hell out of a punchbag in the square.
In Southern California, or SoCal, it is all about the image, the Body Beautiful.
And this is where Californian body builders come to work out, at the outdoors Muscle Beach Gym, once the home of Arnold Schwarzenegger and ‘The Hulk’ Lou Ferrigno.
There’s always a show on, even if it is only the tourists posing by a muscleman mannequin on the boardwalk. Guilty!
Up the road in Santa Monica the busy pier gives little clue that this is the beach used for Baywatch.
All these nuggets and more are at the fingertips of our driver Chris from Starline Tours provided by our hosts Attraction Tickets Direct.
He tells us of a loose association with David Hasselhoff and a girl who was the Hoff’s Proms date.
I would be more impressed if Chris had dated Sandy… well, we do pass Rydell High.
And he shows us too the site of the party hotel, the Garden of Allah where Joni Mitchell hung out, and ‘they paved Paradise and put up a parking lot.’
You’ll find today’s Hollywood celebrities hanging out in West Hollywood, so where better to bunk down?
The La Peer Hotel, just a couple of blocks down from Beverly Hills, its cop shop and Rodeo Drive, is a Kimpton.
It is a boutique hotel which is much more than that as befits West Hollywood, with its heated outdoors swimming pool as an extension of the bar.
The hotel’s restaurant Viale dei Romani serves up the best Italian food if you want to stay inhouse.
And I’d also recommend the Wood Grilled Octopus and its garden of warm potato salad, oil cured olives, preserved lemon and saffron aioli.
But there are no shortage of great restaurants too to sample in West Hollywood where best of all you can also indulge in the favourite pastime of celeb-spotting.
And so we also visited Real Housewives of Beverly Hills star Lisa Vanderpump’s eponymous lounge and restaurant PUMP.
Where Lady Gaga made the news a few years back after falling outside on the sidewalk.
Lisa is there the night we dine on truffle mushroom chicken (well, you would, wouldn’t you?)
Though no sign of Gaga. Perhaps the gay icon will be back the following week for Pride.
West Hollywood is already putting out the bunting for Pride when up to 200,000 will take to the streets.
Although, in truth, it is always in a state of readiness with its rainbow zebra crossings.
I’d recommend a night in one of the many friendly gay clubs, I even managed to walk, rather than fall out of.
Although a bulky cop, or I think he was, reminded me that I couldn’t drink on the sidewalk.
If you want to get closer to the stars, get onto the right tours and get on the sets of the TV shows and movies we watch.
Our hosts Attraction Tickets Direct will help with pre-booking which will save precious time and money.
They will take you to Warner Studios where you can sit in the very same couch used in Central Perk in Friends or visit the Ellen set.
A day in Universal Studios Hollywood will immerse you in movie history and the future now.
We take a coach tour through the sets of Pyscho, Jaws, a Mexican town and through a tunnel where a scene from Fast and Furious is simulated all around us. Great fun.
Great fun too the Kung Fu Panda: The Emperor’s Quest cinema show with vibrating seats and water mist effects,.
While fans of rollercoaster rides will love The Simpsons and Harry Potter rollercoasters.
I prefer to sit back and watch others take the heat although I didn’t expect to see a stuntswomam set on fire in the Special Effects show.
All your favourite animated and sci-fi characters are here and all in great form, all happy to pose up.
Shrek, Scooby-Doo, the Transformers, a dinosaur, no, not me, but a ‘real’ T-Rex which is trailing Jurassic World – The Ride.
We all have our favourites but it is the Boy Wizard who will always cast a spell on me.
Muggles, myself included, are besides themselves at the prospect of Hagrid’s Magical Creatures Motorbike Adventure storycoaster in the sister resort in Orlando.
Universal Hollywood’s Potter experience feels smaller than its Orlando world but it is still intimate and enchanting.
And its Dark Arts light show is a thundering good jape with a cascade of creepy crawlies climbing up to attack a crumbling Hogwarts Castle in the dead of night.
Only for the forces of good to prevail, all against a heart-pounding musical score and moral message.
And that it seems is Hollywood and the LA story in a nutshell, an aspirational, illusory dream sequence.
Where you can stand in the Hollywood Hills, and you can hike up to the Griffith Observatory and view the iconic letters.
Or take a waitering job and hope to serve a Steven Spielberg.
Or get your star on the Walk of Fame.
It’s a rollercoaster journey all right and you can’t pick who you’re next too but I did spot four stars unfilled…
And I reckon I’d be a more than deserving candidate for one of them.
HOW TO GET THERE
Jim flew with Aer Lingus from Dublin Airport with pre-clearance to LAX.
WHERE TO STAY
La Peer Hotel is quintessentially West Hollywood with bright, funky finishings, spacious and comfortable bedrooms and fine and filling food. As well as a heated swimming pool and fitness centre. Doubles from approximately €315 per night. Visit www.lapeerhotel.com.
Deluxe Grand City Tour with Starline from €73pp.
Hollywood Hills guided hike – departing from the Greek Theatre. It’s a 2.5 hour gentle hike, offering mountain and city views and photo opportunities of the Hollywood sign. The tour ends at the Griffith Park Observatory (admission included). From €46pp.
Starlight Dinner Cruise from Marina Del Rey’s. From €107pp (not including drinks).
Universal Studios Hollywood – one-day admission ticket from €96pp/Express Pass from €167pp/VIP Experience from €305pp.
Which also means two continents – Asia and Africa.
Now having dipped my toe in the Jordan part of the Ref Sea, I’m ready to try Egypt, Israel and Saudi.
Now let’s start with Egypt and our friends TravelDepartment www.traveldepartment.ieand let’s start in its capital, Cairo.
There you will absorb the ancient sites including a full-day guided city tour.
Taking in the Egyptian Museum and a visit to the Khan El Khalili bazaar.
Then head for the Pyramids of Giza and thr Great Sphinx on a half-day guided tour.
Fancy a relaxing river cruise on the 4* HS Radamis II down the Nile?
With a range of excursions along the way taking in the Temple of Horus, the Valleyof Kings, the High Dam and the Temples of Karnak and Luxor.
Finally, you’ll enjoy a three-night stay in Hurghada, the beautiful beach resort toen stretching 40km along Egypt’s Red Sea coast.
Prices start from €1,629pp for 12 nights including return flights, 7 night full-board 4* river cruise, 4* and 5* B&B/half-board hotel accommodation, transfers, and excursions with expert local guides, departing April – November 2020