The ego has landed

The next success on my list was appearing on a TV game show.  Back in 2004 I applied to appear on a new format of game show, The 24hr Quiz.  Hosted by Shaun Williamson (Barry from Eastenders) it was certainly a very nerve racking experience as the whole thing was filmed live.  I have to say though that the host was just the most delightful man. He put all the contestants at ease, there was no ‘big I am’ about him; just lovely.  I was well chuffed to get through to the final but unfortunately I didn’t get into the pod so never won a thing. However the whole experience gave me such a rush of adrenalin that I couldn’t wait to apply for another show.  So along came The Weakest Link.  The audition was brilliant.  The people that work for the TV companies that make these shows really know how to get the best out of the auditionees (apart from one show that was like being herded like cattle, not a pleasant experience).  Having passed the audition I was invited to come along as a studio standby with the promise that having done that I would definitely at some point get the chance to go on the show proper.  I drove down to Pinewood, where it was being filmed, feeling happy and relaxed.  Thankfully I turned my phone off whilst I was driving.  If I hadn’t then I might not have been nearly so laid back when I arrived.  It turned out that one of the female contestants had been bitten by a mosquito on holiday the week before and it had become infected.  Step forward Julie Baldwin!  I shook like a leaf.  During filming Anne Robinson was every bit as intimidating as you’d expect.  I got ‘picked on’ a couple of times.  I stood my ground and argued back but unfortunately I wasn’t in charge of the editing and this wasn’t evident when the programme aired some months later.  At this point I’d like to thank Reggie (wherever he may be).  Reggie voted me off in round 4, at which point I hadn’t got one question wrong.  Anne goes off between rounds to see who is the weakest link and whilst she was gone I asked him why he’d voted for me.  Reggie was a darling with the most adorable lisp. Apparently he’d lost track completely of where the round had gone and when he looked up mine was the first name he saw so he voted for me.  Having apologized for doing so he winked cheekily at me.  I winked back!  From that point forward Reggie and I voted the same way all the way through to the final!  William, an electrician from Blackpool if I remember rightly, had voted for me in the first round after he and I had taken a dislike to each other in the green room beforehand.  Apparently he thought I was wearing my mothers blouse (even though it was actually a jumper) though why that was an issue I don’t know; my mum has great taste in clothes!  Any way I digress.  Reggie, William and I got through to the final three. When the time came to turn our boards over William went first, then me, then Reggie.  His face was so smug.  He turned his board over to reveal my name.  It was clear from the smirk as I turned my board over to reveal his that he was convinced Reggie’s board would have my name on.  Unfortunately, the viewing public didn’t get to see the look on William’s face when he saw his name on Reggie’s board – class Reggie, pure class.

After the final I tried to chat with Anne but as they were running behind somewhat the stage manager almost ‘manhandled’ Reggie and I away from her.  I would like to add that once the camera’s stopped rolling Anne’s demeanour changed beyond recognition.  She was warm, friendly, jovial and so congratulatory of both Reggie and I.  Unfortunately, the message I wanted to convey to her came out rather rushed and garbled.  She was kind enough to send two young girls ‘runners’ after me to find out what it was I’d said but I wasn’t going to find out that day whether she got to hear the message.  It would take another 9 years to find out whether she actually got it.

Back in the green room the first thing I did was ring my mum.  She was over the moon that I got through to the final, said she was so proud of me, I was bursting with it all.  I explained that I only got 2 questions right but she said that it didn’t matter.  It took her a few seconds, and some prompting from me, to understand what it meant when I told her Reggie only got 1 right.  I swear to this day my left eardrum hasn’t recovered from the scream.

Of all the people outside my family that I told about my win on The Weakest Link I have to say that the late, and greatly missed, Derek Anderton’s reaction gave me the most pleasure.  He didn’t give a damn about how much I won, in fact he didn’t ask, he was just so happy to know someone that had met Anne Robinson (one of his favourites) and he was so pleased to find out that she was a nice person after all.  ‘We’, and I say we because he was loved by a great many people, lost Derek some years later.  After the funeral, at the wake, I was very touched when Jean came over and thanked me for taking time to come and tell Derek about my experience. She said that he derived a great deal of pleasure from recounting the story to his friends over the years.  He was a genuinely lovely man, no airs or affectations, always had time for people.  I’ve said on many occasions that the world would be a better place if it had more ‘Dereks’ in it.

To be continued

So how did I start?

Some years ago I created a mental list of things to do before turning 50. Parachute jump, go on a game show, win Best of Breed at Crufts and write a novel were among the things I was determined I would achieve.  Well the Parachute jump was the first thing I crossed off the list.  Back in 1997 my home was burgled whilst I was holiday with my daughter in Spain.  Of all the things that were stolen, a fairly cheap (to buy) necklace that had been given to me as a Christmas present back in 1985 was the thing that hurt most.  I was devastated.  So much so that I posted the neighbourhood with flyers offering a no questions asked reward for it’s return.  No joy.  It made me so ill to think I’d lost this much loved keepsake that I was losing sleep over it, it was ridiculous really.  One day at work someone told me that I needed to do something to take my mind of it.  So I did.  I jumped out of an aeroplane!  It worked.  In the process I raised around £500 for a special needs school.  This was the first truly cathartic thing I think I’d ever done.  It gave me a sense of empowerment, the feeling that anything was possible if you put your mind to it.  If only I’d realised that was how I was feeling at the time.  It is only when I look back that I see that that was the point at which everything started to change.  It was going to be another 16 years and several struggles later however before my oldest ambition was realised.

I would never ‘thank’ anyone for being a thief, for breaking into someone else’s home, rifling through their things, leaving them heartbroken when precious items are taken, however, I am a firm believer, always have been, that everything that happens to us in life happens for a reason.  We don’t always see the reason at the time it happens but sometimes, if we’re lucky, we get to see that reason and are able to grow from it.  I’m not saying that if this hadn’t happened then I wouldn’t ever have gone on a game show or written a novel, but I know without a shadow of doubt that in this instance what didn’t kill me made me stronger, made me more determined not to let things get me down and to live each day to it’s fullest.

To be continued…

Wake up from reality and start dreaming

It took me 50 years to write my first novel… and six months to write my second. No. 3 is ready for editing… 4 & 5 will follow shortly afterwards. My only regret? Waiting so long to write the first.

I started my first novel, not the one I published in 2013, back in 1986. Unfortunately life got in the way and I never finished it. No wait… that’s just an excuse I use to explain why I didn’t finish it. I do just as much, if not more, with my life now as I did then but back then I didn’t have the impetus that getting older gives you. Back then I had more important things to worry about… like going to the pub (to work), like going to the pub (to socialize), like raising my family (infinitely more important than any book I might add), like dating, coffee mornings and Indian takeaways. Now I just have a full time job, three show dogs, judging appointments (canine), Dog Show Manager duties twice yearly, my grown up family and Facebook to occupy me!

I’m not sure where I get the energy from these days, in fact some days I think I must be borrowing it from years to come as I can’t ever remember having two full time hobbies (my dogs and my writing) and a full time job. Perhaps it’s energy retrieved from too many late lie in’s. Whatever it is I’m grateful for it. I promised myself more than 30 years ago that I would write a book and whatever the ‘kick up the arse’ was in 2013, three books down the line I’m glad of it.

To be truthful though I never intended publishing my first book, The Tin Man. It wasn’t until I finally plucked up the courage to show it to someone that getting it published was considered. This was a demoralizing and somewhat soul destroying process. At times it took me back to my school days when ‘you’ll never amount to anything, you can’t do that, don’t be ridiculous you’re not good enough’ were staple comments from both students and teachers alike. Being told ‘no thank you’ to something you’ve put your heart and soul into was every bit as painful as any youthful aside I ever received. In the end I couldn’t bear the rejection any longer and my daughters, sensing my ‘damaged drive’ persuaded me to go down the route of self publishing. It took no more than a couple of hours to format the final manuscript to make it compatible with Createspace’s online publishing tool. Getting the book cover done was also quite easy. However that had less to do with me and more to do with Jacalyn Eggett to whom I’m eternally grateful.

Book 2 Four Seasons: Winter of Discontent was an entirely different experience both as a writer and as a published author. This time the theme can from my daughters who suggested something a little more commercial, a little more supernatural… Again I got encouraging comments from both friends and family and it caused no end of amusement when my friend Victoria said she would ‘judge Blackpool Championship Dog show in the nude if it doesn’t get picked up’. Well to be honest I only sent it to one publisher, Accent Press. I couldn’t bear the thought of endless rejections so figured if they didn’t want it I’d go down the self-published route. It was three weeks before Blackpool Dog Show when I received an email from David Powell saying that Accent Press would like publish for me. 24 May 2014, the day my life turned around…