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