In early January, Jacqui Smith and I were invited to perform at Pointless Celebrities (insert your own joke here) so we made our way to the BBC Elstree Studios without knowing exactly what to expect. In my case, I had never seen the program and was therefore not entirely familiar with the rules. In fact, I saw an old episode for the first time the morning of the recording, so was my preparation. We were shown to our adjoining changing rooms, which made me feel well outside of my comfort zone. Nobody ever believes me when I say this, but I don’t really like appearing on TV and the thought of appearing on a show and having to be funny and amusing easily scared me. Then Gyles Brandreth appeared at my door and calmed me down. He had recorded the episode before ours. I think they take in three or four a day.
We were then taken to the waiting room where we met all of the other attendees – that was before Covid, keep that in mind. It was a current affairs special and we were paired up against Rachel Johnson & Camilla Tominey, Marin Bell and Michael Fabricant, and Ayesha Hazarika and John Pienaar. After a brief briefing by the producer, we were taken to the cave-like studio, where a studio audience awaited us together with Alexander Armstrong and Richard Osman. This was the first time I met either of them, even though I saw Armstrong on Global doing a show on Classic FM. They came and said hello to all of us and with that we were gone.
Jacqui and I had talked about our worst nightmare, which was thrown away after the first round. The subject was flags, something I was reasonably familiar with. Jacqui went to Portugal and got 33 points and I went to Norway and got 44 points (if I remember correctly). It turned out this wasn’t a bad start. Jacqui then went to Portugal and we were in the next round after Rachel and Camilla both scored a goal.
In round 2 we had to name people who had started a new career in 2019. I wanted to pick Moira Stuart, but Martin Bell beat me. I chose Andrew Flintoff with 33 points and Jacqui for Chistine Lagarde with a wonderful low 5 points. Michael Fabricant was hidden and so he and Martin were eliminated. And we were head to head.
Head to head it turned out to be LBC versus Times Radio, even though John Pienaar was still with the BBC and Ayesha was still in the LBC group at the time of recording. I take absolutely no pleasure in saying we whipped their sad asses (sorry guys!). It was the best of three and the theme was Japanese food. My heart sank. When Alexander Armstrong came to me, I said something like, “My friends are going to laugh at each other because they know I have never been to a Japanese restaurant and will continue to do so. Some delightful people took this as a racist remark. For God I like Mexican food. I like German food. I like Lebanese food. Is it really a crime to say that ?! Anyway, I left it to Jacqui and we won 2-0 since both of her answers were hers have underlined.
So we won! Type of. On the last lap, our challenge was to get zero points in three attempts. I came close with an answer that scored two points, but we did not receive the £ 2500 award for our selected charities despite receiving £ 500 consolation each. I chose the Mankind Initiative, which helped male victims of domestic violence, and Jacqui chose the Jo Cox Foundation.
We each got a slightly disgusting glass cube as a commemorative cup, although I was told that these are very popular! It’s now on my trophy shelf next to my 1992 Medway Ports Authority Golf Championship Cup!
And then Jacqui continued her adoption of the BBC1 Saturday night schedule in a program called Strictly. No, me neither.