University sets you up for working life. That’s what informed people with trust-worthy faces say. Every course has its token module where interview tips are shared, portfolios consolidated, CVs pored over to ensure the email address you’re applying with isn’t still firstname.lastname@example.org, and the result is you leave fresh-faced with your degree and mortarboard only to find actually every employer is very comfortable with their current staff, thanks.
That’s certainly the reality I was plunged into. Several months after graduation I was still furiously searching for employment. My poverty got to the stage where, with an almost sitcom sense of desperation, I decided to look for gameshows for some quick cash.
They seemed perfect, an opportunity for a regular Joe like me to get his hands on a significant amount of money without requiring all the experience jobs necessitated. Plus I might get to kick Noel Edmonds. Who wouldn’t take this opportunity?
I began to apply for every quiz show I could find. I thought my ebullience might get me on ‘Total Wipeout’, or even ‘Coach Trip’. What I wasn’t expecting was an audition for daunting general knowledge quiz show ‘Eggheads’, a show which, for those who do not own a television, you and your quiz team are pitted against the 5 smartest people in the UK.
My immediate concern though was that, possibly for the first time in the show’s history, I had an audition for a quiz show and I didn’t have a quiz team. What followed was a series of flustered phonecalls to various semi-intellectual friends, begging them to come to London with me in a couple days and pretend we were a quiz team which, not really thinking we stood a chance applying for Eggheads, I’d given the really quite laughable name of ‘Team Surprise’.
Somehow I cobbled a gang of 5 of us together, and we headed to the audition, which bizarrely took place in the Indian YMCA. Even more bizarre was that, through some unimaginable blagging, we guessed every question right!
A few days later, the inevitable happened. I received a phonecall. We’d been chosen to go on the show. I half-screamed, half-laughed down my phone in response, not unlike a choking seal.
So that is why, a week later, I found myself in Glasgow, having powder brushed on my face by a chirpy Scottish lass to make sure when in HD my face didn’t look like it was built out of clay. Before I could absorb the whole lunacy of the situation, I was sitting in a chair in BBC 2 in your television, chatting gaily with the host Dermot Murnaghan whilst my girlfriend readied herself to take on CJ at Geography. Which she lost. Badly.
Despite miraculously acing our audition our luck changed when challenging the sort of intellectuals who could probably make chairs levitate if they concentrated hard enough on them, and eventually it boiled down to me and my friend Will in the final round, playing for £20,000! 20 grand!
We weren’t doing bad either, somehow blagging two questions correctly. If we could get our third right, if we could nail our round 3/3, surely that’d be enough to topple the Eggheads confidence? Surely that’d be sufficient to nab us our 20 thousand? And then I could laugh at all those employers who had turned me down, as I sauntered past their businesses wearing shoes made out of money. The question went:
‘Where did Prince William and Kate Middleton get married? A) Westminster Abbey. B) St. Paul’s Cathedral. C) St. James Cathedral.’
Me and Will grinned at eachother. We’d both watched the wedding, even if at the time I was concentrating more on my breakfast and he what he’d like to do to Pippa if he had the chance. We both agreed it was Westminster Abbey, and just as I went to relay our answer, just as I was about to nail our £20,000 windfall, I heard Will mutter “… but, it was in a cathedral though, wasn’t it?”
It’s a lot different answering questions under the glare of TV cameras and with CJ frowning at you, and in such a situation doubt can eat away at you like a plague. And so, setting aflame any sense of patriotism we could rightly lay claim to, we agreed it was..
“B, St. Paul’s Cathedral, Dermot. We’re going with B.”
Have you ever heard 20 thousand pounds disappear? It does make a sound, a little hissing noise.
Unsurprisingly, this was incorrect, and the Eggheads went on to win. But, our loss aside, I did realize with clarity how ridiculous it was that I was here, in Scotland, in the BBC studios, made up to HD-specifications, gambling £20,000, on air, on the locale of that wedding, and this was easier than getting a small, local, graduate job.
I’m on ‘Countdown’ next week. Still no luck job-hunting.
By Matt Rose