By four o’clock each day I would finally cave in and turn the television on to watch Deal Or No Deal. I’d never really watched it before, apart from whenever I had been to visit my grandmother in the Lake District. She had got completely hooked on it during the last few years of her life, taking great pleasure when people got greedy and came unstuck. “He could have had £14,000 but he’s going home with 10 pence. Isn’t he stupid?” she would say severely. Deal Or No Deal hadn’t yet been conceived during the years I worked as a subtitler for the deaf and hard-of-hearing on Channel 4 programmes. Countdown and 15 To 1 were our staple afternoon fodder back then. No doubt Deal Or No Deal would have been utterly tedious to subtitle day after day, with capitalisation issues over “pilgrims”, “East Wing,” “West Wing”, “Walk of Wealth”, “Dream Factory”, “Banker”, “Five Box”, “Power Five” “1p Kiss”, and “Death Box”, and shortforms required for “I’m ready for the question, Noel,” “It’s an amazing offer”, “member of the 1p Club”, “Let’s hope it’s a blue”, “curse of the newbie”, “play on with honesty,” “first male quarter of a millionaire” and Noel’s unnecessarily sinister opening line, “22 boxes. A quarter of a million pounds. Just one question.”
|Our back yard, early December 2010|
Yet to watch, it is strangely addictive, as it varies so much from day to day. So for a few months, Deal Or No Deal was my vice, my secret guilty pleasure, my daily slice of mindless entertainment, where I would put my feet up and cuddle my baby. Once Charlotte could sit up independently, she clearly started to recognise the theme tune, and would clap along with the audience and squeal excitedly at the Jackpot Joy sponsorship cartoons at the start and end of every ad break. I realise this makes me sound like a terrible mother. I won’t even try to contradict you. But these were desperate times.
I’m not sure that the desperate times are over, but my Deal Or No Deal phase definitely is. Nowadays, if we watch television together, Charlotte has me on a strict diet of CBeebies and Pingu, Thomas The Tank Engine and Peppa Pig DVDs.
Anyway, I was nonetheless very tickled when a friend from my NCT group set me the challenge of getting myself in the Deal Or No Deal audience to watch an episode being filmed. Obviously to be a competitor was completely out of the question, but getting in the audience simply involved filling in an on-line form and waiting. After a few months I got a phonecall from from the production team inviting me to attend a recording on 23rd November 2012. I accepted, checked I still had some black clothes that fit in the wardrobe, and booked myself a night in a Bristol Travelodge.
Only I couldn’t go, when the time came. We’d spent ten days of sleepless nights with Charlotte suffering from flu, and then poor Dave went down with it with a bang. He tried to battle on for a couple of days but by the Monday of last week he was flat out in bed with shivering chills, ferocious sweats and a violent cough, literally unable to do anything. Exactly as Charlotte had been the week before. He just looked dreadful. He really isn’t a malingering sort - this wasn’t man flu, it was the real, er, “deal”. After three days he had shown little sign of improvement, so there was no way I could leave him in sole charge of Charlotte, who by this point had picked up considerably and was running us ragged again.
So I cancelled my trip, and it’s my first proper challenge failure. Time to demonstrate maturity and embrace this failure, accepting that life does not always go according to plan, especially when you have a young child. I’m 40 quid down as I had paid a lower, non-refundable room rate in Bristol. (Annoyingly, if I hadn’t tried to save money, I’d have got my money back.) Thankfully, as no cheap advance rail fares had been available and I was going to have to pay a walk-on fare anyway, I hadn’t yet forked out for a train ticket. And even if everyone had been well and I had actually managed to set off, I still might not have made it, as flooding in the Midlands and South West severely disrupted train services to and from Birmingham New Street and Bristol Temple Meads stations that week. The challenge was probably doomed from the start. It’s not worth re-applying to be in the audience again at this point. I think I am more gutted about missing out on an uninterrupted night’s sleep in that Travelodge and my first lie-in for two and a quarter years than anything else. Besides, did I really want to trek all the way across the country to see Noel Edmonds in a bad shirt? Truth be told, probably not. And if I had gone, I’d have had to sign a confidentiality agreement and so wouldn’t have been allowed to blog about the experience. Whereas as I haven’t seen anything, I can write all that I like. My freedom of speech is intact.
I did get in the audience of Deal Or No Deal on Friday 23rd November, however. Dave took Charlotte upstairs for an hour and I sat and watched it at home, alongside a few million other people. For old times’ sake. And it certainly did make me a little bit nostalgic about those early baby days, and a tiny bit regretful that I hadn’t made it to the recording after all. Ironically, at the end of the show, Noel turned to camera and said “You’ve got to come down here sometime and experience the Dream Factory. It really does have a magic all of its own.” Maybe one day.