The Final Countdown (part two)

(It's only taken me about 6 months to publish this, but better late than never, I suppose.)


It's a May Monday morning in Manchester.  In the Granada TV studios, the resident Countdown warm-up man tries his best to turn things lively before the second show of the day.  Unfortunately, the audience is tiny, and the routine tired.

"Is Ted Robbins available?" asks the floor manager, with just a hint of despair.

He isn't, so the bargain basement banter continues.  Adam Crozier is a lemon, we learn, and then - having so few people in the audience to work with - he turns his attentions to me, and jokes about the pointlessness of a palaeontologist.  Coming from the warm-up man for a daytime quiz show, I wonder if this is ironic.

And then Graeme Cole, my sixth opponent, enters the studio.

"Thank God it's not Graham Cole," says someone on the floor. "He was the most boring Dictionary Corner guest we've ever had."

Following Graeme is the current Dictionary Corner incumbent, Shobna Gulati of Coronation Street fame.  My Coro-loving friends in Newfoundland will be very jealous.

Countdown morning sunshine from a Manchester hotel room.

I knew I would lose to Graeme as soon as I met him.  He was a proper Countdown player, a dedicated Apterite, whereas I was just a fly-by-night game show lightweight, in it for the novelty and the minimal fame.  I wanted to do my best against him, but I had little doubt that Graeme's desire to win would see him triumph.

As a consequence, I was actually quite relaxed, and resplendent in my Father Dougal jumper*, I chatted fairly happily with Jeff.  I talked mostly about the fabulous online encyclopaedia, Sporting Heroes - soon to be relaunched, by the way - and the fact that his old mate Chris Kamara makes two appearances on the site.  Sadly, Jeff's response was edited out of the broadcast version.

Standing (l to r): Susie Dent, Steven Hatton, David Brown, me, Aidan Turnbull, Graeme Cole, James Hall, Shobna Gulati. (Seated: Rachel Riley, Jeff Stelling)

The contest began, and I fainted whilst Graeme inflated, giving him an 8-0 lead.  The next round saw his steamed equal my maddest, and I was relieved to recombine with him in the third, making the score 25-33.

Streams and matures took us to a straightforward numbers game, where we both got 442, and that meant it was 42-50 at the break.  That was easily the most points I'd accrued in the first third of a show, so I couldn't complain at all.

I could complain even less in the first letters round after the break, when I behaved venially whilst Graeme looked lively, and suddenly it was 50-all.

That was as good as it got for me, though, and ragouts, euchring and pinata ensured Graeme was 21 points ahead of me by the second break.  It was the middle of those three that made me recognize my fate: I hadn't the faintest idea what the word meant!

With loricate, Graeme delivered the 12th round knockout, and despite a final show of gallantry, I'd fallen to a 93-112 defeat.  As the CDB commentary rightly noted, though, I wasn't upset.

I'd achieved far more than I expected, and lost only to a future Octochamp.  And of course, by way of consolation I'd gotten one of the famous teapots, with which I could make a nice cup of tea. Would you like a cup?  You'll have some tea... are you sure you don't want any?  Aw go on, you'll have some.  Go on go on go on go on go on go on go on go on GO ON! 

A nice cup of Countdown tea

*particularly appropriate, as he used to dream of being on the show.


Coming up next time - a final, final instalment in which I try my luck at home against the Series 65 finalists.