Another side effect of chemo that everyone knows about is hair loss. Up until now I had survived my cancer treatment without this. I think this stumped people quite a bit. I remember meeting up with colleagues from work just after I had finished round two of radiotherapy. One of them commenting on the lusciousness of my hair. She looked quite upset when I told her that I had had radiotherapy and not chemo. She just assumed that if you have cancer, you lose your hair end of story.
The drug that I was on, Paclitaxel, caused hair thinning and not hair loss. My hair did fall out but it wasn’t a sudden thing. It happened very gradually. After about a month of treatment, I was trying to be a bit like Bobby Charlton in disguising my rather obvious baldness. Finally, we took matters into our own hands and my husband shaved my head. You could tell he had been dying to do this as soon as chemo was first mentioned, which I thought was a bit odd. It was quite shocking to see how little hair I had. My hair now slightly resembled my dad’s in the way that it made an M shape on my forehead. Not a good look at all.
Now that the hair had gone, the next thing that followed was the purchase of a wig. Just after my chemo induction I went to see a wig man who was fabulous. His salon was on the top floor of an old Victorian factory in Nottingham. As I huffed and puffed up the stairs, he stood on the top landing, clocking my hair.
“You my dear are a Mia!” he proclaimed and produced a blond wig. He then gave me a hair net to stuff my hair in and demonstrated how to put a wig on correctly. I tried it on and it looked OK. He also shared a secret.
“To make it look less…urm…wiggy, accessorise!”
He proceeded to put a headband on the wig as well as a variety of hair grips and clips. It certainly did make the wig look a lot better.
I thanked him and put in an order for a Mia.
The following week I was chatting to a friend and the cancer support centre I started going to. She mentioned about her old wig.
“It’s a redhead but honestly you can have it. It needs a wash. It’s just sitting at the bottom of my wardrobe doing nothing. It might as well be useful for someone.”
The following week she brought it in. I tried it on. The transformation was incredible. It looked so much better than Mia. The darker red colour made me look quite well which the blond from Mia, failed to do. That was it settled. I was to be redhead Erin during treatment rather than blond Mia.
I had lots of fun with Erin. It kind of felt like I had another identity. I was off work with quite a bit of time on my hands and an idea began to take root. I have always been quite good at pub quizzes. So, I decided to apply for some daytime TV ones to chance my luck.
The first one I applied for was Pointless. In Pointless you must play in a pair, so I roped in my sister, who was on maternity leave at the time. We had an audition for the show in a non-descript hotel near the train station. We had to tell the production staff and our fellow audtionees an interesting fact about ourselves. We struggled with this. I plumped in saying that I had been a Gamesmaker at Wimbledon. My sister could not think of a single thing. She decided just to wing it. When the moment came, I mentioned my Gamesmaker experience very briefly. My sister could only pretend that she supported the same football team as one of the presenters. In the meantime, our fellow audtionees had the production team fascinated by their interesting facts. In the end a woman who went on and on about meeting Prince Charles and a bloke who collected cinema tickets got through. We were told don’t call us, we’ll call you. But I wasn’t defeated in my quest…
The next programme in my sight was Bargain Hunt. Although it wasn’t a quiz as such, Bargain Hunt is a daytime television institution. This time I persuaded my mum as clearly my sister was way too boring for TV. So, on one sunny Saturday me, my mum and my dad were negotiating the winding roads of Lincolnshire to find the hotel where our audition was. We finally got there and it lasted all morning, much to dad’s delight. The audition itself was a run through of the programme itself, with eight other couples. At the end, we had to don on the famous Bargain Hunt fleeces and do a little bit to a camera, talking about ourselves. It went quite well. A couple of weeks later I got an email to say that we were on the waiting list. If any of the chosen couples couldn’t make it, we were next in line. Sadly, they all could make their dates so we never got the call. So near…
In my final attempt to get on daytime TV, I decided to ditch my family members altogether. It was a task I had to do alone. My friend saw an ad for 15 to 1. I vaguely remembered the quiz from my uni days and decided to give it a bash. Soon I was sat in a basement in an hotel in Birmingham with some very strange characters indeed. I had entered the world of the professional quizzers. The audition seemed to go OK but I wasn’t brilliant. I was completely shocked when I got an email inviting me to go to Glasgow to film a show. I had no idea what to expect. The hotel we were all staying at was lovely. While I was having my lonely meal for one at the hotel, I was scanning the restaurant to see if I could spy my fellow quizzers. I thought I saw a few, but was too scared to approach them.
At eight o’clock the following morning we were collected in some black people carriers and whisked to the studios. The main topic of conversation were quizzes. What they had been on, what kind of questions would come up. I just smiled and nodded. Once we had been security checked, we were taken to a side room with sofas and Danish pastries. It was then I found out that I was to be on the first show that was to be filmed that day. I had just enough time to have a Danish, when I was whisked to make up. The make-up ladies were lovely. They had something that looked like a chemical sprayer that they used to apply the make-up. Lovely. When she went to style my hair, I froze. I was wearing Erin so I whispered to her about it. She smiled, sprayed some hair spray over Erin and wished me luck.
The rules of 15 to 1 are complex. We had been told them numerous times during the audition but I went in having no idea what I was doing. As the name implies, it involves fifteen people. The chosen fifteen then stand in a semi-circle. Each person has three lives. In the first round, you must answer your first two questions to avoid getting knocked out. If you are successful in that you progress to round two.
Round two is where the fun and games happen. In round two you nominate another player to answer a question. If they get it wrong, they lose a life. This madness continues until there are only three players left. Then it’s the final.
We drew lots as to where in the semi-circle we had to stand. Some of my fellow quizzers got a bit hot under the collar about this. Apparently if you were number one or fifteen, you were more likely to be nominated. I was number nine so nice in the middle.
We took our place on the stage and the show’s presenter Sandy Toksvig appeared. She seemed ever such a lovely lady and shook hands with us all. It felt a bit like meeting royalty. So, what do you do?
After a group photo was taken of us and Sandy, we took our places behind the podiums. I don’t remember much of round one. I remember the person on podium one had to answer a question on astrophysics. I thought at the time that I wouldn’t last long but weirdly I managed to answer my two questions correctly.
Round two it was and so began the nominating. Again, I don’t remember much of it. I only remember that there was a chap in a wheelchair and I nominated him. He got his question wrong and was eliminated. My dad wasn’t happy about that but that’s the dog eat dog world of daytime quizzing.
It all seemed to happen so quickly that before I knew it, I was in the final three. How on earth did that happen? All the other contestants were chauffeured off, licking their wounds, dreaming on what could have been. All that was left was me, Daphne and Brian.
Daphne was a retired civil servant who had been on fifteen to one in the 1990’s. She only made it to the second round then, so like me was a bit flabbergasted to be in the final three. Brian was a breed apart from us two. He had been on quite a few quizzes. He was the chairman of a group of quizzers in the West Midlands. If there was a lion amongst us it was Brian. Poor Daphne and I were injured wildebeests in his presence.
We got going and I still didn’t know what I was doing. In the final round, you can either answer the question yourself or nominate. You don’t know what the question is so it’s a bit of a gamble. I remember someone somewhere saying it was a good idea to have a lot of points. So, I answered as many questions as I could, rather than nominate. I have no idea where that confidence came from. When the programme came to air, my husband was gobsmacked by my rapid answering of inane questions. Then I came unstuck. The question was:
Which American actor, who died in 2014, stared in the television programme Maverick and stared in The Great Escape?
I knew it was James something. Not James Cagney. He was long gone. Not James Stewart. He was The Wonderful Life guy. James…James…
I decided on James Coburn. Nope. It was James Garner. And off I went. Walk of shame and everything.
As to who won well… it was Daphne. She was completely dumbstruck when Brian got a God-awful question about the Indonesian rainforest. Brian was quite chilled about it though. You could tell it was just a normal dog eat dog day in the quizzing world.