It is exactly 2 weeks until I depart and I am currently sitting in VSO's training centre in Birmingham, having arrived shockingly early. This is thanks in part to my, almost obsessive penchant for punctuality, and the fact that there are only a few flights a day to Birmingham from Dublin and they are rather inconveniently timed, for me at least. As I've some time to kill I thought I might explain the name of the blog, for those who don't know me.
On August 22nd 2011 I appeared as a contestant on Channel 4 quiz show Countdown thus filling a life-long ambition. And ensuring that I will never ever again run out of something to talk about at parties. How did it come about? What possessed me to apply? Well if I was to go back to the beginning of the story I would tell you of afternoons, post-school and pre-homework, spent watching Richard, Carol and co, or of days when lessons were finished quickly and one of our teachers set us Countdown challenges as treats. (Well it was a treat for me at least) But I'll skip to my New Years resolutions for 2010. In addition to setting myself the usual goals, start learning a new language, complete a half marathon, I set myself the broader challenge to 'Do things I've always meant to do.' Within this broad theme lay a number of different ambitions I've held, but the one which I was particularly eager to achieve was to try out for Countdown. And so, over the Christmas Holidays I filled out an application form and applied.
And then heard nothing for ages.
And then in May I was called to audition in Ireland. I practiced beforehand, roping friends and colleagues into online, lunchtime, and weekend games of Scrabble. I rehearsed some Countdown-esque banter and everything. But on the day of the audition, when put through several letters and numbers games I didn't quite make the cut. And I was sad. And had to tell many, many people of my disappointment.
The ambition lingered however so when studying in London during last Spring I applied again. Surreptitiously. Like one does with second driving tests. If you don't tell people you're doing it then noone will ask you how you got on afterwards. And so another audition took place. This time over the phone. I sat, physically shaking, at my rickety Argos desk while the lovely producer called out the letters and numbers. At the end she said 'Just hold on and let me check these with a colleague'. Seconds later she was back on the line and telling me that I had qualified and could I turn up to the studios in July!
So turn up I did. With a cheering squad in tow. They were only 4 in number but they were loud. The TV show, for those familiar with it, is filmed just as briskly as it is televised. There are no breaks - just fifteen straight rounds of numbers and letters fun. For those who don't want to know how I got on please skip the next paragraph.
In short, dear reader, I lost. But I lost bravely, galliantly. It was a closely fought battle with the lead changing hands quite a few times throughout the show but I took a couple too many risks and sadly they didn't pay off. So I am not the owner of a coveted Countdown teapot yet. But I like to think I worn the charm contest, regaling stories of my brushes with former James Bonds' and my ambitions to complete a triathlon despite not being able to swim or cycle.
I also turned my Countdown appearance into a fundraising opportunity, hosting a 'Countdown 4 Kenya' event at which the episode was screened and my friends and family were pitted against my onscreen performance in the hope of winning prizes.
And so that is the story behind the blog's name. Apologies for the epic length of this post, I will endeavour to make future posts pithier!