10th Dec – Poor boys and pilgrims with families, And we are going to Graceland.

Cleaned myself: those days are over
Monkey see, monkey do: 0 lately
Tics: matter over mind
Believe in God? Only the virgin birth, the miracles and the resurrection. The rest is nonsense.
YTLH: There are only long cuts.

Mannish arrived to redeem his apology just before I went on and as he did, he squirted me all over with Fabreze and said, ‘it’s just a thing we do.’

I am in Seat 4, meaning that I will be last to go. It should be daunting, under the studio lights, the cameras pointing at you, the potential of everlasting shame close at hand, yet I feel calm – that I have somehow skirted my moment of catastrophe when it came for me in the Green Room earlier. Sat in Seat 4 the tension should build but if anything, it goes the other way. To make one hour of TV they spend about two and a half in real time, stopping, starting, repeating for no reason, and in the end it’s just boring and you want it over.

In addition to all that, there I was, Richard, not Dickie, wearing my mum’s 0.5 reading glasses (I know), with my hair greased down into a conventional haircut, in a middle-aged man’s rig-out. I was hardly recognisable, and if anyone thought they might know me, as soon as I flashed my TV teeth all such notions would be gone. First up was the quisling, who got six of the easy questions right – the bit called the cash builder, where you win your stake for the next stage against the expert quizzer. And Glory be, our expert was the dumb cove who couldn’t work out that 60 mph was the same as one mile a minute. Nevertheless, he caught up the quisling in no time at all and he was gone. Next was a woman, a bit older than me, who claimed to be a paralegal. Thick as shit, she got three easy questions right, went for the lower offer, and still didn’t beat the numbskull home. Then it was the turn of a Millennial. I don’t say that it was because she was a Millennial that she had no shame in being stupid, but it may have had something to do with it. She got one right, and none when in front of the expert (sic). Then it was my turn.

Ask me a question on sport.

Before you start your cash builder, you go through this brief getting to know you session for which you’ve provided the information in your application and at the auditions. First, the host/compere/quiz master asks you what you do for a living. I think I’d said advertising previously, but it suddenly struck me as a lie, and though I ummed and ahhed over it, I eventually said that I didn’t really have a job. He was sympathetic and said, ‘it’s been a funny old year, and I think that there are a lot of people like you, who don’t quite know whether their job still exists or not. So, when you’re not working, or looking for work, what do you like to do?’

Again, I sensed the dishonesty of the prepared answers, so I said, ‘erm, I was going to say sports, but I can’t remember the last time I played, or even watched a match of anything.’

The host then did this theatrical thing, like ‘we’ve got a right one here,’ and I heard a few people giggling in the crew behind me. ‘So, you don’t do anything?’ he asks, and I replied, ‘no, not really.’

Out of the corner of my eye, I saw someone making a grand gesture. Thinking about it afterwards, it was probably the floor manager who had been expected to call cut and have me do it all over properly from the start, as arranged, but who’d decided on a whim to let it roll and see how it played out. I could see the host glance nervously off to his left two or three times as he continued to try and have a conversation with me. He was friendly though, and he was smiling as he said, ‘OK, I hardly dare ask this … if you won some money today what would you do with it?’

And again, I looked at the floor, and was genuinely stumped for an appropriate answer. Eventually I said, ‘err, like I was saying, I couldn’t really claim to have any interests.’

‘Yeah, but this would be your chance to do something,’ he tried.

I shrugged half-heartedly back at him.

‘Come on,’ he said, ‘rack your brain. Tell us something you enjoy doing.’

I thought for a while, then I said the only thing that I could bring to mind, ‘I enjoy going to the toilet,’ I said.

He laughed, shook his head, then said, ‘right, let’s get you a really comfortable, top of the range toilet.’ Then, as he looked down to begin his questions, he said, ‘hold on a minute, you’re not that bloke off of the adverts are you? The ones that have gone viral, about beer or something?’

I cocked my head to one side, I could have been I suppose, but I didn’t know.

‘Yeah, they’re all over the place, cinema, TV, internet. It’s you isn’t it?’

‘It might be,’ I said. And he replied, ‘What you don’t know?’

I told him that I didn’t, really.

‘Well, I think they’re great, I really do,’ he said, ‘I knew I knew you from somewhere. Now let’s get you that toilet,’ and started laughing again.

The easy questions were easy, though I didn’t know one about a children’s film. My stock answers were Frozen and The Lion King, and it wasn’t whichever one of those I said; and I also didn’t know one about which singer owned a certain brand of perfume, so, I ended up with eight right, which translates to £8,000.

At the table, as they call it, you’re made two offers, one closer to home for less, and one closer to the expert for which they offer you a jackpot, which in my case was £80,000. The host was kind of pushing the, ‘it’ll be all yours, and what have you got to lose?’ angle, but I was always going to go for that anyway, especially against such poor opposition, so I said, ‘I would, but it’s not enough.’

The expert asked me how much I wanted, and I said I’d go for it if it were £100k, and lo and behold he revised his offer. They probably had us down as team of losers by then, and thought the money was safe. Anny hoo, I beat him at the table – by which I mean that I got more answers correct than he did. I had to guess two, but in one the key word in the question was Italian sounding, and one of the three multiple choice answers was Italy; and the other had a word like chromo or mono in it, which gave away the answer.

So that put me in the final chase, but it seemed to cause something of a stir that I wasn’t jumping up and down in excitement for having got that far. I mean, why would you? You haven’t won anything at that stage, all the questions were easy and I was playing against a dunce.

In the final chase, you get one minute’s worth of questions and you answer as many as you can. They’re supposed to be harder and faster but they weren’t. It’s quite an advantage being on your own, because you don’t have to wait to see if one of your fellow contestants is going to buzz in with an answer that you don’t know, and they can’t get in front of you with a wrong answer, so you just respond with your answer, or pass, and that way, you get miles more questions than they’d normally manage.

I remember doing this at school, and I can’t recall having had occasion to do it since, but alone with no one else to distract me, I summoned up the powers to concentrate immensely hard. It was just me, in the moment, no mind at play, not looking at him but hearing every word the host said with absolute clarity and responding immediately – in the zone; it’s probably what successful people do all the time. I’d do it more often if I ever got a proper job again. Anny hoo, I got twenty-two, and he was ecstatic on my behalf. The expert got thirteen. He was never in it. Err that’s it. One hundred thousand, mine.

uneasy lies the head that wears the crown.

‘That is one of the greatest games we’ve ever had in the history of the show,’ said the host, ‘but you still don’t look happy Richard.’

I wasn’t. I was thinking of other things by then, imagining that the price of this good luck would be a prison sentence following shortly behind it. Besides, the quiz was easy, and the result was a foregone conclusion from the moment the expert started his final chase.

‘Anyway,’ he said, ‘I usually say that I’ve thoroughly enjoyed playing alongside you. I have, but it’s also been very strange too. Buy yourself that toilet. In fact, buy yourself a throne. You have outrun The Chaser and one hundred thousand pounds is yours. Have you enjoyed your day? Please tell us you’ve enjoyed it.’

I didn’t, but I did say that when I was applying to be on the show, I was revising the Christmas pageant we were putting on, and as I wrote the word throne, he’d read it out at the same time in a question, and that I knew then that I’d win. ‘And just to prove it,’ I said, ‘you’ve said throne again just now.’

He paused before he spoke again, and seemed to swallow, ‘That is … whoa, let’s not go there. Why didn’t you tell us that you were putting on a Christmas pageant when I asked you about your hobbies earlier?’ He shook his head and said, ‘I am going to have to come and watch that.’ Then he handed to the expert, and do you know what he had the audacity to say?

‘It’s been a bad day at the office.’

That had nothing to do with it, and if you listen carefully when the programme goes out, you’ll hear me shouting, ‘I would have beaten him anyway,’ in the background.

Hold on a minute, they got Sacha?

Many thanks to Library of Congress for the image.