SITTING IN THE CHAIR on Who Wants To Be a Millionaire? is not stressful. Sitting in the dark on the edge of the stage watching someone else in the chair IS stressful.
I know, because I was there on the evening of November 30 as the second show in the recent series was filmed at Media City, Salford.
I have been a journalist for 40 years but I am a useless two-finger typist. That evening I proved incapable of answering a simple geography question by hitting buttons for A, B, C, D and ‘Enter’ in the correct order.
After 20 years of wanting to get on Millionaire, I’d made a fool of myself and let my family down. I sat there feeling sick, making up my excuses for when the show went out in four weeks’ time.
Then, unexpectedly, the guy who had won Fastest Finger First went out early, winning just £1,000. I had one more chance, so I did what any sensible bloke would do: I sent a prayer up to my mum to get me into that bloody chair!
I pressed those five buttons slowly and carefully, but I was still two seconds faster than the only other contestant. Some things are just meant to be.
I was introduced to the watching world as ‘Eric Musgrave from Berwick-on-Tweed’ because the production team had decided no one would have heard of Etal. ‘Eric from Berwick’ had a nice ring to it, anyway, and #BerwickEric looked good on Twitter, I’m told.
I got up to £1,000 before the hooter went for the end of that show. Just 45 minutes later, after a quick change of outfit, I was back in the chair for the filming of the series’ third show. I did OK for 10 of the 15 possible questions, using only my ‘Ask The Audience’ lifeline on Question 7. Then Question 11 – worth £64,000 – almost snookered me and took up my other three lifelines.
I was hauled into the winner’s enclosure by my last lifeline – ‘Ask The Host’. Jeremy Clarkson may not be everyone’s favourite person but right now I love the guy: he pointed me firmly in the direction of the correct answer.
I had no idea about Question 12 for £125,000, so I took my money and said goodnight to give another contestant the chance to step out of the darkness.
Putting aside false modesty, I reckon I earned my £64,000 (even though it is tantalising to think that with two more correct answers I’d have won four times that sum).
I had to keep all this secret for just over a month, right up until the broadcast date. Apart from my ‘Phone A Friend’ pal Giles, only my immediate family knew anything about it.
With beautiful symmetry, we watched the first show broadcast on 2 January, the fifth anniversary of my mother’s death.
Good old Mum had delivered me for a second time!