A Coach Trip Adventure
Putting in an application for Channel 4's "Coach trip" with Brendan Sheerin was just one of those mad, spur-of-the-moment decisions. Neither Denise or I ever thought that the production company would seriously consider us so when I received a phone call out of the blue inviting us for interview I was gobsmacked. We did the interview and then heard nothing. "Oh well," we thought, "their loss."
Then Denise got a phone call out of the blue asking if our bags were packed. Apparently the Coach had already started its journey and we were on the reserve list. Our jaws dropped. We promised to get some stuff together and said we'd await the call...
... which came to my place at 6 o'clock one night. I phoned Denise. "I'm just oot to the pub to go singing" was the response. "You do all the organising and I'll speak to you when I get back."
At 7.30pm I was told that we'd be flying to Pisa the following morning. My partner Rob, who also loves Italy, wasn't too happy as I'd only got home from the Zagarolo Wine Festival a fortnight before. He was even less pleased when I found out later that evening that were were to spend the night there and then head to Sardinia the following morning.
It all seemed so unreal and we both couldn't believe that all this was really happening. After about 30 hours on the road we eventually landed in Alghero and were instructed to wait to be picked up. Denise caught up on some well-needed sleep but I was more restless as I was sure that a camera crew would sneak up on us and catch us slumbering...
... and then the lift into town to meet the film crew and to get our first sight of THE COACH. Brendan and our fellow travellers came later.
We first met them in a fruit market in Alghero where they had been practicing their newly-acquired Italian on some rather bemused standholders. Introductions were made and Denise dropped me right in it by saying that we'd met when she came along to a belly dancing class I was running. "You promised me you weren't going to mention that!" I shrieked. Brendan got me to demonstrate and I then spent the four months in between filming and broadcast keeping my fingers well and truly crossed that they weren't going to show it.
Our first lunch was at a beachside cafe and it gave us our first real chance to speak to some of our fellow travellers. We sat with partners Darren and James and mother and daughter team Margy and Mandy. We then realised why we'd been chosen. Margy and Mandy are committed Christians and the film crew obviously thought that having two Pagans on the coach with them at the same time would be a cue for fireworks. They thought wrong. The six of us had a great and far-reaching discussion on gay marriage and comparative religion and got on like a house on fire. Interfaith 1, Production Team 0.
After lunch we changed into our swimming cozzies for the first activity - sea kayaking. Denise cannot swim so she felt a bit nervous about this and I didn't like to tell her that although I'm a reasonably strong swimmer I didn't like the idea of having my legs trapped inside a kayak in case I couldn't get them out again. We were given a double kayak and I got put at the front, noting the camera strapped to the tip of the kayak as I did so and making mental notes not to swear too much if/when it tipped over. We waited to be pushed into the water, watching canoe after canoe tip over and we were either incredibly skilful or incredibly lucky (I prefer the first option) to make it through the waves into the open sea with no incident. We then ran into trouble when we were totally incapable of making the kayak head in the direction we wanted it to. Brendan called for a race and we just gave up, paddling round and round in circles rather than making any efforrt to keep up with the others. It was only after Brendan and the film crew came up in the rescue boat and we were filmed making a total hash of it when we realised that we'd been set up. Denise had been given detailed instructions on how to use the rudder which she was following to the letter but they'd omitted to mention that it had been disconnected.
After the activity was over we had a splash in the water and were then brought down to earth when Brendan said it was time for the vote. In our naivety we thought that the day was nearly over. Well, no. First we had to divide into our couples and a runner came round to take down our vote in order that it was recorded and so we couldn't change it later. We then had to all be interviewed - first about the activity, then about who we were voting for and why. It went on for ever - and all this time we weren't allowed to speak to any of the others. We found the whole process rather difficult. From what little we had seen of our fellow travellers they seemed a good bunch and we didn't really want to vote for any of them. We decided that we didn't want to send anyone home so wouldn't vote for anyone on a yellow card already and plumped for the girls - Emily and Annabelle - solely because we hadn't had the chance to speak to them yet.
An age later we lined up on the beach for our first vote and had our first taste of the 'ring of fire'. We had been going through the day in a haze and were soon brought down to earth with a bump as the minutest details of what had happened during the day were brought up and discussed. On the TV the vote only takes a couple of minutes. Filming it can go on for what seems like an hour as every time there's noise in the background filming has to stop and the things you have been summoning the courage to say have to be recorded and re-recorded a couple of times so that they have a useable version. It's nasty and it didn't get easier over the course of our stay. Margy and Mandy got the yellow and with some relief we headed for the coach and then for the hotel.
For more details about our adventures on the Coach click here.
You can see us on our first episode on the Coach by clicking here:
Day 12: Sardinia (assault course, wine and cheese making)
Day 13: Nice (tennis, sealife centre)
Day 14: Cannes (mime, ballroom dancing)
Day 15: Aix en Provence (balloon flight, watercolour class) - yellow card :(
Day 16: Montpelier (violin lesson, pottery class)
Day 17: Perpignan (snail farm, banana boat)
Day 18: end of the trip, a day in Perpignan and then home the following day
You can watch the first episode of 'Coach Trip' that Denise and I featured in here: