I’m on the train back from Leeds, where I’ve spent the day in Countdown’s dictionary corner. I watched the programme as a child, so it’s a real joy to be a part of it, and something I had been unable to do in previous years. And of course as a Scrabble player it’s right up my street.
There are five episodes filmed in a day, so while I’ll be on for the whole week (starting 4 May), it’s actually quite a hardcore schedule to do them all; yet as the newish on-air team of Jeff, Rachel and Suzie seem to work really well together – it’s all pretty seemless.
What you do in dictionary corner.
There are two main jobs for the dictionary corner person to do. The first is to talk at the end of the rounds, and come up with words alongside Suzie (the master of the dictionaries). Yet as the guest you don’t do that alone; I think (hope) it’s not super-secret that the dictionary corner person has one of the producers – a former countdown grand champion – helping via an earpiece.
The speed at which he came up with long words was phenomenal. Sometimes I was just starting to look at the letter when he says “sevens, midgets, fidgets”. Though I was pleased that especially towards the latter programmes, I got into the zone and started to get a few of the same ones without the help (and if you see me say corneas, look for an extra twinkle in my eye – that was the one time I got one they didn’t spot).
The other part of the job is doing a two-minute anecdote at the end of part one. Yet I asked, and they allowed me, to do something a wee bit different. I took questions from the MoneySaving IQ test to ask Jeff (the presenter), Suzie and Rachel (numbers whizz). I think (hope, again!) it worked.
Most revealing was asking Rachel to work out how long takes to clear £5,000 on a credit card, paying only the minimum repayments; it’s a nightmare calculation and even she struggled within the time period. It goes to show how outrageous the minimum payment system is if someone as bright as her can’t do it (see the minimum repayments guide to see just how horrid it really is).
For me the day was a welcome break. At the moment, my job’s occasionally quite stressful and a bit depressing; MoneySaving in the recession often means talking about some distressing stories, and the need be straight-faced and earnest means you can get entrenched in such a mood. Today it was smiles and fun, bad puns and quips (i was groaning inside at myself sometimes).
The golden moment, and one I’ll never forget, was getting an eight-letter rude word, which has no other definition other than the rude one, and is completely unsuitable for the mid-afternoon slot. Yet it was the longest word (and there’s a clue in that…) possible, so it had to be done. As I started to define it, I didn’t know where I was going, but then I had an inspired thought; instead of giving the correct definition, I’d make one up, one that hopefully kids wouldn’t bat an eye at, but would make adults smile knowingly. I can’t tell you what it is – but it’s the Wed (6 May) programme that it’s on.