I think I’m ready for my close up…

As some of you may recall from my How you see me… post last year I applied to go on a dating show being filmed by BBC Worldwide. In all honesty I filled in the application on a whim as a source of distraction from writing another of my blog posts (I’m sure I’ve mentioned before that I am a hopeless procrastinator) and I didn’t expect to ever hear back. So when I received the call from the lovely Casting Director informing me that she’d read my application and was interested to find out more about me, I was surprised and quite flattered.

Following what felt like a fairly drawn out selection process I was told that they’d like for me to appear on the show. And thus followed the onslaught of questions from friends and family members that I’d told, however I didn’t actually know all that much. Preferring to remain ignorant and not ask too many questions, so I could go on pretending that it wasn’t going to happen.

What I did know was that the show was to be called The Country House and that the episode I would feature in, would focus on dating.  A group of singles would spend the weekend in, believe it or not, a country house. The production team were quite secretive (which suited my efforts at denial) and only drip fed me information on a ‘need to know’ basis at intervals. A week before I was due to enter the house I discovered that the episode would focus on the science behind what makes us attracted to certain people and that to test these theories they’d be sending us on ‘unorthodox’ dates. I immediately panicked. What the hell was an unorthodox date, and more to the point what would they make me do?

Following months of anxious anticipation I’d finally settled on what I think was a healthy balance between excitement and dread for what I called ‘my TV debut’.  The day came for me to head to the house and to say I was nervous was an understatement, it would be accurate to say I was closer to terrified as I just didn’t know what to expect. My thoughts revolved around on a repetitive loop of obstructive questions, which served only in working myself up into a near panic. What if I don’t get on with anyone? (Unlikely I know but pessimistic thoughts aren’t known for being realistic.) What happens if I fancy someone? What if I fancy someone but they don’t fancy me?

After spending a night in a nearby hotel which actually does the most amazing vegetarian breakfast. If you’re ever in Bridgewater then you should definitely stop at The Tudor hotel as the food and service was fantastic. One of the runners came to pick me up bright and early and while the car ride over was a little awkward, I finally felt a sense of calm that didn’t quite match how I’d felt during the weeks running up to D day.

The drive took roughly 15 minutes and as we drove through the gate I realised that I’d never before taken much notice of how beautiful autumn can be. The trees lined either side of the winding drive like guardians wearing green, gold and red and for the first time I really lamented that we weren’t allowed to take pictures.

maunselhousedrive

*I found this image of the drive but imagine the leaves are starting to turn golden and red.

I was the first to technically arrive and also the first to be fitted with a heart rate monitor, which I was advised I would need to wear for the whole weekend, they also fit me with a microphone. In order to attach both I had to take off my jacket (it was only 10 degrees) and stand in the cold shivering, while the microphone was attached to my bra clasp and the accompanying wire, unceremoniously stuffed into the side of my bra. I couldn’t help but muse (not for the last time that weekend) that maybe I wasn’t cut out for TV life.

Soon enough I was allowed to put my jacket back on and sit in the car with the heating on full blast. I was joined by another runner who reminded me of a cherub with her halo of bright blonde hair pulled into a sweet little top knot on her head. While we were chatting, a gaggle of white geese waddled in a line across the lane in front of us and I commented on the orderly fashion with which they walked and it reminded me of children on a school trip being made to walk in a line by their teachers. I am by no means a country-phile much preferring the delights of the big city over long country walks and outdoor pursuits however I noted how peaceful and how much natural awe I felt watching those birds waddling along. It also made me wish that commuters in London were more polite.

After what felt like hours in the car it was finally time to enter *insert Geordie accent* the big brother house, no wait wrong show. I mean (maybe here you should insert a West Country Farmer accent) the country house . A car with blacked out windows pulled to the front of the car I was sitting in and I wondered who was in it and why it was all so secretive. The car in front pulled off and then it was my turn, I was told that we would pull up to the house, I’d be handed my bag and then I’d be filmed entering.

The house is pretty impressive from the outside, there are several windows betraying the large number of rooms it holds almost as if they are eyes staring out at you or daring you to sneak a peak inside. Red and green vines adorned the outside walls giving, what I later discovered was a magnificent 13th century manor called, Maunsel House the feeling of being half dressed.

maunselhouse

Upon entering the house I was effusively greeted by a woman in a green dress. To my shock and immense pleasure I was also met by a ridiculously stunning man. Of course he was not one of the men with whom I’d be going on any dates and I couldn’t help but to hope that he was setting the bar for the guys I would later be faced with.

I got to spend a little more time with the stunning specimen as he showed me to the library and made polite chit chat along the way. I mentally noted that the walls were cluttered with paintings and the decor was not really to my taste, as my preference would be a more modern, minimalist decor.

I entered the library to find the inhabitant of the car with the blacked out windows and as soon as she said “Hi” I could tell I liked her. We were joined by the next two girls within about 15 minutes. Then we were joined by the woman in the green dress who explained that herself and her partner had created a dating agency based on the mating habits of birds and that throughout the day we’d be taking part in tasks which would re-calibrate our senses. I don’t know if intrigued would be the right word to describe my feelings but I was definitely interested to find out more.

The first task was basically Tinder. For those who have never “played” Tinder is a dating app in which you are shown the pictures of various men within a certain distance and if you like them you swipe right and if you don’t like the look of them you swipe left. So we were given pictures of various men of which we had to swipe right or left depending on if we found them attractive or not. After which we had to put the pictures in order of preference, first for those we’d swiped left on and then for the pictures we swiped right on.

Prior to entering the house we were each sent a t shirt which we had to sleep in for 3 nights (we were instructed to shower in non scented soap before going to bed). The second task we completed was sniffing the t shirts of the guys in the house. We then had to put them in certain orders. First we put them in order of the smell we found the sexiest, next it was the most pleasant smell and finally in order of intensity. One t shirt smelled absolutely awful but we later found out this scent wasn’t actually human and had been included as a decoy (which was reassuring to say the least).

For the third task I was pleased as they brought back the stunning man (who I later discovered was a model they’d hired, figures) and we were asked if we’d heard about the golden ratio. For those who’ve never heard of it The Golden ratio essentially explains that the most attractive faces can be measured and will exhibit specific ratios which prove they are most in proportion and therefore most attractive. We then got to have some fun with the stunning man and a measuring tape. Although not quite the fun you’re thinking of but I didn’t need to measure the distance between his features and calculate the ratios to know he was super attractive.

The next task started off with a guided visualisation. We had to close our eyes and imagine we were flying birds. After we opened our eyes there were 5 pictures of birds set up and we had to pick which bird we were most drawn to. We were then told the characteristics of said bird presumably we were to draw comparisons between the birds traits and our own. I was drawn to a picture of a swan. Swans are known for being loyal and romantic and once they pick a mate, that’s it for life (draw from that what you will).

For the next experiment we were told we’d finally be in a room with the guys (thus far they’d kept us completely separate). We had to come up with a chat up line to deliver to the boys and then we were blind folded and led into a darkened room. All the girls lined one side while the boys lined the other side and each of them were to deliver their chosen line and then we had to vote whether we thought their voice was hot or not. Following which we delivered our own lines and the boys voted on our voices. After the voting was done they brought up the lights and we got to see the guys for the very first time that weekend.

Honestly, at first glance I wasn’t bowled over, and we weren’t allowed to talk, we could only look at each other and make extremely awkward eye contact. The staring at each other not saying anything aspect went on for far too long until it was extremely uncomfortable to look across the room.

After an embarrassingly long time we were separated again, the girls trooped back to the library and the boys were taken back to wherever their lair was, and for the first time over the course of the weekend we were asked to rate the guys in order of our preference of them based on first glance.

We then did another task in which we were given descriptions of each guy, including occupations, living situations and a particular hobby which we then had to match with each guy depending on our opinion of them on first impressions.

In between each task we were also taken off to do individual interviews so there was an element of waiting around throughout the whole day. For anyone who knows me and knows the levels of my impatience, this was not the most enjoyable thing for me. But finally we were allowed to have a bit of chill time in which I went up to my room for the evening and lay atop the beautiful 4 poster bed I’d be sleeping in that night.


After about an hour I was told that I was going on a blind date and that I had 10 minutes to get ready. I have to say I’m not really one of those girls that preens and slathers myself in make up so getting ready doesn’t generally take me that long but this was pushing it.

One of the girls had already gone on her blind date, so when I entered the makeshift dining room I couldn’t help but roll my eyes when I noticed that she was sitting across from her date with a blindfold and black out goggles on. Giving new meaning to the term “blind” date. Not long after which, I was myself blindfolded and they brought my date in.

As soon as he spoke I knew which of the four guys he was as quite tellingly, he was the only one that possessed an accent from the North of England. Unfortunately I’d already made a mental decision during the big reveal that I found him the least attractive of the group, and I couldn’t help but feel a little disappointed that he was the one I was set up with. Our conversation was pleasant enough, he definitely did seem to be a nice guy but I discovered something about myself that I hadn’t previously even known was a sticking point.

Before dinner, they’d asked whether my preference for a starter was either vegetable or tomato soup, yet when they brought our starters I heard the person serving us, say to my ‘date’ “here’s your bread”. Confused as I hadn’t been offered the option of bread I questioned it and my date revealed that he didn’t eat soup as he didn’t eat any vegetables and is quite a fussy eater. Internally I was horrified and being a notorious over thinker I automatically thought I’m a foodie, I literally eat everything! We could never go out to eat together, I couldn’t cook for you, I wouldn’t want you to cook for me. Just like that my overly fussy nature took over and he was written off as it could never work between us.

In addition to our incompatible eating styles my ‘date’ was quite intense, he asked really deep and probing questions, and it’s just a personal thing but I prefer to keep things relatively light on a first date. I’d rather just know whether we can hold a conversation and not necessarily why the other person’s last relationship broke down or their deepest darkest secrets and desires. I do understand if you’re going to form a long lasting relationship with someone, then this information would be of interest eventually but I think for a first date when you’re just trying to suss out whether you can stand to be in the same room as each other it’s a bit much.

Once dinner was over we were separated again and the girls returned to the library to dissect our dates, before retiring for the evening.

I was woken up early on day two to be interviewed about my date the previous evening before being taken down to the makeshift dining room for brunch. We were told that as Birds bring offerings to gain their mates attention we would be doing a speed dating task in which each of the guys would bring us a brunch item per 4 minute date. As soon as the guys entered the room I could’t help but note that I actually thought that each of them was better looking than I first found them to be. I have a tendency to dismiss guys I don’t find attractive at first glance, so this was quite a learning curve for me. I actually really enjoyed the speed dating brunch as it gave me an opportunity to talk to all the guys who all seemed quite nice. Although I had found them all to be slightly better looking than at first glance, my second date with the guy from the previous evening didn’t increase my feelings nor convince me that we were compatible.

After brunch we were given a bit of time to ourselves and the girls and I had cabin fever so we took the opportunity to go outside and frolic in the grounds.


The final group task we did was possibly my favourite of the whole 2 days. We went back into what was previously the dining room and was now apparently a ball room. They told us that some birds use mating dances to attract a mate and therefore we had to emulate the dance moves of different birds. It was silly but it got us moving and I love to dance so I had a brilliant time. After being birds we got to do a bit of salsa dancing and it really helped the group to loosen up.

After dance class we rated the guys for the final time before returning to our rooms for a little more down time. We were then called back to the main room, and we were told we’d be going on our final dates, Two of the couples from the previous evening had consistently picked each other so they were sent on second official dates. But alas, myself and one of the other girls who hadn’t really ‘felt the spark’ with our dates, went on a group “gym” date. But myself and the other girl swapped partners and I had to go on a ‘gym’ date with a personal trainer. My first thought was Shit! What if I can’t workout, talk and breathe at the same time? Luckily my date did like to talk about himself quite a bit so I fed him a few questions and then just concentrated on being able to subtly pant.

We were then all interviewed for a final time about our thoughts on the weekend and on each other before filming the conclusion of the show.

So alas while I didn’t find love I did have a fun and very interesting weekend and it has to be said that I don’t think a life in TV is for me but I am so glad I did it and can tick it off of my 30 before 30 list.

*Although we weren’t allowed to take pictures at first they relaxed a bit on Day 2 of filming.


*Me in the library

*This was taken after filming was over – one of the girls unfortunately wasn’t around when this picture was taken.

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