Little did I know that helping out on the Silver Travel Advisor stand at the 50+ show at Olympia in July would lead to an appearance on television.
A scout from Channel Four was at the show looking around for men and women aged 60+ who might be suitable to appear on their show First Dates. I had never heard of First Dates although it is now in its fourth series. It comes on at 10pm – too late for me; I am usually in bed and asleep by then. However, given that the others on the Silver Travel Advisor stand are all married and therefore not eligible it fell to me to talk to the girl from Channel Four. She seemed to think I would be a suitable candidate. The idea filled me with horror. To meet a strange man, join him for a meal and be filmed for a television programme – not in a million years. I’ve never been one to watch reality shows on television and I hate shows with flashing lights and studio audiences.
No, no they said. It’s nothing like that; just you and your date, who will be chosen to be suitable for you, enjoying a meal in a high class restaurant after which you may, or may not, want to see each other again. And if not you go your separate ways and that’s that.
So I allowed myself to be talked into the first part, a long telephone conversation with the person who had met me at the 50+ show. She asked me lots of questions about my current life, my past life, career, emotional attachments etc. I then agreed to move on to part two – an audition at a studio near Kings Cross in London. Although this was filmed it would not be used in the show but, I understood, was to see if I would be suitable on camera and able to converse with the interviewer. There were several others in the waiting room before this interview but all, of course, much younger. I was the only ‘oldie’. Apparently this show is hugely popular and over 4,000 people apply to be considered. Four thousand people!! That’s a lot of people who are looking for a partner or who simply want to be on television. And one who really doesn’t want either.
At this point I decided I would go no further. Not for me, I said to myself. I had to talk to myself as I had not told anyone, about First Dates, neither friends nor family and my dogs didn’t understand what I was on about. Then I thought oh well, nothing to lose and maybe my date would be interesting, charming, intelligent, well mannered, wealthy, good looking and would take me out to dinner, lunch, whatever and to visit gardens, National Trust properties, theatre, opera, or even carry me off for a Caribbean cruise, etc, etc. Well, I could always dream.
So part three: another audition this time would be filmed, parts of which for possible inclusion on the show. I was still hesitant about going ahead but the interviewer was very persuasive and told me they had already found a very suitable date for me. Why couldn’t I just meet him now and not bother with the television show? No, not a good idea she said.
As I had never seen the previous series of First Dates I had been sent a DVD of a show when a couple of the First Dates were elderly so I knew what to expect. I was escorted to the restaurant and met Fred (strange name for a Frenchman) the maitre d’ and accompanied to my table to meet my date, a tall slim man wearing a military tie. The Radio Times, in its preview of the programme wrote: “Suave Harv, as 82-year-old Harvey was known during his military days, hopes to win the heart of lifelong singleton Dinah”. Unfortunately he didn’t.
I had told no one I would be on the show as I was so embarrassed about the whole thing I had hoped to keep it secret. Unfortunately I had been spotted in the trailer which was shown the week before and family, friends and ex-work colleagues claimed they would be glued to the television on the evening of transmission. In fact it wasn’t quite as bad as I had anticipated. My two hour long interviews, or auditions, were edited into a few minutes and, unsurprisingly, included one or two things I wish I had never said! However, I was told the response on social media was favourable. I am on neither Facebook nor Twitter so thankfully all that part of the episode passed me by.
Would I recommend any 60+ person, male or female, to apply to First Dates? Why not? You never know who you might meet. I shall still be a ‘lifelong singleton’ but I had my chance and, all things considered, it was a bit of a laugh.