What's it like appearing on a cheap TV show hosted by Anne Robinson (who secretly loves clairvoyants) and Danny Wallace? On Bank Holiday Monday, BBC1 broadcast Test The Nation: The National IQ Test - unfortunately for them, one of the contestants was someone answering to the name Madame ...
I went along to the studio to have my IQ tested, along with surgeons, removal men, reality TV show participants, people called Wallace and Robinson, many other clairvoyants, and a panel of "real" celebrities most of whom I hadn't heard of once.
Burly security men guarded the doors of the studio - for no reason at all they kept us there at the end of the six or so hours for quite some time - we weren't even allowed to use the loos.
Smokers were told that if they left the building in the hour-long interval between interminable parts I and II they'd never get back in again. And indeed we did practically have to break back in after the interval. I lost count of how many times my companion and I got chased round by burly guards with varying degrees of breeding and politeness, yelling: "Madame, come back here." (At least they knew my title)
By the end of this concentration-camp style farce, the cloakroom people had lost my bag. The organisers had not let me take my very small, discreet handbag into the studio (my passport was in it, as we cannon fodder had to show heavy duty forms of identity before being allowed the dubious distinction of participating in this event.)
We had all received written warnings that “the management takes no responsibility for valuables” [that we didn't keep an eye on]. Then we had everything we owned - mobiles included - removed well away from our hot sweaty grasps. My library book was also in my missing handbag, since they had told us to bring books to read during the very long longeurs in the outing. The advice proved sensible.
After 20 mins, while we all queued up stoically and cosily together, somebody sauntered along with my bag and I was again told I couldn't re-enter the main part of the building to use a lavatory. Everything ended with all hell breaking loose as I tried to charge the barrier formed by the excess of security guards, screeching at them: “Would you like me to drop my knickers and pee in your famous forecourt?” To which the guards replied, “Yes, do, Madame”.
Eventually an organiser pointed out that there was a pub over the road - we could relieve ourselves there.
The IQ questions (apart from being pointless, as that sort of thing usually is) were quite difficult (probably the BBC were trying to resist all those “dumbing down” accusations). The surgeons got the highest scores, the reality TV people one of the next (probably because they're used to being penned into claustrophobic smelly places - the halitosis that came through the air conditioning was Quite Something - and told to do meaningless things.) The clairvoyants came in bottom of the pile - we've more important things to use our brains on.
Compensation for the torture (and the tinned veg we got with our “hot dinner” - our only form of remuneration) was the skinny, leopard skin-clad Anne Robinson, a compere on the show: she is - away from the cameras - really into clairvoyants. Her face-lift has lasted wonderfully. Could have done without her scary purple high-heeled shoes though.
In between the stupid sets of multiple choice questions, a Dale Winton lookalike warm-up man ran round exhorting us to “smile till your jaw hurts and clap until a little bit of wee comes out.”
Having extorted, with difficulty, a car from the organisers - to transport us to and from the venue - we were earnestly told: “Don't tell the other guests about your car - or they'll be really jealous.” My suggestion of a fee was met with astonished horror.
Since we felt the surgeons, at the very least, MUST have been paid for appearing in this circus (clairvoyants are one of the most ripped-off sections of society) I was surprised to find, after many enquiries in the canteen-stable - populated by Nicky and Shamoli from Big Brother, and suchlike - that indeed NOBODY amongst the groups got paid more than expenses.
Some got a £10 note in an envelope. Cheap TV indeed (what was it Paxman and Humphreys were debating recently?) Quite what highly-paid surgeons were doing spending their hard-won free time cooped up in this melee I do not know. But there they were, dressed up in the pale blue uniforms of drabs (drab being the word) provided by the studio all sitting there laughing and stamping their feet while the Dale Winton lookalike shook his fist, hallooing: “We're one big happy family here.”
One surgeon said, “It would be against my professionalism to get paid.” How the other half live and think, eh? Anyway, as I said, the surgeons won (IQ tests are a bonanza for their types of brains - us psychics use the other side) and some surgeons avowed to me that they'd been last year and would be back next year, for more similar fun.
We all eventually escaped with our full bladders to the sound of the Dale Winton-style man bellowing: “I've seen better smiles on roadkill than I have on you lot.”