Tuesday, January 24, 2012

My Winter Wipeout Experience - Part 3

Note: This is part 3 of 6. I'm posting one part a day. The total word count exceeds 31,000 words so it's going to be a long read. If you missed part 1 you can read it by clicking here, and part 2 here!

I left Portsmouth on Saturday morning, the 29th October. It was an odd feeling, walking towards the station with my suitcase. I was about to do something that I would remember for the rest of my life. It was nearly a week without my wife and daughter, and while I’ve spent that amount of time away from them before it’s not nice, but I knew that it was more than worth it, and that hopefully overall, it would be one of the best experiences of my life. I got on the train to the London Underground, and it was relatively straight forward. I wanted to bring a Nintendo DS, or a Game Boy Advance (retro, yo!) but I couldn’t find either. I ended up bringing The Beatles Authorised Biography by Hunter Davies, a great book if you’re interested in the legendary band from Liverpool. It’s a huge book in size and length, and that’s why I chose it. At a WHS Smith in London I bought a copy of Kerrang! Too, but that was crap. I remembered why I never buy that magazine anymore.

I got to the Underground and took the fast track train to Heathrow. All the time I spent in London I kept looking around, seeing if there were people taking the same route as me. I didn’t see any of the contestants on the way there. I got to Heathrow, and we were all to meet there. We had to board for Madrid for 4pm if I remember correctly, but my train times got me to Heathrow for around 11am! The times I was given by Endemol were incredibly early and I was definitely the first to arrive. I spent over an hour there, impatiently, looking around at people who looked like they were waiting for other people. I waited outdoors, and once in a while explored indoors to see if any group of people were waiting there. It was passed 12pm when my wife called. She asked if I saw anyone yet, I told her I didn’t. I did get a little worried, maybe I was in the wrong place. I was at Terminal 3, did I go to the wrong terminal? I checked my instructions provided by Endemol and I was in the right place.

Terminal 3, Heathrow, the Winter Wipeout meeting point. Exciting.
It was getting close to 1pm when I noticed a young couple sitting across from me. The girl was ginger and clocked me too. I didn’t say anything to her and vice versa, I didn’t think it was a definite contestant or anything so I kept myself from doing anything. I once again went indoors. It was probably nearly 1:30pm by then. I went up to the first floor and used the toilet. I didn’t actually check the first floor previously, and checked the area out again. Once again, no gathering. So after relieving myself in the lavatory, I went back downstairs. I saw a small young lady with a clipboard, she had dyed red hair and an orange top. She looked at me and I her, but once again, I didn’t want to say anything just in case it wasn’t someone I was supposed to meet up with. I went outside before I heard a man call “John!”. I turned around and saw this big man, in his late forties or early fifties, with big frizzy blond hair. He asked if I was John and I said yes, and he pointed indoors. I went in and saw the redhead again, who welcomed me, and there were a few other people there with her.

The 'ginger' lady was Sarah, who looked amazing after just recently having a baby.
This redhead is Frankie, or Francesca, another researcher who was who we were meeting at the airport. It was her job to gather us there, look after us in London, on the plane and to get us to the hotel. She’s in her mid twenties and a great looking lady, and saw us all as her children, in a funny way. She was absolutely brilliant. I also saw the ginger girl I mentioned earlier, who was with her boyfriend. Her boyfriend soon left her and we talked about how we noticed each other earlier. This was Sarah, a contestant on the show. She’s the same age as me, and had only months before had a baby, but she was in absolutely fantastic shape. Sarah and I got on very well; she seemed to like my sense of humour which is good as I’m usually hit or miss with it. The big guy with the frizzy blond hair? That was Simon, who is you watched the episode you’ll distinctively know him as the husband of the couple of caricature drawers. Simon, and his wife Sheba, were there. Sheba was really nice too, and her caricature drawings are as awesome as Simon’s. I remember spotting Sebastian, the stylish clothes shop owner from London, and we looked at each other and had a little joke about the fact that we were disappointed that we found someone else with a beard. He’s another ginger, and I have a ginger beard, but naturally mine was much much bigger than his! Sebastian was cool, we got on quite well, my favourite thing about him was his hat, I have a picture of me posing with it on my Facebook! Another person that I remember seeing early on was Natalie, the Ukrainian dancer, who I have a mutual friend in common with. This mutual friend went to sixth form with me, and to university with Natalie. Natalie is absolutely gorgeous, a beautiful lady, but is a proper Mancunian lass with a hard attitude when she wants to. She’s lovely though and I mean that affectionately. I can’t remember who else was there already, but slowly over the next half hour to an hour, the other nineteen contestants made their way to the meeting point at Terminal 3. My wife called not long after meeting my fellow contestants, and I told her I was in the right place. That was the last time I was to speak with her for another five days.

Simon and Sheba, the couple. They do awesome caricature drawings and fought to draw me!
After most people arrived, Frankie told us that we were to go in pairs, or as she put it, buddies, and that our buddy would also be our roommate for when we got to the hotel. The two buddies in each pair would have to look out for each other so no one gets lost. As I said before, my roommate was generous enough to pay for my deposit for the hotel room, so I was paired with a really awesome guy. His name is also John, and he and I are two of three John’s on this episode of Winter Wipeout. My buddy, John Glass, or Scottish John, or Whiskey John, or Whiskey in the John, was a really cool guy, we hit it off straight away and talked about music and a little about video games. He, if you didn’t watch the show, was the whiskey blender, or, as Wipeout put it, the whiskey taster in the show. It’s funny because Scottish John doesn’t drink too much and he didn’t like the fact that Wipeout were making him out to be the stereotypical Scottish drunk! He took it well though and it’s all a laugh. Another person I hit it off with straight away was Jody, definitely the smallest person in the group, who was the grave digger on the show. She was dressed all in black and had what looked like New Rock boots on, and lots of tattoos. She looked very gothic, and I do love that look, so it’s natural I hit it off with her straight away.

Jody and I hit it off straight away, she's a really sweet lady, not the angry gravedigger she portrayed on TV!
Frankie gave us our plane tickets, our 300 peso and also some instructions and information about who to call in emergency, and some local travel information. We all got through the ticket checks, the passport security and into the shopping section. Along the way I started to slowly get to know the nineteen people I’d spend the next five days with, and attempt to compete with on the Wipeout course. I’d just like to say that overall, the 19 contestants I spent my time in Argentina are amazing. I could not have asked to be with another set of 19 random strangers from Great Britain. I got on with everyone, of course to different degrees, but I can’t say I disliked anyone, or had a falling out with anyone there. My Winter Wipeout experience was marvellous, and they definitely had a major contribution in that.

I can’t remember who I sat next to on the plane there, if anyone. But the flight to Madrid was nice and short and when we arrived in Spain it was very dark. After the short stay in Spain, we headed off to Buenos Aires in our huge 13 hour flight. As I said, I really can’t remember much of the journey there for some reason. I remember struggling to sleep, which is an oddity for me. That being said, I’ve never had a 13 hour flight before! I had an issue sleeping backwards with my head up, it made me feel sick, but resting my head on the chair in front of me made me, intermittently, get sleep. I also remember having my first taste of Argentinian cuisine. In the early hours, probably three quarters of the way there, at around 5am, I got woken up with a sandwich. It had meat and a liquidly sauce in it, and didn’t look too pleasant. But I was so hungry, and promised myself that I’d have to adapt to new cuisine in a different country, so I tried it. It was actually a salami and cheese spread sandwich, and while the bread itself was dry, it was quite nice. A bit later on, around 8 to 9am, a few hours before we landed, we had a breakfast. The breakfast was a similar sandwich, with some dry cereal and milk, yoghurt and some tea. It was okay, plane food isn’t supposed to be the best so I was satisfied. We landed at around 10 or 11am and the long flight was over!

Landing in Madrid.
When we landed, we all walked out and went through customs, to the other side where we were greeted by lots of protestors. I don’t know much about Argentinian culture but it seems like politics are very important over there, probably more so than in England. I didn’t know why they were protesting and what about, nor with all due respect, did I care. I’m not that big on politics in my own country never mind someone else’s. We arrived and quickly noticed Nick, the guy from the audition waiting for us. Nick welcomed us to Argentina and basically outlined our next day, Day 2 of 6. We were to get on a bus to the hotel, and leave our things there before having a little wonder about the city of Buenos Aires, and arrive back at the hotel for 3pm. So that’s basically what we did!

Buenos Aires is a beautiful city, albeit run down, especially in comparison to a lot of English cities. The locals were very friendly for the most part. Quite a lot of us separated when we went to explore Buenos Aires, and there were around five or six of us that wanted to relax at a cafĂ©. Some of us ordered food and drink, while most people just wanted to sit down and chat. I had a Pepsi or two, but didn’t want to order food, primarily because I only had my 300 peso and couldn’t afford to take out much more money, so I wanted to use it sparsely. Besides I wanted to have a decent meal later on. We did a bit more walking around but it was just passed 2pm when we decided to risk going back to the hotel earlier to check in. Thankfully the hotel people were okay and prepared early enough for us to check in then.
John W, Lawrence, Simon, Sheba, Ben and myself chilling outside a bar. Cheers Ben for this picture!
The hotel was a complete contrast to the rest of Buenos Aires. As I said the city was striking but in poor condition, when compared to English cities, but the hotel was a modern building in excellent form. I mean there were cracks in the walls here and there but it’s hard to criticise it because the rooms were great. Before we actually went to our hotel rooms Nick asked us to get out our Winter Wipeout outfits and put them on, for a photo and so they were happy with the outfits we had. So the two bathrooms in the hotel were packed full of random Brits putting on odd costumes, it was hilarious! I put on my outfit, which everyone loved. Nick liked it too, and I had my photo taken, and then that was it, it was off to the hotel rooms!

Mine and "Whiskey in the John"'s hotel room. Pretty nifty.
The hotel rooms were very pleasant. There was nice space, although the bathroom was tiny, but otherwise it was a really nice room and it was nice and cosy. Me and Scottish John plonked our stuff on our beds and just relaxed for a bit. We had a decent widescreen TV there, the first hotel I’ve been in that has one, and there was a Premier League match replay of Tottenham’s 3-1 win over Queens Park Rangers. Having a quick look through the channels showed a lot of sport, especially football, and some Argentinian chat programs that I understood nothing about, and some random American shows with subtitles or dubbed Spanish acting. I remember Scottish John and I relaxing later on when they put on Scary Movie… at 4 or 5pm in the afternoon. They edited a lot of it out, naturally, having lots of sex, violence, drug use and gore, but a lot of it was kept in, which was ridiculous! There was a scene where a character gets stabbed over and over again and won’t die, and it was completely unedited. The swearing for the most part was edited out. The sex scene with the huge ‘climax’ at the end was cut short thankfully, and the bathroom ‘peephole’ scene was also edited. But lots of it, especially the violence, was kept in. It was ridiculous!

We were next door to two other contestants Sharn and Sam. I didn’t speak much to Sharn in the entire time I was there, but she was cool, and had an epic night out on the final night in Argentina. Sam, the pet detective, was really nice and you could tell she was having a ball the entire time and was pleasant to everyone. They heard us from next door and told us that at the top of the hotel was a pool, a sun bathing area and a sauna. I’m telling you, we had some awesome luxury in Argentina and it was times like these I really realised how lucky I was to be given this opportunity. Scottish John and I got ready and headed upwards to the pool. Only we two Johns and then a little later, Lawrence, went in the pool. All of the ladies were relaxing and sunbathing. Lawrence is the guy who unfortunately broke his leg. He took the news very very well; he finished the qualifier in 5th place and was one of two ball crossers on the episode. He was a major contender to win Winter Wipeout in all honesty, he was in great shape despite being one of the bigger contestants, and had a lot of energy on course. He has an amazing lifestyle; he does some form of Spanish ballet and is also a driving instructor, and really loves his Japanese wife and their two kids. He was a true pro and had a great sense of humour to boot.

Sharn, Ben and Sam in the tent. Note the TV that they put pirate copies of Total Wipeout on!
So Lawrence, Scottish John and I were swimming in the pool, just relaxing really and trying to discretely practise our swimming for the big day, which was the next day by the way. We soon moved to the balcony, which was the sunbathing area, and it was incredibly hot. As I said it was spring in Argentina, and their spring was a little hotter than our summer, which is incredibly hot in my standards. I sunburn very easily and don’t do hot weather in general, but I felt I had to make the most of this opportunity to relax and enjoy the sun because we had some hard work to do after. On the balcony were Sarah, Amy, Ben and Aarron I believe.

I spoke of Sarah earlier, but Amy was just amazing. I didn’t really pay much attention to Amy when we all met up, but soon that would change, as she kicked ass in Winter Wipeout more than anyone I say. No she didn’t win but she was the toughest cookie there, and worked her absolute butt off to get to the top three. Amy and I say this affectionately, was an emotional rollercoaster. She hated flying; she was so scared of flying. I noticed how nervous she was in England and Madrid, and consoled her a little, explaining my wife also despised flying. So she was scared and upset, then when we arrived in Argentina she was nice and bubbly, then when it came to doing the qualifier she was focused and hard as nails, then when she made it to the Ski Lift she was crying and doubted herself, but then she held on long enough for the Ski Lift and was happy. Then she was crying again and doubted herself about getting to the final three when she did Winter Blunderland but then was absolutely magical then, and made it through to the final. She had a very good time in the final too, and would have won a few of the other episodes. I loved Amy, she was amazing to watch and such a lovely person, all I did the entire time was want to hug her whenever she was upset!

Amy was awesome. So was Sebastian. At photobombing pictures!
Ben was pretty cool too; he also works for the NHS as an ambulance driver. He’s a really sweet guy and has an awesome sense of humour. He and Amy were really close and have kept close contact since Winter Wipeout. Aarron who was the runner up, was someone else I didn’t speak to as much but he’s a pretty cool guy. He was trying to win Winter Wipeout so he could afford the engagement ring he felt his girlfriend deserved, which was really sweet. He was very focused and determined the whole way, right to the end and was a true fighter and congratulated the eventual winner, John Woodfield like a true sportsman. You could tell Aarron was gutted but he took it very well and was very respectful to Woody.

Everyone was relaxing and it was just amazingly peaceful. It gave me a few moments to truly appreciate what I was doing. I looked over the balcony to the city of Buenos Aires. It was absolutely spectacular. I soaked it all in and it was then I thoroughly realised how far away I was from home. I’d never left the isles of the UK and Ireland. All of a sudden I was on the other side of the world. I missed my wife and Vivi but was having an absolute blast at the same time. I knew I had to make the most of this because it’s a once in a lifetime opportunity, at least for me anyway.

The view from the hotel balcony. Completely in contrast to the nice hotel.
That Sunday, day two of the six day trip, was the official relaxing day. Day three, Monday, was the day we did the qualifier. We knew that at that point and knew we had to make the most of the evening to come. We all went to a restaurant suggested by Nick that was about a block away from us that purportedly did arguably the best Argentinian steak in the city. The twenty of us decided that it was the place to go. We relaxed for a few hours before the evening, when we left for the restaurant. There was a slight snag however, not many of us knew how to speak Spanish! The only person that could speak a decent amount of Spanish to communicate on a low level, was Mark, and he got the basics right enough for us all to buy food relatively accurately. Mark was the guy with the amazing moustache and he is truly awesome. Musically, he was the guy I had most in common with and he has links in the music industry, as does his girlfriend. He’s a truly awesome guy with an amazing moustache, and he was probably the most chilled guy there, he didn’t take it seriously at all and was there for the ride, which got him to fourth place overall in the competition. I asked Mark how he felt being so close to the finals and for the second opportunity in the champion of champions edition but he said along the lines of “that’s enough for me, I’m shattered and happy with how far I’ve got”. Mark sprained his finger in a bad way anyway, so probably couldn’t have competed if he wanted to.

The contestants chilling the night before the qualifier!
So Mark communicated as well as he could. Luckily we all wanted steak, and while there were different types of steak there, most of us weren’t fussed about them. We all ordered two variances of the steak and it was absolutely beautiful. I had mine medium rare and it was a huge piece, I thoroughly enjoyed it. I was also given a pretty damn huge knife to cut it with, a huge knife especially when compared to the fork it came with! So we all ate that night and had a great time, and we all did random sweepstakes for the winner of Winter Wipeout. Ironically Mark and I had each other in the sweepstake and in banter told each other that we’re depending on the opposite to win! After the meal, we all pretty much went to bed. I think it was around 10pm at that time. Why? Because the next day was the qualifier! And worse yet, we’d be leaving for around 5:30. IN THE MORNING!

Mmmm... EPIC steak!
So that morning Scottish John and I got up at around 5am if I remember correctly, and we had our breakfasts that were left in the fridge, and showered. Our breakfast consisted of yoghurt, an apple, and a pastry I believe although it’s a bit of a blur now. Relatively plain food, but it was all good for the energies we needed to do this course! We most importantly, had our outfits on, and would remain in them until we finished the qualifier, more than twelve hours later! We had a very big day ahead of us and it was all about to begin!

We went downstairs were everyone was gathering, ready for the bus that would take us to Benavidez, on the outskirts of the city of Buenos Aires, where the Winter Wipeout course was. The bus arrived and we all crammed on. I think it was on the bus, that I met Maisie again for the first time since she gave me my audition and she was basically behind the producer, the lady in charge of this episode. Andy, the producer naturally has to make sure everything is running smoothly but he usually lets one researcher take the reins in each episode for experience and to take some of the load of himself. That was where Maisie came in. She filmed a lot of the actual television you saw on my episode, she got us in order, she gave out instructions and was there for any questions. Maisie and I however, are enemies! She’s a Scouse, but the wrong kind, she’s a Bluenose! Everton! Urgh! Just teasing of course, we got on very well actually and spoke a lot about Liverpool, while keeping the Liverpool/Everton banter going along the way. Maisie is really cool actually, and she has a passion for what she is doing. She’s also very good friends with Amanda Byram herself, and went on holiday with her after the season of Winter Wipeout ended.

So Nick and Maisie I believe, gave us the official countdown of what we were about to do. This was day three of six, and was the most important day of the experience. Basically, the run down of the day was arrive, get settled, and then the 20 contestants would branch out to groups of five. All four groups of five would rotate to do one of four things. First is basically waiting in the tent that was set up for us, that had pastries, drinks and a television that had, you guessed it, episodes of Total Wipeout on DVD. Can I just say that these DVDs were pirated! Terrible! Blasphemous! Illegal! The BBC need to be informed of this! What it’s actually the BBC committing these pirating acts? Hypocrisy! Just teasing of course! Secondly, we were to do some posing and skits outside of a house decorated in wintery things. All the running around, waving and growling on camera, that type of thing, was all done here. Thirdly, we had the rotator table posing. Last, was the interview with Amanda Byram herself. This interview is often shown on television as I’m sure you’re aware. Most of these things are cut out but all usually have a part in the total introductory package for your appearance on the show. Doing all of these things was weird yet wonderful. It was just amazing to get the opportunity to see how the show is created from start to finish, and also to take part in it. All the things that they do take a while to sort out, so you have to admire the effort and work that goes into the show, and having seen these people from Endemol Argentina and Endemol UK do their stuff is brilliant. I wouldn’t quite say I felt like one of the stars of the show but it was something that was sometimes said to us, so that was nice for them to say that. In my eyes, they were the stars, they worked so hard to make us look as good or as silly as possible, so they deserve so much credit for what people see on TV.

Getting ready in the Wipeout tent.
So my group of five was myself, Scottish John, Jody, and Simon and Sheba, the caricaturists. First up was the posing by the house. Jody went up first, and she was absolutely brilliant. They made he pretend to dig with a spade into the ground, and made her growl at the TV. She was excellent and really went for it, and set the tone for all of us to do our posing. Simon and Sheba went afterwards and did individual posing, and posing together, as they’re married. They did some funny stuff like going into the house itself, before Sheba kicked Simon out and stuff like that. Simon was an awesome growler. Scottish John was up next and they made him look like every stereotypical Scottish drinker, something he was concerningly good at playing. He couldn’t growl to save his life though! He kept losing his voice and it was funny. I was last and this is where some of the magic happened. I’ve always been quite decent at roleplay, so I found what they wanted me to do quite easy. They wanted me to pose like a wrestler, growl a lot and stomp in and out of shot, growling. But most importantly, they wanted me to giggle like a little girl.

Now, if you know me personally, I can reach a high pitch quite easily, and almost too well. At my wedding reception, I sung “Bohemian Rhapsody” by Queen with the highest pitched voice properly, and everyone loved it. So, when they asked me to giggle like a little girl, I knew it would hopefully become TV magic. Sadly (for you!), they never put it on the episode so you'll never see it! Simon, Sheba, Jody and Scottish John were absolutely killing themselves off set when they saw me laughing like a little girl and running around in a camp fashion. I knew I looked an absolute prat but that’s exactly what they want! They want sillyness and I hope I gave them just that!

Thankfully, they didn't put my giggling like a little girl on TV!
Next up was the rotator table posing. I’d like to say that this was not done by a machine, but was done by some poor little Argentinian dude, sitting down, spinning this plate to turn you round and round! Poor guy! We got there before the other five contestants had finished, so we all spoke about what we did and what we had left to do. At that point we were getting so thirsty so we found a nice stash of water and diet coke to drink. Once again, I was last to do the posing. I told you that it’s a common theme that I was either first or last in everything that happened! The posing on the rotator table was quite simple, just smile and keep still while being spun around slowly. There really wasn’t anything else to it. One thing I will say is that Scottish John brought out a whiskey glass and some whiskey to pose on the rotator table with, and he looked like he was in his happy place when he smelt the whiskey while posing. It was excellent stuff.

John II and Whiskey in the John posing on the rotator table. Spun by some little Argentinian dude, poor guy!

Next up was the interview with Amanda. Want to know what happened and more? Come back here tomorrow to find out in Part 4 of 6 of My Winter Wipeout Experience!

If you haven't seen it yet you can see my performance, which was edited by Episode 5 contestant Gemma Murdock below!

You can read part 4 here, part 5 here and part 6 here!

For the latest updates on my work, 'like' me on Facebook here!


  1. John that's so lovely! We all loved you too!

    Love Amy

  2. How great you were in Benavidez. Most tourists that go to Argetina don´t leave the capital. Even though I was staying in a hotel in buenos aires, I went several times to the outskirts to see something different. I loved San Isidro and Vicente Lopez, there they have a lot of green!