If you composed a highlight reel from your life, i wonder for how many of you Richard Branson would make an appearance.
Well he does for me, and actually as i was putting this together i remembered it was actually on two very different occasions…
The first which is completely random is that in 2000 i lived in London and was doing the typical 11-in-a-room stay with a bunch of first-year-out-of-school South Africans and my purpose was to earn money for a Youth With A Mission course i was going to do in Holland.
So absolute skimping of money – everything was about the saving – and minimum of entertainment and so we had to create our own. One thing that coincided nicely timingwise with my trip was this competition Coca Cola was running where if you collected Coke tin tabs and plastic bottle labels, you could enter codes online and earn credits and then bid on items and win some pretty cool stuff. i took the advantage of most people bidding on huge prizes like trips overseas and meeting the England football team and bid on a whole bunch of smaller items and snapped them up because everyone else was focused elsewhere.
The most expensive thing i got was a cd walkman [at the time that cd walkmans were cool – to be completely honest i could have won a free mp3 player but i had not idea what it was at the time and so passed] but i also got Friends dvds and a cool bag and clothing and a bunch of other stuff, but the prized possession was probably the inflatable cactus. [Which of course i took to Holland and of course threw the first ever Cactus Party with, but that’s another story].
So i used to head out at night wearing all black [at times with an accomplice but often by myself] and roam the streets finding Coke tins and bottles and procuring auctioning finances.
One night, slash about 2 in the morning, i was walking along and lo and behold, right in front of me, just ten meters away or so, who else but Richard Branson? Well no-one else but Richard Branson, it was actually him. Virgin number 1. i was going through a list of all the things i could say to him [which at the time was actually my cunning plan to convert him to Christianity, because you know] when these two young women walked up to him, “Richard Branson?” and that was it. He was really friendly and they actually ended up walking off together and after following for a while i fortunately realised how stalkery that was and returned home.
So the day i almost met Richard Branson really. Not a life highlight but a fun memory all the same. At the very least he might have bought me an inflatable cactus if i had gotten the courage. Or quite possibly a restraining order.
But where Sir Branson really cost me money was here…
That’s right, The Weakest Link. Not too many people know but while i was working at Stellenbosch Vineyard, i took part in the South African version of the show, The Weakest Link. And i was a Weakest Link [but not THE Weakest Link which, as with Survivor, is main focus number one, right? Just don’t be the worst!] BUT I COULD HAVE WON. Had it not been for Richard Branson.
So audition twice and finally get accepted. Show is up in Joburg and so have to fly up to take part. Reading through tons of Trivial Pursuit questions to smart up but also looking through newspapers and going ‘That could be a question’ – focus on that, learn that, remember that… etc.
And it happened before i left and then again as i had landed in Joburg and was being driven to the studio, we passed a giant Virgin billboard with a giant Richard Branson on it and i looked at it and said, “That’s going to be a question.”
To be honest, i never thought i would win going in – “It is just an honour to be niminated” kind of crap. But after the first round and seeing the kind of people i was on the show with, i thought to myself, “I can win this thing.” There is only one threat [guy who came second] but otherwise these people are not so bright.
And there are two main reason why i lost. The one was an unfortunate way in which they filmed the episode – so 45 minute show but 4 to 6 hours of filming where there are breaks between everything and so no continuity, no real pressure, because it’s toilet break and smoke break and make-up break and for the most part you feel quite disconnected as a contestant. But in between rounds they sometimes get you to repeat stuff that wasn’t clear. And so after round three or four, i was asked to repeat the one answer i had gotten wrong in round one. So when one of the people voted me off, they had just been reminded of me repeating the wrong answer [how much does that suck] in the break for filming and used it as her excuse for voting me off – Fiona, the presenter even exclaims on the show, “But that was three rounds ago.”
So that was unlucky. But the main reason i lost was unforgiveable and well deserved. Questions building in a round, everyone around me making mistakes, so feeling confident, getting all my questions right and then Fiona turns to me and says, “Which British entrepeneur…”
And i KNOW the answer. She is barely three words in to the question and i already know the answer. How lucky is that?
EXCEPT that that is the exact moment my mind completely blanks and ALL that i have left with me is “The Virgin Guy.”
Richard Branson, who i almost met on the street, Richard Branson who is one of the most known and recognised celebrities in the world at the time. And Richard Branson who i had JUST seen a couple of hours ago on this giant billboard and told myself, “That is going to be a question.” And all i could meekly give up was, “The Virgin Guy.”
i guess the third reason i lost was that the eventual winner voted for me that round cos i had voted for her the last two rounds cos she was ridiculous. When asked what country Prince Harry and William went to school in she said “Scotland” because she thought it was a trick question. When asked the shortest distance between two points [a straight line] she answered “radius”. And more. She was very undeserving. But i was, “The Virgin Guy” so i couldn’t really complain.
i got hold of Richard Branson’s email address a few years later, because a friend of mine worked with him, and i emailed him and explained how he kinda owed me R14000 but he never did get back to me. Might have gone into his Other folder i guess.
But that is how Richard Branson and The Weakest Link became a highlight story from my life.
[Oh and Mister Sir Branson, if you ever do happen to read this and think it’s fun and quirky and worth shelling out the money for, just remember that almost ten years have passed and so please take inflation into account. Is all.]
Have you ever been on a tv show? How did it go?