THIS time last year I sat nervously on a chair in front of millions of people and, not to put too fine a point on it, I was absolutely bricking it.
I’d practised for this moment for months and had been regularly quizzed by colleagues in preparation.
And it all came down to this.
The loud clock behind me finished ticking.
The audience’s eyes were on me.
‘What have you got, Juliette?,’ a distant voice asked.
‘Nothing,’ I muttered. ‘I just went blank.’
That was the moment I made myself look a complete idiot on national television.
It still makes me cringe thinking about it.
Months of effort and concentration went completely down the drain in 30 swift seconds.
A year ago this week, I somehow found myself on Countdown.
I’m quite a self-confessed geek when it comes to words and had always wanted to see the show when it was filmed at the studios on Kirkstall Road.
But as I sat trembling in that chair, I wondered why the hell I’d put myself forward for this.
‘You don’t have anything?,’ the presenter asked again.
I shook my head and offered an awkward laugh instead.
The moment I went blank was like nothing I’d ever experienced.
Thinking about the millions of viewers, my mum and boyfriend sitting anxiously in the audience, my colleagues, aunts, uncles, neighbours, neighbours’ neighbours and goodness knows who else was watching the show, it all became too much.
I just stared, goggle-eyed at the blank piece of paper in front of me, trying to regain control of the pen that was shaking in my hand.
The added pressure that I was on a word-based competition, when my job revolves around words, was another thought that tipped me over the edge.
Then one of the producer-types piped up.
‘CUUUUUTTT!! Juliette, can we just film that again, and this time, can you actually write something down?’
Well, if I wasn’t embarrassed enough, that certainly sealed the deal.
Luckily, after that horrendous round, I threw caution to the wind and got a few points in the bag.
Oh, don’t get me wrong, I still lost.
I was up against a physics graduate who played Scrabble in his spare time, so the writing was on the wall.
But my saving grace was that I got the conundrum.
That is something that will stick with me forever.
As will the aforementioned humiliation.
I didn’t go away empty handed though, and got a goody bag with a Countdown mug, pen and dictionary, plus as many biscuits from the green room that my boyfriend and I could stuff in our pockets.
Despite the brief TV appearance being slightly traumatic for me, it was certainly memorable.
It’s a half decent claim to fame after all, just beating when I met Mr Motivator in a shopping centre.
And it sparked a bit of a discussion with colleagues about their tenuous brushes with stardom, with a few coming up with some corkers.
Turns out I not only work with meatloaf’s bodyguard’s ex-girlfriend, but I’m also mates with someone who once high-fived Sven-Göran Eriksson.
But the best claim to fame has to go to the friend who once starred on ‘Get Your Own Back’.
Nothing can top gungeing a teacher live on telly with Dave Benson Phillips.
He still remembers being on that show with fond memories.
Hopefully in time, my brief small screen appearance will be remembered for the good bits too, rather than for me being quite literally lost for words.
Sickening Gaga stunt leaves bad taste in the mouth
Now, I’m the last person who would want to bad-mouth Lady Gaga.
Just looking round, I’ve got a Gaga phone cover, computer screen background and diary.
But last week the star went a step too far.
I was absolutely stunned watching a video of a recent performance of hers at the South by South-West Festival in Texas.
To put it simply, the singer gets vomitted on whilst on stage as part of her ‘performance’.
It’s all in the name of ‘artpop’, apparently, and the female ‘performance artist’ drinks coloured liquid before using Gaga as a canvas.
I’ve defended Gaga through the meat dress saga, strange egg entrance and constant lack of clothing.
But watching that was shocking and it seemed totally unnecessary.
Since the incident, some have labelled Gaga ‘the poster girl of bulimia’.
Whilst I’m sure that’s not what the pop star was going for, I agree it really could send out the wrong message to young fans.
Hopefully this is the end of her sick stunts, but somehow I don’t think it is.
Girls dare to go bare-faced in online ‘charity’ challenge
There’s new nomination craze sweeping the tinterweb, but this time it’s for a good cause, supposedly.
Unlike the NekNomination craze which had absolutely no point to it and was completely idiotic, this is (apparently) in the name of charity,
The ‘no make-up selfie’ (yes, again, another ‘selfie’ craze, but bear with me) sees girls pose without any slap on to somehow raise awareness and money for cancer charities.
Which cancer charities it’s supposed to help support, I’m not sure.
And how the money and awareness is raised is, again, a bit hazy.
The suggestion that going bare-faced somehow benefits charity is, in my eyes, a tedious one. But if you look past that, the no make-up selfies aren’t entirely a bad thing.
Seeing female friends who wouldn’t dare be seen outside their front door without five layers of foundation or fake eyelashes on, posting fresh-faced photos where they are looking their natural selves, is really refreshing.
Yes, it’s still a little self-indulgent to be snapping photos of yourself and posting them online.
But with this, there’s something a bit more genuine, and vulnerable about it.
I guess it’s just nice that people are comfortable enough in themselves to post these photos.
There are some people who are clearly still wearing a bit of make-up, but so what? It’s still a good message to be putting out there and hopefully it’ll help some of my mates realise they don’t need to wear much make-up. Just don’t nominate me, though.