When he first appeared during Series 59 of Countdown on the 15th of October 2008, Charlie Reams was already well-known to many of the online community as the creator of websites including the Countdown Corral and Apterous, as well as being the administrator of the popular discussion forum C4 Countdown. He won his first game against John McCarthy with a score of 114, before going on to notch up another four centuries on his way to 'octochampdom', including a tally of 126 points against the unfortunate Darren Edwards, which was enough to earn him a place on The Countdown Page's High Score table. Having clocked up 820 points in his eight games, he returned for Carol Vorderman's last-ever Countdown finals as the number one seed, where his first opponent was the three-time winner Patricia Jamieson. Having knocked out Patricia in a relatively close contest, his semi-final saw him defeat the 12-year-old Kai Laddiman, despite being 14 points adrift at the end of Round 2. In the final, Charlie played number three seed Junaid Mubeen in an Oxford v. Cambridge tussle, which ended in a narrow 88-84 victory for his opponent after an entertaining game. His performance in Series 59 earned him a place in the following Championship of Champions contest, where he triumphed over Peter Davies before meeting Junaid again in the quarter-final. This time, the spoils were Charlie's and he then went on to beat Series 54 refugee Jon Corby in impressive fashion, before finally succumbing to Series 55 number one seed Steve Briers in a memorable grand final. This is his unique tale, in his own words.
I started watching Countdown in Series 50, when my good friend Ev (on whom more later) and I would frequently bunk off afternoon lessons to follow the exploits of such legends as Jim Bentley and (still my all-time hero) Chris Cummins. Like anyone watching for the first time, I was utterly awful, and watched with amazement as Cummins produced classics like the MEGASTORE/GASOMETER round and numerous beautiful numbers solutions. Around the same time, I discovered the rather primitive Countdown mailing list "gevincountdown", and lurked for a while before finally getting involved with some utterly forgettable debut post. As seems to be a common element of these Experiences, I found this site too, and read the Experiences page with fascination as I started to piece together the history and mythos of the programme. I was hooked.
I continued to hang around and survived the transition to the new mailing list, C4Countdown (an under-appreciated and apparently accidental pun.) Despite my penchant for getting involved in ridiculous arguments, I was somehow promoted to moderator, probably because of my work on The Countdown Corral, which was the first real attempt to archive the round-by-round details of every single game. (It turned out later that Mike Brown had been doing the same thing for 20-odd years, and we're still in the process of making his paper notes available online.) By now I was at university and was becoming reasonably competent at the game, performing respectably at COLIN and COBRIS, but decided that I would wait until I'd graduated to apply.
Finally, in June 2008, I completed my degree and it was time to apply. I emailed my friend and Countdown's producer, Damian Eadie, to ask for an application form. I received the following reply:
"About f*****g time!!!
Please find attached."
Encouraging! I'd exchanged many messages with Damian over the years but he'd never explicitly pressed me to apply, so this was particularly reassuring, and I hastily returned the form, attaching a rather embarrassing photo of me apparently looking like David Beckham. Perhaps because of my tender good looks, Damian told me not to bother with the audition and just to pick a filming date. Apparently I am the only person to appear on the programme without auditioning! I decided to film towards the end of my summer holiday, giving me the whole summer to practise. By no coincidence I also started working on Apterous at around the same time, and spent most of the summer inside, in front of the computer, living out the perfect nerd stereotype. It really was wonderful.
By the time filming came around, I'd been practising pretty seriously for a good few months, and from my position as an armchair hero had "beaten" pretty much every contestant on TV in that time. Of course, just before my filming date, the lovely Debbi Flack appeared on our screens and played a very solid game in which she would've beaten me. Just the kick up the a**e I needed!
At last the day came and I set off to Leeds. I was determined that, apart from my filming guest the extraordinary Essexian Jon O'Neill, absolute no-one would know how the filming had gone, so I told my parents that I intended to stay in Leeds for the full three days no matter what happened. With typical Cambridge-educated arrogance, I also left space in my suitcase to smuggle a teapot home. I arrived in Leeds the night before and had an absolutely terrible night's sleep, eventually drifting off around 3am to the soothing sound of the air conditioning unit accompanied by Jono's snoring.
My debut was the second show filmed that day, but of course everyone has to arrive in the studio at the same time, so early the next morning I gingerly introduced myself to the other contestants and established that the previous filming block must've finished with an octochamp (which was in fact Kai Laddiman) as the first game of the day included two new contestants. This was also the first time I'd met Damian, Kate, Lara, Sarah and the lovely Danielle, all of whom were to feature large in my life over the next few months. I distinctly remember the first time I saw Susie Dent in real life; she's both shorter and (somehow) even prettier than she appears on TV, and was scurrying along the corridor with no shoes on, wailing "Damian!" and trying to draw his attention to some last-minute problem. This immediately burst the bubble of fantasy in which I'd enveloped the stars of the show, and it finally occurred to me that these were just normal people outside of their unusual working life. Very reassuring.
I watched the first game of the day from the audience and comfortably "beat" both contestants, although my ego was kept in check by Jono who, sitting next to me, utterly destroyed both them and me and barely dropped a point. Apart from his witty repartee, this was exactly why I'd wanted him as my guest - he appreciates what's good and what's bad in the game more deeply than most, and I knew he'd be impressed and disappointed at exactly the same moments as me.
Finally, it was time to face the cameras! Carol came over and introduced herself as I've no doubt she'd done thousands of times before but, nevertheless, she brought a little personal touch to it and, when she discovered that I'd just graduated from Cambridge (as she had done, rather longer ago), I felt she was rooting for me. Likewise Des O'Connor, for all his faults, was extremely personable before the game and, just as the opening music rolled, whispered to me, "You'll enjoy this"; the perfect thing to say, and he was absolutely right.
The first game is still crystal clear in my mind. Although determined to enjoy the experience, which I knew could be over very quickly, I was still extremely nervous and my voice wavered in my opening exchange with Deso. As I often do when nervous, I think I attempted to be funny, but luckily Deso didn't even notice and we quickly moved on to the important bit. David O'Donnell had warned me not to worry about the maximums, the statistics or the inevitable C4C dissections, and just to focus on winning every game - brilliant advice. I remember seeing TREENAIL in Round 2 and smugly assuming it would be a definite 8-point winner, which it was, but I was so busy congratulating myself that I missed the double nine REINFLATE/INTERLEAF. An early lesson in humility! In the next few rounds, I had several selections which were just a lexonerd's dream, with words like PLEURON, MATERIEL and NEGATOR which any opponent who hadn't read the dictionary would be unlikely to know. Susie seemed particularly impressed with PLEURON (maybe it was a DC beater) which made me fantastically happy. The game ended 114-69, and I was off to a dream start, scoring in all 15 rounds. I was ecstatic to have got the teapot, of course, but there was really no time to sit around in self-satisfaction because the next game started almost immediately afterwards.
This one was against limousine driver Darren Edwards, who was charming and self-effacing even in the face of a heavy defeat, as I racked up what would be the series' highest score of 126 (despite missing INCUBATES.) Again lexonerd offerings kept presenting themselves, like DESPOILS, APOGEE and RAGSTONE. I must admit that I overheard his phone call to his wife that evening, and he was just genuinely impressed by me, and had no resentment at suffering one of the largest winning margins in Countdown history. I felt extremely lucky to have had such high maximums in my first two games, and by now the other contestants sitting in the dressing room were thoroughly intimidated (which, again I must admit, I did little to discourage.) This maybe explains the weak performance from David Wylie, my third opponent, who had seemed good in the green room but was not at his best under the lights. However, in my thirty-ninth round, I finally failed to score as David went for SQUIRMER, which I considered unlikely; he was right. (I spent so much of the round deciding that I forgot to look for anything else and missed the much more obvious SQUIRTER.) Nevertheless the game ended 92-54 and I was really flying now. By the last game of the day, the poor night's sleep was catching up with me but my confidence that I could go the distance was climbing and I finished the day with the almost instant conundrum HAPHAZARD to reach 106. I returned to the hotel with Jono and we whiled the evening away somehow, probably involving a dictionary and some trashy television.
The next day was a 9am start and my sleeping had been even worse, so I was feeling pretty drained even before filming began. None of the new contestants had seen the previous day's filming and were not remotely intimidated, so I knew I had a tough day ahead. Game 5 was a tough battle against Allan Harmer, a contestant who could easily have racked up a few wins on another day, and we tied ten of the rounds (including the quadruple nine NARCOTISE/REACTIONS/ACTIONERS/CREATIONS.) However a few more items of esoterica like AMNIOTES and AMOEBA were enough to open a lead and the game finished 115-88, even as I missed the conundrum (HABITLESS -> ESTABLISH) for the first time. This was also the game with the famous WANKERS incident, which Damian told me at the time would be transmitted unexpurgated, but due to half-term Channel 4 censored it at the last moment (which only served to make it funnier.) Game 6: I faced the charming Irishman Paul Blake, and we had a great laugh in the dressing room together; he seemed very relaxed and played well. In round 6 he got the excellent APPLAUSE and, for the first time, I was behind! However more dictionary-delving gave me MANITOUS and OUTLIER and the game finished a flattering 92-51, as I again missed the conundrum ISELLKITE: definitely one of my worst misses. In Game 7, I was given a very competent challenge from a nervous Anne Jenkin, and the tiredness was really kicking in as I missed easy winners like ADMIXES, DILUTER and RAMEKINS, but I did get to say "I've got ERECTIONS", which made the game more memorable.
Finally, on the verge of eightness, I faced John Eva. John had been scheduled to play later in the day, and I suspect Damian would've liked to separate us, but due to some contestant no-shows he was thrust into a game with me. His displeasure showed. However he was certainly the strongest opponent I'd faced and at my tiredest moment. He led for most of the game thanks to PATIENTS, MICRON and a simple numbers game which I'd over-complicated. I also had a word disallowed for the first time, going for DEFUSER (which I thought perfectly safe) and somehow overlooking REFUSED. After Round 9 I trailed by ten points, a particularly unpleasant margin, and was greatly relieved by the break for Susie's Origin of Words. At this point I knew I'd be back for the finals anyway and honestly considered just letting the game slip gently away so I could go home and go to sleep. But then (and this is rather tragic) I remembered the "Octochamp stats" page on the newly-launched Countdown Database, and realised what a fantastic honour it would be to be listed on there alongside such luminaries as Paul Howe (it was his name in particular that circled in my head, for some reason.) With renewed enthusiasm, I scrawled "FIX UP LOOK SHARP" on my pad and determined that I would win the game. From there I turned it around, winning four of the next six rounds to take a 21-point victory. It was a shame to end on such a weak game, as I'd been set for a very good points total of 850 or so, but I was happy just to take the victory.
That evening, we went out for celebratory drinks with the extensive Countdown team, which was fantastic, and ended with one of the defining moments of my life, as one of the guys recommended a little-known local pizza place. This humble establishment turned out to be, of course, Box Pizza, the axis around which all my future Leeds trips would revolve. Jono and I had been living off pizza for the previous few days anyway, from the cheap but distinctly mediocre takeaway "Zamzam's", but this really was something else. Finally, some time in the early hours of the next morning, we returned to the hotel and I did the obligatory "Octochamp Dance" in the shower. But I was shattered and the magnitude of achieving one of my longest-held life goals didn't really hit me 'til the next morning.
And so it was. I watched the next few months of the show with interest, including octochamp runs from one Junaid Mubeen and then Kai. For the first time ever, the finals were filmed in two blocks, as Carol had asked for her very last episode to be filmed separately from the rest so as to cordon off the grief from the rest of the finals. I travelled to Leeds for the first block of filming on the same day that my seventh episode was transmitted (feeling it was probably for the best that my opponents would not have seen the eighth game), and this overlapping of transmission and filming proved to be something of a recurring theme in my Countdown career. Now, far from the excitement and sense of adventure that had pervaded my heat runs, I was faced with the huge weight of expectation of being top seed, and I felt genuinely terrified that I was going to blow it. The only reassurance was that Damian had informed me a few days before that, as top seed and top scorer of the series, I was guaranteed a place in the next Championship of Champions no matter what. But back to the game: in my quarter-final, with the lovely Patricia Jamieson, I hope she won't be insulted if I say I played poorly, missing simple words and numbers and failing to spot the easiest conundrum of the whole finals. However, my favourite tactic of picking five vowels dug me out of a tight spot as I spotted ASTEROID in the final letters round to put the game out of her reach. (Apparently I picked five vowels on nine occasions and won the round on eight of those, so this is something I would recommend practising to any prospective champion.) A close shave, but I'd made it to the second day of filming. I then watched with some trepidation as Martin Bishop, whose games had not yet been transmitted, played a strong game against Lee Simmonds and Junaid, clearly much improved, utterly destroyed Neil Mackenzie to put in a score of 124. Kai also played well to beat Debbi and I felt suitably nervous about facing him the next day, with scant consolation in my being the only person I could find who'd solved the conundrum CLASSRIDE.
The game with Kai showed both the best and worst aspects of my game. In the first round, I was so busy sweating that I forgot to write my word down and then, when Des came to me, I promptly forgot it (I remembered about an hour later that it was VITTLES.) In the next round, I just went utterly blank and missed SPANIEL to trail by 14, already the largest deficit I'd ever faced, and clearly against a confident opponent on good form. In the third round, I spotted the highly plausible IMPOSABLE and had to make the biggest decision I'd faced in my ten appearances; if it was good, I'd overturn the damage and leap into a narrow lead, but to have it disallowed would put me 21 points adrift and with an even greater mountain to climb. I had a couple of seconds to make the decision. Somehow, I talked myself out of declaring it, sticking with the dull seven MOBILES. When Susie confirmed that IMPOSABLE was in fact not valid, I felt like I'd done something right for the first time in three games, and this was a huge confidence boost, even though I was still fourteen points behind. In the next round I again picked five vowels, fishing for SATANIZE which I suspected Kai would not know, and although it didn't come up, IONIZES was enough to win the round and reduce my arrears. Then I had to face Kai's familiar pick of 2 large numbers, which has always been a weakness of mine, and I declared 1 away and was amazed to find that he'd not got it either, and in fact was further away than me! As we went into the first adverts break, I'd somehow closed the gap and the game was tied 21-21; after a nightmare start, I couldn't believe my luck! With that boost, I really got back to my best, just as Kai started to falter, showing nerves (albeit not externally) for the first time in his appearances. By the second adverts break, I was 22 ahead and knew that tying each of the remaining three letters round would guarantee the win. In fact I managed to win the last of these, spotting SUNDIAL late on, to seal the victory. A tough conundrum (LAMEBRAIN) evaded us both and the game finished 99-70; a 43 point turn around! I was disappointed for Kai, who'd been a great ambassador for the show in the national media, but his mum told me later that he didn't mind losing to the #1 seed. I really respected his remarkable humility in defeat and was glad when Damian told me that he'd be coming back for Championship of Champions too.
So, to the final! Junaid had looked imperious against Martin Bishop in the semi-final and I knew I would have to bring my best game to beat him. I had several weeks to practise my six small numbers game (another weakness), but expected that he would take some points off me on the numbers rounds, and (given his brilliant spots of MAGNIFICO and DIETICIAN) probably the conundrum too - so it would all come down to whether I could open a gap on the letters rounds. As it turned out, exactly the opposite transpired; we tied the numbers, he beat me convincingly on the letters, and I got a non-crucial conundrum to lose by just four points. I did my best to be gracious in defeat, made easier by losing to a player for whom I had the greatest respect and who had clearly worked hard to improve since his heats - but still I was devastated. Under the pressure of the situation, I'd missed such common fare as STEMMED, HOARDING and ORGANDIE and, worst of all, had a word disallowed (ALIENER; the correct spelling is ALIENOR, although both are legitimate in Scrabble, the great mind poisoner.) Had I taken even one of those opportunities, I would have won the game, the series, Carol's final appearance, and joined the very same list as my own hero and series winner, Chris Cummins. I went back to the hotel and was so disappointed that I'd failed to perform at the crucial moment that I stayed up 'til about 4am, spending my prize money on the dismal hotel Internet machine. Worse, I still couldn't tell anyone about it until transmission over a month later, so I just had to bottle up my frustration and feel generally miserable by myself. It might seem ridiculous that I reacted so strongly, given everything I'd achieved, the money I'd won, the fun I'd had, and the lovely people I'd met, but it was the first time I'd failed at anything since I crashed and burned in my exams four years earlier. There was only one light on the horizon: Championship of Champions.
For a few days following the final, I stopped playing altogether to clear my head; but, after about three days of abstinence, I woke up in the middle of the night with the "Countdown sweats" and had to play a load of conundrums on Apterous to ease my mind. I practised a certain amount over the next month, but gradually my attitude shifted; having been beaten in the final, I felt I had no pressure to perform at CoC, and would just turn up and enjoy it. Incidentally this is exactly the attitude shift that occurred just before my university finals (in which I also finished second, oddly enough.) I was drawn to play Jean Webby who, after looking through a few of her games, I felt confident I could defeat if I played reasonably well; the real excitement of the draw was that, if both Junaid and I could win our first games, I would be granted a rematch in the CoC quarter-final!
As it happened, Jean dropped out and was replaced by Peter Davies. This was also the first time I'd visited Countdown Towers without Jono as my sidekick, but to bring the story full circle, I invited my school friend Ev to be my official coach for the tournament. Evidently his massages and motivational speeches were a success, as I felt relaxed for the first time in quite a while, and some decent words like FLAMINGO and DESOLATE handed me a comfortable victory, even as Peter got the conundrum. In fact, although I had solved only six conundrums in 12 games, this was the first time that I'd been beaten to one by my opponent, as he got the excellent FETTUCINI to round off the game. It really was an excellent spot, tainted only by the fact that (as I didn't realise 'til quite a bit later) it's not actually in the dictionary, which spells it FETTUCCINE. So this was an unfortunate way to spoil one of my favourite facts about my appearances.
After a wobbly start, Junaid produced the goods against Tony Warren and I was granted my wish - a rematch! Jeff was, as ever, absolutely on the ball and built up the significance of the rematch perfectly, playing also on Junaid's Oxford degree and my Cambridge one. By now, Junaid and I had been hanging out together for quite a while and evidently got on extremely well. When I took the lead in Round 2 with CRAZIES, I actually felt quite bad and evaded his gaze for a few moments, but when I finally looked over he just said "Good word" - making me feel even worse, but what a gent! The same spirit of friendly competitiveness followed the rest of a very close game, in which Junaid was unlucky to have NOUGHTIE disallowed and I blanked a simple numbers game to leave myself just 3 ahead going into the final part of the show. In Round 12 I spotted BUNGEE to extend my lead to nine but, with the conundrum being worth ten points, I had sudden terrible visions of Junaid spotting it and leaving me beaten again - this time by a single point! Sure enough we both held our nerve to reach the crucial conundrum, and as soon as it turned over and I saw LEGALSIRS, I thought, "I am not going to get this." I tried to stay focused and get the letters circling in my head, but I'm notoriously weak at conundrums with lots of common letters, and couldn't really see anything. It was the longest thirty seconds of my life and, when Junaid buzzed in with just a second to go, I was mentally on the train home already. When he said "GRISSALES" (which is actually pretty close!), I was just in shock. I had won! I was Chuck Norris, reversing my greatest defeat! So shocked, in fact, that I pressed the buzzer anyway, just to hear its reassuring sound, but I didn't have any sensible word to offer so just sat there like an idiot. Being an idiot had never felt better.
That was the last game of the day and we all headed back to the hotel. Junaid was so sporting in defeat that I felt disappointed in myself for having been so (internally) frustrated with our previous game, but the two of us and a lot of the other guys had a great laugh together in the hotel bar. That night, I slept soundly before a game for the first time ever - I'd finally worked out how to really enjoy it. Having made it to the semi-final, I had only one wish left, which was to play my great friend and general legend Jon Corby in the next game. Unlike Junaid, who I generally avoid on Apterous because he minces me almost every time, Corby and I had played each other extensively and knew each other's styles inside out. The only remaining obstacle was for Corby to defeat Jonathan Coles the next morning, which he duly did. The dream match was on!
Corby and I had a while to discuss the forthcoming game, and agreed that we wanted to do something to make it memorable, without turning it into another Mikey Lear farce (especially as Mikey himself, despite not being a contestant, had somehow sneaked into the green room and indeed was trying to collect expenses for his trip.) As we walked along the long corridor that leads to the studio floor, I said jokingly, "Wouldn't it be funny if we walked out holding hands?" The lovely Danielle (inseparable from her epithet) said, "Yes, it would!" and, before I knew it, Corby had grabbed my hand and we were walking out to an utterly baffled studio audience, hand in hand. We stood for a moment, talking to Dudley the warm-up guy and holding hands, then walked over to our seats before finally separating. There aren't many situations in which I would feel so comfortable holding hands with another man but on this occasion, it was just so perfectly amusing and also such perfectly genuine mutual affection that I had no qualms about it. I'd love to know what some of the Northern wrinklies in the audience had to say about it.
The game got underway and, with Corby the tournament favourite, I fully expected to lose and for this to be my final appearance, so I resolved to enjoy every second of it. When Jeff explained the rules for anyone watching at home for the first time, Corby adopted an inquisitive expression and began to make notes on such complexities as not having to use all the numbers. This absolutely cracked me up and I was still laughing when Jeff mentioned the great champions that the audience were watching today, which was the cue for Corby to look surprised and search behind his seat for these so-called "great champions". Again I thought this was hilarious but the audience were totally nonplussed so we gave up trying to be funny after that. Perhaps the greatest missed opportunity was the round in which we both had SEAMAN, and I handed my piece of paper to Corby to check; he told later that he was intending to hold the piece of paper by one corner and, with a disgusted expression, say, "Yes, he's got SEAMAN on his paper." No doubt this would have been edited out or retaken but still I regret that, just for once, his decent side won out and he just said "That's fine." Shame.
Anyway, the game continued to unfold and, at the second adverts break, I was 16 points ahead and hadn't dropped a single point. This was undoubtedly the best I'd ever played, on television or anywhere else, and I can only attribute it to the supreme feeling of relaxation and enjoyment that surrounded the whole tournament. Corby was below his best in the last third, even as I missed a nine, and by the final numbers, the game was mine. When he declined to pick his normal 3 large numbers and opted for the easier 1 large, I was amazed to find that I'd solved it and he was out by 1 - the first time I'd won a numbers game for some time! My lack of practice before CoC had certainly helped me to relax, but it had taken its toll on my already fragile arithmetic ability, and to get full points for numbers in a game like this was, to me, one of my greatest achievements. We were both utterly baffled by the conundrum ILEANIDLY, depriving me of another game of scoring in every round, but it didn't matter - somehow, someway, I'd made my way into the Championship of Champions final!
In the other semi-final, Nick Wainwright had taken Steven Briers to a crucial conundrum, but again the beautiful conundrum FCRAVIOLA had been too much for them both and Steven held on for the win. Nick is another great friend of mine and, in most of our many games, we each bring out the worst in the other, as the game generally deteriorates into a mess of disallowed words, easy misses and a scramble to get the conundrum. Having seen that we were in opposite sides of the draw, we'd joked weeks earlier about what a shambles it would be to have Wainwright vs Reams as the final of Championship of Champions. And it so nearly came to pass! Another near miss of what would, no doubt, have been the death of the programme.
So now I was in the final, and had very little time in which to change my shirt and eat the obligatory pre-match banana. I was still utterly in shock at having got this far and my comment at the end of the semi-final, about needing to buy a new shirt, was no joke (although given the time constraint I just wore the same shirt I'd worn against Junaid.) My memory of the final is blurry, although I remember having a good chat with Steven before the game and during the adverts - considering his rather reserved on-screen persona, I was honestly surprised to discover an eloquent and interesting young man nestled beneath the geeky exterior. (I also heard from the make-up department that he has excellent bone structure, whatever that means.) I remember the final, which again I always expected to lose, being completely one-sided and actually being embarrassed by my own mediocrity, but on watching it back it really wasn't too bad - there were a lot of flat rounds and the numbers, never my forte, were particularly nasty. By the time the conundrum came around, the game was decided and in any case I was only very vaguely familiar with the answer (OUBLIETTE), so I was not at all disappointed to lose. Steven had been consistently the best player of the tournament and I'm not the first to say that the winner of his game with David O'Donnell would always have deserved to take the title.
And that was the end. All the thousands of hours of filling my brain with Countdown had come to a head; I had appeared in fifteen episodes, as many as anyone (specials notwithstanding), and had enjoyed the vast majority of it. Before the very first game of CoC, seeing the new set, new presenters and new title sequence for the first time, I wrote a note to Kirk which read "I am seriously about to wee myself with excitement." And it didn't disappoint. Although I was delighted to have performed above myself and reached the final, undoubtedly the best part of Championship of Champions was the camaraderie of the contestants, the off-screen crew, and (unlike the previous incumbents) the on-screen team, who joined us for drinks on the last night. Absolutely one of the greatest experiences of my life, and three days I will never forget. In the unlikely event that anyone concerned manages to read this far: thank you for being part of it!
Early the next morning, I headed back to Cambridge, feeling elated and deflated in equal measure that it was finally over. I got back to my dingy student room and flicked on the computer and, lo and behold, an email from Susie Dent! It was only an apology for her non-attendance at the previous evening's drinks, but it made me feel like, although my time as a contestant was over, my association with Countdown need not be. So it has proved.
In January I went back to the studio to support another of my great friends, the legendary Kirk Bevins, to see whether he could convert his astonishing Apterous performances into equally astonishing television. As for whether he was successful... I can only advise you to watch on 2 March. [I think we all know what happened there - Ed.] And no doubt I'll be there again soon, supporting some new talent in the game or maybe just catching up with the great team who do so much off-camera. If you're appearing on the show any time soon, perhaps we will cross paths, so keep your eyes open for a pointy-nosed and now beardless blond pestering people with anagrams in the green room. That'll be me.Charlie Reams