It’s about time I told you all about my ITV ‘Surprise Surprise’ experience, how they done me like a kipper, and how it felt to share my story with 5 million people.
The amazing Wendy Fabian, was the person that secretly applied for me to go on the show, alongside over 20,000 other applicants – whatever Wendy said to ITV, it must of been pretty amazing.
So, how I got roped in! – was with a cheeky phone call from ITV saying “hi Jamie, it’s very early stages, but we’re thinking of doing a documentary of your run across Canada.” Of course, I thought that sounds cool, the chance to inspire people on a much bigger scale.
Months had passed, and after many phone chats, skype calls, and filming (with my Mum, Dad, and cousin Kev), suddenly I wasn’t too happy with where this was all heading.
As you can imagine, I became very inquisitive, and every question I had for ITV, was always answered vaguely with a “ummm.. ugh… not to sure… we’ll get back to you on that one Jamie.” And they never did.
In the end, my brain was continuing to tell me that it was a great opportunity, but my gut feeling (like right in the stomach!) was telling me something was wrong, really wrong. I just couldn’t put my finger on it.
Then to add to this, ITV called up, and said “hey Jamie, we’d like you to come to our studios in London for more filming and to meet the chief execs, along with Wendy, and her daughter Annia”. Still nothing had triggered, I thought they’d want to film Wendy and Annia, because they were part of the charity that I had been raising money for.
Off I went to London, thinking ‘this isn’t right, but keep going with the flow’. After the filming, they said “Jamie, as planned, we’d like you to meet the execs, but they’re tied up at the minute, you have sometime to kill. Wendy and Annia are killing their time in a show, would you like to join them?” I am the yes man so it was simple, “yes, why not!”
The entrance had plenty of securities, and I wasn’t on the guest list, so it was a right pain in the arse to get through (apparently this wasn’t staged – the team of securities just has no idea I was part of the show!).
I found Wendy, sat in the audience, whilst Annia was off in the toilet. As I went to sit in Annia’s seat, Wendy was like “NO, you can’t sit there!” And then smiled and said “see those boys you’re about to sit with, Annia fancies that boy – you wouldn’t want to ruin her chances would you Jamie?” I laughed and sat next to Wendy, so I was now in the middle of them both. Wendy lied through her teeth, because I had to sit in the middle of them, as part of the show.
Annia came back, I gave her a little wink, to manner ‘go on Annia, get in there my love!’. Annia just kind of stared at me, understandably, like a weirdo.
With all three of us sitting there, I was like “so, Surprise Surprise, what is this show all about then? Never seen this before!” Although, I did remember a slight recollection of Cilla Black’s version as a kid, I really had no idea what the show was all about. Anyhow, Wendy and Annia said they’d never seen it before, too, but my guess looking back now, would be that was a lie also.
The show started, and I was in awe at some of the people that were going on the show – the people were real, down to earth, with the most incredible stories of how they were doing good in the world. You probably all know by now, that I’m not much of a telly man myself, but it immediately put a lump in my throat one minute, and then inspired me the next. I felt that this was my kind of show.
Whilst watching, there were a couple of hiccups that may have given the game away.
(1) First up, a presenter came into the audience, and said “some people are wearing hats, please take them off.” With this being totally directed at me.
(2) Then a little while later, I found a fortune cookie under my chair (everyone had one under there chair), for obvious reasons, I wanted to eat it. Wendy and Annia were like “no Jamie, you can’t!” To occupy my mouth with something, Annia then gave me a piece of gum to chew, so I wouldn’t eat it. The presenter came out again, “there are people in the audience that are chewing gum, please don’t do that. Even though you’re in the audience, you’ll still most likely be on telly, so spit it out”. Again, directed at me, and this time we chuckled thinking it was me, but nothing had still triggered.
Until, during one part of the show, they started to put the spot light onto fundraisers in the audience. The first alarm bell went off! I thought ‘hang on a minute, I’m a fundraiser, is this why I’m here, are they going to put the spot light on me?!’
After a quick panic attack, I calmed myself down and said to myself ‘there’s no way that would happen, ITV would have had to have planned this. I’ve came in here so off the cuff, I couldn’t even get through security. Stop being stupid Jamie. Stop it.’ Sure enough, the spot light didn’t shine on me, so this time I was really hard on myself and I thought ‘stop being so stupid will you, just enjoy the show’.
Another 20 minutes passed, watching another incredible story, and then a presenter, was like “right, we’re now down to the final part of the show, and there’s somebody in the audience, and they don’t know they’re supposed to be here.”
BING: the light bulb moment just happened. I thought about all the filming they did. All the phones calls. Then I thought about, why I had such a sick, and distrustful feeling in my stomach. It was all making sense. Of course it did, everyone on the ITV team had been lying to me for months.
Just to make sure that my brain wasn’t going off on a loopy tangent, the last piece of evidence was looking at Wendy and Annia, they we’re dressed up ‘To the Ninies’ (as they say!), looking all sparkly and ready to be on telly. I looked down at myself, and yup, you guessed it, I was in a scraggy old jumper, a pair of checkered shorts, and my flip flops.
And here’s full video of what happened:
The lovely Holly Willoughby, then walked into the audience, and said “you all have a fortune cookie under your chair, you sir (to a random stranger close by to me), what does yours say?” The guy then said “this person has a big heart”. My heart at this point was firing out of my chest, and I’m surprised that I didn’t have a heart attack there and then. I knew this was happening.
Holly then asked Wendy to open up her cookie, and Wendy calmly said “the person you’re looking for is with me tonight”.
My life began to melt down as I went arm in arm, with Holly Willoughby and Wendy to the sofa.
Once sitting on the sofa, they played the most incredible short film, of why I do such mad adventures, and why I fundraise. With the ending of the film being of my proud Dad, chocking up saying “there’s a lot of inspiring people in the world, but my son is the most inspiring person”.
What a way to get me, I’ve never in my life been so overwhelmed.
Whilst chocking up myself, I managed to just about pull myself together, and poured out my life story for about 10 minutes to Holly (I’m now in love by the way!).
Looking back, I can’t remember what I even said but one thing that sticks out to me, was Holly giving me the chance to say that I’m going to be Adventureman on the next adventure. I realised at that point that they were not only trying to make good tv, but that they genuinely wanted to support in what I’m doing next.
Right, now time for the Surprise, I mean, after all that is exactly what the show is about.
First up they gave me a brand new racing bike, worth over £1000 – they know that I’m still using my old, beaten up ‘Bangkok to Gloucester’ bike to get around Gloucester – so it was a very thoughtful gesture. Anyway, if I’m being truthful, I’m most probably still going to use my old one. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. (But I really do love my new one, and I’m sure it will come in handy at some point!)
Next they put the Canadian High Commissioner, Gordon Campbell on screen to say “Hi Jamie, I’d like to take this moment to say thank you, for all you have done, for literally thousands of kids across Canada. You talk about a Superhero, man do you ever fit the bill. Thank you so much for all you did. And let me tell you this, you ran across Canada, everyone here in Canada, is waiting for you to come back. You’re welcome back, anytime you like.” – Jokingly, I said to Holly “is he being serious, does he mean I now have permanent visa for Canada?” Although I was joking, I kind wish it was true. Anyway, jokes a side, what an incredible message.
Seconds later, up on the screen, came Canada with loads of wild adventures with a voiceover that went “thanks to Canadian Affair, you and a friend are jetting off for 14 days, TO CANADA, that will be a tailor made holiday, just for you!” I couldn’t believe what they did. It reminded me of watching game shows as a kid, with the final prize being a holiday – so surreal to be the one actually receiving the holiday.
Just when you think it’s all over, Holly Willoughby then said “and Jamie, Surprise Surprise – it isn’t over…” At this point I was so overwhelmed I was like ‘NO more, I can’t take no more!!!’ I meant every word.
Holly continued “well, I think Adventureman needs a cape for his next adventure, so thanks to some of the British sporting greats, they created a super cape, for a superhero.”
It then flicked up on screen to some of greatest athletes of all time:
Dame Kelly Holmes (Double Olympic Gold Medalist) “Hi Jamie, I’ve got a brand new cape for you, for your next adventure, as a double Olympic champion, I know what it’s exactly like, to push yourself to the limit to achieve something incredible. And you’ve done just that. But more importantly, I want to know what your next adventure is?!”
(As she finished her speech, Kelly then threw the cape off the screen and then it flicked to…)
Adam Gremili (Double European Gold Medalist) “..sprinting for 100 metres is one thing, but to run 5000 miles, forget it! You are a legend.”
Rebecca Adlington (Double Olympic Gold Medalist) “to run across an entire Country, the size of Canada, is like training for an Olympic medal. It feels impossible, until you succeed. You’re a true hero Jamie, you stayed a float, and fought to the end.”
Eddie ‘The Eagle’ Edwards (A living legend – British Olympic Ski Jumper) “I’ve done some pretty hair raising things in my time, but even I’m not daft enough to take on some of the challenges you’ve completed Jamie. And I’m Eddie The Eagle”
Colin Jackson (Double World Champion) “Jamie, you’re a testament, that you can always achieve your dreams”
Paula Radcliffe (World Record Holder Marathoner) “Having ran many marathons, the last thing I’d do, is run across Canada. Jamie, you are proof, that with grit and determination are what you need to succeed.”
As you can imagine, to have all these phenomenal athletes saying all these kind words about me, I was a bit of a mess.
And if that wasn’t enough, out of nowhere, Kelly Holmes strutted into the show, with my signed Adventureman cape. I gave her a massive hug, and sat down on the sofa with her and Holly. I was in awe, I didn’t know where to look, I was at in the middle of Holly Willoughby. and Kelly freaking Holmes.
Kelly then went on to say “as an athlete, you push yourself to the absolute limit. To the edge. I kind of know the pain you’ve gone through, the determination, the doubts you’ve had, and how you’ve had to push through all of that. But Jamie, I have to tell you, I could never do what you do.” I found it hard to soak up what she just said to me, so I replied with “I just can’t believe someone like you is saying this to me.”
At this moment, I thought about my Dad, for the past year (and he wouldn’t tell anyone else this) has said to me on a few occasions, “J’, if any olympic athlete knows about what you’ve done, they would be in awe of you.” I always responded to my Dad by saying “stop being stupid Dad.”
I never believed my Dad, but suddenly Kelly Holmes, somebody I’ve looked up to all my life (and even cried to her!) on tv while she’s been up on the podium receiving gold medals – was now sitting next to me, saying the most wonderful things.
I’ve never felt prouder.
After the show, we went for a few beers, with all the people that helped out in the show, and all the people that had lied to me over the past few months – of course for the greater good.
Clearly, one of the best moments of my life.
Before going home, I was then told to keep my mouth shut for six weeks until the show aired. That was really hard to do, but I did it. Just.
A couple of days before the show aired, I melted down at the thought of sharing my life, in the rawest form possible to five million people, it really did scare the hell out of me – especially with the fact that I was so surprised I completely forgot what I said.
The night it was being aired, we decided to go down the local pub to (the brilliant!) Dr Fosters, with friends and family to sink a few pints around the telly. Yes, I did look a bit of a mess during the show, I was so emotional throughout, but catching me off guard like that was perfect. All I could do was put my heart on my sleeves. That’s all we can ever do.
There’s only two more words I can leave you with on this chapter: Surprise Surprise.