As soon as Lotte and I got down the stairs after recording the main show we were separated, destined never to see each other again. Well, not until the moment the cameras started rolling as we met in Fernandos about 36 hours later. The intermittent period was mostly uneventful.
After walking down, posing for a couple of snaps, we’re whisked away separately to record a post-episode debrief then back to the Green Room to be reunited with Paul, Harry and David – once they left to record their segments we were kept separate until our bit was finished. In fact, we didn’t even have confirmation that all 4 of us would be going to the Isle together until then. Walking into that room and seeing the guys waiting there to celebrate our success was one of the highlights of the experience.
After the record it’s back to the hotel, then fly to Fernandos the next day, the guys stay in one beautiful hotel in Fernandos and the girls in a separate one. It was very strange for us because there were over 100 crew from the show staying in the hotel and everyone knows all about us and we don’t even know whether the people smiling at us in the corridors are the crew or friendly British tourists. Or is that an oxymoron?
Few drinks, sensible bedtime, but awake all night with racing mind trying to solidify as many memories from the previous 24 hours as possible to avoid losing track of the nice moments that wouldn’t make the final edit. One of the other guys had a 4am start because his activity was on the other side of Fernandos which is a fairly large island, suddenly 6am didn’t seem so obscene.
Once dressed and ready the crew came down to the room for a quick pre-date interview then we drove to the marina to chill until the date was set. When I say we’re not allowed to see each other until the date starts, I mean it. When Lotte arrived I had to stand and face a wall in a cafe for 17 minutes just in case I caught a glimpse of her from 40 feet away. Eventually it was ‘action’ – walk up to Lotte and greet her, explain the Bob diving date (out in the Fernandos Sea somewhere is a guy called ‘Bob’ and we’ve got to find him. Har-dee-har-har) then set sail.
We had a nice boat ride out to the fishiest bit of the Fernandos Sea getting to know each other and getting on really well. It felt more like seeing an old friend for the first time in a decade than meeting someone new, and the whole environment was platonic more than romantic. The strangest thing about this date compared to any other wasn’t actually the cameras, or the directors asking us to rephrase parts of naturally flowing conversations, or the fact that you could know more about someone by looking at their Tinder profile than selecting them from the Flirty 30. The strangest thing about the date is that you are constantly forced to analyse every detail of it, commit to emotions then label them with minimalist soundbites. You can get on really well with someone and usually it’s fine to take your time to decide if you want friendship, romance, nothing, or anything in between. Here, what you say defines your feelings and even if you give a range of responses, the ones which are aired become definitive. Such is television.
After the first activity we were separated again and went off to a restaurant, sat a few tables away from each other with our separate crews. We have lunch. Then before digesting it’s off to an astoundingly beautiful villa owned by one of the crew’s parents to film the second half of the date. We then pretend to have a second lunch on camera, as eating on film isn’t very glamorous or easy to converse, so the fish and chips was a prop ordered in from the local chippy. What’s amusing is when Lotte said ‘The fish is cold’, the fish was cold at the beginning of the meal. Unlike the bubbly!
After the date it was back to the hotel for the last time to grab all our stuff together and head over to Casa Fernandos. I was getting confused by this point, thought the villa was the Casa and we were waiting for the rest of the gang there, we really were left in the loop throughout the journey. Before getting to Fernandos I’d barely even heard of The Gossip, it was a much smaller deal in previous series and hadn’t even been mentioned during the day in the studio so I wasn’t prepared for it at all. And as you may be aware, this is where the real drama starts.