So, it's been a few days since we made our TV debut on Channel 4's Coachtrip, and the initial feelings of total humiliation are starting to subside. The feedback from various sources are still coming at us thick and fast and we've already been recognised a couple of times when out and about. All of it is positive, and so far, we are really pleased with the response and how we've been portrayed. Let's hope the edit stays as honest as we were during the trip!
A couple of thoughts have come to us over this week's viewings. Firstly, in one particular episode where we were taking part in contact improvisation, or as Christabel put it, “art made up to touch people” we were paired with the two young guys of the series. A clip was shown of us talking about how it's been a “long time” since we'd touched men in that way and that as lovely as the boys were, it was wasted on us. So, it's definitely out there that we are not just BFFs, but GFs. We awaited the trolling. Kept waiting. And waiting. And waiting, but nothing. Not one homophobic comment was directed at us. Obviously, there's still time but we don't become any more gay, so we just expected it in the early stages. You know, like the comments about the coach needing to reinforced, fatties eating all the food, how many times did we stop at a drive-thru, all of those comments have died down. So what does this mean? Is it finally OK to be a lesbian on TV or are we still not recognisably gay enough to our hetero counterparts?
As a couple we are really private. We don't like the limelight and the drive to do the show had nothing to do with actually being on TV. We really struggled in front of the cameras at times. Don't get it wrong, we were ourselves as much as you can be on daytime TV, but we found the process of being filmed from 7am to 11pm most days, absolutely gruelling. On the evening before we took part in yodelling (a sentence we never thought we'd say!) Christabel was sick, probably due to eating the umpteenth schnitzel-type food that week. Melissa went down to dinner without her and had to be filmed making the announcement that Christabel was sick. The crew then went up to the room to “see if Christabel is ok”, cameras in hand. No moment was our own from the beginning of the trip to the end. Even going to the loo, we needed permission. It felt like being on a long school trip at times - but without the hot PE teacher.
Over the first few days we soon got into the routine of things. We knew we would need to be up at 6am ready to film for 7am. We got used to being pulled out of breakfast to be interviewed about the our thoughts and feelings about the coming day. We'd be left with little time to eat and not know when lunch was or if it would be edible. We got told what to wear each day, but half the time the instructions were ridiculous and at one point or another we all ended up ruining clothes from being stood around in the rain for ages while we shot a scene 3 times over. [Note to producers, if you are taking us to a barely developed prehistoric settlement to spear mammoths in the rain, we would have all liked to be wearing appropriate shoes. You owe us £50 each.]
We realised early on that TV takes a lot of time to make. Hours to set up lights, check sound, do camera type things and get all us 'trippers where we needed to be, looking enthusiastic, miserable or stupid. However, what this meant is that a lot of this waiting around took place in beautiful cafes, drinking copious amounts of free and amazing coffee which was necessary to keep going. It was during this time, and only really during this time, that we ever developed a sense of the culture of the places we visited.
We didn't spend much time on the coach but we equally didn't spend much time in any one country either. We only had time to film the scenes we needed before heading home, eating dinner at 11pm and yes, you guessed it, more breaded 'food' and drinking a ridiculous amount of wine. The group had a tab paid for by the production team which we pretty much exceeded every night. After that we would carry on until the early hours, normally in someone's room, using various bits of European currency we picked up along the way to pay our bills.
Bonding with the group happened really quickly. We can honestly say that we didn't initially dislike anyone although it was pretty obvious to us who we could trust and who we couldn't. It was interesting learning from the members of the group who we are still in contact with now, that they ended up feeling the same way as we did. We were all part of this unique experience so already that is a connecting factor but when you spend sometimes up to 23 hours (we pretty much had an after party every night until the early hours) you get to know someone at an accelerated rate.
So those who saw the most recent episode at the time of writing (Thursday's) will know that we have just received a yellow card. This means that if the couples choose us to receive the yellow card again we will automatically be sent home, ending our coach trip journey.
Prior to this we lost Michael and Maureen, the couple in their late 70s who we ended up loving. Michael didn't realise we were a couple at first but when he found he immediately said he felt sorry for some of the things young gay people have to go through and offered us to stay at their home for the weekend because they are close to Soho and we would really enjoy it. Already on it Michael! Another casualty was Nicky and her son Dan. We liked both of them although we felt Nicky had more to her than the fun Devonian she presented as. Her son Dan cried. It was pretty awkward because they were sitting opposite us in the coach. We were desperately hoping a hole would open in the bus and we could just drop out. Telling people that you just don't want to spend any more time with them is awful. There's rarely a time in adult life that you do that unless it's during a breakup! That said, we don't regret our vote because there is only so many times you can beg someone to be a bit more engaging and have them not progress.
So far we have visited several places in the Czech Republic and just entered Austria. Our experience of the Czech Republic was interesting. When we arrived in Prague before the filming we took some rare time alone to wander around. We felt pretty exposed and actually had a lot of people turn to look at us. It was really clear that in the sea of faces, nobody looked like us ethnically. We definitely didn't feel comfortable drawing more attention to ourselves by showing massive PDA, so we kept it casual. We noticed a few Swastikas painted around and as beautiful as the architecture was in Prague, we felt the place had a heavy cloud over it. It became less cosmopolitan the further we travelled and we know the rest of the 'trippers couldn't wait to leave the country either.
It was only when we arrived in Austria and sat down to have lunch in bar and heard music for the first time in a public place since the start of the trip, that we realised the lack of music had really affected us. Music really seemed to inject some life into the group and we instantly felt Austria was going to be a fantastic experience.
To find out how long this feeling lasted, you'll have to catch the future episodes on Channel 4, weekdays at 17:30 or on Ch4+1. You can also watch on 4oD and of course, read our next post.