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Inverness Courier reporter features in Channel 4’s First Dates episode

By Annabelle Gauntlett

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Inverness Courier reporter, Annabelle Gauntlett.
Inverness Courier reporter, Annabelle Gauntlett.

I went on Channel 4’s First Dates and here’s everything you might not know about the show and my experience.

My friend and I were giggling in the kitchen while watching First Dates and eating our takeaway pizza when we applied to the show…as a joke. Little did I actually expect to be called onto the show.

Just a few days later I got a call from a producer following up with me in regards to my application. I simply laughed as this couldn’t be true.

Annabelle Gauntlett on Channel 4's First Dates.
Annabelle Gauntlett on Channel 4's First Dates.

Within a week I was sitting on a train for five hours on my way to Manchester to have an interview prior to the show. For over two hours a team of television producers questioned me about my personality and non-existent love life. Bearing in mind my episode was filmed during Covid times, I never expected to actually make the cast list.

Following the interview I had a session with a psychiatrist to ensure I was mentally stable to go on TV, which at this point, reality had sunk in. I was about to appear on a well known television show.

After ticking all the boxes, they had found me a match.

As I made my way back up to Manchester to visit the official First Dates restaurant, I couldn’t quite believe what I was doing.

I was crippled with anxiety as I waited in anticipation for the camera crew to attach my mic.

When I walked into the iconic restaurant, I was greeted by profound chef, Fred Sirieix, who is the host of the show. He took me to the bar and I began to have a pleasant chat with Merlin Griffiths, the bartender and we laughed about my hometown.
It was soon time to meet my blind date, Charlie from North London.

Charlie (19), from London.
Charlie (19), from London.

We kicked off the evening with an awkward hug and introduction, but it wasn’t long until we started giggling.

Charlie told me that he was a fish chef, and the journalist in me decided to ask “what kind of fish?”. To which he responded oysters, and of course I found it appropriate to associate his passion with a Mr Bean fish scene. Thankfully my date laughed as I continued to make some awful puns.

In total honesty, I soon forgot about the cameras and I began to enjoy the date. While people might expect the set to be staged and camera’s to be floating around the table, it is actually quite the opposite. On the show you are left to your own devices, just like a normal date.

Annabelle in the First Dates resturant.
Annabelle in the First Dates resturant.

We talked about anything and everything, from football and food to previous relationships and exes.

But, then he asked why I don’t date much. I questioned for a second if I should answer honestly or not. I replied with the honest answer, as I opened up to him about my menopause diagnosis.

I told him that I didn’t date much as when the news came out in school that I had early menopause as a teenager, I was considered “easy”, so I just gave up altogether as if I didn’t date then I wouldn’t be targeted.

Annabelle on her date with Charlie.
Annabelle on her date with Charlie.

Charlie took it surprisingly well and immediately a weight was lifted off my shoulders. Maybe there was a future to date guys with my condition after all.

At the end of the date, which flew by, came the bill, which was in fact paid by the cast and after some debate, Charlie paid.

As we left the restaurant feeling at ease with each other's company, we were taken to the filming room to confront the camera as to if we were going to see each other again.

Annabelle and Charlie at the end of their date.
Annabelle and Charlie at the end of their date.

Thankfully Charlie answered first and said he would love to see me again, to which I agreed. Immediately after we headed back to the hotel we had been put up in and shared a few drinks in each other's company.

Just a couple weeks later I went along to Charlie’s fish restaurant in Covent Garden to put his oysters to the test and I can confirm that they were delicious.

While we both enjoyed the experience and getting to know each other, it just wasn’t meant to be as Charlie continued his long shift patterns as a chef in London, and I moved to Scotland to pursue my dream as a journalist.

Overall, the experience was one I will never forget and delighted to have made a friend to laugh about it with.

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