I’ve mentioned the Thursday night quiz in the Aberavon rugby club many times before in this very blog. If you’re a regular reader you may recall the times when I have mentioned the serious opposition that we face from a team headed by my friend Rob. Well, Rob in the rugby club is none other than Robert Merrill, who contested last Monday’s heat of Brain of Britain. So even if none of his opponents knew it, I certainly knew that they were facing a very serious opponent indeed.
For the record, the full line up was Linda Bond, Louis Houghton, Thomas Leeming, and Rob. Rob of course labored under the burden of support from the Clark sofa. Linda kicked off. She answered her first question, but didn’t know what a laverock was. Rob did – the answer being skylark. I’m sure that he knew it anyway, but it’s rather ironic that this is one of the questions I asked in a quiz in the club about 6 months ago. Louis too managed his first, before failing on a French Royal house. He tried Bourbon , but my boy knew it was the Valois. Text book start so far. Thomas Leeming leapt off to a good start taking his first two, but a tricky question on the scientist who coined the term Homo Sapiens saw him off. It was Louis who knew that this was Linnaeus. Rob faltered on his first . Asked for the writer of Dad’s Army et al who passed away , he zigged with Jimmy Perry. Thomas zagged correctly with David Croft.
In round 2 Linda again took her first – incidentally and unfortunately the last of her own questions she would answer correctly in the contest. Her second – alphabetically speaking, which is the last book of the Old Testament – foxed all the brains. It is Zephaniah. Louis couldn’t take his first, not knowing that the Scottish football club Morton are now Greenock Morton. Thomas had that one. Thomas didn’t know the rather chestnutty other name for a plantar wart, which let Louis in for a bonus with verruca. Robert knew his first, but then none of the team remembered that Enoch Powell’s only cabinet post had been in Health. Thomas, then , still retained his lead, but with Rob only a point behind there was no real need to worry. In round three Linda didn’t know that the US Virgin Islands originally belonged to Denmark. Neither did the other brains. I don’t know where I’ve heard that one before, but I was pleased with myself for getting that. Louis again missed his first – and again none of the other brains could pick up the baton. Kicking Horse pass is on the Canadian Pacific railway. Thomas took his first two, but then rather surprisingly was unable to name the Norns from Norse Mythology. Louis, showing good speed with his buzzer finger ( or thumb, to be precise ) took that one. Rob took three , but failed on the flag of Dominica – again, a bonus for Louis. I have told Rob he should get on Sporcle and play the flag game. Still he shared the lead with 6 now, as we headed for the Beat the Brains interval.
My boy again showed his class by being the prime mover behind the correct answer to the first, somewhat trickier question. When asked – in which direction does the Panama Canal go from the Caribbean to the Pacific Ocean, the answer given was South East. Sounds crazy , but look at the map. It’s true. The second – which is the only London Underground Tube station ( still in use ) with a name which contains 6 consecutive consonants – was dispatched to the boundary in fairly short order – the answer being Knightsbridge.
Back to the contest. Linda was tripped up on the British empire Medal – I thought that was gettable, but none of the brains could dredge it up. Louis got rather a tricky one I thought – where would you hear a nautophone ? Nobody knew – and neither did I – that it’s a fog warning, maybe carried by a ship or a lighthouse. Nobody knew Thomas’ question either. This one was the sort of thing which Whitakers Almanac is so good for . Coronets of Dukes ( and some other ranks ) are decorated with leaves of which plant . The answer is strawberry. So , a low scoring round, and the door was wide open for Rob to make a move into the lead. Which he did with 2 correct answers. He tripped up on the relationship between Edward the Confessor and his successor Harold Godwinsson. Linda knew they were brothers – in – law, and this brought up her final point of the competition. Moving onto the next round, Linda didn’t recognize the scientific name of dry rot. I didn’t know it, but guessed from Russell’s description. Thomas took a timely bonus. Louis again got a tricky starter – nobody actually knew that the civilization after which one of the Earth’s tectonic plates is named is the Nazca. Thomas missed a gettable point, when he didn’t guess that the Women’s Land Army first came into being during World War I. Rob had that one. Now he ripped in with a set of four before being asked where you’d find Upper and Nether Something Or Other. Never mind, Rob’s lead was now a useful 6 points. While the others had come up with some good answers, none of them looked likely to whack in a 6 pointer in the last two rounds, so Rob looked well on course for the win.
Linda didn’t know that a scotch argus was a butterfly. Rob did. Louis took his first, but missed out on the Jewish festival of Passover – as did the other brains. I don’t know if there’s much consolation in this , but three times so far Louis had been asked a starting question which none of the brains could answer. I think we can assume that he is better than his score. Thomas couldn’t identify where the Oakridge Research facility is. Rob knew it was Tennessee. He took his own first, but then he was given a piece of music, from one of the films directed by and starring Laurence Olivier. Well, which do you go for. Hamlet ? Henry V ? Both offered, but the answer was actually Richard III. His lead had waxed to a mighty 9 points now, and with one round to go, he had to be home and dry. Linda had a nasty one on palindromic diseases nobody had it. Louis didn’t know that the Eclipse Stakes are run at Sandown , which gave Thomas a bonus to ensure his runner up slot. Nobody knew their Greek mythology well enough to identify Laertes as the father of Odysseus. Maybe not a gimme, no, but certainly gettable I would have said. Finally Rob took a further three, but fell into a little trap when asked who first referred to Swiss bankers as ‘gnomes IN Zurich ‘ . Rob went for George Brown, who famously used the phrase ‘The Gnomes OF Zurich’ but as Thomas knew old ‘tired and emotional’ George was picking up on something originally said by Harold Wilson.
I have had a chat with Rob at some length about the show. He told me that before the start, his main ambition was not to come last. Well, he certainly achieved that. Well done Rob ! A fine performance, which will come as no surprise to your friends, teammates, and regular opponents, even if you surprised yourself !
Linda Bond – 3
Louis Houghton – 6
Thomas Leeming – 9
Robert Merrill - 19