Last night saw this year’s edition of the annual Birmingham Mega Quiz in aid of the Lord Mayor’s Charity. I will come clean at this point. I had been told the date by Trevor several weeks in advance, but Mr. Organised I am not, and through nobody’s fault but my own I found myself double booked for the evening. I had agreed to do the quiz in Aberavon Rugby club last night. So when I had the reminder from Trevor at the start of the week it did require a little bit of nifty footwork. Thankfully Brian agreed to do the rugby club quiz for me and I’d already made the questions and handout and everything necessary, so Brian, thank you very much. I owe you one.
Our team of Richie, Gordon, Trev and me have had quite a run of success in this event in recent years. We won in 2009, 2010 and 2012, although we were only second in 2011. That’s not being boastful – I would be the first one to admit that each time we won it was only by a tiny margin, and one of them was only by virtue of a tie-break. It’s always an enjoyable event, and although I hate letting the rugby club down, I really didn’t want to miss it if I could avoid it, albeit that Thursday isn’t the best night of the week for me if truth were told.
Last year we were about two tables away from the back of the hall. This year, when we arrived we found that we had been assigned a table right at the very back of the hall. Not quite in the car park mind you, but closer to the doors than the stage, if you know what I mean. Which wasn’t so much of a problem while the questions were being asked because - a) Pete Morgan was asking the questions again and he at least knows how to use a microphone properly – and b) All the questions came up on the big screen anyway. Well and good. The problem came about because it seemed as if the world and his wife were intent on all getting up to have a go on the mike before the start of the quiz. Which is fine inasmuch as it’s only fair to let the organisers, the Lord Mayor and other worthies to have their say before the start. Only . . . nobody at the back could understand a word that they were saying. The sound was echoing around the high roof of the hall, and even though there were speakers on either side throughout the length of the hall, all you could hear while each of them was talking was a sort of drone. Now, for all I know, maybe each one was actually saying
”Wurrr – wa wurr wurrr wawurrr”.
It’s unlikely, mind you, but that was all that those of us sitting at the back could hear. Cue comments from some of the teams around us – and ourselves – along the lines of -
“It’s Norman Collier/ Stanley Unwin/ The Swedish Chef/ Rowley Birkin QC (I was very, very drunk at the time.)and the teacher in the Charlie Brown cartoons"
All good, clean fun, and as I said, we could at least make out what Pete Morgan was saying. He’s done it twice in a row now, and I have to say he is my favourite Mega Quiz question master. Mind you, he didn’t have a huge amount to beat in the shape of Nick Owen, and, Heaven help us, Professor Carl Chinn. Now, probably the most difficult choice all evening was deciding which round we ought to play our joker on. Last year we plumped for what should have been our banker subject – History – and found out that it was the hardest round among some relatively gentle sets, and nearly lost the quiz through doing so. So of course we didn’t go for History this time. I suppose it follows that we had a full house on it now. It came down to a choice between round 9 – Geography – another should-be-banker subject, or the cryptically titled Days of the Week. This was the last round, and I know that Richie quite fancied leaving the joker to the very last round, so we could hopefully spring from being down among the minor places to snatch the lead on the last round. In the end we played supposedly safe with Geography.
This was just my opinion, and if you were there by all means feel free to disagree with me, but I thought that the quiz was set to be just a little bit easier than last year. To me there seemed to be more old chestnuts than you normally get. They weren’t all like that, but even some of the more unusual questions were gettable – for example : -
“Which wine comes from worms?” I write it like that deliberately, because the question that came up on the small screen had worms without a capital letter as well. We assumed that it had to mean the city of Worms in Germany, and working on the principle – unusual question/easy answer plumped for leibfraumilch.
Now, by half time we had dropped two points – both on the animals round. We got a hinny and a mule the wrong way round for one of them. The crucial thing was that we were the highest of the teams who hadn’t played their jokers yet, and we were 8 points behind the leading team. What happened next was a little unusual. We answered all the questions on the next round correctly – well, we had the same answers as the question master did, anyway - but we were only given 9 points for it. We put in an official query, but that point was never reinstated. Then later on, along with I’m sure quite a few other teams, we were docked a point. Going back to the Animals round, one of the questions asked something like “At what age is a filly classed as a mare?” Now, the crucial thing I cannot remember is whether the question was asked like that, or whether the question asked “At what age IN THE UK is a filly classed as a mare?” It does make a difference. You see in many countries it is 4, but in the UK it is 5. So anyone who answered 5 should definitely have had a mark. If the question didn’t specify the UK, then I would have said that everyone who put 4 should have had a mark as well. I just couldn’t remember how the question had been phrased. The original answer given was 4, but then this was changed to 5, and those who’d put 5 were given an extra mark, and those who’d put 4, like us, were docked a mark. One of the organisers did come on the mike to explain, but all I caught was,
”Wawurr wurr sorry wwaa wurr wurr 4 wawurr wurr 5 wurr wu wa wurr warrr point docked from score.”
That’s wurrwaw life wurrwa wurr I warrwurr suppose.
The Geography round of doom approached , and we nearly made it out in one piece. We dropped a question, and by our reckoning it meant that we were not necessarily in the lead going into the last round. Now, had we adopted Richie’s preferred tactic of gambling everything on the last round, Days of the Week, then we’d have scored two more points, because we had a full house on that. I had a sneaking suspicion that we might be looking at a tiebreaker. Yet when the scores were announced it turned out that we’d won by a point. Somehow it always turns out like that in Birmingham, on the occasions that we win there’s never daylight between us and the runners up.
It was quite funny when the organizer announced the results, because when he said “So the winners are-“ for the first time all evening I could understand what he was saying clearly, and there seemed to be real disappointment in his voice when he quickly said “Pill Harriers” on a descending note . To be fair he did a few minutes later go on to say that we’ve won 4 times in the last five years, which made the thought – thanks mate, but you’re not making us many friends here – pass through my mind. -
If anything in this post seems critical, please accept that it really isn’t meant to be, and it’s all said in a spirit of affection. The Mega Quiz is a terrific event, and I wouldn’t miss it for the world. Thanks, Birmingham for another great fun evening. Hopefully see you again in 2014.