Saturday, 15 February 2014

Brain of Britain - Heat Ten

Let’s have a look at the competitors in this week’s heat of BoB shall we? Alan Heath, I am afraid is not a name I’m familiar with, although that doesn’t necessarily mean anything. Isabel Morgan though has been on Mastermind in at least 2 series, always doing well, although not quite well enough to get through to the semis. Ian Orriss on the other hand has made it to the Mastermind semi finals, where he encountered a certain Jesse Honey. Paul Steeples, though, did get to the Mastermind final the year that Ian won, when he was third. As regards BoB, Paul was runner up in the final won by Geoff Thomas. Also in the final that day was Barry Simmons, who went on to win BoB 2013. An omen there, perhaps? Time will tell.

Alan tripped up on his first, not knowing that the Herdwick is a breed of sheep. Paul had that chestnut for a bonus. Isabel started well, with an admittedly rather gentle set to score a full set of five and a bonus. Ian also started well, getting his own rather gentle set to score 5. So far I had answered every question on the show. Was Paul about to be shown the same kind of generosity by the setters? No. He got a snorter to begin about Geoffrey of Monmouth’s use of the phrase Night of the Long Knives. Nasty. At this stage one could only hope that, in the interests of fairness, Paul would be given his own set of gentler questions later on.

Alan’s second set saw him get off the mark, but a quotation from ‘Princess Ida’ gave a bonus to Paul. Isabel missed out on her first, not knowing that Cadillac is also a french wine appellation. Paul had that. Ian benefitted from three more gentle questions, and in fact I didn’t think his fourth was that hard either. Asked for either the 2nd or 3rd in line for the Presidency of the USA, Alan came in for a bonus with the Speaker of the House of Representatives. Nobody had Norman Parkinson, for a Royal Portrait photographer, and I suppose that was a chance, but even so Paul’s first wasn’t a gimme in the same way that each of the others had been given at least one gimme to get them off the mark .

Alan didn’t know Jack White from the White Stripes – another point to Paul. Isabel missed her first, and Ian took a good bonus with the Vacuum Cleaner. He went on to take his first two, but then got his first really difficult question of the contest about the aardvark, which nobody got. Paul got another stopper to kick off, with the founder of the tradition of Mother’s Day, which did for him.

At the Beat the Brains Interval the Brains were given some Maths gobbledygook, called Russell’s paradox. Yawn yawn. The second question asked about the Fender Stratocaster sunburst given by Frank Zappa to his son Dweezil. Isabel guessed that it once belonged to Jimi Hendrix.

Back to the contest. Now, another good round for Ian here could well mean that he had achieved escape velocity – he was already looking good for a repechage slot at the very least. Alan took 2, but didn’t know that stomatology deals with the mouth. Isabel, having struggled for points since her blitz start, answered her first, but didn’t know fraunhoffer lines. Me neither. Ian’s first three weren’t gimmes, but they were gettable, and he got them. He stumbled on the term – festoon – from art, and Paul took that one. The gimme he deserved, and, frankly, needed to start his own round off didn’t come. Asked which was the only Beatles’ song to win Grammy for song of the year, nobody knew it was Michelle. If I’m being harsh, I don’t mean to. Ian could only answer the questions he was asked, and had done so extremely well indeed to score 15 points by the end of this round, with his closest challenger Isabel on 8.

Alan got a rather nasty one about the Martian school of Poetry. Never heard of it, but Paul had, and he took the bonus. Galactagog. Ever heard of it? Neither had Isabel nor I. Actually it is something that increases the flow of milk. Makes sense I suppose. Ian took his first, but the Harmsworth Trophy for Powerboat racing did for him. Right, back to Paul. To the nearest ten feet – how tall is Salisbury Cathedral’s spire! No, I’m not joking, they did ask that. Respect to Alan Heath for having it exactly at 404ft. I said 397 – no idea why – which would at least have been close enough. Onto another round, and Alan kicked off with a nasty one with a quote about Gandhi from Orwell. Nobody had it. Isabel didn’t know that the first meeting of the UN was in London. Paul had that. Ian showed his class by taking a nasty first question but missed out on the ‘sweet science’ of boxing. I’m surprised nobody had that. Paul for once had his first, but didn’t know that W.H.Auden died in Austria. Nobody had it. How many of Paul’s questions went unanswered by anyone in this show? I think that says a lot.

For the record, the final scores were : -

Alan Heath – 6
Isabel Morgan - 9
Ian Orriss – 17
Paul Steeples - 8

Many congratulations to Ian. That was a fine performance – especially in the later rounds where he answered some really difficult questions. Even if he had not had the 6 points in the first round he would still have won clearly. However – and I’m sure that my feelings have probably already come through on this issue – I have to say that I think Paul was extremely unlucky with the starters he was asked almost every round. It can happen – it does happen, but that knowledge, I should imagine, doesn’t make it any easier to take when you’re the one it happens to.


Clive Dunning said...

I couldn't agree with your assessment more. Ian was a worthy winner, but Paul had some real stinkers as starters. I suppose that's part of Bob's quaint charm!

Londinius said...

Thanks Clive.

I'm not trying to denigrate Ian at all - he put in one of the best performances we've heard this series so far in my opinion. But if you didn't know better you'd say that someone had deliberately set out to scupper Paul's chances - maybe because he's a former runner up. Yes, it's part of BoB's charm - yes, it 's the 'luck of the draw'. But please - those questions were not fairly balanced - poor Paul had no chance of making a realistic bid for a repechage slot, having to live off bonuses.

Paul Steeples said...

David - thanks for a very fair write-up. I actually managed to get more points in the two practice rounds beforehand than I did in the contest proper. Annoyingly, I should have got the Auden question. As soon as I said "Switzerland" I thought "No, Austria", but it was too late. None of this takes anything away from Ian's splendid performance, and I hope he goes all the way to the final.

drgaryegrant said...

It's all a bit too random, BoB....there's the luck of the draw, and then there's getting unanswered (by anyone) starter after unanswered starter....

George Millman said...

I saw recently you made a point about Rachael Neiman answering a question slightly wrongly, and you didn't think that it should have been accepted. Just a question, where do you stand on getting a person's name slightly wrong? There was a question in this episode to which the answer was 'Wendy Richard' - however, the contestant said 'Wendy Richards' and it was still accepted. I'm not sure where I stand on this. On the one hand, it possibly should be accepted as the contestant clearly knows the answer. On the other hand, once you start allowing things like that it is difficult to know where to draw the line. I have heard answers rejected before because someone said 'Davidson' instead of 'Davison', for example.