By way of a change I decided that I would spend a few minutes having a go at the questions in last Monday’s show before listening to it on the iplayer, and hopefully this will be reflected in my comments. Right then. Last Monday’s teams were Scotland and North of England. Scotland, making their season opener, represented by novelist Val McDermid, and poet Roddy Lumsden. In their previous match the North of England’s Adele Geras and Diana Collecot were beaten by the highly impressive Midlands team. OK, so let’s get on with the show.
It was the Scotland team standing at first receiver, and they were given this: -
If you enlisted the following, would they improve your spelling? A capable sailor; a hawk-headed man; a bounder; a vitamin found in liver and carrots; and a supportive item of apparel.
My preliminary thoughts on this one were not that enlightening. Capable Sailor suggested Able Seaman, which is shortened to AB. Now, he wasn’t really a man at all, but there were a couple of Gods in Egyptian mythology depicted as this. My first thought was Horus, but he was specifically a falcon. SO this then led to the Sun God Ra. Ah, I thought – ABRA. This meant that the bounder was a CAD. The vitamin in liver and carrots is vitamin A. The supporting garment is a BRA, giving us ABRACADABRA, used for performing spells. Lovely set – 6 points to me. 6 points to Scotland, who paused for perhaps 5 seconds, then Roddy explained the whole thing perfectly, barely breaking sweat.
The North of England were asked this as their first set: -
Why should someone with triskaidekaphobia avoid the Duke of Coffin Castle, the gothic tale of novelist Vida Winter, and the abolition of slavery?
Now, someone with triskaidekaphobia as any serious pub quizzer can tell you is fear of the number 13. So obviously the other parts were connected with 13. The Duke of Coffin Castle was unknown to me, but Vida Winter I knew to be a fictional novelist in Dianne Setterfield’s “The Thirteenth Tale”. The Abolition of Slavery was, of course, the subject of the Thirteenth Amendment to the Constitution of the United States of America. The North also new triskaidekaphobia. They went straight to the Thirteenth Tale, and the Thirteenth Amendment, and like me didn’t know the Duke of Coffin Castle. Apparently it was made into an opera in 2002, but that didn’t help any of us. American short story writer and cartoonist gave me James Thurber, but the team needed a lot more, and didn’t get it. It didn’t help me, mind. Apparently the story in question is the Thirteen Clocks. I thought that I deserved the same number of points as the North, and so we both had 4
Scotland’s Music Question was not one I could prepare, obviously. It was
What comes next?
I knew the Killing Moon by Echo and the Bunnymen to start, then I recognized red roses for a blue lady – hardly surprising since it was sung prominently at the start of the second extract, then the third was a piece of speech about golf, and then we had the theme music of Fawlty Towers. Right. I pressed pause before any explanation came on, and looked, and could see the rationale. Echo – Golf – Hotel (Fawlty Towers) are all from the Nato Phonetic Alphabet, so India would come next. I guessed that somebody in some film dances a Foxtrot to the other song. Pressing play on the iplayer again, I heard Scotland barking up the Tower tree wrongly. They really didn’t see what the sequence was until they focused on Echo. When they did that the whole thing fell into place as I explained. Well, I’m sorry but I was a 6 for that. Scotland needed help, and so they received 4
The North of England’s Music Question was
How would this, when combined with a National nemesis and the occupier of a corner of an Aegean field that is forever England, suggest a famous jazz-age beauty?
Even before the start I knew that the Aegean field referred to poet Rupert Brooke. The jazz age beauty would be Louise Brookes. So working on Brooks, I thought that the National nemesis was most likely to be Beecher’s Brook – could have been Valentine’s, but I played the percentages. The music I didn’t know, and neither did the North. Brook Green Suite by Holst it was. So by my reckoning we both earned the same which was a rather generous 5 points.
Right, moving back to my pre-prepared answers, Scotland were asked
A fictional criminal psychologist, a Conservative minister, and the eponymous protagonist of a Peter Hedges novel, might all serve on the board alongside some big cheeses. Can you explain?
I knew that “What’s Eating Gilbert Grape?” began as a novel by Peter Hedges, and grapes would be on a cheese board. Cracker seemed to fit as the criminal psychologist. The stupid thing was I couldn’t get the last bit, which was possibly easier than the other 2! Scotland struggled with this one from the start, and really needed Tom’s help to arrive at accompaniments to cheese, rather than cheeses themselves. With a lot of pushing they got my grapes and crackers. They did, at least get Eric Pickles, the minister. I think I was worth 4, while Scotland were given 3.
The next question for the North of England was
Why would you need a bright light to see a polar show, understated cutlery, and an optical aid that neither stops nor goes?
I didn’t see a great deal in this at first. I mean the lights and the polar show suggested the Aurora Borealis, but what had that to do with cutlery? The answer was, nothing at all. But when you call them The Northern Lights, then enlightenment might dawn. The Subtle Knife was also a title from Philip Pullman’s rightly lauded His Dark Materials trilogy, the other being The Amber Spyglass. I probably took quite a bit longer with it than the North did, as they had it before they even started to explain it. 6 points each.
Back to Scotland, who finished up with this set: -
Why might you find a communications pioneer, a feline Lakeland fell, novels by Alistair McLean and Ernest Hemingway, and Betjeman’s autobiography, in Whitechapel?
Betjeman’s autobiography helped get this relatively benign set rolling for me. It was titled “Summoned by Bells”. Now, the Whitechapel Bell Foundry is famed throughout the world having cast both Big Ben and the Liberty Bell, to name just two of its most famous products. Alexander Graham Bell was a pioneer of the telephone, Alistair McClean wrote “When Eight Bells Toll”, and Ernest Hemingway wrote “For Whom the Bell Tolls”. The only part of it I didn’t know was the feline Lakeland fell. Scotland knew that this was Cat Bells. However they didn’t know the Alistair McLean novel. They also decided to go for Oranges and Lemons, before focusing on the Bell Foundry. 5 points apiece was fair for both of us I think. So Scotland finished with 18.
All that remained then was for the North of England to finish with :-
A definitely French male receives a series of five letters, and gets a London river, a Confederate general, a Hawaiian garland, a sign of the zodiac and an East European currency. Can you explain?
My thinking was that if the definitively French male is the definite article le - then just add vowels to get the others. Lea is the London river, Lee is the confederate general, lei, the Hawaiian garland, Leo the sign of the zodiac and leu the currency of Romania. What a beautiful set that one is, and actually made a nice book end with the first set, which was my first unaided full house. Frankly this show was a my best ever at home performance, which probably says more about what you can do when you take a bit of time to work them out for yourself than any sudden brilliance on my part.
As for the North, well, they were right onto it too. That was enough to take them up to 21 to bring them a well deserved win. Great show – loved it.