Ding dang dong,
ding – a -dang – ding – a -dong
Do you always join in with ‘College Boy’ , the theme to University Challenge? Well, there’s no need to be like that, I was only asking. I do. In fact I would go so far as to say that it’s one of my highlights of a Monday evening. I’m a traditionalist, so I tend to do the original ITV version, as opposed to the sting quartet arrangement that the Beeb use. Once the last dying echoes of my off-key warbling had faded on the evening air, JP was announcing the two teams. Representing UCL again were Tom Allinson, Charlie Dowell, Omar Raii and their captain, Robert Gray, while St. Hugh’s, Oxford were Kazi Elias, Ewan Grainger, Aiden Mehigan and their own captain Daniel De Wijze. Nothing much to choose between these two teams in their first round matches, so it looked like a good match on paper.
Right, then I think you know what I’m going to say here. You hear “novel – posthumously published – 1818” you slam the buzzer through the desk and answer Jane Austen. Tom Allinson did, and claimed UCL’s first set of bonuses on birds, and their archaic names. They managed one correct answer. Robert Gray knew fossil words, or, as I did, guessed. The Old Testament provided us both with a full house. Nobody knew that Rama II of Thailand sent troops along with those of France to occupy the Rhineland immediately after the 1918 Armistice, but St. Hugh’s came in too early and lost 5 points. A fine early buzz from Charlie Dowell saw him identify several of the applications of the word castor. Robert Gray nodded his head approvingly when JP announced a set of bonuses on physics, and they took one. Incidentally, my old tactic of answering a Science or Maths - . . . adds up to what? – question with 0 or 1 paid dividends with the last of the bonuses, and sent me off early on my lap of honour. So to the picture starter. Omar Raii identified the highlighted area on a map of England as Bradford. Three more of England’s Metropolitan Boroughs brought 5 more points. Both Robert Gray and I guessed that the scale going up to 14 metres measures wave height at sea for the next starter. Claire Tomalin’s biographies saw us both take a full house. This meant that as we approached the 10 minute mark the score looked extremely ominous for St. Hugh’s as UCL led by 90 against minus 5.
St. Hugh’s account was put back into the black as Aiden Mehigan answered that Hayek wrote the Rod to Serfdom. Was that before or after she guest starred in the (unfortunately) never to be forgotten “Wild Wild West”? Memory gave them a further five. Robert Gray recognised the titles of works by Jim Al-Khalili for the next starter to take his team to a triple figure score to bring up a set of loan translations, or calques. We both took another full house on that set. Did you know that the word disparage originally meant to trap someone into marriage with someone of a lower class or stratum of society? Me neither, and neither did the teams. Robert Gray knew that Cystine is one of the building blocks of Keratin. No jokes about the cystine chapel, please. Transuranium elements gave me the opportunity for another lap of honour – but even a full house couldn’t stir me from the sofa. It must be said that UCL all stayed in their seats after their full house too. So to the music starter, and Omar Raii won the buzzer race against what I’m guessing must have been a pretty dispirited St. Hugh’s by this point. The answer – REM’s The End of the World As We Know It had an upsurge in interest on spotify immediately after the election of Donald T. Rump. 3 more songs which also had an upsurge in interest at this time brought two correct answers. I know nothing about Magic: The Gathering, but Aiden Mehigan was in very quickly for it. St. Hugh’s second set of bonuses were on fiction, only brought the one bonus. Aiden Mehigan, seemingly singlehandedly keeping his team from drowning completely, knew Bedrich Smetana wrote an autobiographical piece about his deafness. Painting and photography brought another single bonus. Omar Raii knew the Dutch physicist Lorenz for the next starter, bringing UCL a set of bonuses on plastics and their recycling codes. They probably should have done better than just the one bonus, but they were so far ahead that it looked unlikely to have much bearing on the contest in the final analysis. Charlie Dowell new that the first adjective in my favourite Keats’ poem – Ode to Autumn – is mellow. American musicals of 2010 saw 2 correct answers take the UCL score to 200 at the 20 minute mark, while St. Hugh’s languished on 40. Game over.
So to the second pictures. Omar Raii identified a photo of John Hurt, and photos of his roles provided a rather easy full house. Charlie Dowell veritably bounced out of his seat to win the buzzer race for the next starter, identifying various soup flavours associated with Andy Warhol – cream of eccentric was not one of them, sadly. Biochemistry gave me nowt, but UCL a full house. On a score of 250 with several minutes to go, the rarely seen score of 300 looked a distinct possiblility. 10 of them came when Robert Gray knew that there are 100 pico metres in an angstrom. No, me neither. Bonuses on France and the direction to travel between cities put them on 270 with 5 minutes to go. For once Robert Gray came in too early and lost five as the question as to which island nation has the motto – Star and Key of the Indian Ocean – allowed St. Hugh’s to answer Mauritius as the question became clearer. They really could have done better with the questions on Scotland, even though it was all academic by this time. Nobody knew that the word rough could precede a set of given words. Merciless Omar Raii was in extremely quickly to identify Caernarfon Castle as the birthplace of the future Edward II. Managers of the England National Football team brought the UCL total to 285. If they could answer the next starter, then 300 would be likely. Well, Tom Allinson knew when Bangladesh became a test playing nation, to take them to 295. One bonus would do. Places associated with 12th century authors saw them do it. Just as well because they missed the next two. Charlie Dowell again sprang into action for the next starter, knowing a device that measures ozone. Bonuses on chemists born in the Russian Empire saw me say that Borodin would definitely be one of them. I was right, and so were UCL and that was the last question. UCL had won by a whopping 315 to 45.
As we often say, we need to be cautious about what conclusions we draw. For whatever reason, St. Hugh’s seemed a little off the pace on the buzzer. Mind you, all of the UCL team were buzzing well, with both Messrs Gray and Raii looking particularly impressive. They’ll fear no one in the second round, nor, I dare say, should they.
Jeremy Paxman Watch
Absolutely nothing of note in this show.
Interesting Fact That I Didn’t Already Know Of The Week
Words such as ‘kith’ which only appear in set phrases and are no longer used on their own are called fossil words.