Friday, 5 August 2022

Beware of Obscurity

 You know, I’ve just been checking over my previous posts since my return. I made the first post in late August 2021. This led me to believe that I returned to the quiz in the rugby club in late August. Au contraire. A close reading of the first post revealed that no, it was in fact the first quiz in September – it would have been 2nd September. Does that matter? The honest answer is no, it doesn’t, but yes, it does. I will do my best to explain.

I’m off to Spain tomorrow. It’s been 3 years since my last trip, what with covid. In terms of the quiz, this means that I will miss the quiz on the 11th, and since I’m travelling back on the 18th it’s quite possible that I will miss this one as well. Which means that he next one I’m certainly going to play in will be on the 24th, the last quiz in August. I thought that the last quiz in August was the first I played in during 2021. Which means that I would have completed a year unbeaten. But no, to do that my team now has to win the 24th as well. That’s why it matters. Which of course is nonsense, because whether it’s quite a chronological year or not, it doesn’t take away from the fact that we have won all those quizzes – and that’s not just in the rugby club, but also in the Gwyn Hall and the pub in Coity as well.

On paper, to be honest we should win the vast majority of quizzes in the club. On their own when I’m question master my team are very competitive anyway, and in terms of range of competitions I've taken part in over the years, or level of competition and achievement I don’t think it’s unfair to say that I’m the most serious quizzer to play in the club regularly in the last year. So yes, we probably should win. But as you know, quizzes can be funny things. Any team can win a one off quiz given the right set of circumstances and likewise any team can lose a one off quiz given a particular set of circumstances. I said in one of last week’s posts that easy quizzes can be a great leveller, and indeed I can think of two occasions in the last year when we came close to defeat. We got lucky on both nights.

Last night, to be honest, was not a quiz where the easiness of the questions was going to be a great leveller. To be fair we were lucky we had a quiz at all. The question master was taken ill yesterday, but he still managed to get the quiz to the club and get someone else to act as question master with the quiz he compiled. I’m grateful for this. I’ve never been taken ill on a day when I’m due to be QM, but I did have one time when I was sent on a weekend course when I was supposed to be doing the quiz, so I provided the quiz for Brian to read out. So I appreciate that last night’s original QM might well have been tempted to say sod it, and I’m very glad he didn’t.

For all that, though, it really wasn’t one of his best quizzes. If he compiled it while he was ill, then fair enough, thanks for doing your best anyway. But it did see him doing some of the things I used to criticise him for when he first started compiling quizzes for the club. Back in the day he would always ask quite a number of obscure questions, then, when giving the answer say “None of you had this right – I didn’t expect any of you to.” To which my reply was invariably “Why the hell bother asking it then?” I can’t be certain whether he thought at the time that he was in competition with the teams. That’s not an attitude I subscribe to myself. Now, there’s nothing necessarily wrong with the idea of asking hard questions in a social pub quiz, but if you choose to do so, then I do think you should bear in mind a couple of things. Firstly, it’s better if the questions are actually interesting. Secondly, when a question is that hard, it’s often a good idea to offer something to make it more gettable. Let me give you a couple of examples that were asked last night :-

“In what year did St. Patrick’s Day become a National Holiday in Ireland?” Now, I can’t say that I find the question particularly interesting. But also, the way it is phrased, the chances of you picking the right date out of thin air are extremely slim. At the very least you could say – In which year did St. Patrick’s Day become a National Holiday in Ireland? Was it 1903 – 1913 – 1923 – 1933? You’ve got a one in four chance to at least it keeps a little interest going. It was 1903 as it happens.

Likewise we were asked,

“How many times is Christmas mentioned in all of Shakespeare’s plays?” Now you’d think that a question master would only ask it like this if the answer would lead you to say either – I should’ve guessed that – or – Oh, well that’s interesting! Which is why we put 0. The answer was 3. Again, it’s not something you’re going to pull out of thin air. The question allows you to give options – 3 – 30 – 300 – 3000, for example.

There was a lot like that last night. We knew enough that we won fairly comfortably in the end, but despite that I can’t say that I enjoyed it very much. In my 30+ years of quizzing you can count the number of times my teams have answered all the questions in a quiz correctly on the fingers of one hand – and not all of those fingers either. Nobody, I think, really wants to play in a quiz where they know all of the answers. But I want to feel, with the majority of questions that even if I don’t know the answer, I should be able to use what I do know to help me come up with a decent, sensible answer, even if it’s not right. I don’t really like guessing games, and that’s what was the case for too many of the questions last night. It’s a shame because there were some decent questions in amongst all of the obscurity, and we didn’t get all of them right either.

Oh well, a fortnight now to recharge the batteries.

Sunday, 31 July 2022

You Know I said I wouldn't Deliberately avoid a particular Question Master's Quiz . . .

I said in yesterday’s post that there are question masters who do quizzes at the club from time to time whose quizzes we don’t like very much, but we wouldn’t think of insulting them by not going. I think that in the interests of honesty I had better admit that prior to my lost weekend, there was actually one question master whose quizzes at the club I would not attend.

This is how it worked. It wasn’t that the QM in question’s quizzes were that bad. They really weren’t good at all, but they weren’t worse than a few of the other semi regulars used to do. What happened was this. On one particular evening the QM asked “Which character in Dad’s Army was played by Ian Lavender?” Now, before I tell you what I did I ask you to bear in mind that a) all the other teams knew the answer anyway, and b) it’s a quiz where for most teams the emphasis is on having a bit of a laugh. So when a particularly appropriate comment occurred to me, I decided to share it with everyone, and so I shouted, “Don’t tell him, Pike!”

Well, be fair, if I hadn’t said it I’m sure someone else would have- it was a comment begging to be made. Well, the question master was not impressed. She immediately took to the mic. Fair enough, and a mild telling off would have probably been the most appropriate reaction. No. She made some very personal comments about me, so much so that one of the other teams even had a go at her for it, reminding her that the purpose of the quiz was for people to have a little fun.

Now the things is that other people have made comments I haven’t liked when I’ve been doing the quiz. And while I think it’s okay to make a response to an unhelpful or inappropriate comment, I would never have dreamed of using the mic to make personal comments on the way that this question master did. I suppose that I could have stood up, marched to the QM’s platform and had it out with her then and there. But that’s not really me. And to be honest, I can’t guarantee that I wouldn’t have got personal too, and nobody really wanted to see and hear that, I’m sure. So then and there I said to the rest of them team as it was then– that’s it, I’m not coming to her quiz again. To this date, it’s a resolution I’ve stuck to. Yeah, I know that it probably seems a bit petty. But if I had gone to her quiz again, and she’d made another personal comment again then I would have had an up and downer with her, and a quiz is no place for that. It’s not as if there was ever anything particularly enjoyable about her quizzes either.  I can’t say that I missed them at all.

One of the effects was that I did at least once turn up to the quiz to find out that the lady in question was question master, which led me to pass a couple of pleasantries with the team, and then exit stage left. Apparently she noticed and asked the rest of the team why, but I think they didn’t tell her. That was their choice, and if she asked me herself I would tell her. I’ve seen her in the street since and said hello, and she didn’t ask then. It suits me fine. As I said, I don’t want a scene about it – but on the other hand I wasn’t just going to forget about it either.

So, towards the end of August last year we started going to the quiz again, and the person in question was there. She didn’t say a word to me, so I didn’t feel any obligation to say anything to her, and this continued for the first four or five weeks. Then she just stopped coming. Well, that’s her choice. It didn’t bother me if she was here, and it doesn’t bother me if she’s not there. And if she did come back, and did act as question master, I wouldn’t have a problem with it. However, I wouldn’t turn up for it either. That boat has sailed, I’m afraid.

Saturday, 30 July 2022

A Couple of 'Quiz Truths'

I have, I believe, one more Thursday night quiz before I’m off to Alicante for a couple of weeks. Don’t blub, I’ll be back on the 18th, and then things will soon start picking up. The BBC website isn’t yet saying when University Challenge will start, but it usually begins in August. Last year Mastermind began at the end of August as well, so there’s plenty to look forward too.

So, what are my talking points for this week? There’s two of them, as it happens. The first concerns the rugby club quiz on Thursday night. No surprise there. We had a new question master this week. Well, new to me, anyway. He may well have done one during my lost weekend. Now, the tradition in the club is that if you express a desire to compile a quiz and be question master, then you will get your opportunity to do it. That’s the way it has worked in the 27 or so years since I started, and doubtless was the way of things before I ever played there. Between you, me and the gatepost the organiser did a couple of weeks ago try to persuade members of my team to compile the quiz, so that he could delay the question master in question. We gave him rather short shrift if truth be told and poured a modicum of scorn upon him for such an immoral suggestion.

So, last Thursday was the turn of the new QM, then. It was a fascinating evening. I think that the organiser’s cold feet were due to the fact that the chap doing the quiz seems very much to be a Science specialist. In practice, this meant that there was an awful lot of Science in Thursday’s quiz. There is a problem with Science questions. I remember Bamber Gascoigne being interviewed for a documentary for one of UC’s big anniversaries, and saying that they always found Science questions rather problematical. Not so much in terms of making them fair for the teams, but in making them of significant interest to the majority of the audience who are trying to play along at home. You may recall that a feature of most if not all of my UC reviews is me awarding myself a lap of honour around the sofa when I get a Science question right. I’d argue that much other than basic Science is not really part of the huge body of commonly held general knowledge in the way that some other subjects are.

It didn’t really help that he accompanied almost all of the Science questions with observations like ‘this is common knowledge’ or ‘you all know this’. Well, a significant number of questions I’m afraid it was a case of – not it isn’t – and – no we don’t -. It wasn’t just that there were some difficult (for us) Science questions, but there were so many Science questions. It would have been either the second or third round, after four or five ‘head-scratchers’ in a row one of the teams next to us turned round to us and mouthed ‘what the hell?’ at each other. And the thing about having a disproportionate amount of Science questions, is that it means you lose out on other, shall we say, more popular topics. For example, after the quiz Dan and I couldn’t come up with more than 1 sport question that was asked, and 1 entertainment question that was asked all evening.

Coming away from the quiz, Jess compared it to a school exam, and I know where she’s coming from with it. However well you prepare for a public exam, they’re not really enjoyable experiences. On the other hand though, perversely I rather enjoyed the whole thing. It was difficult. It was some way outside of the normal quiz experience at the club, and there were a couple of really rather good questions in amongst the rest. Granted, I can’t dredge any specific examples up off the top of my head, but they were there. Since returning to the quiz last August, the only quizzes I’ve missed were ones where I was out of the country. There are question masters whose quizzes we don’t like very much, but we wouldn’t insult them by not turning up. So if the QM from Thursday did another quiz, we’d turn up anyway. But in this case, I wouldn’t even consider not playing. It was a challenge, and sometimes that’s not a bad thing at all.

I did promise you a second talking point. Here it is. When I saw my son Mike yesterday I had a chat with him about the Tuesday night quiz in Coity, Bridgend that he plays in. If you’re a regular reader you may recall that I’ve played with him there a couple of times when members of his team couldn’t make it. They’ve been on an extended winning run, exacerbated last week by the way they won all of the spot prizes along the way as well.

As you’d maybe expect, there’s an increasingly frosty atmosphere towards them from the other teams, and Mike said that a couple of weeks ago, there was a large amount of topical current affairs questions. One member of one of the other teams – or indeed it may even have been the question master – passed a comment to the effect that he didn’t expect a young team to be so good on politics. I say young – Mike is 34 and I presume that the other teams members would be round about the same age. But in terms of that quiz – or the rugby club quiz for that matter – that’s very young. But as Mike pointed out, between the team they cover an awful lot of ground – not least because one of them is a BBC Wales journalist.

As I say, it did make me think for a minute about my own prejudices. Because I have to be honest, if there was a team of guys about Mike’s age who came to the club and went on a long winning spree, I would start having dark thoughts about conspiracies. I’m trying very hard not to act like I used to in the quiz, but old habits die hard.

I suppose when you take both last week’s quiz at the club, and what was said to Mike into account, then you can use them to illustrate a couple of ‘quiz truths’. When you take on the role of compiler, you should always remember the purpose of the quiz – namely, to provide everyone else with an evening’s fun and entertainment. Your own preferences for questions, and your own special interests should be the last thing you consider, not the first. The other point is that setting a particularly difficult quiz – whether deliberately to ‘spike the guns’ of a specific team or not – usually plays into the hands of the best team, and ensures that they win by a greater margin than normal. It’s the particularly easy quizzes that are the great levellers.

Sunday, 24 July 2022

Winning is bad enough, but winning by too much . . .

Yes, dearly beloved, it’s that time of the weekend again. You know, I have to say that I do often feel a little bit of a fraud when I make these weekend posts at the moment while we’re between seasons of Mastermind and University Challenge. Still, at least it lets you know that the blog is still going, and I haven’t ground to a halt again.

If you read the blog last week you might recall that I mentioned it was time for the monthly film quiz at the Gwyn Hall in Neath last Wednesday. In the end I was pleasantly surprised to know three things that none of the others on the team did. So much o that I can still remember what the three questions were:-

Which was Disney’s fifth full length animated feature film?

In the title of the 1969 live action film, the what wore tennis shoes?

In which year was Steamboat Willie released?

The answers were, respectively, Bambi – The computer – 1928. I aso contributed towards probably he best answer of the night. We were asked – Walt Disney’s last words were allegedly the name of which young actor? Now, the thing is that I did my usual thing of burbling off everything I know about the thing I know that nobody else does, explaining that The Computer Wore Tennis Shoes starred a very young Kurt Russell. All of which led Dan to suggest that maybe Kurt Russell would be the answer to the last words question. So it proved to be.

Now, I’ll be honest, in my salad days I rarely worried about winning by an embarrassingly wide margin. Well, I’m older now, if not any wiser. I’ve not played in every monthly quiz in the last year, but I have played in quite a few, and we’ve won all the ones we’ve played in. None of my doing, I hasten to add. Still, the regularity with which we’ve been winning the cinema tickets which are the first prize has led to the organisers, in the nicest possible way, saying they hope that we lose, and do it soon. Now, the way that the quiz works is that each round is collected before the next one starts and allocated to another team to mark. Two rounds at a time are marked. On Wednesday evening, after the fourth round, a plaintive message came over the mic, asking if anyone still had one of our rounds. I smelled a conspiracy. Wrongly as it happened. Still, when the final scores were announced, we’d only had five questions wrong all evening, and the fact was that even without the score for the temporarily missing round, we’d still have won.

I’ve said this before, and I’lve no doubt that I’ll say it again at some time in the future. I do think it would be a good thing if we lost in the quiz in the Gwyn Hall. I definitely think it would be a good thing if we lost in the Thursday night quiz in the rugby club as well. Only. . . I can’t play to lose. In fact I’ll go further than that. I can’t not play to win. Seriously, it is so ingrained within my quizzing soul that once the questions start flying, I can’t help trying to win. Alright, I haven’t lost in a quiz since I started going back to the rugby club, but I’ve lost plenty in my time, and I’ve no illusions that it’s only a matter of time until we lose in the club. But there’s a difference between being beaten and deliberately losing.

Well, there we are. Hopefully they’ll still let us play next month – although I may well be away when it happens.

Sunday, 17 July 2022

Not a lot to say

Yes, I know, time is getting on and what do I think I’m playing at, waiting until this very late stage of the weekend before posting? Well, it’s partly because I’ve been pretty busy. I’m doing my first crat fair since 2019 on Tuesday and so I’ve been scrabbing round to make sure that I’ve actually got my wares together to sell. Whether anyone will want to buy, well that’s a bridge to cross when we come to it. Partly, though and more pertinently, I haven’t really got that much to say. Not that this has ever stopped me in the past.

Dan did the quiz at the rugby club last week, making it 3 weeks in a row for my team, since I was QM 3 weeks ago, Jess a fortnight ago and now Dan. As I confidently expected, the lad done good too. Dan has single-handedly revived the lost art of the music round at the club, and this time he did the ever popular – I’ll play the music, and you name the film. Not all completely obvious either. Next Thursday the quiz has the respite of being a non-Boycs quiz, although we’ll be playing.

On Wednesday, though, there’s the monthly film quiz at the Gwyn Hall in Neath. Now, I’m mostly just ballast for the team on a Wednesday night, but I do usually get one or possibly two that the team otherwise might not have had between them. I confidently expect to get nothing that the rest of the team haven’t already got between them on the coming Wednesday. Why? Because it’s a Disney quiz. And I’m pretty sure that the guys will know everything that I know, and know it quicker, if you see what I mean. And I don’t even think I’m too bad at Disney either, but compared with my girls, I’m an also ran.

Tuesday, 12 July 2022

Quiz Teams Wanted

 Just had this email from the good people at 12 Yard


 

Hello David

Eggheads is back for a third series on Channel 5!

We are looking for teams of five to apply.

Each team will consist of four team players and one standby player.

Whether you quiz regulary or not, why not put a team together?

Each member of your team is require to complete an entry form. We will identify your team using your Team Captain's Name and Team Name, which everyone will be asked for on the entry form.


Just click on this link for an application form

Sunday, 10 July 2022

Forgive and Forget

Look, it’s like this. I was going to post yesterday, only it was the first really beautifully sunny Saturday for several weeks, so I went out for a butterfly walk. Pretty successful too. In an hour I saw ringlets, speckled woods, a meadow brown, a comma, large whites and small whites. The ringlets were a pain in the bottom because the little sods wouldn’t stop and settle on a branch of a plant to give me half a chance to identify them, until I was almost at the end of my walk. The comma, on the other hand, settled obligingly on the path right in front of me, and spread its wings out so there could be no mistake. Okay, I was only out for about an hour and a half, but then I wanted to work on a watercolour painting of a trolleybus as well – as you do.

Still, here we are, so let’s get on with it, shall we? For me, the issue of the week was a dilemma. You see, in the heat of battle, as it were, you can end up saying or doing things that you’re not proud of. Hard as it may be to believe, I must admit to you all that there have been times when I have acted like a cock in a quiz. My attitude and that of the very forbearing people who play in the rugby club seems to be that it’s better to wipe the slate clean and start afresh each new quiz. I can only recall one particular apology that I felt moved to make about my behaviour in a quiz after the event, and funnily enough it was to Mark Labbett, the famous ITV Chaser, although he was still maybe a year or so away from that particular stage of his quiz career at the time. Likewise, when I think someone else, or another team have acted in a similar way, I might well privately think less of them, and might well, moan about them within my team for, um. . . ever afterwards, but I won’t actually say anything and will maintain a polite face and manner towards them.

However.

It was Jessica’s turn to set the quiz in the rugby club this week. In case you’re not a regular to the blog- and you’re very welcome if you’re a new reader – Jess is my youngest daughter. Now, she acted as question master a few weeks ago and did a bloody good job of it too. When she finished the quiz she was quite upset because two members of one of the teams kept up a running commentary along the lines of ‘why is she going so fast? What is she asking that for? Etc. etc.’ It's a strange quirk of the venue that when you sit on the small platform with the QM's desk you can hear pretty much everything that the teams are saying to each other. The fact that it was a very good quiz which went down very well with all of the other teams was completely overshadowed. So when she came round to making the quiz she had actually made up her mind that if it happened again on Thursday, she would not be question master again.

So much so that I was wondering whether I should have a word with the players involved. This would not be my natural inclination, bearing in mind that although having played in the same quiz against them for over a quarter of a century I don’t recall ever exchanging more than a very few words with them. But Jess is my little girl. Okay, she’s 28 years old, but that’s not the point.

In the end, Jess spoke to Dai Norwich (so called because a) his name is David, and b) he lived in Norwich for many years and his first few quizzes at the club had a significant proportion of questions about Norwich in them) Jess made the decision that she would announce at the start of the quiz that if people wanted her to slow down, or repeat any of the questions, they only had to say. After that, had there been any repeat of what happened last week, then she would alert Dai and he would speak to the players involved. Jess also announced that she was very nervous about the quiz, and with good reason. There were 8 teams playing on Thursday evening. The usual pre-lockdown number was 6, The post lockdown number is usually five, and even before lockdown, 8 would have been an exceptional number of teams.

She needn’t have worried about it. It was every bit as good as her previous quiz, with some lovely connections. I suppose that the icing on the cake was that the two players in question made a point of coming up to her at the end and thanking her for the quiz, saying how much they enjoyed it. Shame they couldn’t have done that after the previous one, still, in the words of Basil Fawlty ‘Forgive and forget. God knows how, the bastards.’