Friday, 19 December 2008

Scrooge or Fezziwig ?

The Annual Dilemma - to be Scrooge or Fezziwig ?

This is the first year since 1994 that I haven't actually written a quiz to be played over the Christmas period. My last was played on December 4th, and my next scheduled one will be on January 15th. This is not through choice or design - its just the way that things happen to have fallen out this year. For many of the 13 years that I have been one of the regular setters for the Aberavon Rugby club's Thursday night quiz just two of us have kept it going, but at the moment there are more regular setters than you can shake a stick at, and so my next turn falls after the holiday period. Such is life, and at least it saves me from the dilemma that faces all quiz compilers at this time of year - whether you should be Scrooge or Fezziwig.

In case this all sounds rather too cryptic, I'll explain what I'm driving at here. Nobody needs me to explain that 'Scrooge' refers to Ebeneezer Scrooge, of Charles Dickens' "A Christmas Carol". Probably most people also know of Mr. Fezziwig - Scrooge's master who knew better than most how to have a good old fashioned Christmas knees-up. So what I'm trying to say is that as a question master setting a quiz over the Christmas period, you have to decide whether you will be a 'Bah, Humbug, we'll have no Christmas questions in my quiz, Scrooge' of a question master , or a 'Mince pies all round, we'll have a whole quiz all just about Christmas, Fezziwig' of a question master. I'll be honest, I usually veer more towards Scrooge, with perhaps one question per round about Christmas thrown in as a sop. You see, basically, in my experience, being as honest, broad minded and fair as I can be, I have to say that, by and large, as a rule, speaking as I find, without beating about the bush . . . themed quizzes usually suck.

To be fair, any quiz which concentrates on one subject, or one topic to the detriment of all others is usually rather unenjoyable. I don't apply this criticism to specialist sports quizzes, or specialist entertainment quizzes. Within both of those genres there is such a diverse wealth of subjects and topics you can still use that you can still have a quiz full of variety and interest, especially if the QM works with care and craft. However, finding between fifty and eighty questions about Christmas, for example, is a tall order, and as a result such quizzes do tend to be very samey.

I mention all of this because I'm attending just such a quiz this coming Sunday. Normally my friend John and I try to never visit the same Sunday quiz more than once a fortnight. I apologise to readers if this sounds arrogant, but you can wear out your welcome very quickly if you keep winning every week, and so only playing in each of them once a fortnight does mean that another team can win every other week. Last Sunday was the turn of the Culverhouse hotel. At the end we had just agreed with each other that we'd go to the Haywain the next week, when the question master announced that this Sunday all the questions will be about Christmas. John, it appears, has been swotting up, and is absolutely determined that it doesn't go to waste. At the moment, John knows everything you could possibly expect to be asked in a Christmas Quiz. For example - did you know that Santa actually had 10 reindeer ? I didn't. I thought he had the traditional 8 - Dasher, Dancer, Prancer, Comet, Cupid, Blitzen, Donner and Vixen - plus Rudolf to make nine. The other one is called Olive, apparently.
Hence we'll be going back to the Culverhouse this week.

For the record, the worst ever themed quizzes I've played in were : -

In Bronze Medal Position: -
Ten years ago I attended a quiz in Uplands Swansea - can't remember the name of the pub - which had a Guy Fawkes themed quiz. Tenuous is not the word.

In Silver Medal Position : -
The West House in Bridgend produced a Halloween themed quiz of stunning tedium a few years ago. There's only so many questions you should ever ask about bats in one evening.

In Gold Medal Position : -
For several years in the late 90s and early Noughties a non quizzer at Aberavon insisted on setting a Wales themed quiz in the rugby club every year for St. David's Day. Now, I totally accept that Wales is wonderful place, and you could easily compile a quiz where every question had a welsh dimension, and yet you still had a wide variety of sport, entertainment, history, geography, natural world etc. etc. Unfortunately the guy who used to do the quiz seemed blissfully unaware of this. Almost all of the 80 questions he would ask in the course of the evening would be about people who had lived in Merthyr Tydfil in the 19th century. Actually I'm being unfair. Some of them had lived in Aberystwyth. I think that the top score ever achieved in one of his quizzes was about 33 out of 80, but it never daunted him from trotting out almost exactly the same quiz for several years running, until attendance for the St. David's Day quiz tailed off so much that on the very last running of his quiz the entire population of the pub numbered a grand total of 12 -which consisted of himself and the scorer - one team of 4 - and half a dozen packets of pork scratchings. Rumour has it that the pork scratchings won, but this has been disputed since.

Just in case anyone has been on tenterhooks sinc my post last week concerning walkovers, we didn't after all take a beating last night in the rugby club, but won from Rob's team by a satisfyingly close 2 points.

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