Saturday, 8 May 2010

Choices, choices

As you get older I do think that you tend to get more set in your ways, and I’m no exception to this. I find that I’ve become a creature of habit, and am fairly inflexible about my likes and dislikes. I like my steak bloody, my drinks soft, and my quizzes pure. That is, for the most part, I like a quiz of straight questions without unnecessary gimmicks. Which begs the question, how was it that I set and hosted a quiz of multiple choice questions last week ?

Its not so hard to answer. If you’ve been with me for twelve months or more its just possible that you may recall me mentioning an annual charity quiz for the May Day in Melincryddan festival. This is actually a very special quiz to me because it was in the 1994 and 1995 May Day quizzes that I became a born again quizzer.

Without going into detail I began quizzing in 1988, the same academic year that I started teaching. Then in about 1991-2 my quizzing kind of all died the death. The league in Port Talbot packed in, my mates stopped going, and I lost heart. My then boss asked me if I'd put together a team of kids , and play with them in the May Day quiz in 1994. I did, and we won. I kept up appearences every couple of months at charity events locally. Next year, 1995, we lost by a point. I thought that I could either be miserable, and just go home, or I could go up and have a word and give my congratulations to the winners. Which I did. They were a little suspicious that just me with a group of 4 pupils had won one year, and come a close second the second, but when I told them a little of my experience in quizzing they asked me to join their team in the Neath Quiz League. Through the league team I became reacquainted with my old mate Alan Coombs, who was also putting together a team for the Morriston Hospitals League in Swansea, which I was duly drafted onto. So taking part in the Mayday quiz has led to very many happy experiences through quizzing.

After winning the quiz again last year the organisers asked me if I’d be prepared to set the questions and act as QM for the evening this year. How could I have refused ? Well, by saying – no thank you – would have been one way of doing it. But there was no way that I was going to. For one thing I am notoriously susceptible to the slightest bit of flattery, and two years ago they renamed the trophy after me because of the Mastermind thing.

I am approaching the point, albeit slowly. Lyndsay, who has been QM or the last few years, has always used a multiple choice format, and although its not my cup of tea, the punters like it, and so I made up my mind early on that I was going to adhere to this, in the spirit of ‘if it ain’t broke, then don’t fix it’ . I have to say, I rather enjoyed putting it together, as I might from time to time use a couple of multiple choices in a quiz , but I’ve never written a whole quiz this way. What I found was that it does effect the way you choose your questions, since there are questions that lend themselves to multiple choice answers, and questions which don’t. I also think it makes a quiz easier and more accessible for non quizzers, which the majority of the teams were on Wednesday night. What I really enjoyed, though, were the couple of questions where you could supply a couple of silly answers as options. In the first round I offered,
“In literature , who rode a horse called Rosinante ?
a) Don Giovanni – b) Don Quixote - c) Don Estelle

Well, be fair, the majority of the people taking part were well over 40. I know its silly, but it got a laugh. Then when I asked : -
“What is the name of Keeley Hawes’ character in the TV series “Ashes to Ashes “ ?
a) Alex Drake - b) Vera Drake – “
one team shouted out “C) – Charlie Drake !” – which was my actual option C. Big laugh. Then in the last round I asked
“Who played Batman in the 1960s TV series –
a) John West b) Adam West , or C )

almost all the teams shouted out “Fred West ! “ Which of course was my last option. A little sick, but again, a huge laugh.

A successful evening ? Well, my friend Robert , who is a fine quizzer won, but only by a couple of points, and every team scored pretty well on the evening. I’ve also been asked back again next year, so that’s probably a good sign. So just maybe I need to reassess my attitude to the humble multiple choice question. I still like my steak rare, though.

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