Wednesday, 29 September 2010

Millionaire - Phone A Friend

Although it was recorded ages ago, the Millionaire where I was a phone-a-friend was only broadcast last night, and it has led to a couple of interesting questions. Regular LAM reader Terry Collins emailed me today. He was intrigued by the fact that both I and Chaser Anne Hegerty popped up as phone-a-friends for different contestants on the same show. He asked whether Millionaire keeps a pool of friends and gives these out to the contestants. Good question Terry, but the answer is no. I selected my own friends when I went on Millionaire, and although I know Richard's dad Alan rather better than I know Richard, I have quizzed with both of them before. I think that its just a pure coincidence that Anne and I both popped up on the same show - our paths do seem to keep crossing.

Nancy asked me why Richard didn't pick me to answer the question, and whether I would have had it right. Richard's other phone friends were his dad Alan, and my dear quiz mate John, often honourably mentioned in this very blog. The fact is that over the years John has proven himself better at answering Geography questions than I am. Quite simply, we'd decided that if Richard was stuck on a Geography type question, John would be the best bet as a phone friend.

In my youth I was a bit of a railway nut, so I was pretty certain that the answer was Iceland, without being absolutely 100%. Whether I would have advised Richard to go for it is another question entirely.

I did think Chris Tarrant was a class act when I appeared on the show myself. Still, hearing him describe me as a Christopher Biggins lookalike I've gone off him a bit.

Monday, 27 September 2010

TV Watch - University Challenge

University Challenge – First round match 13 - University of the Arts, London, v. Imperial

Ah, the exquisite agony of choice ! Two London universities, yet neither of them London University . The University of The Arts London is a new one on me, which is not surprising since they only became a University in 2004. Still, they’ve certainly made up for lost time, being now the largest educational establishment solely for the Arts in Europe. They were represented by Nigel Booth, Mary Vettise, Cliff Andrade, and captain Adam Walker.

Imperial actually used to be part of the University of London, but became independent in 2007. Their record in UC commands respect, having won the title twice. They were represented by Ed Brightman, Elliot Bajema, Courtney Williams, and their skipper, Nayer Youakim. JP helpfully reminded me that it was a case of Arts v. Sciences, and so not even having so much as an O Level in Science to my name I decided to support artists and new boys UAL.

Nigel Booth of UAL showed an impressive disregard for the gravity of having to bear the curse of the Clark sofa by snapping up the first starter for UAL, recognising several applications of the word green. A set of bonuses on children’s novels followed, two of which provided them with points. Nigel Booth must have enjoyed getting the first starter so much that he took the second as well for good measure, spotting that the greek philosopher referred to in the question was Aristotle. Bonuses followed on specific websites, of which one was taken. Courtney Williams of Imperial made a hell of a good answer to an inscrutable starter on square root days, which impressed JP as well.

The next starter was one of the picture starters that UC does so well. The outlines of countries of Europe were represented, but joined together in an unusual fashion so that they looked for all the world like an angry man about to stamp on something. If you didn’t see the show you’ll have to just trust me on this one. The country being stamped on was called for, but neither team could see that it was Iceland. Never mind, the bonuses on this picture came after the next starter, when Williams of Imperial correctly identified the conical hills of Auvergne. 2 out of the 3 map bonuses were taken. A definition of parts of the body followed, which began ‘humans have 2 over 2 ‘ , and it foxed Imperial. UAL had it eventually though, with teeth. The bonuses which followed were on Scientists, and understandably these weren’t so much to UAL’s liking. At the 10 minute mark it was pretty even, with UAL leading by 40 to 30.

The middle period saw UAL pull away, and yet it didn’t look like this would happen when Courtney Williams took another starter when she saw that the link between one of Chaucer’s pilgrims and a husband of Marilyn Monroe was Miller. Tit for tat, this time the scientists got asked bonuses on artists, and didn’t convert any. Nice little irony that. Ed Brightman of Imperial unsuccessfully interrupted a Geology starter next, five points away, but UAL didn’t know the answer. Elliot Bajema knew that if it’s a composer, and its something to do with fossils, then you won’t be far away with St. Saens’ Carnival of the Animals. In fact he was spot on. 2 bonuses followed.

The music starter was a lovely idea. JP announced that he was going to play a condensed album, with a very brief snatch of each of the tracks. UAL ‘s Mary Vettise needed only a couple of notes of the title song to correctly answer that it was London Calling by The Clash. Three more of the same followed, 2 of which were gratefully taken, although a point was dropped when they failed to give the title of the correct album by the Velvet Underground. Never mind, they had built up a little momentum, which they maintained by taking the next starter for a set of bonuses on Einstein.

Adam Walker at this point began at this point to play a real captain’s innings. He took the next starter with a correct identification of a couple of euphemisms for syphilis – ooh, Matron. With a full house on a set of bonuses on one of last week’s Mastermind subjects – Tennessee Ernie Williams – the team had begun to hit a rich vein of form. Adam Walker took the next starter, saying that Scotsman John Ray surveyed much of Northern Canada. Then he took the next as well. When JP asked which mood he was describing, and launched into a quote from a Keats ode, Mr. Walker buzzed in with the correct answer – Melancholy. Even a set of bonuses on biology didn’t do much to halt them in their tracks. However the next starter did – a great starter which asked which three elements of the periodic table start with two consecutive letters of the alphabet. Neither team managed it. At last Imperial managed to get a toehold back in the game when Courtney Williams earned a set of bonuses on sculptors. Still, this section of the contest clearly belonged to UAL, who now led by 130 to 70.

UAL looked good for a win, or at the very least a repechage spot. Imperial, though, were going to need to get a wiggle on to have even a chance of that. Adam Walker had no intention of allowing that to happen. Showed a picture starter of a landmark wrapped up in material, he correctly identified it as the Pont Neuf over the River Seine in Paris, when it had been wrapped up by the artist Christo. Whatever lights yer candle . . . I do like a good bridge bonus, and so did UAL who took a full set. I was surprised that JP reacted so calmly when neither side could correctly identify which Shakespeare character ‘murdered sleep’. Normally he takes it as a personal insult when a team get a Shakespeare question wrong. Adam Walker, the huge difference between the two sides tonight, stepped back up to the plate to take the next starter by explaining that VED stands for Vehicle Excise Duty. This earned a really nice set of bonuses on quotes by fathers of British Prime Ministers. UAL took one, but to be honest the bonuses were looking irrelevant, since they were ahead anyway, and Imperial weren’t hardly getting a sniff of a starter. Still Elliot Bajema hadn’t given up, and he knew that a set of deities from various religions were all identified with the sun. Two bonuses followed, but were in all honesty too little too late. Adam Walker won the buzzer race to identify that lemurs and loris were primates. Elliot Bajema took the next starter, explaining that the Dunlap Broadside and the Goddard Broadside were forerunners of the Declaration of Independence. Good shout that. Still, one more starter remained, which fell to Mr. Andrade of UAL, correctly explaining that a set of definitions all belonged to words containing a double e. At the gong UAL looked good value for their win, by 215 to 95. Very well done , and commiserations to Imperial, comfortably beaten on the night, but certainly not disgraced.

Jeremy Paxman Watch

I think , this being the penultimate match of the first round, that JP was a little demob happy tonight. He seemed almost charming, although when one of the teams offered Limbs rather than Teeth he did favour them with one of his patented ‘are you out of your tiny mind ‘ hard stares. For once though he really hit the nail on the head when he congratulated UAL on a fantastic performance for a first appearance on the show. Amen to that, Jezzer.

Interesting Fact That I Didn’t Already Know Of The Week

Bebo is actually an acronym, and it stands for Blog Early, Blog Often. I can’t always promise the first, but I do try to live up to the second.

TV Watch - Only Connect

Round One – Match Four – Britpoppers v. Geocachers

Yes, normal service is resumed with a proper review of OC, after last week’s account of our own first round match. Tonight’s teams were the Britpoppers, a team of British music industry stalwarts consisting of William Higham, Chris Roberts and captain Andy Ross. If that wasn’t exotic enough for you, the opposition was a team called the Geocachers.Quizzed by Victoria they revealed that Geocaching is a treasure hunting game using GPS. Frankly it makes our moniker of the Radio Addicts look positively mundane by comparison. The Geocachers were Sarah Bain, Lisa Grant, and skipper Andy Bain.

Round One – What’s the Connection ?

The Britpoppers won the toss and elected to take the first hit. They were offered a tricky bouncer to start – Sugar 2.08 kg – Vitamin C 833g – Nicotine 3.5g – Strychnine 1.1g. Time actually ran out for the ‘Poppers, and that’s a rare sight on OC indeed. The ‘ Cachers had a stab at maximum recommended intakes, - close but no cigar , despite the nicotine. It was actually lethal doses of the 4 substances. Tricky, but the strychnine made it gettable. The Cachers took the pictures, and were given prairie dog – killer whale – starfish and koala bear Yes, maybe it looks easy when they are all written down, but these two teams are no mugs, and neither managed to say that the prairie dog isn’t a dog, the killer whale isn’t a whale – and so on. No points yet. The Poppers were then given The Channel Tunnel – US Space Programme – Loom and Badminton. For the first time tonight there was egg on my face here too, since I didn’t spot the connection. Neither did the Poppers, but the Cachers swooped in for the first points of the show, correctly saying that they all used shuttles. Of course. D’oh ! The Cachers couldn’t capitalise on their head start when they couldn’t see the connection between Rocks Ricks Racks, Pif Paf Pof and others. The Poppers well deserved their bonus for answering with no hesitation that they were all Snap Crackle and Pop in other languages. Great connection – only on this show do you get anything like this. The Poppers got the music set, and with their background they were under a lot of pressure to get it right. And so they did, identifying four pieces of music linked with opposites – Night and Day for example. It remained for the Cachers to try their luck with Mao Zedong – David Hume – Casanova and Philip Larkin. Well, I would have had a stab at it from Philip Larkin, but I wasn’t certain. The Cachers didn’t get it, but William from the Poppers earned a valuable point for saying that they were all librarians. Good shout, and the Poppers led by 3 points to 1.

Round Two – What Comes Fourth ?

The Poppers continued scoring with the first set of the round. 16.666 and 33.333 gave them a good idea what it was, and 45 confirmed it. Hey confidently answered 78, this being the next record turntable speed followed. The Cachers were offered one of those where you see the connection, but what comes next is still not clear. Oregon Country – Mexican Cession – Gadsden Purchase were clearly land augmentations of the US, but there were two biggies to choose from. The Cachers zigged wrongly with the Louisiana Purchase, while the Poppers zagged correctly with Alaska – or the Alaska Purchase. Them’s the breaks. Fair play to the Poppers, when they got a decent lead they seemed to know how to build on it. Given Amsterdam – Atonement and Saturday they knew it was Ian McEwan novels, and even more impressively they knew that On Chesil Beach came next. The Cachers took the pictures, and again they knew the connection, but not the final link. Explorer , Scout from To Kill A Mockingbird, and a cub gave them the scout movement. However both teams gave terms from the Guiding movement, and missed that beavers would come fourth. Funnily enough, when the Poppers first clue of the next set came up – Hertford – I immediately showed my age by chanting “In ‘Ertford , ‘Ereford and ‘Ampshire – ‘Urricanes ‘ Ardly ‘ever ‘ Appen “ – not thinking that this would be the connection. It was though, and the Poppers got it. The Cachers were under the coche, er, cosh by now, and the next set didn’t help them. Lina Wertmuller – Jane Campion – Sofia Coppola escaped them, but the Poppers were quite ruthless, taking the bonus by identifying that the next woman director nominated for the Oscar was Katherine Bigelow – who actually won it. Good round for the Poppers, who had shown themselves a force to be reckoned with by now, and led by 10 to 1.

Round Three – The Connecting Walls

The Cachers went first, and solved -Insert – Escape – Function – and Control as keys on a PC keyboard. Before time ran out they also found Home – Defence – Justice and Scottish, a series of Cabinet Secretaries. They KNEW that there was a set of stages from the Glastonbury Festival there, but three attempts to unravel them weren’t enough, and the board froze. They soon saw that Toxic – Electric – Future and Culture would be followed by shock, leaving John Peel, Acoustic, Pyramid and Other which were indeed Glastonbury festival stages. Still, 6 points well earned.

The Poppers had a comfortable lead, but a poor performance on the wall can turn many a game on its head. They saw that there must be a set of hats there, but a first attempt failed, and they let it lie for a bit. They also early on picked out Bibendum as the Michelin Man, but never got as far as really following through with other advertising characters. They could also see that a set of joints was there, but not which. Returning to hats they soon unravelled Derby – Pork Pie – Busby and Toque. However time was seeping away, and no other lines were uncovered by the end. Still , when the sets were resolved they did see that Vinnie – Aleksandr Orlov – Bibendum and Nipper were the advertising characters. Hmm – all this AND snap crackle and pop in the same show ! Butt, Dovetail , Mitre and Finger they knew were joints, and the last set were lovely – coat – carrot – pipe – scarf – all being things you would put on a snowman. So the round went to the Cachers, but not by much, and the Poppers led by 15 to 7.

Round Four – The Missing Vowels

The walls had taken a lot of time, and so there wouldn’t be a very long last round to finish. The first set of flowers saw 3 fall to the Poppers. The Cachers got one but also dropped one. They were playing cache up, sorry, catch up, and this means you have to buzz early, and sadly it didn’t quite work. Sets of Companies Founded during World War II, and Films featuring Cross Dressers saw them buzz too early another three times, and in the end the Poppers scored a comfortable win by 21 points to 4. Victoria rightly was genuinely sympathetic to the Cachers by the end – they might not have looked like winning, but with a little bit of the rub of the green they would have posted a much higher score. Guys, you have nothing to be ashamed of. As for the Poppers, they take the fifth place in the second round. Very well played gentlemen.

Wales Blog Awards

Yes, dear readers, this very blog was nominated in two categories of the Wales Blog Awards, in the Lifestyle and Best Writing Categories. Alas, we haven't made it onto the shortlist in either category, but then that's the way it goes. Still, many congratulations to all those blogs that did make it, and the very best of luck to all.

Saturday, 25 September 2010

La Triviata - A blog for you to check out

Chris Jones , a very well known figure indeed in the world of quizzing, has just this month started, or revived his quiz blog La Triviata. Chris basically knows everything that is worth knowing - and probably most of the stuff which isn't worth knowing either - about the world of serious quizzing, and the blurb to La Triviata promises a bit of everything. Well, you can't have too much of a good thing, I say. So without further ado, here's that link: -

La Triviata

Friday, 24 September 2010

Mastermind - First Round - Heat 6/24

If you’ve read any of my recent posts you’ll know that I’ve had an exciting week, one way and another. So what better way to round it off than having someone to cheer for on Mastermind? Step forward Min Lacey. I haven’t actually met Min, but I remember her last year from her heroics on Only Connect, where she was the captain of the brilliant Archers Admirers, so unlucky to meet the series winners The Gamblers in their semi final. We saw on OC last year that Min’s a fine player, and doesn’t seem to suffer from nerves on set, but would even this be enough to overcome the curse of the Clark sofa ?

Min was answering on the Life and Work of Charles M. Schulz. As you know, he was the creator of the Peanuts cartoon strip. This struck me as the kind of round which seems on the surface to be quite narrow, so you know that the setters are really going to dig deep, and throw the metaphorical kitchen sink at you. Based on my strictly limited knowledge of Mr. Schulz and his oeuvre, this seemed to be exactly what happened. Min was equal to the task, though, rattling off correct answers to the first 8 questions. She lost a tiny bit of momentum then, but being an experienced TV hand she didn’t panic, and kept on adding points to take her score to 12. Barring an outstanding score from one of the others, this meant her General Knowledge would definitely put her in the hunt in the next round. So far so good.

Our second specialist subject was The Second Ranger Battalion in World War Two, and it was served up to us by Matt Rowlands. Matt made a slip up with the second question, but it was full steam ahead after this, and he barely made another error until the end of the round, when he had taken his score up to an impressive 15. Like Min before him he had also had the presence of mind to avoid any passes. Would this be important in the final reckoning ? Time would tell.

The Plays of Tennessee Williams were Louise Broadbent’s specialism tonight. Like Min before her she made a superb start to her round, taking the first 7 on the bounce, and then like Min before her she didn’t quite get back the same momentum. She too took her score to 12 by the buzzer, although in this round we did get the first passes of the night.

Bringing the specialist round to a close was Simon Martin, whose subject , UK progressive rock 1968 – 1978 seemed another of those which could suffer from its apparent narrowness. Simon managed 4 without error, then passed, and for a moment was rather becalmed. Then he picked up an impressive turn of speed, but again in the last 30 seconds passed, and again lost momentum, not to recover. Never mind, 12 points and 2 passes put him nicely into contention.

So we had the unusual halftime situation whereby any of our contenders could win, and it would be a brave person who would gamble on predicting the outcome. Despite having no passes to Louise’s and Simon’s 2 passes, Min returned to the chair to kick off the GK round. How well she did ! 16 is a fine score. Yes, I think she’d admit that she missed just a couple which she would have had if she’d had a little bit longer to think about them. But there’s the rub – you don’t have a little bit longer ! What she did really well was to maintain her concentration right through to the end, in particular the last 30 seconds enabled her to set what already looked like a really challenging target of 28. Curse beaten ?

Perhaps, but not yet. Firstly Louise took a go at overhauling the target. Like Min she earned respect for keeping going and not running out of steam at the end of the round. However , in a week where I thought all of the GK rounds were very much of the same standard of questions there was just too much that she honestly didn’t know, and she levelled out at a score of 11, for a total of 23.

Simon, on the other hand did impress at the start of his round, and at the minute mark he was more or less neck and neck with Min at the same stage. But this round is now rather less of a sprint than it used to be. Or to use a slightly different analogy , if the 2 minute round was an out and out 200 metres sprint, the new GK rounds are more like a 400 metre race. You have to be fast, but you have to have stamina too. Simon just fell behind on the clock during the second minute, and at the end of the round he had scored a good 13 to finish on 25.

So it was down to Matt to try to take the win. 13 points and no passes would bring a tie break with Min. Anything more would be an outright win, and anything less wouldn’t be enough. I think that Matt probably did the equivalent of looking down a mountain when you’re halfway up to the summit and having an attack of vertigo. In all honesty as well I think that the round just didn’t suit, and he never really got on terms with it. I may be mistaken, but I think he was probably quite relieved when the round ended. He finished with 20.

Congratulations Min ! Yours was by some distance the pick of the GK rounds tonight and one of the better ones we’ve seen so far this series. With a really competitive specialist score you will definitely need to be taken very seriously by whoever you meet in your semi final . Best of luck !

The Details

Min Lacey The Life and Work of Charles M. Schulz 12 – 0 16 – 0 28 – 0
Matt Rowlands The 2nd Ranger Battalion in World War Two 15 – 0 5 – 3 20 – 3
Louise Broadbent The Plays of Tennessee Williams 12 – 2 11 – 4 23 – 6
Simon Martin UK Progressive Rock 1968 – 1978 12 – 2 13 – 4 25 – 6

Current Highest Scoring Runners-Up

Anne Skillen - 30 -7
James Collenette - 29 - 2
Ian Packham - 27 – 7
Laura Humphreys 25 – 4
Simon Martin 25 - 6
Nick Spickernell 25 – 7

Congratulations to Clive and the Boys

I don’t know if you watch Eggheads regularly , or if you’re a casual viewer who just happened to see it yesterday, but if you did you’ll have seen a team called Scrum 5 win £14,000. The team are all from the Taibach Rugby Club, and the player who went straight through to the final without playing a head to head was none other than Clive, who sets the quiz in the Aberavon Rugby club from time to time, and plays in the quiz pretty much every week.

The team put on a frankly amazing performance. First they took out Daphne. Then they took out Chris. They also accounted for Barry, with only Pat managing to win his head to head. So the 4 remaining members of the team took on Pat and Judith in the final, and won 3 – 2. Brilliant performance lads, Port Talbot is proud of you.

Brainiac for Hire

Get Connected Charity Quiz

I had a strange dream last night, which I’d like to share with you, if I may. I was in a very exclusive restaurant in Soho, quizzing, of course. There were many teams, and they were bidding for my services each time a new round started, and the bidding started at £100 a round, and just kept going up ! 2010 Mastermind Champion Jesse Honey was there, and so was Phil ‘Tuffers’ ‘The Cat’ Tufnell. The Stig from Top Gear turned up in time for the last round as well, as I remember it, although I think he kept his helmet on. Then, when I was about to leave, I found I was standing next to Stacey Solomon, who let me put my arm around her and have our photograph taken, and then she started to sing. And do you know what the strangest thing of all was ? It wasn’t a dream at all. It all really happened yesterday.

I’d better explain. I received an email from the Get Connected charity back in August. You may already be well aware of Get Connected, but in case you’re not, I should explain that Get Connected is the free, confidential UK helpline for young people who know they need help, but don’t know where to find it. The helpline is available via phone, email and webchat. They were in the process of organising a big, charity fundraising quiz evening. One of the features of the evening was that the teams would be able to ‘buy a brainiac’ to help them during one of the rounds of the quiz. They wanted to know if I would be prepared to be one of the brainiacs for sale during the evening ? Would I ? !

I think I’d better confess that I did check out the Get Connected Website first before I replied, but when I learned a little bit more about what the charity does, then I couldn’t reply quickly enough. I’m a teacher working with children between the ages of 11 to 16, so I know just how vital the work that an organisation like Get Connected does actually is. So I signed upon the dotted line.I’ll be honest, I did wonder why they’d picked me to ask. I know that its surely because I won Mastermind once upon a time, but I never really plucked up courage in the evening to ask how they got my email address. All I can guess is that they must have found LAM, and found my email that way. I’m delighted that they did.

I knew that Jesse was going to be one of the Brainiacs, since his name was already being used on the promotional literature for the event. However I didn’t know who else was going to be there. I arrived about an hour early, due to the fact that the M4 was in a particularly benign mood while I was driving in yesterday evening. The quiz was in the Floridita Restaurant in Wardour Street in London.

Floridita – host venue for a marvellous evening.

When I asked who the other Brainiacs were going to be , I was told that they were Jesse; Ben Haley, the champion of the Get Connected Quiz, and also a trustee of the charity; Tom Hall, Travel Editor of Lonely Planet, Tuffers and the Mystery Brainiac, who turned out to be the Stig. Tuffers and the Stig turned up a little later in the evening, so at the start it was just Jesse, Ben, Tom and myself. Jesse I met at Champ of Champs, but I didn’t previously know Ben and Tom, but they were great company, and I felt at ease with them right from the start.

There were 7 rounds – General Knowledge, History and Geography, Art and Literature, Pictures and Photos, Entertainment, Science and Nature , and finally Sport. If you read my post on Moral Victories last week, you can imagine how relieved I was to see that no one could bid on our services for the Photos round.

Each table had the option to buy a joker for £80, which could only be played once. However they could also buy a killer card for £40 , which they could use to halve another team’s score for that round. They could buy one of these for each round if they wanted. Then there was the buy a Brainiac option. At the start of each round we were auctioned off , with bids starting at £100 a time. Jesse went first, and he fetched a staggering £700 for the first round. I was pleased that I didn’t have that much riding on me , it was more like £200 for the GK round, in which, I must admit , I did not exactly cover myself in glory.

Thankfully I did better in all of the other rounds, and the rest of the rounds secured bids for me of as low as £200, and as high as £700. I’ve got to be honest, I did tell the team who paid the top price that I would have sold my body for considerably less, and my soul for not very much more. The worst thing was that they had bought me for the Science and Nature round, and to say that this is not my best subject is a huge understatement. Thankfully the round was largely old chestnuts along the lines of – at which temperature do the Celsius and Fahrenheit scales read the same ?

The actual quiz part of the evening took about 3 hours, but it seemed like much, much less. And I have to be honest, if you’ve never played in a quiz where you play for a different team for each round, then its an experience you really should try at least once. I don’t know the exact total which was raised by the end of the evening, but the generosity of the teams taking part was staggering. I was told that in total more than £2000 was raised from bids for my services alone. I can only imagine how much Jesse, Ben and Tom must have raised.

With a long drive ahead of me I really had to rush off pretty much straight after the quiz, and unfortunately didn’t have a chance to stop and listen to Stacey’s performance. In case you’re not a fan of the show, Stacey was third in last year’s X – Factor, and has her own blossoming singing career now.

The lovely Stacey Solomon and me. I’m the one on the right.

I’m really , really sorry if this post sounds self indulgent and smug. Yet I wanted to share with you what has been one of the most enjoyable and remarkable quiz evenings I have ever taken part in.

As a postscript, the team who wasted their money on me in the General Knowledge round showed remarkable generosity by buying me again for the Entertainment round, where I was able to serve them a little better. They asked me what I was doing next Thursday. I told them that the truth of the matter is that I’m question master in the Aberavon Rugby club next Thursday, and I asked them if they fancied having a go. Well, lads, if by any chance you happen to be reading, the offer still stands.

Quiz League of London - Website - New Address

You may recall that I posted a link to the QLL website on the blog a month or so ago. The good people at QLL have just informed me that the link needs to be changed, so I though that the best idea would be to just make a new post - so here's the link : -
Quiz League of London Website

Thanks guys

Tuesday, 21 September 2010

TV Watch - University Challenge

University Challenge – Round One heat 12 – Edinburgh v. Jesus , Oxford

Edinburgh University became Scotland’s 4th university at a time when England still had just the two, a fitting testament to the value that the Scots have always placed upon education. Fact, that, and its not just my Scottish blood that leads me to say it. Interestingly Edinburgh’s team last night have prepared by playing in pub quizzes. Well done for that guys. Being pub quizzers, though, left them at the mercy of the curse, since it guaranteed them support from the Clark sofa. Edinburgh were represented by Ben Grey, Jack Binns, Andrew Gray, and captain Ben Skerry.

As you might have expected from the name, Jesus College was founded for the education of the clergy. The college has long standing links with Wales – hello, another bid for support from the sofa there, I think. Jesus, much to my sadness, were not represented by anyone called Jones. I simply long for the day when Roger Tilling will announce the first to the buzzer for a starter as “Jesus – Jones “. Not having a Jones, though, Jesus were well served by Adam Clement, Sara Milne-Das, Ross McDonald, and captain Ben Brock. Apologies if I misheard anyone’s name, the sound quality from the laptop really wasn’t the best today, for some reason .

The first starter fell to Gray of Edinburgh. Ross McDonald buzzed in a little too quickly with Equinox, while JP was just about to say that the term he wanted comes from the latin for the sun stands still. Yes, it was the other one, solstice. 3 bonuses followed on 1910. 2 out of three bonuses were taken.Great shout from Edinburgh’s skipper Ben Skerry on the next question, identifying that it is the head of Archimedes that is featured on the Fields Medal. 3 bonuses followed on Theatres.No bonuses were taken. Neither team took a starter on pizza toppings. A good starter answer from Andrew Gray followed on somebody’s Exclusion Principle. ( Stop me if I’m being too technical )A lovely set of bonuses followed on falling stars. I knew John Donne’s poem , but the biblical quote escaped me.Both Edinburgh and I knew which HG Wells novel has a chapter called The Falling Star. So far it had all been one way traffic. Captain Ben Brock put Jesus into credit with a great quick buzz to identify that of the four things Churchill famously offered the country, only toil is not a bodily fluid. Bonuses on number 51 followed.You just knew Area 51 was going to be part of it. One bonus was taken. For the picture starter the teams were asked to identify a large area of water. Ross McDonald dived in with the Pacific Ocean, but Jack Binns took the points with the Black Sea. More of the same followed, which seemed very much to Edinburgh’s liking as they bagged a full set. A highly impressive early buzz from Ben Grey identified one and a half definitions as belonging to the word progressive. Exhibits from the British Museum was the bonus category, but this proved less to Edinburgh’s liking, and they only managed one. Still, at the ten minute mark Edinburgh could be very pleased with their work so far, while Jesus were still trying to prize their way into the match, with the scores at 85 – 10 to Edinburgh.

Ben Brock was in like a rocket to identify a Soviet invasion of an eastern bloc country – ostensibly to help the legitimate governments. As soon as JP said “1956” he answered. Unfortunately he gave the answer ‘Prague. ‘ Ah, no, that was 1968, but its so easy to make a mistake like that when you’re under pressure. Ben Grey accepted the windfall, giving Hungary. Bonuses on trees followed, and brought Edinburgh another full set. My goodness , but Andrew Gray was impressive on the next starter.The words – which country has more linguistic diversity – had barely died on JPs lips when he gave without the slightest hesitation the correct answer – Papua New Guinea. No, I didn’t know that, but I won’t forget it in a hurry now. Three bonuses on witches followed – rather appropriate that there were three of them really. Edinburgh’s up and down bonus form continued, as they took none of them.

A beautiful starter followed . The three first letters on the third row of a qwerty keyboard make which number in roman numerals ? XCV makes 95, but neither team got it. Andrew Gray maintained his impressive form taking a starter on lichens straight after. It was beginning to seem a long time since Jesus had managed their correct starter. Bonuses on computers and IT followed. Edinburgh’s conversion of bonuses wasn’t as good as some teams we’ve seen this series, but when you’re answering most of the starters anyway it really doesn’t matter. The Music starter followed, and Ross McDonald, who had been gamely buzzing far more than his team mates took his first correct starter of the night identifying the dulcet tones of Chuck Berry. A clenched fist showed how relieved he was. 3 bonuses on pieces of music from Tarantino films followed of which Jesus managed 1. Ben Skerry buzzed in on a definition of the Japanese fugu, just to reassert Edinburgh’s authority, which then earned them a crack at a set of bonuses about 19th century foreign secretaries. George Canning and the brother of the Duke of Wellington were quickly identified, thought the capital of the Gambia – formerly Bathurst escaped them. Never mind, there would be another starter along in a second, and there was, and Ben Grey answered it for them. He knew that Arthur Ransome used the names of birds in many of the titles of his novels. Even missing 2 bonuses they were ominously close to 200 points already and the next starter took them even closer. Then Jack Binns took another starter, knowing that Copenhagen gives its name to an interpretation of quantum physics. Just time for three bonuses before the twenty minute mark, and Edinburgh took all 3. At the 20 minute mark they led by 215 to 25.

So going into the last 10 minutes the match was over. What interest was left there for the viewer ? Great questions were yet to be asked of course. Still, even though Edinburgh had won, how close could they get to 300. Even though Jesus had lost, and really didn’t have enough time to approach a repechage score, could they climb out of the slough of despond into a 3 figure score ? The picture starter fell to Edinburgh though, who seemed to take along time to decide that Andy Warhol’s picture of Debbie Harry was by Andy Warhol, and seemed a little disbelieving when it was confirmed. 1 Warhol bonus was taken. A lovely starter followed on Foxes – George Fox, founder of the Society of Friends – Digitalis, being foxglove, you see how it works, I’m sure. Inevitably Edinburgh took the points. With the bit still as firmly between their collective gnashers as it had been for the whole match, Andrew Gray let JP say Perseids and Leonids before buzzing in to correctly identify them as meteor showers. 2 bonuses followed. Poor Jesus, the agony continued with Ben Skerry knowing that a length of yarn can be a skein, and therefore so must a group of geese in flight be. Another set of bonuses to Edinburgh. Then another starter, and all the time the clock ticked inexorably onwards. They had reached 300 with a couple of minutes still to spare. I was strangely moved when Ross Macdonald correctly identified Greenland for the next starter , and actually jumped out of my chair. He deserved no less than this. Unfortunately they couldn’t convert any bonuses. Back to Edinburgh. It was a fair bet that if Westminster Abbey was so called to distinguish it from the East Minster, then the East Minster must be St. Pauls. Andrew Gray certainly felt so. At last the gong sounded, bringing Edinburgh a win by 335 to 35.
I shuddered to think what JP was going to say to Jesus. “Well, I’m sorry to say this Jesus, but there’s no way to sugar the pill, that was a terrible performance. You didn’t seem to be properly engaged. “ Well, let he who be without nerves cast the first stone. These are four extremely bright and able students, who doubtless beat others to earn their place in the team. It just didn’t work for them tonight. Them’s the breaks. Honestly, Jesus, please don’t let it get you down, and don't take any thoughtless comments you may see or hear anywhere else too much to heart. At the end of the day its only a game. Edinburgh though demand now to be taken very seriously. Any score over 300 commands huge respect, and the speed of their buzzer work, and the range of their knowledge marks them out as another team to watch. Congratulations !

Jeremy Paxman Watch

When Edinburgh sensibly guessed that the theatre opened in the shell of the burnt out Shakespeare Memorial theatre in Stratford upon Avon was called the Globe, JP replied “ No, it’s the Swan. The Globe is in London. “Well, that was what the words said. The tone said “ How could you possibly get that wrong ? Are you mad ? “ He just HATES it when they get a Shakespeare one wrong. Then they got the next one wrong as well, and the tone of the Paxman reply said “ Oh, I give up !”
Funnily enough he seemed remarkably mellow for the rest of the show, although he certainly gave Jesus both barrels at the gong.

Interesting Fact That I Didn’t Already Know Of The Week

The Margherita as in Pizza Margherita is named after the queen consort of Umberto I.

Monday, 20 September 2010

Only Connect - First Round

My blog can bear witness to the fact that I’ve been a fan of Only Connect ever since it first aired in September 2008. I did actually know about the show even before it aired. It was first brought to my attention by my quiz mate Barry. The production team were putting out a call for contestants about the same time as the original series of Battle of The Brains. Remember that ? It seems amazing to think this now, but around our way people seemed a bit more excited about applying for Battle of the Brains than they did about applying for Only Connect. Hindsight is a wonderful thing, isn’t it. We knew we couldn’t get a team of 7 people together for the other show, but we did go as far as getting an application for OC. We started filling it in, but for some reason that escapes me now we never went through with finishing it and sending it off. For the second season the dates you needed to be available were right out for me, I’m afraid, so I declared myself unavailable and we didn’t even send off for an application form. By the time the third series came along, I had allied myself with Gary Grant and Lisa Hermann through the IQAGB forum, and this time not only did we send off an application , we were even offered an audition. Alas, though, the day we would have had to commit to filming our first round was impossible for both Gary and for myself, and so with a heavy heart we passed on the opportunity for an audition for the third series.

OK – all with me so far ? Good. Gary, Lisa and I all committed to giving it another go for the 4th series. However when the dates for filming came out, Lisa was unavailable. However I had been keeping my friend Neil Phillips up my sleeve in reserve, and I knew that Neil would give his eye teeth to get on a team for OC. Thankfully the lovely people at Presentable still seemed pretty keen to try us out, and we were offered another audition.

Mis Hermanos ! My boys – Gary and Neil


For me driving 30 miles down the road for an audition in Cardiff really was no hardship at all. Neil had a lot further to come, but managed to arrange matters so he could make it. Gary, however, is a GP in Bury, and simply couldn’t get to Cardiff at the allotted time. Thankfully Presentable allowed him to audition alone in Manchester. And well that he did. I had the uncomfortable feeling throughout the audition that while both Neil and I are veterans of previous TV quiz campaigns, and so had no problem allowing what personalities we possess to come through, the fact was that we weren’t pulling any trees up with our answers. Gary on the other hand by all accounts played a blinder in Manchester. Whatever the case within a week or two of the audition we received the news that we were in.


Gary is Scottish, and both Lisa and I have celtic roots,Cornish in Lisa's case, and Scottish in mine, so we were quite happy to work out a team connection on this theme. Neil, though is not, and so what had always been a relatively nebulous team connection was evaporating before our eyes.
It was Neil who came up with the idea that we could say that we were all devoted fans of the radio, which would enable us to call ourselves The Radio – Heads. You see what he did there ?! Actually the production team liked the connection ( although Gary is not strictly speaking all that much of a radio fan ) but not the pun, and asked us to change the team name to the radio addicts. Neil has not and will not forgive them for this !

Our dressing room. Neil still thinks this should have said “The Radio Heads”

If you’ve ever seen it you’ll be aware that Only Connect is a great show, but it is a BBC Four show, and I’m presuming that it has a BBC Four budget. Therefore they run a fairly tight schedule for filming. Actually this is true of most quiz shows I’ve ever been involved in. This is why we were quickly informed that we would be recording our first round show on the Saturday, and if we won, then we’d also be recording our quarter final later on the same day. Now, I have actually recorded two shows in the same day once before, in Are You An Egghead, and I have to admit that I was surprised how tired I was when it got to the second show. Part of this was the fact that there was such a long time, hours in fact, between the recording of my two shows. This isn’t why I lost, though. I lost because my friend Anne Hegerty played better than I did. Still I did think that it would be something that we had to prepare for. If we won the first round.
As I said with the audition, every time I’ve been on a broadcast quiz before, its necessitated a long journey at some stage of the process. Only Connect is filmed in the HTV studios in Culverhouse Cross on the outskirts of Cardiff, which meant that I could easily drive in on the morning of the show. Neil and Gary, on the other hand, were staying overnight in the a hotel close to the studio. We had planned to all meet up in the hotel on the Friday evening to discuss tactics, and generally engage in a little team bonding. Well, that was the plan, but Gary couldn’t leave work until the end of the day, and what with hold ups and traffic jams was never going to arrive much before midnight. I still drove to the hotel on the Friday night, though, and Neil and I spend a really good evening talking quizzes , each of us , I think, enjoying the company of someone else who shared a similar obsession with quizzes and quizzing.

Quote of the day – on first sight of the HTV studios in Cardiff, Gary said "It would look rather out of place in Florence, wouldn’t it !"

Call time for us was at 12:00. High noon. We arrived about 11:30, and were met by Jenny. Jenny auditioned all of us, and had been in regular contact since . In fact even before we sent off our application Jenny had asked if I’d be prepared to put out a contestant call on LAM for the series. Apparently she is a regular reader, which makes her a lady of wit and discretion, and an all round good egg to boot. Joking aside, she is absolutely lovely, and went out of her way to make sure that we had a good day and a very enjoyable experience. She succeeded.

I believe that you gain several advantages from appearing on different TV quizzes. For one thing you learn that there is a certain level of , for want of a better word, ‘faffing about’ which is absolutely necessary to the smooth running of the show, but which does nothing to help your nerves in the build up to the recording. I’m referring to the running through of the rules and appeals procedures in the dressing room, wardrobe checks, make up and so on and so forth. I think it makes a real difference when you know that this is all going to have to happen, and so you can take it all a lot more in your stride. Actually I have to say that this was all done very briskly and efficiently with the minimum of fuss, and it didn’t seem like a long time until we were being taken through to the canteen for lunch. So far so good.

By this time we’d learned that our opponents for the first round were the Taxonomists. They were Carol Scott, Judy Vernau and captain Liz Scott- Wilson. We first met them in make-up ( dahhlliiinnnggg, I simply can’t appear in front of the cameras without a bit of slap on ) No, we didn’t really know what Taxonomists were either. If I understand correctly, they organise and sequence information for various bodies and organisations. I can’t say anything at all about team connections, after all we were called the Radio-Addicts, when our captain doesn’t even own a radio. I on the other hand own about 50 of them, so I do make up his share, but I digress.

We had a serious issue about selection to deal with at this stage. No, not of team members, but of clothing. You see, both Gary and I have lucky shirts, and both of us wanted to wear them for this first round match. Which everyone was quite happy about apart from Neil. Neil thought we should keep the power of one of them back for the second round. Ah – we pointed out – yes, that would be all well and good, but what if one shirt alone wasn’t lucky enough to get us through to the next round ? Suffice to say that both lucky shirts made it onto the show, and less powerful items of clothing were left on the subs’ bench.

So, to recap so far, everything that had so far happened during the day met with my approval. Another sign of a quality show was the fact that we were given a proper rehearsal before recording started. Any doubts anyone might have had about the quality of the Taxonomists was soon dispelled, and it was pretty clear that we were going to have a game on our hands. One of the things you’ll have noticed about this series is that the Greek letters used to differentiate between the questions, instead of calling them A – B etc. have disappeared. Apparently someone wrote in with a comment that the use of greek letters could not be more pretentious, and so the decision was made to disprove this by using the far more pretentious Egyptian hieroglyphs. It took hours learning those symbols, mind you. Eye of Horus – Water – Lion – Two Reeds – Poison Viper and Twisted Flax. I did comment when we first saw the list of symbols that I was sure that this was actually a list of the bands who played the 1980 Donnington Park Monsters of Rock festival in 1981. From what I was told by the team working on the show, this was probably the 4th time that day one of the teams had made a similar crack.

On a show like, for example, the Weakest Link or 15 to 1 you absolutely don’t want to be the first person to leave the show, and in a knockout series you really don’t want to lose in the first round . The Taxonomists were not totally lacking in quiz experience, since their captain,Liz, had been in the winning team in University Challenge in New Zealand. Still I don’t think there’s much argument that we had the advantage over them in terms of our respective TV CVs.. Neil has played in both Mastermind and Brain of Britain. Gary reached the semi finals in both Mastermind and Are You An Egghead. I myself have been luckier than I would ever have imagined having been in my time a quarter finalist in Are You An Egghead, Runner Up ( joint ) in Brain of Britain and Mastermind Champion. Reputations by themselves don’t win matches, though. In every series there has been at least one surprise package who have knocked out a fancied team in the first round, and we were fully aware that this could be us if we didn’t perform.

Note the anxious look on Neil’s face – was he still worrying about Gary and me both wearing our lucky shirts in the first round ?

I will admit that even as soon as the very next day after the recording I found it difficult to recall exact details of the show. So what follows are my impressions, what I do remember, backed up by watching the actual show on the iplayer.

Gary won the toss, and we elected to go first. Our first set was vampire killers, which we nearly managed to mess up when I gave Gary demon killers/exorcists. Given a second bite of the cherry by Victoria he zagged the right way, and we had a useful two points to begin our campaign with. The Taxonomists were unlucky to get a set which neither side quite managed , addresses of cartoon characters.We had agreed before he show that we honestly did NOT want a music connection. Well, that’s exactly what we got. Fortunately we solved it, recognising Memories from Cats, and a song by The Pussycat Dolls for another 2 points. Relief all round. To make up for that the Taxonomists had the picture set. They took all 4, but recognised that the Eiffel Tower, the Seattle Space Needle and the Crystal Palace were all built for International Expos. Then we had our real Egg On The Face Moment . We could see that our set were words with two different pronunciations, but the fact that the pronunciation depended on whether or not they started with a capital letter escaped us completely. It was small consolation that it also escaped the Taxonomists. Finally the Taxonomists identified a set of shellfish dishes for a point. So at least we led by 4 to 2 into the second round.

We took all three clues before I despairingly said that a series of American fluid measurements would be completed by 2 pints=1 quart. I honestly didn’t believe that it could be so obvious. But that was the clever thing about the set. It was only obvious if you took all of the clues. The Taxonomists were then given The Finest Connection Of The Show. Given a Spinning Top, The Coliseum, another Spinning Top, they didn’t get it. Mind you, neither did we. The answer, so blindingly obvious when Victoria spelled it out, was they were all featured in You’re The Tops, so would be followed by The Louvre Museum. We didn’t exactly cover ourselves with glory by failing to see a set of cricket deliveries in our next set. Well, it is true – I couldn’t tell a Yorker from a googly, I’m afraid. No bonus to the Taxonomists. They threw caution to the winds with the next set, and after two – Murray and Willis – they leapt in for Australian rivers, going for Swan, I think. I’d already told Gary that I was sure we were dealing with TUC leaders. Thank heaven he knew that Barber would come after Monks. So we took our first bonus of the show. Our last connection was a fairly gentle lob with Scottish islands of increasing area. Gary being Scottish knew Harris pretty quickly, and we were very grateful to take the two points on offer. A lovely connection finished the round for the Taxonomists, when they were given a series of numbers and worked out that they would make different consecutive numbers if you turned them up the other way. 2 points bagged thank you very much.

So at the end of round 2, which I will be honest I often find the hardest round of the show, we had a lead of 9 points to 4.

The rules of the show are that if you go first in rounds one and two, then you go second in the connecting wall. So we were given instructions on how to use the board, and then taken away to a holding area for a while, during which time the Taxonomists had their go at their wall. Until I watched the show last night I only knew how many points they had scored. As it was, they solved their wall impressively quickly, sorting out sets of words which can be followed by Great, collective nouns for birds, types of tanks and things which have striped. Captain Liz explained with some relish that barbers have a striped pole which symbolizes bloody bandages, since barbers also used to be surgeons !

I think I can reveal that we had a slight disagreement over team tactics at this stage. Neil’s point was that if you got the first two lines on the wall quickly, then you should deliberately not put the last two in quickly, to give you more thinking time about what the connection actually was . Actually, I could see the logic in what he was saying. You can solve the wall, and still not know what the connection on the last line really is. However my feeling was that you just haven’t got the time to mess around, and you need first and foremost to find the four lines, and I think that Gary agreed with me. Our turn on the wall came, and I think I should stress that at this stage you have no idea how well or otherwise your opposition have done. We unravelled the wall, knowing three of the lines, namely characters from Madame Butterfly, spin off TV series, and types of ink, but on the fourth even though Victoria gave us a couple of bites of the cherry, we could not identify characters from the Mortal Kombat video game.

After an age , we started the last round, and finally Victoria confirmed what we had suspected. The Taxonomists had done brilliantly on their wall, and solved the whole thing. So that meant that 3 points of our lead had disappeared, and only 2 remained. 16 to us and 14 to the Taxonomists. Peter the producer made a point of telling us all that there would be about 2 and a half minutes of time for the missing vowels round. More than enough to overturn that lead. Now, in the rehearsal we had comfortably outbuzzed the taxonomists on this part of the game. In the show itself though they revealed a hitherto unexpected show of speed, especially on a set of psychological terms. We started brightly enough taking three points on businesswomen, but on the psychological terms they completely outbuzzed us. I knew a couple, but just was far too slow. In fact, I only got one correct buzz in the whole round, seeing I geta Kick Out of You in the Cole Porter songs. Still, thankfully Neil and Gary were a lot more on the ball. We took three out of these.Also the Taxonomists were playing catchup, which did see them buzz incorrectly once. By the time the round ended I was fairly sure that we had done enough to win, but I was mightily relieved when Victoria confirmed it. 23 to 18. A close game.

I was particularly delighted for Neil. He’d been on quizzes a number of times, and this was his first ever win in a show. Looking back, I’d twice played in TV team quizzes before, in Eggheads and Come and Have a Go if You Think You’re Smart Enough, and had not won either, so this was something special for me as well.

One of the things that makes appearing on TV quiz shows so enjoyable is the cameraderie that tends to develop between the contestants. I’m so lucky to have made a number of friends through appearing on various shows with them. Neil and I , for example, first met when we contested the same first round heat of Mastermind in 2006. We had a chance to have a chat with the Taxonomists straight after the match, and very nice they were too, wishing us good luck in the second round. But that, as they say, is another story for another day . . .

Sunday, 19 September 2010

So You Think You're Too Serious About Quizzes ?

If you quiz at all regularly, and you start to get a tiny bit of success you do run the risk of having people think you take it all too seriously. But do you ? Wouldn’t it be great if there was a foolproof way of finding out whether you have passed beyond the boundary separating the merely serious from the totally obsessed ? Well, now there is a way ! The good people ( alright, me ) at LAM bring you our guaranteed , easy to use multiple choice personality test. These ten foolproof questions will tell you all you need to know about yourself as a quizzer. Ready ? Then lets go !

1) Which TV catchphrase best describes your usual performance in a quiz ? Is it : -
a) Didn’t he do well !
b) I’ve started so I’ll finish
c) You leave with nothing
d) Phone a friend

2) What do your friends say about your quizzing ? Do they say you are : -
a) A genius
b) A nerd
c) Sad
d) What friends ?

3) When you hear a question , and you don’t know the answer , do you :-
a) Give an answer, and deny you said it when its wrong
b) Guess
c) Pass
d) Pass water

4) When your team suggests you write down the answers one evening, how do you react ? Do you : -
a) Grab the pen off them before they change their mind
b) Modestly refuse, then change your mind before they change theirs
c) Cry off, pleading writer’s cramp
d) Cry off, pleading another sort of cramp

5) If your team has no answer to a question , and you overhear another team’s answer, do you : -
a) Pretend you didn’t hear it, since it wasn’t your team’s answer in the first place
b) Tell the team how you got the answer, and do what the majority want to do with it
c) Write it down guiltily
d) Ask the other team to repeat their answer

6) If another team beats you, how do you react ? Do you : -
a) Congratulate them
b) Make excuses
c) Sulk
d) We never get beaten, its just that some teams score more points than we do

7) How do you react when you hear a question master give an obviously wrong answer ? Do you : -
a) Grin and bear it, then vow never to return
b) Have a quiet word with him later, then vow never to return
c) Call him all the names under the sun
d) Call the Samaritans

8) What would you say is your weakest subject ? Is it : -
a) Nuclear Physics
b) Food and Drink
c) General Knowledge
d) Kylie Minogue

9) Who do you think you most resemble when you’re in a quiz ? Is it : -
a) Kevin Ashman
b) Kevin Keegan
c) Kevin Turvey
d) Kevin the Gerbil

10) If you became a Chaser on ITV’s The Chase, what would be your most appropriate Chaser nickname. Is it : -
a) The Terminator
b) The Master
c) Kylie Minogue
d) Tinky Winky

Well there it is. How did you do ? Oh, the scores ? Never mind about that. Simply from the fact that you have taken the quiz I can tell you that you do not take quizzes too seriously. If you did, then you’d be far too busy actually taking part in a quiz, or learning stuff for one, to be wasting your time with it. Congratulations !

Moral Victories - and Moral Defeats

Do you think that there is such a thing as a moral victory in a quiz ? If you do subscribe to that point of view, then I had both a moral victory , and conversely, also a moral defeat – or would that be an immoral victory ? – in the space of a few days during the last week.

Lets take that moral defeat first. Hard on the heels of last week’s CIU finals, I was quizzing again the very next day, on Monday evening. Yes, I do know that Monday night is University Challenge/ Only Connect night, but that’s what the iplayer is for. I had been invited to join a team for a quiz in Bridgend. The quiz itself consisted of 3 rounds of 20 general knowledge questions, together with a handout of photographs to be identified.

I’ve known David who compiled the quiz and asked the questions for a long time, so I was sure that it would be a good one, and I certainly wasn’t disappointed. The team I have joined are league players, newly promoted to the first division of the Bridgend League, and we certainly held our own on the questions. We didn’t win any of the three question rounds outright, though. The Bridgend League and cup champions beat us in both of the first rounds, and while I can’t remember the scores in the third, if we drew with them on that round we certainly didn’t score more than they did. We did well on the pictures though – no thanks to me, I might add – and the other team didn’t do so well. So much so that we were able to squeak home by a point.

Which brings me to my point about a moral defeat. The team were delighted – and I was happy for them too. But I have to be honest, I didn’t half feel for the team who had comfortably beaten us by several points on the GK questions – theirs was a moral victory in my opinion.

They do say that what goes around comes around. I’ve no idea who ‘they’ actually are, but they’re right, anyway. Nemesis was just around the corner for me, in the shape of last Thursday’s quiz in the rugby club. Alwyn was question master for the evening. Alwyn can boast a distinction which none of those of us who make up the other question masters in the rugby club can match. In 1989 he compiled, and published a quiz book. Its called The Movie Quiz Book, by Alwyn Rees, published by Alun Books , ISBN 0 907117 52 X Over 500 good questions squeezed into 47 pages – even in 1989 it was cheap at the price at £2.50. No, its not an achievement I am likely to try to match any time soon, but I am admiring and envious of him for doing it.

We took a lead which we carried through the first 4 rounds of the quiz. However there was no cause for relaxation. We were only a couple of points head of the Lemurs, a team consisting of my friend Rob from our CIU team. Then you have Terry. He is one of the 4 best quizzers amongst the regulars of this quiz, amongst whom I immodestly include myself. Then there are Gail and Claire who both cover areas of knowledge Rob and Terry don't, which makes the Lemurs a team who are even more than the sum of their considerable parts. And . . . they are really good at picture quizzes. So we knew that a lead wouldn’t be enough. When there are 6 teams there as there were on Thursday, there will be a 5 point gap between what the top scoring team gets for the pictures, and what the lowest scoring team gets for the pictures. The team who answers most pictures correctly gets 6, next best 5, and so on down, I’m sure that you get how it works. Begin realistic, we needed a lead of 5 points to guarantee at least a draw.

This looked unlikely when we went behind on the questions due to 2 bad rounds , 6 and 7. Then we played a blinder in the last round, and suddenly found that we had ended the questions with a 2 point lead. Frabjous day and all that. We’d won the questions. However the Lemurs easily overhauled us when the pictures were added on, and they won the whole quiz.

As I said, Monday night’s quiz was great fun, and I was delighted for the boys, but losing on the questions, then winning the quiz on the pictures didn’t really feel like a win. The most galling thing, though, is that on Thursday night, when we won the questions but lost the quiz on the pictures, that didn’t feel like a win either !


While we’re on the subject of Thursday night, I think its worth mentioning that Mary – referred to in some previous posts as Mrs. C. , Mrs. Londinius and, I’m ashamed to admit it , ‘Er Indoors – decided to accompany me to the quiz. I’m not saying that this has never happened before, but its so rare as to make it worth marking the occasion. Our middle daughter was moving away to University in Cardiff the next day, and as she explained – there will come a time in a couple of years when our youngest daughters – twins – may well be doing the same thing, and if I think she is sitting at home on a Thursday evening, then I’ve got another think coming. Fair enough.

Its ironic that we actually lost the quiz on the pictures, since Mary actually made a significant contribution to our effort on this handout. We were outscored by almost all the other teams, but that having been said I thought that we did better than is often the case, and Mary recognised many of them which the rest of us didn’t have a clue about. Hopefully this may offset her ambivalence about quizzes and quiz questions. So I shall be interested to see whether she comes again next week, and if she does then you can doubtless expect some future ruminations on the delights and drawbacks of conjugal quizzing. Can’t wait.

Friday, 17 September 2010

Mastermind - First Round - Heat 5/24

We’re still in the first batch of first round heats, so any score would get tonight’s runner up onto the repechage board. Still, it looks likely that scores in the high 20s at least will be needed to stay there. Tonight’s contenders were all, I would think, in the younger range of contenders for the current series. Whether this would count against them approaching the necessary kind of score to progress any further remained to be seen. Certainly it didn’t do Jesse Honey any harm last season.

We began, then, with Amy Macpherson. Amy’s specialist subject was simply given as sharks. Time was when subjects based on the living world were something of a Mastermind staple. My immediate thought as Amy announced her subject was that this seemed a potentially very wide subject. So I was delighted with myself that I managed to correctly answer 3 out of her first 5 questions, although I should, in the interests of honesty, admit that I only answered another two in the rest of her round. Amy herself did considerably better, and pushed her score to 12 by the end of the round.

Stephen Rooney followed. A number of football clubs have featured as specialist subjects in the past , including my own favourite team, Tottenham Hotspur. Tonight it was the turn of Leeds United, specifically the Don Revie era, the glory years of the club. Poor Stephen had a total mental block about the first question, which required him to name the manager of Leeds immediately before Don Revie took over. Precious seconds ticked away as he cudgelled his recalcitrant memory to yield up a fact which he knew that he knew. It wouldn’t come, and he had to pass. Then to add insult to injury John told him off for coming in with the answer to the second question before he had finished asking it. Under these circumstances, rescuing the round to finish in double figures was a commendable achievement, and Stephen finished with 10.

A good old Historical and Biographical subject followed, in the shape of Louis XIV of France, the specialist subject of Nick Spickernell. Nick actually gave the impression of going rather more quickly than he was, but he seemed headed for a creditable 13 or 14, until a couple of passes rather pulled him up in his tracks towards the end of the round. Again, 12 is a good score, and certainly meant that he was in contention with the two previous contenders.

Still, this did mean that a very good performance on specialist could propel Geoff Weller a long way towards the finishing line. His vehicle for achieving this was The Manic Street Preachers. The first question asked which welsh town the original 4 members all came from. I knew that it was Blackwood – its been asked in a few quizzes I’ve been to. I didn’t know many of the others, though. Geoff began like an express train, until question 7 stopped him in his tracks and he picked up his only pass of this round. Never mind, it was on with the next, and the score climbed steadily. The 10 point mark was passed, and then the 12 point mark, until finally he finished with 15. With long GK rounds a three point lead didn’t guarantee a win, but he looked the most likely winner at this stage.

Stephen returned to the chair first, and to be honest for the first minute or so of his round he still looked shell shocked by what had happened with his first specialist question. Then it suddenly clicked, and he was picking off answers, many of them good answers, left, right and centre. Then he seemed affected by the fatigue which has affected so many of the contenders this season in their last 30 seconds. Still, 11 points is by no means a negligible performance, and he finished on 21, allowing himself a wry smile as he took his seat again.
Amy got off to a decent start in her GK round, but this was something of a false dawn. She fell into a huge pass spiral in the middle of the round, and never really managed to extricate herself from its gravity. She finished with 19 points.
Nick , who had started the round with 12, like Amy, put on some quick points, and then got rather bogged down around the 20 point mark. Unhurried and unflustered he kept picking off a point here and a point there, and managed to push his round score to 13, and his total score to 25. At the very least he was guaranteed a position on the repechage board, at least for a couple of weeks if nothing else.

For Geoff Weller, 10 and less than 6 passes were needed to guarantee a win, and to be honest this is not a huge total to get from a long GK round. However for the first minute and a half it has to be said that he seemed to be making rather heavy weather of it. Stuck around the high teens, he seemed to discover an extra fuel tank moving into the last minute, and moved past the 25, and then added another couple of points for good measure. So well played, Geoff Weller, and congratulations on becoming a Mastermind semi finalist.

The Details

Amy Macpherson Sharks 12 – 1 7- 9 19 – 10
Stephen Rooney Leeds Utd. – The Don Revie Years 10 – 2 11 – 2 21 – 4
Nick Spickernell Louis XIV of France 12 – 2 13 –5 25 – 7
Geoff Weller The Manic Street Preachers 15 – 1 12 – 4 27 – 5

Current Highest Scoring Runners-Up

Anne Skillen - 30 -7
James Collenette - 29 - 2
Ian Packham - 27 – 7
Laura Humphreys 25 – 4
Nick Spickernell 25 – 7

Answers to those old quiz questions

OK – without further ado here’s the answers to the sets of questions from some of my recently acquired more venerable quiz books.

Set 1

1) Complete the following remarks, and say by whom they were first made : -
a) In England there are a hundred different ------- and only one --------
b) England is a nation of -------------------
c) The English winter, ending in ------------ To recommence in ---------
d) Oats. A grain , which in England is generally given to ------------ but in Scotland supports the -----------
e) What answer was actually given to statement d ?

a) In England there are a hundred different RELIGIONS and only one SAUCE ( MARCHESE CARACCIOLI, A NEOPOLITAN DIPLOMAT )
b) England is a nation of SHOPKEEPERS (NAPOLEON)
c) The English winter, ending in JULY To recommence in AUGUST (BYRON)
d) Oats. A grain , which in England is generally given to HORSES but in Scotland supports the –PEOPLE (JOHNSON’S DICTIONARY)
e) What answer was actually given to statement d ? (BUT WHERE ELSE WILL YOU FIND SUCH HORSES AND SUCH PEOPLE ?)

2) What seven varieties of brassica are commonly grown in English vegetable gardens
3) Nursery Rhymes : -
a) Who married the maiden all forlorn
b) How many miles to Babylon ?
c) What did we Willie Winkie cry through the lock ?

4) Of what metal are the alloys brass, bronze, mild steel , German silver and electrum made ?

5) Distinguish between chloroform, chlorophyll, chlorodyne, chlorobromide and chlorosis

Set 2

1) What is or was a Tyburn Ticket ?

2) If you happened to be on Ilkley Moor bar t’at, what might you find on stones having been carved there during the iron age ?

3) Who lived close to the Dropping Well ?

4) A building at Bowes, near Barnard Castle, was the inspiration for which institution in a Charles Dickens novel ?

5) Which Yorkshire town was known as The Merrie City ?

Set 3

1) An 18th century battle has given its name to a famous English building, a breed of dog, and a fruit. Which battle – which building – which breed of dog – which fruit ?

2) Which real places are supposed to b the originals of these fictional towns – Cranford – Casterbridge – Troy Town – Tamarisk Town ?

3) Who –

a) ate grass as the oxen ?
b) walked with God and was not ?
c) was hanged on the gallows he had prepared for another man ?


4) What things are named after : -
a) Angstrom
b) Doppler
c) Fehling
d) Torricelli
e) Wheatstone

5) What is gavial ?

Set 4

1) Who said – “Patriotism is not enough “
2) What is the correct meaning of ‘accolade’ ?
3) In the chanting of psalms, what are the divisions called ?
4) What has a borough got that an ordinary town has not ?
5) Buna is an artificial form of what ?

Thursday, 16 September 2010

Puzzle Questions from University Challenge - The First 40 Years

By popular demand here are the questions from the book's University Challenge Puzzle

1)Who in 1805 askd for the map to be rolled up ?
2) Who had his back to the wall in 1918 ?
3) Which dead language became official by a constitution of 1950 ?
4) Look to windward - wasn't that George III ?
5) Which Maths teacher was in his element ?
6) What steadies the stream's current ?
7) How do you measure where thy father lies ?
8) Another name for the fennecus zerda ?
9) What kind of record could be called a 78 ?
10) What borders I,W,C,A and N, touching NM at the SE ?
11) Daphne ? Don't lets ask

The eleven answer give you what you need to solve the puzzle. If you missed the comments where these werebrought up, we have some of the answers, but nothing like enough of them. Likewise, if you know whether the winner was actually announced on the show in years gone by, we'd love to know.

Wednesday, 15 September 2010

TV Watch - Only Connect

Round One – Match Two – Wrights v. Urban Walkers

Well, Monday’s teams, the Wrights and the Urban Walkers were going to have to serve up something special to match up to last week’s extravaganza. The Wrights were, well, the Wright family. As far as I know, they are the first purely family team to feature on the show, although I stand ready to be corrected. They are dad Pete, daughter Rosa, and captain Liz. Their opponents, the Urban Walkers , were Alastair Dawney, Edmund Kirby, and captain Edward Page. The name of the team is taken from their shared love of taking long walks through European cities. Actually, that sounds pretty damn enjoyable to me, and I have to say captain Ed endeared himself to me by saying that a 2 day walk from Upminster to Heathrow was his favourite. Maybe its because I’m a Londoner. Well, I was.

Round One – What’s the Connection ?

Victoria confidently asserted that nobody was going to get a 5 pointer from just one clue. Well, perhaps not. The Wrights started with horned viper, and were offered Block and Quayle. Of all tonight’s clues , perhaps this one was the best chance of a 5 pointer. No ? Well the second was Clemens and August. Funnily enough I might have known it from Block and Quayle,but not from Clemens and August. Hennes and Mauritz gave it to the Wrights, who offered names abbreviated to make names of stores, which was close enough considering that companies instead of stores was the answer. Confident start. Urban Walkers liked the look of twisted flax, and were offered photon, white corners, and pH7. I wouldn’t have got it before pH7, but the Walkers wanted to be sure, and took the last clue Switzerland before offering neutral things, the correct answer. Why didn’t I know that the white corner is the neutral corner in a boxing match ? I love boxing. Just thick, I suppose.

Liz Wright opted for eye of Horus. George Wallace, Millard Fillmore certainly spoke of US presidential elections, and the third, Ralph Nader gave them a good inkling. Ross Perot gave them the answer – third party candidates in US elections. The pictures awaited the Walkers under the lion. Buffalo, moose, and a samurai led them to think of secret societies. Sadly not. Given the last clue, a sheep, the Wrights took a wild stab at cities. Actually all of them were words that don’t gain a letter s in the plural. Yeah, obvious when you know it, but you try thinking of it in a studio when you’re under pressure ! The Wrights asked for Lou Reed – sorry, two reeds, and were given the music connection. Alright, I’m bragging here, but this one might well have brought me a five pointer if I’d had the guts. I recognised Pictures at An Exhibition, which would give you either paintings, or exhibition, and lets be honest, it had to be paintings. Brian and Michael’s Matchstick Men etc. followed to confirm this. The Wrights, playing safety first, took Mona Lisa and then Don Maclean’s Vincent to be sure. Lovely connection that. To finish the round the Walkers took water, and were given kiss=lips, barmaid=carnage, rejection=selection and finally book=cool. Just about the same time it dawned on Edmund Kirby, I figured out we were dealing with mobile phone texting. Good shout that. Both words in each set would be spelled out with the same number sequences. At this stage the Wrights, playing a little safe but making sure of their points, which is always a good tactic, led by 4 to 2.

Round Two – What Comes Fourth ?

The Wrights began with Grosvenor, then Chelsea. – Looks like London – I thought – but what ? Albert came third, and Chelsea followed by Albert normally means bridges of the Thames. The Wrights figured this out, but went the wrong way, giving Vauxhall. Walkers tried Kew, but the answer wanted was Battersea. Full marks to the question setter there – you really need to know your bridges to have heard of the Grosvenor Bridge, and I’m ashamed to say I obviously don’t know my bridges as well as I thought I did. I had Battersea, though. The Eye of Horus gave the Walkers Cover 174 feet, and roll over the boundary. This was one of those clues where you can figure out the ballpark quickly, but if you’re not careful you can go the wrong way. The poor old Walkers figured it was ways of scoring runs in cricket, but went down instead of up, and so offered a single. When the Wrights were shown Hit a Helmet on the field, then they knew we had three, 4, 5 runs, and so gave Hit a 6, which was enough for the point. They then went for the lion. When the first clue was Holy, Rosa quite correctly answered that it could be absolutely anything, and so they took the next – Spy. For all I know there might well have been many people shouting the answer at the telly by this point, but I wasn’t one of them. Like the Wrights, though, Maundy was enough to make me plump for Good, that being the last day of Holy Week.

The Walkers plumped for Twisted Flax. Generations and first Contact got them to arrive quickly at the connection – Star Trek films. Ah, but we were in the middle of the whole sequence here. Which would come 4th of this group ? The Walkers took the third clue – Insurrection, and then offered Star Trek – the most recent film. Again, right connection, but wrong answer. The Wrights are probably not great fans of the Trek, and took a speculative punt at The Wrath of Khan. Nemesis was the correct answer. The Wrights plumped for Water, and figured out the Lawrence Olivier, Peter Hall, and Richard Eyre were consecutive directors of the National Theatre. So far so good. But they offered Kevin Spacey, who Victoria rightly said was director of the Old Vic. The Walkers offered , well, they were honest enough to admit that they didn’t know. The last was Trevor Nunn. Last sequence was two reeds, a set of pictures. The Walkers were shown pictures of Madagascar, Borneo, at which point they were thinking largest islands, then Papua New Guinea. Right connection again. Their answer, Australia, fell into a familiar quiz mineshaft – for Australia is counted as a continental landmass, rather than an island. The Wrights lived up to their name again, correctly giving Greenland as the next largest, in fact the largest of all. So at the end of the round the Wrights were looking comfortable on 8 to the Walkers’ 2 points.

Round Three – The Connecting Walls

The Walkers now went first, and they picked the Lion Wall. Daisy, Donald, Louie and Dewey gave them a set of Disney ducks. At the death they unravelled the last sets. Westwood, McCartney, Guinness and Hemingway gave them British fashion designers. Magic, Vicious, Dress and Crop they could see could all be followed by the word Circle. Pique, rose, expose and lame eluded them, and I’m not surprised. They are all words which change meaning if you put an accent on the last letter e. Yes, I could see it too once it was pointed out, and no, I wouldn’t have got it , I’m afraid. Still, 7 points meant the Wrights needed to do well on the water wall to maintain anything like a comfortable lead. They found a collection of words meaning credit, and areas of New York city, but their three attempts at the others came and went before the grid froze. With the wall resolved the last two sets were cheese, mint , bread and buffalo, which they failed to see were sauces. Tricky that. The last set was Fairy, Gold , Angel and Chalk, and Liz quickly spotted these could all be followed by the word dust. So the Walkers took the honours for the wall round, but the Wrights still led by 13 to 9.

Round Four – Missing Vowels

We saw last week that there can be absolutely oodles of points – or should that be dlsf pnts ? – on offer in the final round, so to that extent it was anybody’s game at this stage. The first set was Hairstyles. Early indications were that the Wrights were going to do very well, as they took this set 4 – 0. Phil Spector songs fell to the Walkers though. They then took Ivy League Universities 3 –1. Fightback underway ? Looked like it. Parts of an insect saw the Wrights reassert their authority with a 4 – 0 shut out. Ball games followed , and in this see saw round the Walkers took it 3 –1. But that was it. In the end the Wrights maintained and even stretched their lead a little, and ran out winners by 23 – 18. Well played Urban Walkers, but congratulations to The Wrights, who take the second place in the second round.

Next week’s post won’t be a late review again, I promise. In fact, it won’t be a review at all. My team, the Radio Addicts, are playing, and so I’m afraid the best that I can offer you is my account of the show.

Tuesday, 14 September 2010

TV Watch - University Challenge

University Challenge – Round One – Heat 11 – Durham University v. Magdalen, Oxford

A heavyweight bout looked very much on the cards when JP began the show by announcing that both teams represent institutions that have been champions in the past. Representing Durham were Lisa McGough, Roger Fox, Matthew Griffiths, and captain Matt Hann. I must just pay tribute to Matthew Griffiths research subject of “Poetry and Climate Change “, my favourite since “Weird Fiction “ of 2008.
“Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day ?
Bloody global warming !”
As for Magdalen, they were represented by James McComish, Kyle Haddad-Fonda, Will Cudmore and captain Matthew Chan. What, no sarky comments here Dave ? No, we’ve no time. It was that kind of show. Lets go.

First blood to Durham, who recognised a flattering comparison of John Falstaff to Achilles and other heroes. Two out of three bonuses were taken on the philosophy of Art. Then began part one of The Magdalen Show. I say this not in any mean spirited way, but mainly out of a sense of awe at a very, very fine team performance. Will Cudmore took his first of many starters by identifying a series of popes as being members of the Medici family. 2 bonuses were taken on political poets. Magdalen were exceptionally good on the buzzer all night, but Will Cudmore came in a little too early on the next, and lost 5 points by failing to identify that the man who crashed into the mirror was demonstrating roller skates ( see below ). No huge harm done, as Durham couldn’t take advantage and the next starter fell to Magdalen. In fact many of the next starters fell to Magdalen. To pick out a few, Will Cudmore was fearsomely quick on the first picture starter, buzzing in to identify the city crest of Florence within nanoseconds of its appearance. When James McComish explained that JPL stands for Jet Propulsion Laboratories, a set of bonuses on our old friend Anglish appeared. I first met Anglish in the last series – basically it’s the attempt to replace English words of Latin or French origin with words with an Anglo Saxon origin. Apparently first stuff is Anglish for element. It’ll never catch on. Matthew Griffiths took his and his team’s second starter right on the 10 minute mark when he identified Paul Dirac as the British physicist who shared the Nobel prize with Schroedinger. Whether he shared the cat as well was not gone into. At ten minutes Magdalen lead by 105 to 35.

If you hear the words –Spanish city and bombed – chances are Guernica is the one you’re being asked about Kyle Haddad-Fonda certainly thought so, and it brought him a starter. I’ve watched the show a couple of times, and it’s very hard to single out 1 star from this Magdalen outfit. Captain Matthew Chan was very well served by his team, as McComish, Haddad-Fonda and Cudmore were all very big hitters in the show – and if that doesn’t fill opposing teams with dread, then it should, since even if one of them has an off night, the chances of all of them doing so is mighty slim. Still, while we’re paying tribute to big hitters, lets spare a thought for Matthew Griffiths. He used exactly the right tactics all match, trying to take the sting out of the Magdalen buzzer work by buzzing even on a half asked question. He was unlucky to identify a quote as coming from Beowulf, only for the second half of the question to swerve away into asking for the name of the monster Grendel, which of course he would have known.

Magdalen ploughed on. Another thing which really impressed me was a bonus conversion rate which seemed to me to be very high. When Mr. Haddad-Fonda correctly identified a definition of the Coriolis effect, it pushed Magdalen through the 200 barrier , when we hadn’t yet even reached the 17 minute mark. Their pace was so ferocious that it almost came as a relief when neither team really fancied the highest prime factor of 2010. At last Durham managed to nose their way back in when Lisa McGough identified a form of ancient shorthand. At the 20 minute mark, though, it was 260 to 60.

The highpoint of Durham’s evening came when Matthew Griffiths identified the second picture starter which showed both Jack Nicholson and Heath Ledger playing The Joker. This was followed by three sets of photos showing different actors playing Hannibal Lecter, Spock and Kirk, and Darth Vader/Anikin Skywalker. Mr. Griffiths had the lot, a fact which impressed even cynical JP. Captain Matt Hann took the next, knowing that the word squirrel comes from the greek for shade tail. Alright, the match was already over as a contest, and Durham were unlikely to get close to a repechage spot, but when they were given a chance at the bonuses you could see that they are actually a useful outfit, just very unlucky to come up against a team as good as Magdalen. Only complex mathematical or arithmetical questions seemed to present them with any problems at all, and the way that they make rapid accumulation of points seem a simple business should ring alarm bells to most of the other teams left in the competition. At the bell they had amassed a whopping 340 to Durham’s 120. Yes, it’s true, there is only so much you can read into a first round performance. But Magdalen, I have to say, at times you were breathtaking. Highly impressive stuff.

Jeremy Paxman Watch

I think that JP must have been feeling the pace in this show. He belted through the questions, and he needed to since Magdalen were giving him no rest at all. In fact the only mildly amusing JP moment I noticed at all was the way in which , despite both teams referring to the pop group Muse, when JP said their name it sounded an awful lot like “Moos”.

Interesting Fact That I Didn’t Already Know Of The Week

The man who gave the first public demonstration of roller skates could not in fact change direction, and went headlong into a mirror.

PS - I haven't forgotten Only Connect - very busy tonight, but will post review tomorrow

Monday, 13 September 2010

The CIU Finals and a Gent and a Scholar

Well, its that time of year again. One of the first couple of Sundays in September always sees the lucky 16 qualifying teams trek to Derby to compete in the national CIU finals. You may possibly recall me saying that its one of my great unfulfilled ambitions to one day, just once, have a huge amount of luck on the day and actually win the whole thing. So, how did we get on this year ?

Well, we’d qualified back in June in fine form, winning the welsh and west regional heat from our friends in the Maesglas A team from Newport, bereft of the services of your very own Chaser Mark Labbett as they were. Maesglas have a fine tradition in the competition, having won it at least three times since I’ve been playing. However, this is not to imply that they were the only strong contenders there. Last year’s winners, Radford Social from Coventry had no intention of relinquishing their title without a tussle, and two fine teams from Ashford Road in Swindon looked likely to have more than a little to say about the destination of the trophy.

Right then, lets make no excuses for what happened. You know that some times in a quiz everything runs for you, you have all the rub of the green, all your guesses come off, and you feel invincible ? We had such a night when we played in the welsh final. I’m afraid that we didn’t have such a day yesterday. Nobody’s fault, we just didn’t know a lot of the answers, and many of our guesses were, to be honest, a bit pants. Which was a shame, because it was an exciting quiz for the neutral observer, I should think, and it’s a shame we couldn’t force our way into the leading pack.

The leaders, for instance, managed a full ten out of ten in the first round. We just didn’t know , for example , which hit from the 60’s mentions both Norman Mailer and Tommy Cooper. In case you don’t, its Give Peace a Chance. If you’ve ever played in the CIU quizzes, you’ll know that one of the rounds consists of a list. You’ll be asked for a list of ten things. Everything you put on the list which is correct earns you half a point, and everything you put on the list that is incorrect loses you half a point. So theoretically you could earn up to 5 points, or lose up to five points. Last year we were asked for the most popular pub names in Britain. We lost a half a point or gained a half a point, I can’t remember which. This year we were asked for the ten countries with the biggest populations, which also have some red on their national flag. Thanks to Sporcle, I know all the flags. Trouble is I don’t know the biggest populations. Well, not all of them. We put 8 answers down, and one, Turkey I think, was wrong. Not bad, but not enough to make any ground on the leaders.

We rallied slightly in the film and TV round, and at this point, the high water mark of our challenge, we were about 2 points behind top spot. That was it though. I’m afraid the picture handout saw us out with the washing again. Still, going into the last round, it was at least very tight at the top, with only a point or so separating leaders Maesglas and Gosforth Empire from Radford Road and Ashford Road A. For the very last question, you get given up to five clues to a mystery personality. Brilliant Maesglas A took just the first clue for the full five points, correctly identifying that if I was born in Bedford in 1960, yet brought up in Wales, then that makes me Carol Vorderman. In the end, they ran out winners, with daylight between them and my friends from Coventry in runners up spot. Third on the podium were Ashford Road A. My commiserations go out to Gosforth Empire, joint leaders going into the last round, but losing third place on a tie break. Very bad luck that. Congratulations to Gordon, Trevor, Richie and Colin of Maesglas for a fantastic win, and a brilliant performance.
Oh, us ? 5th place, and lucky to get that. Still, there was a silver lining. We won a prize for top scoring on the TV and Film round out of all the non podium teams, a handsome gesture which paid for the day for us.

The CIU is a great event. Yes, I have already told you that I’d love to win it, and I would, I dearly would. But it’s a great event to play anyway, and I’ll keep coming back just as long as we can keep qualifying. Congratulations to Chris Brewis and the team for putting together a fine event again.


Speaking of the team, I must make a mention for regular LAM reader Dave Cornish. Dave sets the questions for the CIU regionals and the finals. As far as I know we had never met before yesterday. Before the start of the quiz yesterday I was surprised and delighted when a man approached me, and handed me a package, bearing the words "Life After Mastermind" and the instructions "NOT to be opened until after the quiz ".
– Hello - I thought - I know I’ve upset a couple of people in the past with the blog, but surely letter bombing me is a bit drastic. –

Of course it was nothing of the sort. When I spoke to the gentleman in question he introduced himself as none other than Dave Cornish himself. Back in March I wrote about buying a copy of his enjoyable and well written "How To Run A Quiz " from a car boot sale. Oh, I’m blushing even to think of it. I’m sorry Dave, I’m really sorry. It should be in all good bookshops, and should only be bought from there. Well , to cut a long story short, when I opened the package after the quiz, inside it was a copy of one of Dave’s other books, namely "How To Win A Quiz ", with a very nice little letter and inscription. What a lovely guy. To be honest, if you saw our performance yesterday you’d say that we were in dire need of all the help and advice we could get. However, Dave wasn’t to know that when he gave me the package.

Dave, it was a terrific quiz yesterday, and great fun, even though we were never really up with leaders ourselves. Dave knows how much I love quiz books, so I’m really going to enjoy working through "How To Win Quizzes" – watch this space for a review ! In the meantime, I send you a virtual bouquet, and many, many thanks. It was really lovely to meet you, and thanks for a great quiz yesterday.