Round Two / Quarter Final
I’m sorry if this shatters anyone’s illusions, but despite every on screen indication that there’s a decent length of time between the recording of the various rounds, in our case the interval between recording our first round, and our second round shows was all told about an hour.
Now, I need to make a little digression here. Before the start of the first round match Neil had made a point about the fact that both Gary and I had elected to wear our lucky quizzing shirts for the first round match. I say lucky quizzing shirt, although the fact is that I had only ever worn my pink lucky shirt on 3 previous occasions. I bought it for the Mastermind Final, hoping desperately that the production team would reject it, since it was actually a wee bit too small for me then. They much preferred it to my other options, and so I was forced to go with it. Then I won the final, and so , as I thought at the time, I gladly retired the shirt from active service after one wearing. Then I was invited to audition for “Are You An Egghead ?”, and when I was offered a place in the first round, I couldn’t resist seeing if the shirt could work its magic for a second time. It could, and it did. So then when the Mastermind Champions series came round, there was only really one option for me. I wore the shirt. It didn’t bring me a win, but what it did do was enable me to get my best ever performance in a specialist subject, and the highest of all the runner up scores, which saw me invited to the final as a stand in. Gary’s lucky shirt has similar provenance and powers. Anyone who’s ever been on a TV series which has involved more than one appearance will know that TV companies insist upon you wearing a different top for each subsequent appearance. Neil’s point was that once we’d both worn our lucky shirts, then they were out of the series, and wasn’t it a bit wasteful to use two of them on the same show ? My feeling was that if you don’t get through the first round it makes no difference whether your lucky shirt is waiting to be used in the next round or not. Still, the fact was that we now had a second round match starting within the hour, and both Gary and I had played our lucky shirt cards. Neil didn’t have a lucky shirt. Maybe the top he wore for the first round will now be the lucky top.
Official team Photo - A Lucky-Shirt-Free Zone
After we had been given a bite to eat, changed our tops, and been touched up – sadly only our make up – we met the opposing team in the holding area outside the studio. They were the Britpoppers, - William Higham, Chris Roberts, and skipper Andy Ross - three friends who had all been involved in the music business in one form or another. I didn’t recognise any of them, so once again we were up against an unknown quantity. One thing I did know about them was that they had won a first round match, so had to be taken seriously. They did mention that they had done pretty well in every round apart from the wall, which they found particularly galling since they always did well on the wall when watching at home.
Gary lost the toss, which left us to go second. While we were waiting , Andy the skipper made the same crack I made in the previous round about the names of the hieroglyphs sounding like 70s Heavy Metal bands. Great minds think alike. Off we went.
The ‘Poppers found the music connection , and guessed correctly that the Prague Symphony, An American in Paris, and Vienna by Ultravox were all connected by European capital cities. We were all flummoxed by Rachael Stevens, Newfoundland Dog, Joseph Stalin and Donald Duck. All were born with webbed feet. The next one passed us both by as well, when Coade stone – Damascus Steel – Greek Fire and Egyptian Pyramids were revealed. The answer was that the method for making all of them have been lost. Gary leapt in with our first points with our second connection. Faced with Narrative – Open and Industrial Disease he knew without question that these were all verdicts which can be recorded in a Coroner’s Inquest. A chance to take the lead was presented to us when the Poppers were presented with a set of stamps. They plumped for stamps from countries which have held the world cup, but the clue really was the last one, a very famous stamp with an airplane printed upside down on it. Bonus gratefully accepted. Egg on Face Moment Number 1 occurred when we were presented with Shogi =30, Go =361 , Reversi = 4. We knew it was board games, but plumped for tiles, or some other such nonsense. Given Draughts = 7 the Poppers couldn’t get it, but far too late I knew it was possible opening moves in those games. Oh well. The connections did seem a little tougher than they had in our first round heat. We were still playing a bit cautiously, but happy to take the points on offer, and had a very small lead at the end of the round.
In round two our wheels came off a bit, and I have to say that it was my fault. Firstly though, the Poppers took a good set, getting a picture of a Starling, then Marty Feldman who was staring. Working out a letter off each time, that would give either Sting or Tring. Good set. We were offered a sequence starting with Patroclus. Gary, mentioned Harry Potter, but that was a patronus. I knew that it was the Trojan War. The next clue gave us Hector. I explained that Hector killed Patroclus, so Achilles killed Hector, and the last in the list would be Paris. We played cautious , and took the next clue, which was indeed Achilles. Good sequence, but a point dropped we could have had. The Poppers had a nice set on adjectives working their way around the compass – so if you start with Boreal, you end with occidental. Right – Egg On Face Moment 2. Bearing in mind that we could have had more points on the previous set, on the next sequence – Alexandra of Denmark – Mary of Teck, I dived in , and thinking that these were the wives of successive kings, which they were, I predicted next would be Wallis Simpson, and the last Elizabeth Bowes Lyon. Wrong ! The last clue was given to the Britpoppers – Lady Diana Spencer, and it became clear to me. Too late. The last answer would have been Camilla Parker-Bowles, since they were a sequence of wives of the Prince of Wales. The Britpoppers were a little profligate, failing to get this one.On the next they didn’t get Googolplex – Google – 100. Now , I know that its all to do with the number of noughts. There are a google noughts in a googleplex, and a hundred in a google. So there are 2 in 100. Know it now - but didn’t know it then. Neither did anyone else. Our last set passed both teams by as well – Granule – sand – silt – saw us offer mud , but that’s not the same thing as clay unfortunately. So, having seen a 3 – 1 lead become a 6 – 5 deficit we had some serious thinking to do going into the wall now.
Cometh the hour, cometh the man. We went first on the wall, and solved two lines. Pollux, Vega, Betelgeuse and Altair gave us stars, while Martin Bell, Tony Manero, Marty Hopkirk and Stanley Stratton were all men in white suits – as opposed to men in white coats.However time was running out, and we didn’t have a clue about the last two. Acting on my advice to hit and hope, Gary did just that, and lo and behold, he was right ! Given the half a minute or so it took to explain the first two lines was enough time to figure out the last two. I was particularly proud of the fact that I earned Victoria’s approval for noticing that one of the clues – Mark twain – did not have a capital letter, and therefore must refer to the call from the Mississippi riverboats from which Samuel Clemens took his pen name. We identified Number – 10 – Tense and Pitch as all things which can follow the word Perfect, and then Mark twain – 365.76 cm – 4yds and snooker table as all being equivalent to 12 feet. Well, with the kind of luck we’d otherwise have associated with the last round’s lucky shirts, we took a maximum of ten. So whatever happened, we could only be a maximum of one point behind going into the last round.
During our wait in the holding area, Jenny told us that the Britpoppers thought that we were awesome. I really don’t know if she was just being nice - to be fair we’d hardly done much to justify that opinion. I was fairly relaxed and not exactly confident, but I felt very happy that we’d managed to score a maximum on at least one of our walls. I was also happy that I felt good and alert, and the adrenaline was starting to flow.
Back in the studio nobody was giving anything away about how well they’d done on the wall. You just don’t know until the scores are announced. Peter the producer came in and told us that we had 90 seconds only for the missing vowels round. We had gone close to the wire time wise, but the evidence was that the Britpoppers had done so as well. When Victoria announced the scores, though, I had to suppress a gasp. From being one point behind, we had gone to being 6 points in the lead. The Britpoppers must have had an absolute ‘mare of a wall was all we could surmise. I’ve watched the show since, and I must admit I do think we probably had the easier of the two walls, but they did struggle. They unravelled Elton John songs in the shape of Passengers – Nikita – Blue Eyes ( a personal favourite ) and The One, but that was it when the other lines were revealed they could see that Stalk – Skewer – Petrol – Miner are all the names of birds when spelled differently. However they failed to see that Blood – Tyre – Iron and Shotgun can all be pumped. Tricky that one, certainly. Finally they didn’t get that Sacrifice – Pin – Fork and Discovered Attack are all chess tactics.
Believe me, you are under pressure doing the walls, and I certainly felt for the Poppers watching the show back. Well, that time for sympathy would come later. First there was a crucial missing vowels round to contend with. I had not been very happy with my performance, or rather lack of it, during our previous missing vowels round. This time I wanted to be a little more use to the team. Concentrating fiercely, as soon as Victoria announced the category “International Stock Exchange Share Indices “ or something like, immediately I ran through a few in my mind – Hang Seng – Nikkei – etc. First one was Hang Seng. Bang, thank you very much. Gary had Nikkei. The skipper of the Britpoppers was unlucky to just fail on Dow Jones Industrial Average, and nether team got the third. Then we had nicknames of Kings. Silly Billy – bang, and I had already done twice as well as in the first show. Farmer George followed to us, and then Andy took one back for Brandy Nan. Good shout that. When we moved on to things MPs had claimed expenses for I was delighted to get Adult Films and Duck Island. To cut a long story short we had a very good round, and the Britpoppers, who were in the position of having to play catch up, found our buzzer form too hot. The Final score may have been 24 – 8, but believe me it felt a lot tougher than that score suggests to you.
The only previous time I had played in two shows in one day was in “Are You An Egghead ?” That day I’d had mixed fortunes winning the first match, but losing the ensuing quarter final. As I drove off from the HTV studios to pick up my daughter from her work, I couldn’t help reflecting that I had twice played before in semi finals, in Mastermind and Brain of Britain. The thing which made being in the semis of “Only Connect “ even better was that for this series, if you got to the semis, then you were going to be there to the end. We had already been informed that, as had happened in series 2, there would be a play off for third place. So we were guaranteed two more shows. We didn’t really have time to chat to the Britpoppers after the show. I think that they’d probably had to film two shows on the same day as well, and although a great day, it had been a long one. But they were all nice guys, and good players- it was a pleasure to meet them.