First to go on Monday was Geoffrey Birmingham. I don’t know if it was just nerves, but the fact that he didn’t know that Marco Polo and Vivaldi et al were citizens of Venice for his first question didn’t fill me with great hopes for his chances. Beverley Davies took that one, but fared no better on her own first question. The heaf test did for her, and it was Peter King who knew it. This brought up his own first question, He took one, but didn’t know that the great Sir Stephen Fry ( alright, he's not actually Sir yet, but surely it’s only a matter of time ) attended Uppingham School. Hated it as I recall. Richard Peterson took that one. He got off the mark, but didn’t know that Jimmy Wales was the founder of Wikipedia. I thought it would be nice if Geoffrey took this one to ensure that everyone was off the mark, and so he did. So with all contenders missing gettable questions it looked as if we might be in for a close contest.
There was no break for the Beat the Brains until after round four. Geoffrey didn’t score through rounds 2 and 3. In fact nobody got one of their own questions right in the whole of round two. Beverly knew that Diaghilev was the director of the itinerant Ballet Russe, and Peter knew that Dickens was describing Kent as a place of cherries and hops – and beautiful young women. In round three we saw Peter begin to make an early bid for the win. He took his own point, and a couple of bonuses, and was probabaly unlucky to get a bit of a snorter about the poet known as the Swan of Usk. Henry Vaughan, since you ask, and no, me neither. Richard too took one of his own, but Peter had daylight, and led with 6 to Richard’s 4. At the start of round four Geoffrey managed to drag himself up by his bootstraps, and took his first two. Beverly took another point from her own first question, but nobody knew her second, that the ball in a game of bar skittles is actually called the cheese. Nobody knew Peter’s first question, that the real life highwayman who was said to be the inspiration for Macheath in the Beggar’s Opera was Jack Shepherd. Who went on to play Wycliffe unless I’m much mistaken. This round saw Peter extend his score to 7, but Richard had closed up to 6. It looked unlikely at this stage that Geoffrey or Beverley would be able to bridge the widening gap.
Credit where it’s due, the brains unscrambled the listener’s questions expertly. The first was - which British politician brought good cheer to a remote part of Scotland in 1941 ? They knew almost at once that we were dealing with S.S.Politician – the wrecked ship that was the real life inspiration for the story and the great Ealing comedy Whiskey Galore. The second question was - which two well known writers supposedly died on the same die in 1616 – why did they not ? Cervantes and Shakespeare died on the same date – but the difference was that between the Julian calendar in England and Gregorian calendar in Spain. Good questions, good answers.
Round 5, and Geoffrey now began to make his move. Two answers on the bounce followed, but again he showed his vulnerability by not knowing that The Moon and Sixpence was the Somerset Maugham book about the artist based on Gauguin. Actually this round was the high water mark for Geoffrey really. He took another two bonuses, which put him level with Richard, and actually ahead of Peter, joint leader of the competition now. On balance you just felt deep down that either Richard or Peter would have too much gas in the tank for him – still, a lucky set of five, and anything could happen.
The first thing that happened was that Peter hit back with two of his own, and a bonus to go ahead of Richard, who only managed one himself. Geoffrey had stalled again. Nobody knew that the Great Wen – used to describe London in days gone by – means a great wart. Again, I was a little surprised that nobody knew the Sunda Strait either. I place a mental bet with myself that we were in for 9 rounds rather than 8 , and I wasn’t to be disappointed. Round Seven was to bring the decisive moments of the contest. Peter picked up bonuses on Geoffrey’s first question , about Elvira Madigan, and Beverley’s first about Manitoba, and looked to be going great guns. Guns which were spiked by his own first, as he didn’t know that the 999 call was first used in the UK in the 30s. Then Richard weighed in with the only full set of the whole competition. They weren’t gimmes, but they were all gettable. Still, a number of gettable ones had been going begging throughout the show, so full marks for holding nerve, and seeing the set out. Suddenly a gap which had never been wider than 2 points was now up to 5, with Richard holding a winning 16 to Peter’s 11. With two rounds still to go, though, Peter could force himself onto the repechage board.
Without wishing to draw things out, Peter couldn’t manage to add to his score. Richard went on collecting the odd point here and there, to finish with a very healthy 19. Geoffrey managed a couple more during round 8, but even though he finished with the psychologically important double figures, it wasn’t quite enough for second. Well, I’ll be honest, I know we’ve still a couple of heats to go, but I certainly wouldn’t like to predict who is going to win this series.
Geoffrey Birmingham – 10
Beverley Davies – 5
Peter King – 11
Richard Peterson - 19