Saturday, 7 June 2014

Pass me my Helmet of Invisibility

If you should be just embarking upon your quiz odyssey, or dipping your toe into the murky waters of quizdom before taking the plunge in at the deep end, then I should perhaps warn you that while quizzing can bring you great pleasure, it can also bring you more than your fair share of frustration. I have written along these particular lines in the past. Allow me to explain.

I wasn’t sure whether I was going to go to Newport last Monday night. Barry and John weren’t available which meant ¾ of an hour there and ¾ of an hour back driving all on my Jack Jones, and we knew that Trevor wasn’t going to be doing the quiz. But what the hell, I went for it. Brian, who did the quiz, is a very nice guy, and you can’t say that the quiz he produced on Monday night wasn’t a good quiz, because it was. Alright, we went out with the washing in the last round which didn’t suit us, but there you go, you can’t win ‘em all. As I said, a good quiz, and an enjoyable evening. So why did I go home with a face like a smacked bum, which delightful expression never changed once until I’d fed the cats and got into bed? Well, it all came down to one question in the last round.

Who was the owner of the Helmet of Invisibility in Greek Mythology?

I’ve written before about the dangers of being a self-declared authority on a given subject. Perseus was immediately thrown on the table. I confidently shot this down in flames saying, yes, Perseus definitely used the Helmet – or cap – of Invisibility, but he was lent it by Athena, who in turn had borrowed it from Hades. So, bearing in mind that the question had asked who ‘owned’ the helmet, I insisted we put Hades down. Come time for the answers, and the answer he gave was Perseus. Cue indignation from me, and when I pointed out that Perseus never owned it, he borrowed it from Hades, the QM chuckled and answered words to the effect of – yeah, I know, but Perseus was the one who used it – so Perseus is the answer. Even when I reminded him that he had specifically asked for the owner he cocked a deaf ‘un, and mindful of the time, and the fact that one more point would not make any difference I shut up.

I suppose it’s the English teacher in me, but that kind of error – asking for the owner when he wanted the most famous user – can still really get under my skin, even though I like to think I’ve mellowed in recent years. Did it spoil the quiz? Absolutely not. Did it affect the result? No, the results were clear cut, I think. But . . . it’s Greek Mythology! In either late 1980 or early 1981 I won Elthorne High School’s inaugural Mastermind competition using Greek Mythology as my specialist subject. I just hate getting questions on this subject wrong, or as I prefer to think of it – having my answers on this subject marked wrong.

Oh well, not all doom and gloom this week. Dai Norwich was question master on Thursday, and he produced a difficult, testing, and at times rather uneven quiz. Dai has the habit of asking things which, well, you’re never going to guess off the top of your head, and more to the point, neither is anybody else. Several times on the evening he said “Nobody had this one . . . “ Mind you, at least he didn’t say “Nobody had this one, and I didn’t really expect anybody to.” This usually leads me to make the observation – if you don’t think anybody can answer it, what are you doing asking it? Still, as I said, it wasn’t all doom and gloom. For once there was a picture hand out that was right up my street. 30 stills from British sitcoms past and present. The only one I wasn’t sure of was Derek Nimmo in ecclesiastical get up, after all you could go for All Gas and Gaiters, Oh Brother or even Oh Father. In the end I went for the first and was right. We won the questions as well with a mixture of knowledge, knowledge of the question master’s likes and dislikes, and a couple plucked from the ether. With regards to the question master’s likes, Dai asked
Which TV programme has featured on the cover of Radio Times most times – 21 in total?
Now, I didn’t know for definite. But I do know that Dai is a big Dr. Who fan – sensible fellow – so that seemed like the percentage answer to give. Correct. As regards answers plucked from the ether, well the very first question of the evening was this one: -
Tomb Thumb is the name of one of the Two Bad Mice in the story by Beatrix Potter. What is the other?

Just before we were about to hand it in, the name Hunca Munca popped into my head. Now, it is well over 40 years since I read it, or had it read to me as a kid, and about 20 years since I would have read it to my own kids, so I didn’t trust the answer, but in the absence of anything else, I shoved it down. Well it wasn’t as if we had anything else, so I wouldn’t have needed to reach for the Cap of Invisibility if I’d had it wrong.

Which reminds me of another thing. You must have heard questions being asked before where you think, either the QM is misreading his own questions, or he’s copied it down wrongly from a book. Dai asked this one. It started with “Troika Pottery – “ and immediately I said “Cornwall” – the usual question being in which county is it manufactured? Dai continued “- is manufactured in which countRy?” Without thinking I immediately blurted out “Don’t you mean in which COUNTY?” Dai came over for a chat, saying no, that was exactly what he meant, and asked why I thought it would be which county. I said something along the lines of that it was just that every time I’ve heard it asked – every time it’s been asked down the club – the county has been asked for. It just struck me as a bit easy, bearing in mind that if you watch any Antiques based TV programmes, Troika comes up on them almost as often as the ubiquitous Clarice Cliff. Well, there we are, despite that, and despite my giving the game away that the country in question did in fact have counties, apparently 2 teams had it wrong anyway, Dai gleefully informed me. All good clean fun.

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