Local author in quiz night cheat horror
This time last week, I was playing hard ball table quiz in the Holywood RFC, a few miles outside Belfast. The quiz had been set by the Philosophy Society from Sullivan School, which is opposite the club. At least half of the contestants were sixth formers from the school; nice teenagers, with floppy woollen bags on their heads rather than sideways-on baseball caps, and no issues with wearing a nice coat in cold weather.
Although I was, in no sense whatever, a guest of the school, I was nonetheless invited to join a team consisting of two senior members of staff. In a very informal way, I felt that I was an ambassador to that fine old school, representing the New Universities of England. I felt honoured to be there. At the table next to our highly-respected team were a team of the sixth formers. I began to groom them at once. One of the rounds was a picture round; we had been given 20 or so faces to identify. One of the sixth formers asked me if a picture of the teenage Stalin was in fact Andy Warhol. I told him, no, it was Stalin (in return for him identifying a tennis player of some description) Even before the first round had started, the poor fool had shown himself open to corruption.
There were to be ten rounds, including two music rounds. At the end of the first half, there was to be a round of music clips from before 1990; and as the closer, a round of music clips from after 1990. I was not scared. I didn’t turn over to Radio Two until the day of my 35th birthday, which was in 1993. I’m as up on my Happy Mondays and New Fast Automatic Daffodils as anyone. Bring ’em on, I thought. Although I had a quiet few early rounds, come the first music round, I came to life, grabbed the pen, and scored a perfect ten. Booya! Since the start of the quiz, we’d been largely in the lead; now, at the halfway stage we were two or three points in front.
By the time of the last music round, the position had become somewhat confused. The young organisers were attempting a centralised scoring technique, rather than the more common and easier to control peer review model. Scores were not read out, as is so often the case where central marking is attempted in the hurly-burly of a rugby club bar full of pished up teenagers. Though we were as sure as we could be that we were there or thereabouts, we could no longer be sure that we were in front, or by how comfortable a margin. The last music round came up. Bring it on, I thought. I gripped the pen.
I didn’t know one of the songs. Not a one. What I’d forgotten was that by the time of my 45th birthday, i.e. in 2003, I’d switched from Radio Two to Radio Four for much of the time. The last thing I remember is James Blunt, which seems to have wiped all concern about pop music from my head. After that, nothing, or precious little. And by post-1990, they meant post-2003. The Zutons, The Kooks, The Snow Patrol; all have passed me by, while I listen to compilations of sixties Brazilian pop music on my iPod and ‘Moneybox Live’ on the wireless.
So there we were. Nil point. Failure. Pipped at the post. Shot. Done up like good’uns. Finished.
Finished? Never my friends, never in pub quiz. It’s not holy, like quiz league. It’s a rough and tumble free for all, a valve for your pent up egotist auto-didacticism. The nice team of teenagers with woolly bags on their heads filled in their answer sheet, but were clearly nowhere, and were packing up to go home. I turned to the corrupt young person who had been foolish enough to sit next to me, and ordered him to tell me all the answers to the music round. And he did. After the first seven answers, one of my colleauges on the team panicked, and said ‘That’s enough!’ I reluctantly agreed.
But those seven points were the clincher. We won by three points. The prize was proper. There were several bottles of fine wine, a big pile of sweeties and cake, and a voucher for dinner at Holywood’s truly first rate restaurant, The Bay Tree, which I was pleased to accept in return for my services. The staff from the school felt that the booze was theirs by right, of course, though I’m led to believe that next day they shared the sweeties with the sadly all too easily corrupted youth of Holywood