There are many landmark firsts in the life of a parent; the first word spoken (“Daddy” in my case – in your face, Mummy!), the first time they walk and, er, the first solid movement. But for me they all pale into insignificance with the events of last night, a momentous occasion in the life of our small but perfectly formed clan.
Felicity’s first day at school was always one we were looking forward, albeit with some apprehension. Would she jump right in and immerse herself into school life or would she need to dragged in, kicking and screaming? We needn’t have worried, although it didn’t stop us. She took to it like a Primary 1 duck to water school.
After Flick’s seemless introduction into scholastic life, there’s was only one thing on our mind; when is the first school quiz night? There’s bound to be one, every school has one. The Good Lady Wife and I love quizzes. We love nothing better than shouting at the telly during a Who Dares Wins or a Mastermind or a University Challenge, although we tend to have less to shout about during the latter! We’re no Kevin Ashman or Daphne Fowler but we can hold our own at a local level. I repeat, we love quizzes and we’re not ashamed of that. Get over it!
When you haven’t been to a particular quiz night before it’s always a worry as to what the format will be. Well, it’s a worry to me but I’m sad that way. The other concern is usually, and it saddens me to say this in this day and age, how strict the quizmaster is on cheating. Nobody really minds the odd exchange between adjoining quiz tables, especially at family based events, but the shameless use of Google and Shazam is just not on and has turned the modern quiz night into a bit of a farce. It defeats the purpose of the whole night. This is why I tend to only host one-offs and only attend those with some sense of order. Thankfully it wasn’t an issue last night.
Paper, pens and quiz round running orders were distributed as parents, teachers and children filled up on E-number packed, sugar-filled confectionary, juice and hot beverages (that’s right, a dry quiz. Have you ever heard the like?) The Good Lady Wife had made special quiz cupcakes with white icing and the words such as Which?, Who? and Why? atop them. She’s Fife’s answer to Martha Stewart, although I doubt if Martha knows which year decimalisation came into force in the UK or how Paddington Bear came by his name.
Normally our quiz team name of choice is Magic Darts, as in the Sid Waddellism “There’s only one word for that – magic darts”, or the self-deprecating Hope and Despair, which we use to play down our chances and lull the opposition into a false sense of security. (It’s also the name of an Edwyn Collins album, fact fans). My mate Dave is normally our quiz colleague of choice but he wasn’t available for selection due to ineligibility and as a mark of respect to him we changed to a name we hadn’t previously used before but one which we’d always liked: Quizteama Aguilera.
We didn’t know what we were up against, although the holders of the crown were present in the shape of the School Quiz Team. We were strangers in a strange land.
We got off to a decent start in the opening General Knowledge round, with Kirsty coming up with a crackin’ answer. When asked which had more bones in its neck; a giraffe or a human, Kirsty paused for thought and then calmly scribed “they have the same” on the answer sheet. Cool. The trick question is a great tool in the quizmaster’s armoury and there should always be at least one in your set. Luckily we spotted it.
We swapped papers with the nearest table, marked them and awaited the question master asking each table for their scores. After the first round it was reasonably neck-and-neck with us setting the pace alongside three other teams on 9. Even the backmarkers in the 14-strong field had a none-too-shabby 6 so things were tighter than Joan Rivers’ face. A quiz at this level is always going to be close and we knew we’d have to score reasonably well in every round. One bad round and the dream would be over. Okay, a touch melodramatic but you get the idea.
Round 2 was a TV Themes audio round and we had a distinct advantage because the poor sound quality made it into a bad bootleg live Jesus and Mary Chain TV themes covers album. Our first correct answer, Holby City, was all the more remarkable because we only ever hear a couple of seconds before we instinctively reach for the remote. We did however kick ourselves for not recognising the theme to 90s TV staples Changing Rooms and Mr. Bean. We held our own with a respectable 8 but slipped back to second behind The Daft Birds, who’d scored an excellent full house.
TV and Films were up next and we emerged from the pack and took the lead took after a 100% performance. Films are not normally our strong point as it’s only in the past few years, following Flick’s birth, that we’ve watched so many films, albeit mostly children’s ones. We knew the name of Postman Pat’s Cat (Jess), which of the Marx brothers was the silent one (K imparted the knowledge that his autobiography was called Harpo Speaks) and that Davros (aka Vince Cable) was leader of the Daleks. But the answer of the round – call it a shot in the dark if you will – was to know, alright guess, that a Gaffer on a film set is the Head Electrician. Back of the net! Our top marks combined with The Daft Birds poor showing meant we now had a two point lead but there was a close pack behind us.
The second music round was next and it was a Disney audio. On the inside, I rubbed my hands in anticipation. On the outside I was nonchalantly cool. Having put together a Disney audio round for Kirsty’s work quiz night, we were pleased when he announced the subject of the audio round. Although given the audience, it was always a possibility. It would be difficult to have, for example, a pop music round that didn’t alienate a good proportion of the audience. If the songs are too old you omit the kids, if you have it too up to date the adults would struggle. To be honest, that would be fine by us. I can’t think of anything worse than an audio round featuring the likes of N-Dubz and Tinchy Stryder.
Any smugness about hearing a repeat of my own Disney round soon dissipated as Dougie the QM played songs or parts of songs we weren’t that familiar with. We failed to recognise a song from Tarzan, which we hadn’t seen, and Cinderella, which Kirsty had seen but a long, long time ago. Those are our excuses and we’re sticking to them. The imaginatively-named The Quizmasters had top-scored with 10 and were on our tails. A steady-as-she-goes 8 retained our two point lead as we moved to the business end of the contest.
Round 5 of 7 was another General Knowledge round. The questions in the GK rounds had been split into a half kid/half adults and Flick played her part in keeping the score ticking over. We dubbed her The Baby-Faced Assassin! We didn’t know that the only bird who hunted by sense of smell was a kiwi (that’s the sort of fact Stephen Fry’s QI quartet might debunk) and that an octupus laid eggs, as opposed to giving birth to live octopuses. Another solid 8. We had had a run of scores a UK Eurovision entry could only dream of: 9-8-10-8-8 (yes, I know you can’t score 9 at Eurovision!) Only Here For The Cakes topped the GK scoring with 9.
Time for the penultimate round and it was the picture one. Three sets of four pictures. Name the people or characters in the picture and the connection between each set. Simples. Well, not so. The four actors who played The Doctor (not Dr.Who as intimated by the QM) and the obvious connection gave us five points. We knew (Sir) Chris Hoy, Usain Bolt, and diver Tom Daley straight away but Jessica Ennis’ name only came to me in a Usain-like bolt of inspiration. However, we slipped up on the connection. We plumped for Olympic medallists but they were actually all World Champions. Fair enough. The last set of pictures proved tricky. We knew the pictures represented Up, Ice Age, Kung Fu Panda and Wall-E but the QM wanted the character names and we were up Dawson’s Creek without a paddle. We’d heard of them all but only seen Ice Age. The answers were Mr. Fredricksen, Diego, Po and, thankfully, Wall-E. Even the connection threw us but that’s because it was a poorly thought out one. They were all animated characters! Duh, we knew that but thought he was looking for something less obvious. He may as well have given the answer as “they were all printed on the same piece of paper”. No need to panic. Yet.
A relatively lowly 11 out of 15 allowed the opposition back at us and eight teams were now within 5 points of us. Now we knew how the fox felt on hunt day. An impressive 14 from Family M and Friends brought them back into the running and close on our heels.
The last round was entitled Top 10 and we had a reasonable idea what it would consist of. We also knew that we didn’t like this type of question because, after six rounds of skilled you-either-know-it-or-you-don’t questions it was now one for the guessers. Okay, there’s a certain level of skill but that skill is mostly in the art of damage limitation, especially if you’re defending a lead.
Name the Top 10 heaviest land animals. A toughy and no mistake but it could’ve been worse; Top 10 wine-growing countries or Top 10 selling men’s deodorants, that sort of thing…We plumped for Elephant, Rhino, Hippo, Lion, Tiger, Bear (non-specific), Polar Bear, Buffalo, Bison and Walrus. We scraped a score of 6 but only because the QM allowed a point for just bear, when the answers included the more specific Kodiak bear. (The answers, in order, were Elephant, Hippopotamus, Rhinoceros, Giraffe (we dismissed that answer or should I say I did!), Water Buffalo, Crocodile, Asian Guar (a what?), American Bison, Kodiak Bear and Yak).
Remarkably, between the 14 teams, all the scores ranged between 5 and 7 and it would be a very tight finish. We knew we had 6 but The (Not-So) Daft Birds had pulled out a 7 and it was going to be a tie-break.
When did the Mayflower sail for America? It was nearest-the-bull time; a fight to the death. We figured it was well before 1776 because that was the Year of Independence. Someone in the team beside us, Besta Groupa, suggested 1642 and it sounded as good as anything we could think of so we went for it and handed it in. There was no point in anguishing over it. The QM told the other team that we were very close. Like all good QMs he was building up the tension and no mistake.
As soon as the QM announced that The Daft Birds were 135 years out I knew we’d won it. Indeed, the answer was 1620.
I was naturally pleased for the Good Lady Wife and I but more so for Felicity. I was a proud father as I witnessed my offspring collecting her first quizzing silverware. It was a deeply moving moment. Bring back Ask the Family! Let’s be havin’ you!
As a quizmaster myself I always assess the performance of my fellow inquisitor. A good quizmaster knows the right level for a quiz and tonight’s was pretty much spot on. Sure, I could be ultra-pedantic and ask why there was no sport round or no questions relating to modern children’s television (maybe they don’t want to alienate those who only have “cooncil telly”) but for all I know he might have done some last year. As I know only too well, you simply can’t cater for everybody. Unless you run a weekly pub quiz in which there will be an inevitable predictability about some questions, especially if you have a topical news round, the questions should always have an element of surprise about them. It should entertain and educate.There’s no quiz syllabus to bone up on. This isn’t a GCSE you’re swotting for, it’s much more important than that.
People who have never been a quizmaster think it’s easy to write a quiz. It isn’t. A good quizmaster only makes it looks easy. He, or indeed she, should always ensure there is no dubiety in any of the questions and no ambiguities that pedants (like me) can try to pick you up on. There should never be any argument as to what the answer is.
There was however one contentious point following the Disney audio round but I didn’t make a fuss. If it had been decisive it might have been different story. One track played was Bobby Darin’s Beyond The Sea. The correct answer, which we had, was given as The Little Mermaid. One team, possibly our nearest rivals, protested that the song featured in Finding Nemo too. Instead of checking, the quizmaster accepted their assertion and gave them a point, to some derision for all around. Now, even as watertight as I think my questions are, in that situation I would’ve held off awarding a point until I could checked their claim.
I digress. Dougie and his partner did a great job, wrote a good quiz and kept excellent control. You can’t really ask for more than that. Except maybe the trophy!
The silverware is now ours to keep for a year and as sure as Iceland resembles Dot Cotton’s ashtray we’ll be back to defend it in 2011. The training starts now…
P.S. Me being me, as soon as I got home I checked the dubious Disney audio question. Beyond The Sea did indeed feature at the end of Finding Nemo but it was a Robbie Williams cover and not the original as played by the QM. I felt vindicated. Until, that is, I had a look for it on The Little Mermaid soundtrack for the song I couldn’t find any reference to it! Ultimately, it didn’t affect the result but I can see me watching The Little Mermaid, just to get closure!