The Uxbridge Arms, Notting Hill Gate. The end of the pub quiz. The regulars are standing around outside, smoking. "So," asks someone, as someone does every Sunday, "who's doing the quiz next week?" There is a silence. It has been thinly attended and everyone there has set the quiz relatively recently, apart from me.
I like setting the quiz, but because my mental furniture is not like everyone else's, people are wary of mine. I thought everyone knew what
2-acetoxybenzoic acid is better known as, or the clockwise order of the fielding positions, starting at 12 o'clock from a right-hand batsman's point of view, of mid-off, point, gulley, midwicket and mid-on. Or what a pismire is. Then again, ask me who Jennifer Aniston is going out with and I am left entirely in the dark. (Come to think of it, so is she, probably.)
Anyway, I volunteer. Long acquaintance with the quiz regulars has tempered my expectations and the last one I did was met with baffled compliments afterwards ("You know, that quiz wasn't nearly as shit as your previous ones"), so I am confident of producing something that will go down nicely.
I also like sitting in the quizmaster's chair and playing the crowd, as well as the free drink that the winner buys the quizmaster as long as the winning team has scored more than half marks. (The winning team always does.)
One of the two distinctive features of the quiz, the tradition that the second-placed team is bought a drink by the first-placed team, has been abandoned. This was on the insistence of Linda, the landlady, who argued that it was driving away potential competitors; buying a team of up to five people a drink with your winnings can even leave you out of pocket.
However, it was a generous tradition, and we convened outside to discuss the matter.On the one hand, we didn't think that people were being put off by possibly having to buy the second-placed team a drink. We thought they were being put off by Ed calling everyone The Rudest Word, Martin illustrating a clue by shoving a blue plastic carrier bag over his head and running through the saloon bar, and - some dark looks in my direction - the difficulty of some of the questions. On the other hand, we are all terrified of Linda, and it is her pub, after all, so we caved in. No one has noticed, as a result, flocks of relieved punters coming in from exile to fill up the half-pint pot with £2 entry fees, but at least the winners don't have to borrow money in order to pay for their journey home.
Batt's for the Tories
I set to setting the quiz. This involves keeping an eye out for interesting news stories, as well as barking one's shins against the heretofore mentioned mental furniture and seeing if it's suitable. The NSDAP, a German political party founded in 1919, became much better known in this country, and worldwide, as what? (I'd been reading, coincidentally, two books about pre-Second World War Germany.) Who won the county championship this year - and how many counties compete for it? Easy-peasy. A little bit of fossicking about taught me that Mike Batt writes election campaign theme music for the Conservative Party. Which band is his greatest claim to fame? (The discovery that he shills for the Tories makes me want to go to Parliament Square and burn all my Wombles records in disgust.)
On the evening of the quiz, I roll up at six o'clock with my questions in my pocket and a noticeable smirk on my face. With great knowledge comes great responsibility, but sometimes you can't help feeling a bit cocky. Some people put great effort into their quizzes by having picture rounds and musical questions; I prefer the simple vanilla purity of the straight-up, no-nonsense, no-frills 60 questions.
Again, though, the quiz is sparsely attended, if not as sparsely as last week's. The problem is that, while we have a largeish pool of regulars, they don't all turn up at the same time. We welcome newcomers, but for some reason tonight they prefer to drink among themselves.
“My quiz tonight," I say to Debbie the barmaid (who, as well as being superb at her job, the quintessential ideal of the barmaid, isn't as scared of Linda as the rest of us). She gives me to understand that this is not good news. "But it brings the punters in," I say. "Drives them away, more like," she says.
My quiz, it turns out, is a disaster. Not only am I nearly murdered when I give the answer to the question "What links Nixon's visit to China, the hijacking of the Achille Lauro and the Manhattan Project?", but no one even reaches half marks. Come on, NS readers. Sunday evenings, 6.30. Amazing cash prizes available. And I won't be setting it for some time.