2:33pm Monday 7th November 2011
By Helen Mead
WHAT is the closest country to the North Pole? In which river did Amy Johnson die? Which Bronte sister wrote Napoleon and the Spectre?
These were among the 100 questions fired at a packed school hall as it hosted a quiz night.
On the first, our team was divided: One said Greenland, another Canada, one Norway. We went with Greenland, crossed it out and opted for Norway – a decision we lived to regret.
My aviation-obsessed husband knew with 100 per cent certainty that Amy Johnson died in the Thames, and it was toss-up between Charlotte and Emily for number three – sadly we credited the latter with something her sister penned.
Quizzes are one of the most enjoyable yet frustrating ways to spend an evening. They’re an exercise in brain training better than any DS game.
You wrack your brains as to which polar explorer said: “I am just going outside and I may be some time?”
You curse yourself over and over for being unable to remember the capital city of Yemen, then when the answer is read out you realise you have never heard of it anyway.
You call upon your memory to dredge up things you learned in school and forgot on leaving: The names of the Great Lakes, the kings and queens of England, famous battles and the sequence of planets in our solar system.
Then, when you fail to get your grey matter into gear in time, you kick yourself and spend the rest of the evening dwelling upon your failure to remember who wrote Moby Dick. It is strange, though, the way some facts suddenly come to mind. I remembered things from decades ago, yet couldn’t recall the name of former defence secretary Liam Fox’s friend, despite reading about him that day.
With people from all generations, we were a strong team, particularly in the music round, when our knowledge ranged from old time turns to modern-day rappers.
My husband is a quiz whizz (last night he correctly answered 17 questions on University Challenge compared with my two) and showed off his public-school-acquired knowledge of history, art and literature in the manner of quiz show champ Geoff Maltby aka The Oracle played by Johnny Vegas, from TV comedy Benidorm.
Great times can be had at quiz nights and friendships forged over brain teasers such as ‘What appears once in a year, twice in a week but not at all in a month?’ Our teenage players got that one: it’s the letter E.
We did well, coming third, and debated going professional and hitting the pubs. But the thought of the pie and pea suppers – too much jelly and not enough mush – proved a turn off.
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