The wrong kind of quiz

'I am accumulating these terribly seductive nuggets of information that are so useless they can't even be converted into questions'
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The Independent Online

I have once or twice taken part in pub quizzes and discovered to my amazement that the varied and interesting knowledge I possess did not correspond to the dreary and obscure questions that they asked.

I have once or twice taken part in pub quizzes and discovered to my amazement that the varied and interesting knowledge I possess did not correspond to the dreary and obscure questions that they asked.

I have no trouble in remembering, for instance, that W S Gilbert's middle name, disguised by the letter S, is Schwenk, but no quiz I have ever attended has ever bothered to seem to want to unearth that information. They only concentrate on names I don't know, like Groucho Marx's original first name (Julius? Arthur? I can never remember), and apart from that they seem much more interested in things like pop music and TV soaps, about which I know nothing and care less, so my precious body of useless information has had to be carted away and kept for another day.

When that day will come, I do not know. And what makes it worse is that I keep increasing my store of useless information. I have an ever-growing data bank of facts that can be of use only in a quiz too frivolous even for me to attend.

Example?

Certainly.

The other day, there was a film on one of the terrestrial channels called The Wicked Lady, starring Margaret Lockwood. Lockwood played the part of a noble lady who got her kicks by going out in disguise as a highwaywoman and holding up coaches. To make up for her masked face, apparently, she had a low-cut gown that showed off to advantage her heaving bosom. (Interesting possibility for identity parades there. "Could you pick out which lady it was that took your money?" "Well, officer, I'm afraid you'd have to cover their faces and uncover their bosoms...") In fact, so heartily did her bosom heave that for its American release – according to the Radio Times – she had to reshoot all those scenes with a less revealing décolletage. Can you imagine! A British film that was too daring for the Americans!

"Name a British film that had to be reshot in a less sexy version for the American market."

Not a question you get asked in many pub quizzes.

Here's another odd fact that could make an odd quiz question. In the 1920s, the bohemian scene in Paris was briefly enlivened by the arrival of a young girl called Dolly Wilde, who was a lesbian addicted to alcohol and cocaine. She was Oscar Wilde's niece. I picked this fact up from a wonderful book I have been reading in the downstairs loo recently called The Crazy Years, a portrait of 1920s Paris by the American writer William Wiser. I didn't know that Wilde had a niece, but I suppose it must be the daughter of his brother Willie, who was a popular Fleet Street journalist, and who remains as stubbornly unknown as Oscar is still over-publicised.

The Crazy Years is full of stories that could make whole TV programmes, never mind quiz questions. Such as the story of Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald's arrival in France via the Med, where they had bought a car for the drive to Paris. "The closed car did not suit Zelda's penchant for riding with the wind in her hair, so at a garage in Lyon they had the metal top cut away like a sardine can. They continued driving north until the first spring rain soaked them thoroughly; the topless car had to be abandoned. It was a typical gesture of Scott and Zelda; a decision taken on a momentary impulse, an improvident fling to repent at leisure..." But what would be the resulting questions?

"Which famous writer once cut the top off his car to let the wind blow through his wife's hair?"

"Which famous gay writer had a lesbian niece called Dolly?"

"Which famous writer so hated his Christian names that he forced his nanny to call him Jack?"

That last question will be a bit easier if I tell you that the names that he so hated were Clive Staples.

But is there a famous writer called Clive or Staples?

There certainly is. He is better known as C S Lewis, and his campaign to conceal his true names from the public has been so successful that I had no idea what they were until hearing his secret revealed on Radio 4 last week. But that's not the point. The point is that I am gradually accumulating these terribly seductive nuggets of information that are so useless that they cannot even be converted into quiz questions.

The only way that I can get rid of them is to share them with other people and hope to pass them on, like cold germs.

Thank you very much. They're all yours now.

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