The pub quiz on Tuesdays has brought me through some difficult times, with its nourishing combination of beer, Thai sweet chilli Sensations crisps, good company and abstruse questions about the Hundred Years War. At the end of the evening, after the main quiz has been won and £28 of prize money has been distributed, we reach the best bit of all, the snowball competition. If you have bought up to five raffle tickets for a pound each, you are in the draw. If your ticket is drawn, you are called up to answer an incredibly difficult quiz question. If you get it right, you win the jackpot. If three such questions are answered incorrectly, the jackpot will roll over to next week. As I write, it is capped at £1,000. Even Rupert Murdoch or a former member of One Direction might consider that worth winning.
In fact, no one has won a penny since August. Are we making the questions too difficult? Possibly, but if the right person is asked the right question, he or she will win a grand. You don't want them too easy. Here are a few recent ones.
So, for £1,000, and no one can help you, and no, you can't look at your phone. Silence please. Which is the only one of London's mainline railway termini that Sherlock Holmes and Dr Watson didn't use in any of the stories or novels? For £500: during the making of the film Beat the Devil in 1953, Humphrey Bogart was involved in a car accident and lost several teeth, which compromised his recorded dialogue. Who was brought in to overdub his lines?
And finally, for £250: Who wrote a gardening column for Private Eye between 1977 and 1979 under the pseudonym "Rose Blight"?
(These will have been three tickets drawn from the hat, and so, usually, three different people answering the questions. There are three envelopes to choose from, imaginatively labelled A, B and C.)
So, some answers. Holmes and Watson never started a journey from the station closest to them, Marylebone. Humphrey Bogart's dialogue was overdubbed by a very young Peter Sellers. And Rose Blight was the ingenious punning pen-name of Germaine Greer.
Tricky, eh? Here are some more:
For £1,000: Which Shakespeare play did Mozart contemplate turning into an opera, and, according to some sources, was actually commissioned to write?
For £500: In January 1983, the ventriloquist Keith Harris reached No 4 in the UK singles chart with "Orville's Song", a duet with his dummy. The song was written by which one-time winner of Opportunity Knocks? For £250: Who was the last US president to be inaugurated wearing a top hat?
Remember that it's about 10.50pm when I'm reading these questions out. Everyone is exhausted, half-cut and poisoned by Thai sweet chilli Sensations crisps. But no one in the pub moves a muscle. Everyone listens intently.
Answers: Mozart thought about writing an opera based on The Tempest. "Orville's Song" was written by Bobby Crush. The last US president to be inaugurated in a top hat was Richard Nixon.
And so the evening ends with no one winning anything, and people leave happy. Because the only thing worse than you not winning is someone else winning the whole damn lot. We know this from real life, which is why we go to a pub quiz every Tuesday, and Rupert Murdoch and the former members of One Direction never quite make it.
- More about:
- Humphrey Bogart
- Rupert Murdoch
- Sherlock Holmes
- Germaine Greer
- Richard Nixon
- Peter Sellers