It's half past 10 and I'm sat like a plum in an atmospheric pub in north-west London. I've just popped in here to throw back a couple of ales and knock out my column, but now I have an enormous sense of regret. Judging by the electric atmosphere, the defaced answer sheets floating in the air and the red-faced locals prodding each other in the chest and yelling, I think I've just missed a pub quiz.
I've peeled an answer sheet from my sodden table and am looking at it wistfully. What I'm gazing at here is a picture round, and the more I scour it and the more I chug back my dark beer, the more I can't help thinking I would have done rather well in this quiz. Look at these faces! First up, that's Michael Rosen. I've met the guy; of course it's Rosen. The poet, Rosen. And next to him, Julia Bradbury. I watch her show about the Lake District. It's only a photocopy, of course, and it's now covered in ticks, crosses, doodles and wine, but that's Bradbury all right – unmistakable. What was I thinking? I would have cleaned up here! Chris Addison! Dench! Adam Lallana!
There are some I don't know, of course. But my team would have chipped in, too. I would obviously have bought friends! I've spent the evening at my five-aside football team's social. We should have come here! We could have nailed this. Lord would have got the musicians. That guy with the scarf looks like an actor. Coxy would know him for sure. And anyway, that's Alex Salmond. There's maybe six I know right off the bat, so I think we're scoring at least eight or nine on this round. My pint glass has a handle and I slurp a bit more and turn the soggy sheet over. More answers. Fifty of the bastards. I scour them and shake my head. I'm irked. This quiz looks very doable.
I love a pub quiz, me, always have. They give an evening focus and they can paper over the cracks in a friendship group. In addition, it's a real fillip to get the old grey cells involved on a night out, and pub quizzes can be a great opportunity to impress a potential lover with knowledge of music or cookery or the name of the girl who stripped at Twickenham. Also, if you can hook yourself up with a bunch of brainboxes, pub quizzes can become a good source of extra income over and above what you're pulling in at work. I was once part of a team which won a round of drinks for having the best name at a quiz in Deptford.
Just looking at these answers. Flipping hell. I think we'd have had a field day. (4) is Paris. I'm pretty sure I'm getting Paris. (10) is Charles M Schulz – fairly basic stuff; he's the goon who invented Snoopy. (16) is 10,000. It's really not rocket science. I look around at the drunken teams, sloshing about at their tables. Bejumpered and noisy, I think we'd have taken these amateurs to the cleaners. (21) is Ronald Reagan. I'm nodding. The question would have been something about a US President who did a bit of acting when he was little. Of course it's Reagan. Well, there's a tick next to it. It was Reagan. Had to be. For (25), whoever's paper I'm holding have put Aston Villa and got a big fat cross for their troubles. Idiots. It was probably Spurs. I slug from my handle, I go to the bar for another.
I'm pissed off we didn't do the social here. We were up the hill, trowelling in Indian food and necking socos. Now I am dewy-eyed with regret. I should have rallied the troops. We should have won this quiz, invested the money in registering for a more competitive league this season.
I ask the barman what the prize was for the winning team and can barely listen to his answer. I nod and look back down at the picture round. I think I spy Ruud Gullit. Goddamn it, we'd have cleaned up. What a waste.