COLIN DRURY: What ‘Q’ is a fun night out in a pub?

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A QUESTION: what game, beginning with ‘S’, did Peter Adolph invent in 1945?

Don’t know?

Don’t worry about it. Neither did anyone doing our pub quiz last week. Not a soul. Plenty thought it was Scrabble, one went with Scalectrix. All got crosses.

I like pub quizzes.

I like them for the same reason I like gigs. They give you an excuse to go out and get a drink without having to make too much small talk with anyone about last night’s TV.

I like that anti-social element.

Talking of small talk about TV, though, did you see University Challenge on Monday?

Thrilling stuff, it was. High drama. Theatre of the greatest order.

Our lads from Sheffield University – all lads, sad to say, no Gail Trimble here – took on Magdalen College, Oxford.

And they were losing.

Going into the last question they were losing by 10 points, and an Oxford kid buzzed, and got it wrong, and with mere seconds, mere splits of seconds, to spare, our boys – heroes to a man, four lion hearts, a quartet of God-like human Googles – snatched the answer, and won the game, and took passage through to the quarter finals.

Phew!

You couldn’t script it. Or maybe you could. Maybe, knowing the BBC, they did.

But great drama, anyway.

And when I read in this here newspaper that those four lads had trained their brains into lean, mean answering machines by taking part in pub quizzes, well, it brought a tear to this cynical eye.

Just the way it should be, I said to people who were trying to avoid small talk about TV.

Because, while I might have imagined those Oxford boffins spending hours in library common rooms swotting up on Fermat’s Last Theorem and testing each other about the paintings of Giotto, my mind’s eye saw our lads stumbling out of their local at 11pm, a winners’ selection of meat in hand and the confidence that only a pint of Abbeydale Brewery beer can give in heart.

And, then, I wondered if Bolton and McKay and Balachander and Smith would have known what game beginning with ‘S’ Peter Adolph invented in 1945...

See, when I said ‘our’ pub quiz, I meant it literally. Me and a mate organised it.

It takes many forms, this great English tradition, and down at The Rutland, in Brown Street, if you win one week, you’re invited to host the next.

So we did.

Won it with the help of two guys who had forgotten more general knowledge than I’ll ever know, and hosted it with the help of Wikipedia and a Sheffield history book.

There’s an art to setting a pub quiz, of course.

You need to mix and match, some easy, some hard, some straight-forward, some cryptic. You need history and current affairs, English and maths, science and sport. You need something for everyone but not everything for anyone.

“Make the crowd feel good,” someone said before hand. “But don’t make them feel like you’re insulting their intelligence.”

“Was that quiz designed for low grade morons?” he asked after.

Perhaps it was a bit easy. Out of 20, there were 18s and 19s all over the shop.

The only question that saved us being full housed: What game, beginning with ‘S’, did Peter Adolph invent in 1945?

It was Subbuteo.

I bet the University Challenge quartet would have known.