Sunday, May 21, 2006

From The Archives

A piece by Bob from the early days of the Quiz league - the league is sponsored by ICI in its new guise of Astra Zeneca now:


Without doubt, the most unsung effort to achieve fame for Rainow outside of its own stony boundaries is the annual foray of the Robin Hood quiz team to death or glory in the Macclesfield Quiz League. In the dark days between October and Easter-time the observant villager might spot one of its members striding resolutely up Stocks Lane to the place of battle. Even in the blackest winter night they can be distinguished from the ordinary passer-by through a distinctive mumbling which those with keener hearing might pick out as historical data or chemical formulae, chanted rhythmically as they pass along, oblivious to all around, psyching themselves for the fray in the great tradition of the late twentieth-century combatant.

Quizzes have never been so popular. Pub Leagues spring up and flourish in almost every town. Fuelled by television panel games and Trivial Pursuits their attraction continues undiminished, and no self-respecting pub, club, or school is without its regular, or at least occasional indulgence. Most of them are light-hearted affairs, fifty or so questions offering a welcome break from the usual round of conversation and argument about Eastern Europe, Northern Ireland, Southern Comfort, Ozone Layers, Poll Tax payers, First Innings, Second Comings, Third World, Forth Bridge, Man United, Man Divided, Green Politics, Red Rum, Black Activists, White Nancy, Nancy White, winds in Rainow, rain on windows.......the diversion of the quiz can be a welcome break.

Not in the Macclesfield League. Theirs is no stroll through the family quiz page of a colour supplement. Theirs is the Pennine Way of quiz leagues, the Grand National of General Knowledge. One hundred and sixty questions over twenty rounds, specially chosen to turn a beguiling muse over a favourite tipple into a two hour ordeal of mortal combat. There are three points if the contestant answers his or her own question, and only one if conferring is necessary. Add the fact that end-of-season silverware is given to successful individuals as well as teams, and the lethal cocktail is complete.

This megaquiz had modest beginnings in the town under the sponsorship of various small concerns. Things changed rapidly, however, when the organisers decided to abandon the homely patronage of accommodating auctioneers and philanthropic publicans and set their sights on multi-national status. The league's original two divisions has now grown to an army of five marching under the proud banner of the I.C.I. Quiz League.

This you will agree is no small accolade, and their adopted international giant has taken an interest in its new foundling which does it much credit. I have it on good authority from a Rainovian in their employment that at a recent Alderley Park meeting the group Chairman announced that turnover stood at 11.123 billion pounds, sales volume rose by eleven per cent, dividends were showing a steady increase, growth was strong in the United States and continental Europe, and the knockout final would be between the Limping Whippet and the Pig and Ball Bearing.

The quizzes themselves are a minefield, and long friendships have been lost in the heat of battle. Fierce argument is not uncommon, particularly when answers are open to misinterpretation. When I was at school (admittedly a long time ago), there were five continents. Now there are seven. WHERE DID THEY FIND THE OTHER TWO?! Then there is the question of accumulated knowledge. Personally, I have always been sceptical as to what you can really learn after years of hanging around quiz games. There is no doubt that you can come across some amazing, even earth-shattering facts, but airing this kind of new-found knowledge can be tricky. It is not easy to drop these little pearls into after-dinner chat in that suave, carefree, matter-of-fact way which has all your listeners gaping in admiring silence. You would not believe how hard it is to turn a conversation on rockery plants to the fact that the only creature besides man which can catch leprosy is the nine-banded armadillo, or that Dopey was the only one of the seven dwarves without a beard. Of course the real value is supposed to be in the inner benefit gained from garnering gems of random information, and I list here a mere ten facts without the knowledge of which my life would definitely have been the poorer:

Lusaka is the capital of Zambia, and
not a Greek dish.

A Royal Enfield is a vintage motor cycle
and not a place where the Queen keeps her

Stanhope, Phaeton, and Brougham are types
of horse-drawn carriage and not a firm of
Macclesfield solicitors.

The Vulgate is a Latin version of the
bible and not a street in York.

The Transuranics are elements and not
a rock group.

A dactylogram is a fingerprint and
not a message from a prehistoric bird.

Hapsburg is the name of the Austrian
royal line and not a lager.

Mungo Park is the name of a Scottish
explorer and not Dundee United's
football ground.

Gallophobia is fear of the French, not
of hanging.

The Diet of Worms was a religious edict
and not what kept the early bird alive.

There is one question which has fascinated me ever since the day it was first asked. This was "Where is Boadicea buried?". It appears that the last resting place of that scourge of the invading Romans is the site of the modern St. Pancras station, in London.......


The Queen of the Iceni nation
lay underneath St. Pancras Station
proud and serene, she lay in state
still waiting for the 12.08

Two fearsome daughters and their Mum
had come to sack Londinium.
they'd done the job and had a feast
and all-triumphant, headed East.

The Queen consulted her adviser
Which form of transport was the wiser?
"My Queen", he said, "we're sitting pretty-
just put your trust in Inter-city!"

Her chariot of gold was sped
down to St. Pancras engine shed.
She checked the times and bought a seat,
first-class return to Watling Street.

The hours passed, she lost her daughters
Who'd wandered off in search of porters,
The Queen, her ladies, and her men
were never to be seen again.

The centuries they came and went
until some antiquarian gent
whilst studying her erstwhile race
confirmed the old Queen's resting place.

B.R., with keen anticipation
decided on an excavation.
this find would guarantee their fame-
they'd even have a change of name.

They'd call it Boadicea Station
the latest travellers sensation!
the crowds would flock from near and far
to the "Scythe and Chariot Burger Bar".

They dug beneath the London clay
and found where Boadicea lay.
around her head, a golden band
A London Saver in her hand.

The station-master, passing by
came to look, and gave a cry.
"Dear dear" he said "now don't you worry
we'll have this sorted in a hurry.

We've cleared the blockage on the line,
the train will leave at half-past nine.
and as you've had a lengthy wait,
we'll only charge you off-peak rate".

The dig had been a huge success
with lots of pictures in the press.
They took her from her hallowed ground,
she left her grave, museum bound.

The Queen of the Iceni nation
has now moved three miles from the station.
Two thousand years, but don't despair -
with British Rail - WE'RE GETTING THERE

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