Non nobis domine, dives in omnia!

If it happens two years running then it’s annual, right? Thus the now annual Mostly Bookbrains Literary Quiz, held last night at the Manor School in aid of Friends of Abingdon Museum. I maintain that coming 5= out of 12 teams is a perfectly respectable position. I mean, anyone could mistake a picture of Stieg Larsson for Mark Haddon or forget that the hero of C.J. Sansom’s series of Reformation crime novels is Matthew Shardlake, not Shadwell.

I take no pride in knowing who wrote the Wheel of Time series – though perhaps a small shred of it in not having read any – but I felt quietly smug for knowing that 2001: A Space Odyssey was based on “The Sentinel”. In that particular round, a bit of music commonly associated with a movie was played and we had to name the literary original that the movie came from. Thus for the theme from Schindler’s List, the correct answer was Schindler’s Ark, geddit?

For 2001, though there is a novel of the same name, it was written concurrent with the film and I thought it worth mentioning that technically “The Sentinel” would be the right answer. And got a bonus point.

Which was lost later on in the same round by what some might call the strange confusion of Henry V (modern version) and Porterhouse Blue. The confusion is that both feature quite a catchy earwormy Latin number. From Branagh’s Henry V:

(Look closely and you might see Inspector Wallander carrying a dead teenage Batman across the battlefield, in a single 4-minute take: cudos to Christian Bale for not sneezing.)

And from Porterhouse Blue:

See? Easy mistake to make.

For the completists, the Henry V words are: Non nobis domine, sed nomini tuo da gloriam, i.e. “Not to us O Lord but to your name give glory.”

The Porterhouse Blue words are too long to put here but are translated here, and despite being made up were well in keeping with the spirit of the series. That’s one of the things that made it such a good show to watch: that, and Ian Richardson, and David Jason, and the college exploding under a load of gas-filled condoms.

Quite right too

Haven’t done one of these for ages … probably because none of my friends has either.

Your result for The Improved Book Character-Savvy Test…


You scored 95% Best Seller, 93% Classic and 96% Fantasy/Sci-Fi!

You are my type of person. (Can you see the little hearts shooting from my eyes?) Absolutely smashing. Keep on reading!
Your rank: Ruler of the Universe


The things I do for my friends …

D is a cut-back kitchen designer, by which I mean he designs kitchens for a living but his firm has cut him back to a three-day week. So he has time on his hands but not a lot of money. He’s also an avid quiz-goer. All these factors mean that when he heard about Pointless, a quiz show that requires pairs to enter, he was up for it and he persuaded me I would enjoy it too.

That was back in the summer, and after sending in the applications we heard no more about it. I assumed that was the end of it. Apparently they had the first series – 4.30pm, BBC2, weekday afternoons, Alexander Armstrong hosting – and it was good enough for a second to be commissioned. So, they trawled the files and got in touch with the also-rans from the first time round. I got a call on my mobile and, having completely forgotten about it, almost told them to take a hike, assuming it was some kind of cold sales call. Oops.

Anyway, long story short, we went for our audition in Shepherds Bush on Friday. Three other pairs were there too so we had: two bubbly sisters in their 20s; two elder Essex lads, veterans of other quiz shows with plenty of entertaining anecdotes and not a nice word to say about Anne Robinson or Martyn Lewis; a mother and son, who was the spitting image of a young Mike Oldfield; and a kitchen designer and technical editor from Abingdon.

No studios or Alexander Armstrong for the audition, of course; this was all in a boardroom at Endemol HQ. For an ice breaker we did Mexican waves around the table and whoever had their hands in the air when we were told to stop had to say a fact about themselves. Mine was that I’ve been to Buckingham Palace twice. D was kicking himself after: “I forgot to say my grandfather was a bigamist!” (I did ask which wife he was descended from. Apparently his grandfather cunningly married two women with the same name, which is why it took so long for his descendants to work it out.)

Then a couple of rounds of the game itself. It’s Family Fortunes in reverse. The organisers previously asked a panel of 100 volunteers to name as many items in a given category as they can. You then get asked to name one item, and you get the same number of points as the number of volunteers who also said that. BUT you want to get as few points as possible. I can use this example because this is the one they use publicly: if you’re asked to name a Tom Cruise film and say “Top Gun”, 60 or 70 of the panel also said that and so you get 60 or 70 points. If you say “Tropic Thunder”, which none of the panel guessed, you get zero points. The winner is the one with as few points as possible.

If, though, you said something like “Gone with the Wind” which is just a plain wrong answer, you get 100 points. Simple.

I won’t say the questions they asked. I’ll just say we came second, and could have come first if we’d had the courage of our convictions and gone for an answer that we only thought might be the right one. Pah. But it was a lot more fun than I thought it would be; there was a really nice atmosphere between the eight of us, and I think we all genuinely hope the others make it even if we don’t. D has been forewarned that, unlike the winners in the clip I saw, if we win I will not throw myself into his arms and he will not do likewise with me. We may go so far as a discreet Anglican handshake, maybe a “jolly good show” or two. No more.

Filming will happen during January: if we’re to be on it, we’ll hear in the next few weeks. I’ll let you know.