Tag Archives: quiz shows

An Evening with the Intelligentsia


Derby Peace Medal – reverse

Second Post of the day. This is the first.

I’ve just been watching quizzes on TV. After a hectic night with frequent waterwork-induced wakefulness I have been tired. This showed when I slept through most of Mastermind and all of Only Connect. I did manage to stay awake for a gripping edition of University Challenge where, yet again, many of the questions could have been in a foreign language. Meanwhile, several of the contestants, who don’t speak English as a first language, managed to decypher the questions, understand and answer. They were frighteningly intelligent, and I can only speculate how quickly they would have been able to answer if playing in their first language. However, I did manage to answer several questions which they couldn’t so I don’t feel too bad.

Emily Dickinson and Australia (in relation to reptiles) were two of them. There were a couple of others, but I couldn’t even understand the chemistry and physics questions and hadn’t a clue about the Periodic Table.

Sheffield Peace Medal – obverse

I once asked a leading academic what the soldiers of the English Civil War used to open their tinned food as there were no known 17th Century tin openers. He pondered, he muttered and  he eventually suggested that, as bayonets were not yet invented, they must, on the balance of probability, have used their daggers.

Sheffield Peace Medal – reverse

It was an interesting answer, which may have been made less complicated if only he’d been able to remember that tinned food wasn’t invented until 1811 he would have saved himself a lot of mental effort. He knew this, because he was a scholar of the Napoleonic Wars, and canned food came from Napoleon’s offer of a prize to develop a method of providing preserved food for armies. Unfortunately, his academic training made him zoom in on the fine detail, and provided me with a great deal of amusement. He’s brilliant but not always practical.

Ooops! I just looked up can openers and found out I have been wrong about canned food all my life, It was first used by the Dutch in 1772. The first can opener was patented in 1855. Until then they had used a variety of methods including keys similar to modern corned beef cans and hammers and chisels. I bet soldiers did use bayonets too,  Though they were theoretically available during the English Civil War they weren’t issued to British Soldiers until 1672. having said that, as the early bayonets were just daggers stuck in the end of a musket barrel it’s very hard to say when the army started using them as any man with a gun and a dagger could hve “invented” the bayonet.

Birmingham Peace Medal – reverse

Birmingham Peace Medal – obverse

I used the peace medal photographs because I was looking t them earlier this evening and because I mentioned military things earlier in the post. It’s very tangential, but it’s the best I can do.

The Learning Journey

I currently know more about the plot of Silas Marner, the filmography of A Christmas Carol and the life of Sir Alec Guinness than I did before I started writing my last post. None of this knowledge will enable me to earn money, which is a shame, but it will enrich my life and conversation. Probably.

There was a programme on University Challenge recently, as it reached its 50th year or something, and it featured some of the question setters. I’m not going to be rude about anyone but it did seem to me that the setters, at least in one case, were not the high powered academics I had been expecting. It has been noticeable in recent years that the questions were less difficult. I had been congratulating myself on my increasing intellectual ability, but the truth was slowly dawning on me – the questions were getting easier. Ah well . . .

The rest of the day proceeded much as predicted with food and TV, a few chores, a nap and some aimless rambling round the internet. I could call it “research” and dress it up as an activity or I can admit that it’s just a cover story for browsing.

This reminds me, one thing I do need to do (before producing a delicious dinner of roast vegetables and chicken pie) is order my pills for the coming months. The prescription date falls inconveniently in the middle of the Christmas holiday close-down. I’ve been meaning to do it for the best part of a  week but switching on a computer is a surefire way of diverting my attention from important jobs.