Can I have a ‘p’ please Bob? No, you bloody can’t, Bill, you’ll just have to wait for the interval. Monday night wasn’t Blockbusters for the over 70s, it was Quiz night at a traditional old pub in Hastings Old Town.

I joined a team of regulars to do brainiac battle, in what turned out to be a rather competitive and controversial contest of knowledge and wisdom. Just to clarify the difference between the two - knowledge is knowing that a tomato is a fruit. Wisdom is not putting one in a fruit salad. Got it? Good.

After sitting down with my new team mates, I was handed a piece of paper and a pencil. This, I was told, was not for me to draw funny caricatures of my team mates, but to use to write down my answer to each question, before showing it to the team captain. The idea was that it stopped us from all shouting, at the same time, "I know the answer, it’s errrrr, what’s his name, you know, the guy with the funny limp and the glass eye" or blurting out the answer in earshot of the other teams. I did attempt to use the ‘accidental blurting out of the answer’ as a tactic to put off the other teams, but they saw straight through my “it’s a seagull” answer to the question “what bird is traditionally used by Asian fisherman to help catch fish?”

The quiz lasted eight rounds, each consisting of six questions. Eight multiplied by six, that’s…. err…. nearly a thousand questions. Wow, it went fast. The rounds ranged from the usual ‘general knowledge’, ‘sport’ and ‘geography’ to ‘murder’ and ‘initials’. I had hoped that the ‘murder’ round might have been the perfect opportunity to bump off some of the other teams, but, alas, they spoiled my fun by reading out questions instead. I have to say that none of the rounds were really in my specialist field of knowledge. But then I guess I shouldn’t expect quizzes to have rounds like ‘famous tiddlywinks champions of the 90s’, ‘fruits beginning with the letter q’ and ‘indoor decorating for eskimos’.

A short way into the quiz, it become apparent that I was about as much use (to our team) as chopsticks in a soup kitchen. The other team members - serial quiz buffs - were doing very well without me. It didn’t help that all the questions seemed to be about the two billion years leading UP to the 1980s. It’s not that I didn’t know some of the answers. For example, I knew that the acronym NATO stands for the ‘National Association of Transexual Organists.’ It’s just that the other team members knew the answers already - damn them to hell!

To give you an idea of my quiz prowess - the last time I took part in a pub quiz was about five years ago and we relied  heavily on a great new tool called WAP (Internet on your phone). Some of our team members sat drinking beer and looking down under the table. Others sat drinking beer and then took regular toilet breaks. We must have seemed like a load of depressed alcoholics with bladder problems. The reason for the ‘depressed look’ was that our ‘WAP’ members were madly typing into their mobile phones under the table, trying to get answers from Yahoo! The pub owners were gobsmacked at how a bunch of drunk twenty-somethings managed to win the contest several weeks in a row. In this week’s quiz, however, we had a much more useful tool than WAP - his name was John (his surname may well have been ‘Wap’ - I didn’t ask!)

Going back further in time, like Doctor Who on an episode of ‘Who Do You Think You Are?'… in the first pub quiz I ever attended, we didn’t take things very seriously at all. If we didn’t know the answer, we simply entered something ridiculous. In fact, I recall one quiz night where we entered nearly every answer as Danny La Rue (the drag act). This got a few murmurs of hilarity from the other teams throughout the evening, so it was worth the little effort involved.

So, how did we get on last night?

Well, there was a moment of controversy that lost us the contest. The question “name the longest river in England?” had our team wondering which of two answers to go with. Without boring you too much, there is the River Severn, which is the longest river, but it flows partly through Wales. On the other hand, the longest river to flow entirely through England is the Thames. So, we went with Thames (but also added that if it included Wales, it was the Severn)… and the answer given was Severn. Now then, try a Google search and it leads you to several pages that tell you that Thames is the correct answer. In actual fact, we were 100% correct with the answer we wrote, as this article proves.

Despite much protest from our team, and much more protest (leading to hatred and utterances of an unpleasant nature) from one particular team member, the Quiz Master stood his ground, like a fat man at the dessert trolley, and wouldn’t give us the point. We ended up losing by that single point. If only we were able to obtain proof that we were correct. This got me thinking, in my own mischievous way…

With the power of Wikipedia being all about human editing, how easy would it be to look something up on your mobile phone, change the information for that entry, then present it to the Quiz Master and say, with an honest face, “look, look… this says that I’m right?” I found a good example of that just the other day, in fact. Someone had altered Wikipedia’s entry for Lumber to include the words genitalia and penis (see screenshot below). To be honest, I can’t see a question about that coming up in a quiz contest anytime soon.

Anyway, to sum up: We lost by a point and by the end of the night my piece of paper was as blank as a Blankety Blank cheque book (and pen)

Wikipedia Funny Lumber