Worried by what you’ve heard, you switch on the weather forecast and, within seconds, it comes up with a no-nonsense summary of what is to come: Severe Weather Warning: Heavy Snow. You go into a momentary state of shock and, for a split second, the weather forecaster transforms into the Grim Reaper and points his scythe at you. Sensing the need for urgency, you make a quick decision: It’s time to panic in a way that only British people can… begin Benny Hill music
The Supermarket Trip
Worried that other people might buy up everything that would help you survive being snowed in by the anticipated 20ft of snow, you jump straight into your car and speed to the local supermarket. After fighting your way into the car park you squeeze into a small space; parking half on the grass verge and half on the man collecting the trolleys. You grab a trolley and sprint through the supermarket doors, spinning a little old lady to the ground as she stands perusing the Easter hot cross bun offer. There’s no time for checking she’s ok - you’re panic buying, for goodness sake…
You dash through the store, heading straight for the bread and milk. Afterall, there are no better survival foods during two weeks of violent snow storms, and 20ft snow drifts, than bread and milk. Tins of food are not going to help and, therefore, should not be given consideration - what a stupid idea!
As you approach the bread aisle, you are greeted by a scene from a nuclear holocaust - the shelves have been decimated. A gust of wind from the stock room sends a bread bag rolling along the aisle towards you, like tumbleweed. Just as you’re about to give up, you spot a wounded survivor in the distance - a baguette; broken in two with a piece missing from the end (and a suspicious child-sized bite mark). This is no time to be fussy. You rescue the stricken bread stick and lift it gently into your trolley, as if you were lifting an elderly lady out of a chair (or off the floor, together with her hot cross buns). Great, your emergency survival kit is underway.
Next stop, milk. As you reach aisle 435, having fought your way through the crowds of 75 year olds scrapping over the last few boxes of Ritz crackers, it becomes obvious that you’ve once again arrived too late. The fridges are empty and there are puddles of milk lying stagnant on the floor. The scene bears the hallmarks of a battlefield after the biggest milk fight in history. You feel like crying, but can’t, for obvious reasons - it’s spilt milk and crying over it would make for a terrible pun.
So, what are you going to do - an emergency survival kit is no good without milk? I mean, you’ve got the baguette, surely you can’t be defeated at this late stage? And, besides, it’s a known religious ‘fact’ that “man cannot live by bread alone”… You have two choices:
1) Choose different milk. UHT, for example, has a much longer shelf life.
2) Slowly prowl around the store, like a stalker with squeaky shoes, and try to locate a trolley with milk in it. Then, using your ninja skills, sneak up and extract the milk from the owner’s trolley without them noticing. I mean, it’s not stealing, is it…
Any thought about trying option one leaves your head straight away - you’re in panic mode, this is no time for sensible thinking. So, temporarily abandoning your trolley, you walk around from one aisle to the next, taking cover behind other shoppers and large boxes of shredded wheat, and casually inspect the trolleys of unsuspecting shoppers. After a few minutes, you spot a young Mother and her trolley, which contains a big two pint bottle of milk - perfect. The milk starts calling you from the back of the trolley - you can clearly hear it (but, strangely, no-one else can!). It’s in a tricky position though - perched directly underneath the Mother’s four children, who sit squashed into the trolley’s single child seat. You convince yourself that your cause is greater than that of her four kids and so, whilst she is building up her emergency supply of Pampers nappies in a second trolley, you sneak up, distract the kids with lollipops taken from the end shelf, extract the bottle of milk and escape quickly, like a fart in a jockstrap.
Feeling elated, you stroll casually back to your trolley with a big grin on your face. However, a shock greets you as you return to your trolley… someone’s nicked your half-eaten baguette. The little shit!!
You feel desolate and bereft of ideas. In desperation, you do what any insane, panic-buying person would do… you head back to aisle 433 to fight over the Ritz crackers…
Some time later, you emerge from the carnage of aisle 433 (The Battle of The Ritz) - battered, bloodied, with a sore ankle where a ninety year old man bashed you with his zimmer frame (prior to you stamping on his toe and poking him in the eye with your remaining lollipop). Before you hobble to the checkout, you must get toilet rolls. However, another battle lies ahead for you. You push your trolley to the correct aisle, only to spot four children having a fight with the toilet rolls. It seems that their Mother left them there whilst she went off looking for some missing milk…
Exhausted from your shopping trip, you check out and leave the supermarket. One final challenge awaits you as you stand there surveying the car park. Where is your car? Three feet of snow fell during your 10 minute shopping expedition, so it’s not obvious. Thankfully, you spot the legs of the trolley collection man…
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)…