Magazine article The Spectator

I Want to Be a Millionaire

Magazine article The Spectator

I Want to Be a Millionaire

Article excerpt

Unlike all those no-life-whatsoever people in the City who have been slaving over the evil, evil, it-must-die euro, I have spent Christmas and the New Year in the way that God and Cardinal Hume intended: playing Orcs on my computer, making devilled turkey and turkey fricasee, gurgling at my baby boy, going to midnight mass and slobbing in front of the TV. The result of all this is that my brain has turned to jelly so it's quite possible that this week's column will turn out to be total rubbish. Then again, perhaps it won't because I'm writing about one of the subjects closest to my heart: general knowledge quizzes.

I've loved them ever since my early childhood when, on car journeys, my father would ask me questions like: `Stiff exam: what's the capital of Outer Mongolia?' As a consequence, I am now sometimes asked to take part in high-powered quiz games like the one last year at the River Cafe. I mention this not to show off but to apologise publicly to the people who forked out hundreds of pounds for me to be on their table - Neil Mendoza and William Sieghart. Though our team won hands down it had nothing to do with me. I don't think I got a single question to which someone else on our table didn't know the answer. Still, it did give me a chance to meet the evening's quizmaster Jeremy Paxman. And to discover the little-known fact that in real life he is incredibly nice, charming and ever-so-slightly luvvieish. This is a side you rarely see on television, though he did rather spoil his bastardish image the other night on the special tabloids v. broadsheets edition of University Challenge (BBC 2). When Boris Johnson had the temerity to question one of his decisions (surely a first on the programme), Paxman seemed more amused than cross. Had Boris been an undergraduate rather than a fellow hack I suspect Jezza would have had his balls for breakfast.

The tabloids, incidentally, won which I'm sure wouldn't have happened if I'd been on the broadsheets team. I know I said earlier that I was useless in the River Cafe quiz but that's because their questions are all pervy and weird. On the whole, I am pretty good in these competitions as I demonstrated the other night - and I mention this purely for the purposes of name-dropping - when I was in another charity quiz. On Charles Saatchi's team.

Charles Saatchi is awesomely cool and I instantly identified with him because, like me, he doesn't think anything's worth doing unless he wins. …

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