Magazine article The Spectator

Notes On. Pub Quizzes

Magazine article The Spectator

Notes On. Pub Quizzes

Article excerpt

For more than 20 years now, I have been trudging up the hill to the Prince of Wales in Highgate on Tuesday evenings to take part in that tiny pub's venerable weekly quiz. Each evening promises something different and yet somehow the same: ferocious competition, ridiculous arguments over the answer to question four, several glasses of red wine and usually, during round three, a few packets of Sweet Thai Chilli Sensations crisps. The quiz is unusual in that it is set by its regulars, and my next turn behind the microphone will be on St Valentine's Day. (This is always a good night for us; most people will do anything to avoid it.) It will be the 178th quiz I have hosted there. That's more than 8,000 questions, allowing for the odd repeat.

Why do we do it? In 1993, pub quizzing was an occupation of the severest eccentricity, but like Donald Trump it has gradually been normalised. Pub owners are particularly keen, because quiz teams drink an awful lot. Whether this is because they are infected by natural high spirits or because they are a load of drunks is often the subject of fevered debate. This is in contrast to people who go to the pub to watch football, who habitually drink as little as they can get away with.

We do it, we have decided, for two related reasons. One is that it is a form of play for grown-ups who don't get to play much in their lives. Whatever else is going on, we can forget about all that for two blissful hours while we try and name all five English kings (since 1066) who succeeded their brothers. …

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