Friday, 31 October 2008
Monday, 27 October 2008
The quiz itself, though no doubt harmless, is cringingly banal at times, no doubt reflecting the Mail readership or perhaps even the British psyche. 'Please choose your teams name.' Choice includes the Mushy Peas, the Bitter Shandies and the Pork Scratchings. Does that really reflect pub team names or is the Mail trying to be funny or merely patronising. (The pub teams I know either have names simple beyond belief, for example, Two by Two or Sisters in Crime, alternatively some chose obscure names, for instance The Last Dials. the latter hopefully suggesting a team of brainboxes with a strange nom de plume, the origin of which is known only to themselves.
The Mail's questions vary in intensity from simply inane to quite taxing but the appeal is there and no doubt provide an escape from television trivia pouring from our screens. Plus the pattern is modern; multi choice questions so loved by modern examinations set the pattern. (Do the public realise multi choice exams cut down a teachers marking massively, thus their popularity in the academic world, its tick, tick, tick and the jobs done, or as my favourite uncle used to say, 'Bobs your uncle.' He wasn't actually called Bob but for five points, where did the saying come from?)
Three examples from the Mails offering.
Robert De Nero directed which film.
a The Good Shepherd b About a Boy c Frankenstein d Backdraft.
Lake Baikal, the oldest and deepest lake in the world is situated where?
a Africa b Siberia c China d Turkey.
Patsi Kensits second husband is a member of which band?
a Oasis b Simple Minds c Petshop Boys d Tears for Fears.
(See what I mean about the banality of the Mails questions!)
The earliest form of quiz I personally remember was sitting the Eleven Plus. (Quiz-To test the knowledge of by posing questions.) I still remember two of the questions.
George Washington was born, married and died in the house he built himself. Which one is incorrect?
Yesterday, today was tomorrow. True or false?
What exactly did right answers prove? I suppose they had some merit, though you had a one in three chance of getting them right anyway. Plus knowledge for its own sake seems pretty pointless. Alfred Lord Tennyson was a cut above all of us and he put it so well. 'Knowledge comes but wisdom lingers.' There again I bet he was useless in pub quizzes. But I digress plus it wouldn't do for this blog to appear in any way intellectual!
In the non too distant past I was involved in setting quizzes to improve school moral. Teachers can be very competitive, sometimes to a questionable degree; they just love to win. I suppose that's why many become teachers, to be in charge and show how clever they are. Pub quiz teams have more than their fair share of teachers and it shows. Though they don't always win. Many pub quiz members 'swot up' all week prior to a quiz. How 'anoraky' is that!
For the less serious the easiest solution is a simple true or false format. At least you've got a fifty fifty chance of getting it right! Try the following for size. I set it many years ago when my brain powers were at their height!
Simply True or False
1 The 'Real McCoy' was a boxer in the 1890's and 1900's.
2 Turtles have no teeth.
3 Cat gut comes from cats.
4 If you were born on the 29th October, your star sign is Libra.
5 Persian soldiers were paid with donkeys in 1900
6 The Lily of the Valley is the National flower of Norway.
7 The Great Wall of China took 1700 years to build.
8 Aphrodite is the Roman goddess of love.
9 The first mechanical clock had no hands.
10 Mary Stuart became Queen of Scotland at six months.
11 The clock above the leading article in The Times always shows 5.30.
12 Charlotte was the youngest of the Bronte sisters.
13 The average lead pencil will draw a line 35 miles long.
14 Originally the yo-yo was a Filipino jungle weapon.
15 Teddy bears were named after Theodore Roosevelt.
16 Dogs sweat through their paws.
17 Queen Elizabeth the Second was born at 17 bruton Street, London.
18 The wren is Britain's smallest bird.
19 "I shall hear in heaven" were the last words of Mozart.
20 A number of goats is called a tribe.
21 Bloomers are named after an American lady, a Mrs Bloomer.
22 And the Bowler Hat is named after an Englishman, Mr Bowler.
23 Roger Rabbit's wife is called Jessica.
24 And Andy Capp's wife is called Mo.
25 A walking camel lifts both feet on one side at the same time.
Finally I came across this quiz in an old book I bought in the Alnwick Railway Station bookshop. The quiz is at least eighty years old I suspect. Treat with care, they were just as clever as we are all those years ago. The only difference was, they didn't shout as loud.
A Very Simple Quiz for Very Clever People.
1 How long did the Hundred Years’ war Last?
2 In which month do the Russians celebrate the October Revolution?
3 In which country are Panama hats made?
4 From which country do we get Peruvian Balsam?
5 Which seabird has the zoological name Puffinus puffinus?
6 From which animal do we get catgut?
7 From which material are moleskin trousers made?
8 Where do Chinese gooseberries come from?
9 Louis the XVIII was the last one, but how many previous kings of France were called Louis?
10 What kind of creatures were the Canary Islands named after?
11 What was King George VI’s first name?
12 What colour is a purple finch?
13 In what season of the year does William Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream take place?
14 What is a camel’s hair brush made of?
15 How long did the Thirty Year’s War last?
Anyone care for answers?
Tuesday, 21 October 2008
“My granny says the Old Post Office is haunted and she knows ‘cause she’s old.”
“My mum says she saw a girl in odd clothes and a funny hat in her bedroom when she were a girl.”
(How many times have I told you, Trixiebell, it’s ‘you were, she was,’ not ‘you was, she were.’)
“Granddad often sees strange things on his way home from the pub.”
(I’ll bet he does!)
There’s no doubt many people believe in the supernatural and motorhomers are no different to anyone else. Plus the fact that they, motorhomers have the capability to visit places most likely to foster an unearthly presence. And though most of our metaphysical experiences can be explained, sometimes, just sometimes experiences are not so easily resolved.
I remember camping near Cromer many years ago when our children were very young. We, adults and small children wandered in the severest of fogs from the campsite towards the town. I seem to remember the weather often being foul, howling gales, or dense fog being the norm. (Which accounts for a proliferation of holiday photos showing anorak clad families braving the elements year after year.) Suddenly the ghostly sound of galloping horses echoed through the mist, becoming louder and louder, ghostly yet terrifyingly real. And real they were indeed, a group of runaway horses appeared out of the mist and fled past us at high speed to we knew not where.
I remember too food mysteriously spirited away nightly from our awnings in a park in Southport. Very strange, except that ghosts and apparitions have no need of our pork pies and treacle tarts, whilst tramps forced to sleep rough on the seafront definitely rate such culinary delights.
In the selfsame park on a late night walk our English Bull Terrier Buster became very agitated, at the same time doing my already high blood pressure no favours. I continued our walk, alone in the eerie darkness, a spooky experience guaranteed to set the heart pounding. Suddenly a large boxlike object came into view. Some sort of electrical substation, it emitted a persistent buzzing noise which could be heard only when you were very close indeed. Yet Buster had picked up the noise from some considerable distance. No ghostly cause then, but food for thought.
We have stayed in our trailer tent days inside the RAF Museum at Cosford. It is reputed that one aircraft, the Avro Lincoln RF398 is haunted. In the evenings when the public has gone home the place has an eerie mystique not easily dismissed. Whilst we cannot claim to have even fleetingly glimpsed a ghost, we did meet a volunteer who adamantly claimed an unearthly presence regularly misplaced his cleaning clothes as he worked on the aircraft.
Often we associate history with haunting. My wife and I visited Culloden on a cold, miserable morning. Culloden of course is the site of the last battle to be fought on mainland Britain. The date, April 16th 1746 when the army of the Jacobites were defeated by British Government troops.
We found the site fascinating and informative yet one thing stood out. The place had a chilling presence not easily ignored. And, though it was early summer, surprisingly not a single wild bird’s song could be heard; the silence was shattering in the extreme. Coincidence, perhaps, a fluke situation, maybe, but if ever a place deserves to be haunted, it’s Culloden.
Similarly Hadrian’s Wall is awesome yet, on a dull day at least, foreboding. Built by the Romans between AD 122-30, it is a stone and turf fortification built to keep out the Pictish tribes. It takes no great imagination to picture Roman soldiers marching the wall tops, weapons at hand to deter the warring Pics. And when the wind howls and the snow falls, who can be blamed if they hear the sound of caligae (military sandals) tramping the wall or the shouts of those in command urging on wet, cold soldiers.
A visit to Naseby is somewhat disappointing. The site of the most important battle in England, its importance in English history is unsurpassed. Here on June 14th 1645 Royal troops led by Prince Rupert fought Parliamentary troops under the command of Sir Thomas Fairfax. There has been little attempt to market, if that be the right word so important a place in our British heritage. Contrast the wonderful, informative modern displays at Culloden and Hadrian’s Wall. Staying in the area we visited the site of the battle, its presence almost grudgingly acknowledged by the local authority. A monument, open fields and that’s about it. Yet shut your eyes and the sound of battle can be heard by anyone with a feel for history. In the daytime just fields that could be any old fields. But at dusk an indefinable presence takes over and the sound of battle cries are never far away.
We have wild camped near Castleton in the Peak District, an area particularly steeped in murder and ghostly happenings. Particularly famous is the tale of the young couple on their way to be married, who were waylaid, robbed and their bodies flung unmercifully down a nearby mineshaft. We regularly park up overnight within a hundred yards or so of the site of the grisly deed. It’s not for the faint hearted of a stormy night yet we never seen sight of the merest apparition I’m sorry to say. My wife, by the way is not so sorry.
There you have it. Goulies and ghosties are for believers or those wanting to believe. Old sceptics like myself have little time for such silliness. I used to say, ‘think ghoul, think fool.’ That is until a strange experience challenged my entrenched beliefs.
Some years ago we visited Lindisfarne, a favourite haunt if you’ll forgive the pun. It was a bright summer’s day, not a cloud in the sky or ghosts in the air. We had by then a new, all white English bull terrier by the name of Sam. The churchyard contains several thought provoking graves and I was keen to see them.
We walked down the path and through the lynch gate. That is, my wife and I walked, Sam refused point blank to enter the churchyard despite being coaxed gently then pulled less gently on his lead. Bystanders thought it hilarious, I was somewhat embarrassed. The result being my wife and Sam sat on a seat at the lynch gate whilst I wandered alone round the churchyard and adjoining abbey ruins.
Holiday over we returned home and the holiday memories faded. Come Christmas and I was present hunting. I espied the Atlas of Magical Britain by Janet and Colin Bord; an inspired choice for a son in law interested in apparitions, phantoms, spooks and sprites.
I happened to read the book prior to it being gift wrapped (My wife says I’m a cheapskate, too mean to buy two copies) and there it was.
By tradition the ghost of St Aiden is said to still haunt the abbey and the Island. Plus the amazing statement that a ghostly white dog is also said to haunt the abbey ruins.
Coincidence, maybe; perhaps dogs are more perceptive than humans or merely one daft dog wanted a rest. Whatever the answer, this is one old cynic who’s not so sure about it all as he used to be. What do you think?
I wrote this article for Motorhome Monthly. I think in view of this weeks 'ghostly happenings' it is worth revisiting!