Wednesday, 7 July 2010

Winning the Brain of Bath - by a nose

As a generally quite amiable chap I definitely subscribe to the theory that it is not the winning that counts it is the taking part. However, I have to admit that winning is, on the whole, rather better.

I certainly felt that last Thursday at about 10.15pm in the Assembly Rooms when The Bath Chronicle stormed to victory in the always hugely enjoyable Brain of Bath quiz to raise funds for Julian House.

When I first arrived on these shores nearly five years ago, I was quickly made aware that The Brain of Bath was the big one. The quiz of quizzes in this city. The one to win. And, crucially, one we had never won before – even with the huge advantage of having my fellow blogger Hugh Dixon as our not-so-secret weapon. Hugh, as I opined in a column the first year I tested my brain at the Brain, knows things that no one else knows. He can come up with answers when mere mortals don’t even understand the question, and he is worth his weight in the wine he consumes on the night to help him ‘think’.

And yet even with him and fellow boffin-esque quiz addicts Graham Holburn and Paul Wiltshire in the team, the Chronicle had been continually forced to settle for the ‘it’s not the winning that counts...’ line as we trooped out sadly from yet another defeat.

Well, it all changed in 2008 when we won for the first time. Winning definitely felt rather good and so even though we weren’t able to defend our title in 2009 we went for this year’s event quietly hoping for a repeat success. It was tough stuff though because, if you have ever tasted one of Julian House’s quizzes, you will know they don’t make it easy. Indeed, when a question seems a bit too easy you pause before writing down the answer because you can’t believe Cecil Weir and his Julian House team would give such ‘gifts’.

How many I wonder have not put the obvious answer down because it seems too easy and suffered accordingly. Oh, he’s a tricky one that Cecil.

This year we had the usual rounds such as a picture one (who the heck was that Todd Stephens fella anyway)? a fiendishly difficult science round, a testing sport one and the quiz’s undoubted highlight – the ‘smells round’. This is where you are all given little pouches with smells embedded in cotton wool and you have to let your nostrils do the work. This year we had Chanel Number 5, coconut, Brut and banana, for example, and this provoked some fierce sniffing and often fiercer debate. I think I must have had a bit of a cold to be honest because everything smelt to me like apple or Vim. Weird, I know.

By the end of the night, as Cecil tantalisingly counted down the top places, we realised we had won it – albeit by a tiny margin. As a team we trooped up to receive our prize but tried not to look too smug because we all knew everyone else watching was already thinking either ‘damn them’ and ‘oh well, it’s the taking part that counts...’ depending on their mood.

So, here’s to defending our hard-earned title in 2011. And here’s hoping that next year Cecil will save my blushes by putting both apple and Vim into the smells round.

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