Thursday, 22 December 2016

Your Bonus Questions Are....

It's an amazing experience being on an iconic show like the BBC's University Challenge. I was honoured to be asked, but also terrified I'd look like a complete ignoramus. Luckily my team-mates were awesome - a biological science expert, an acoustics and engineering professor, and a broadcaster who turned out to be a walking encyclopaedia. 

Arriving at the studios in Salford, we were put in the green room with other competitors. They were filming four matches that day, and we were all under strict orders not to reveal the results before they were broadcast. There were a few familiar faces there: indeed the captain of the team we were due to play was a former colleague of mine, whom I'd worked with at ITV News. Small world.

The atmosphere is all very jolly with just a tiny undercurrent of rivalry. After all, this was a Christmas special. It was supposed to be fun, not cut-throat. Taking our seats on the set was a surreal experience. We all got to pose with unflappable host Jeremy Paxman in front of an enthusiastic audience. We practised using our buzzers, and I made sure our mascot, Ollie Bear, was front and centre. All very relaxed. Then the cameras started rolling.

As the opposing team introduced themselves, my Kent colleagues and I exchanged uneasy glances. Sussex were fielding a top journalist, a comedienne, a major academic and a QC. Between them, they had some serious brainpower.

But we needn't have worried. 

My team mates turned out to have a wealth of knowledge, everything from fossils to computer systems to Belgian musicians to war poets. (For my part, and rather less intellectually, I managed to supply answers on Batman, Hollywood actors, and the Two Ronnies).

Yes, we got one or two wrong. I will forever kick myself over failing to recognise the breastbone of a turkey. But we nailed it. And I don't mind revealing we got one of the highest scores ever on Christmas University Challenge.

So I leave you with good wishes and good cheer, and wish you all a very happy Christmas. May 2017 be a fantastic year for all.