The Things We Did Not Know


Just back from the WESC Foundation Pub Quiz which we did not win. Here is a list of things which we, 6 grown adults under the banner ‘University Challenged’ did not know:

  • Who’s only published work was ‘The Limelight’
  • What Tallin looks like
  • The name of Hermione’s cat
  • What Helsinki looks like
  • The year of the first Academy Awards
  • What Nadine Dorries looks like
  • Who married Eleanor of Aquitaine
  • What Valletta looks like
  • Which Dickens novel features a cricket match between Muggleton and Dingley Dell
  • The name of that woman who got caught smuggling drugs last year
  • The Scottish island with the largest populations of Gannets
  • What Stockholm looks like
  • Which black and white film featured Spats Colombo
  • The name of the captain of England’s Ashes winning women’s cricket team
  • What Budapest looks like.
  • Or Prague
  • Or Lisbon

Does it matter that between us, when we rubbed our brains together, we could not generate enough light to illuminate these facts? I don’t think so. I’m not bad at quizzes, and for a long time i’ve been storing essentially useless, or at least non-life-altering, information in my head to no great purpose. These last few years I’ve started to feel that there really is only so much room in there and for everything new that goes in, it does seem like at least one old fact has to make way. So I’m forgetting stuff and not sucking up so much new stuff. So what.

More importantly, I think the fun of these occasions comes not from knowing, but from not knowing or, ideally, nearly knowing.

When I play football, I get pleasure from doing good things and from seeing other people pull off impressive feats. But what I really love, what gives me an electric bolt of pure joy, is when someone, myself included, attempts something impressive and gets it so wrong in such a simple fashion, that they must immediately question what on earth they are doing there and by the way what is this game you’re playing – I’ve never seen it before. I get such a kick from seeing someone accidentally chip the ball over the high fence for no reason whatsoever that I can never contain my laughter. I think some of them think i’m a total arse.

So it is with quizzes. The real joy is in bumping up against that impenetrable barrier of what you do not know. The best are those you know you should know, that any reasonably intelligent person just must know. But you don’t. And you know you don’t. In those moments you come face to face with your limitations and you look into the eyes of people who share them. You realise you’re all the same, all limited, and you laugh.

I can’t remember much from the quiz which only finished an hour ago. I can’t say I’ll remember Charlie Chaplin’s only novella or what Nadine Dorries looks like, but the sight of team-mate Paul squaring up to what he thought the opening bars of Ellie Goulding’s version of ‘How Long Will I Love You?’ sounded like will live with me for some time, along with our suggestions for what the ship in ‘The Perfect Storm’ may have been called (“probably ‘Lucky’?”).

We laughed.


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