Saturday, 22 October 2011

My Other Blog is a LAM

Yes, the chances are that you already know this, since I imagine that the main, if not the only way that people find their way to Londinius Unbound is through the link on Life After Mastermind. Still, the great thing about my first blog is that it gave me the opportunity to indulge two passions – quizzing and writing. Basically by writing about quizzing.

So , anyway, I thought that would be that. I’d write for a while, nobody would read it, and eventually I’d get bored with it and stop. For the first month of two, that was pretty much how it went. Then people started reading it. I knew this because they started commenting on it as well. which just encouraged me all the more. To put it into perspective, in the three years of Life After Mastermind’s existence, there have been almost 200,000 page views. I’ve never sat down to do any serious analysis about why people like it – I’m too scared that I’d end up losing whatever it is. Still, even though a lot of those views will be the same people coming back again regularly, the fact is that there does seem to be a sizeable audience out there for it.

When I started publishing on kindle, I always planned to try to tap into this market. Don’t get me wrong, I love writing anyway. I love the process of it, and I would do it anyway, whether it was to be sold, whether there was any chance of anyone reading it or not. However the fact is that there is nothing like knowing that people are reading what you’ve written. With a ready made audience in the regular readers of the blog, writing the book of the blog seemed like an obvious step to take.

What do you put in it, though ? Well, in my case, some of it was about life BEFORE Mastermind – how I became a quizzer, and my experiences in quizzing leading up to winning Mastermind. Then , living up to the title, my quiz experiences since winning the show. I’ve also tried to comment on some of the issues that have concerned me , and also cast an eye over some of the trends in quiz shows recently.

As a tactic for raising sales ? Well, all I can say is that it sold its first copy within hours of being advertised on Life After Mastermind, so we can but hope. Here’s a little teaser from it : -

1) “Playing Along at Home

Television probably has everything to do with it. I was born in 1964, and this places me firmly within the TV generation. I honestly believe that TV will never play as important a part in the lives of any generation as it has done for those of us born in the 60s and 70s. Although television existed in our parents’ childhood, even those lucky enough to have access to television found that there was only ever a couple of hours’ programming a day so they had to find other ways of amusing themselves for the majority of the time. As for today, DVDs, the Internet, mobiles, Sony and Nintendo games consoles compete for our kids’ attention. It just wasn’t like that in our day. It came down to a choice between Blue Peter, Top of The Pops and Ask Aspel, or doing your Maths homework, and there’s no prizes for guessing which won. So TV was important to us. No, I’ll rephrase that. TV was IMPORTANT to us.

If you go to a lot of social quizzes, you‘ll notice that far more quiz questions are about Television of the 70s and early 80s than there are about television of the 1990s and later. That’s because for many of the people doing quizzes today, when we were young, that’s what we were doing, watching telly. I’m not saying that television was the most dominant influence in turning us into the adults we have become – but I’m saying that it definitely played its part.

If you’re not sure whether you’re one of us or not, try this little 5 part quiz to see if you belong to the TV generation. Write your answers down on a piece of paper, then check out your answers against the answers in brackets underneath.

1) Which one word completes this phrase – Its Friday, its 5 o’clock, and its –
2) Which dance group on Top of the Pops came between the short lived Ruby Flipper, and Zoo ?
3) What number was Dick Dastardly’s car in Whacky Races ?
4) Which department did Bodie and Doyle work for in “The Professionals “ ?
5) The Black and White Minstrel Show. What was that all about ?


1) Correct answer – Crackerjack ( 10 points ) – any other answer – 0
2) Correct answer – Legs and Co. ( 10 points) – other answers – Pan’s People – sorry, they were before Ruby Flipper, but 5 points for a decent guess. The Tiller Girls/ The Vernon Girls – minus 5 points. Any other answer – 0
3) Correct answer – Double Zero. ( 10 points ) Single Zero – (5 points ). Bonus points awarded for the following irrelevant information : -
Dick Dastardly never won a stage in Wacky Races, even though he had a car which was clearly faster than all the others since it always allowed him to get to the crossroads and change the roadsigns before any of the other cars. ( 5 points )
There were 2 spin offs to Wacky Races – Dastardly and Muttley and their Flying Machines was one, and The Perils of Penelope Pitstop was the other. ( 5 points )
The villain in The Perils of Penelope Pitstop was her guardian Sylvester Sneakley, aka The Hooded Claw. In Frankie Goes to Hollywood’s 3rd consecutive number 1 – The Power of Love, one line of the lyric goes,
“I’ll protect you from the Hooded Claw “ In the space of 12 months three different songs, all with the title “The Power of Love “ went to number 1 in the UK singles charts. The other two were by Huey Lewis and the News ( used in the film Back to the Future ) and Jennifer Rush ( 50 bonus points – don’t even bother answering the rest – you’re definitely one of us. )
Any other answer to original question – 0 points.
4) Correct answer –The Professionals worked for Department C.I.5 ( 10 points ) . Other answers – D.I.6. It was The New Avengers that actually worked for D.I.6 , but that’s a far more difficult answer , so you get 15 bonus points for that one. Any other answer – 0 points.
5) Correct answer – God only knows – but it was on a Saturday night and the oldies loved it. ( 10 points ) Other answers – no answer at all – 5 points . Any answer which actually does manage to explain what the show was all about – instant disqualification .

How did you do ? When you have added up your score, check out what it means here : -

90 – Why on Earth did you write down all of that extra information about Wacky Races ? Stop cheating and add up your real score.
35-50 - No doubt about it. You’re one of us, a fully paid up member of the TV generation.
15-35 - You don’t qualify, and may well be the type of person who complains about that young whippersnapper Michael Aspel taking over the Antiques Roadshow.
0-15 Shouldn’t you be doing your homework, or your paper round ?
Minus score – See 15-35

So now you know. If you belong to this generation, then everything I have said so far will come as no surprise to you. If you haven’t, then look and learn. * ( see note at end of the chapter )

I’m delighted to say that my parents had a mostly pretty laissez faire attitude to the television. We had a strict bedtime, but apart from that, almost anything on the telly was fair game. It was a kind of wallpaper really. My father was an expert at this kind of undiscerning viewing. When I was young and he was still working he would sit down in front of it the moment he walked into the front room, and watch everything until he went to bed. When he finally packed in working because he didn’t like it very much, then it came to life the same time that he did in the morning, and he watched everything until closedown. Schools’ programmes – Good Afternoon with Judith Chalmers, the whole lot. So it would have been a bit hypocritical if he’d tried to ration our viewing. There was none of this nonsense about how many hours was good for us to watch during the week. No, the telly went on as soon as you got home from school, it stayed on while you were eating your tea, and then doing your homework in the living room in front of it, and it was still going strong when you were sent to bed. Any program in between was fair game, and we would watch almost anything, as long as there was likely to be NO SWEARING and NO NAUGHTY BITS. The naughty bits rule was strictly enforced, so that I wasn’t allowed to watch my mate Alfonso , who’d been to stage school, playing one of the kids in “I, Claudius “.

Even at the weekends , telly ensured that we were well looked after. We were kids when they invented “Swap Shop “ and “Tiswas “. In those heady days you could crawl out of your bed in time for the start of Swap Shop, then sit through Grandstand, follow up Final Score with Basil Brush and Dr. Who, Brucie’s Generation Game, Dixon of Dock Green, and if you were quiet, round it all off with Match of the Day before going back to bed.

I'm not sure exactly when it would have been that I watched "Mastermind" for the first time. It was probably during one of the early series in the mid 70s. In these days when there are literally hundreds of TV channels available on satellite and cable, its probably difficult for younger people to imagine just how many arguments you could have about what you were going to watch on an evening when there were only three channels to choose from. Well, today tellies are so cheap that you could probably afford to have one in every room if you wanted to, but in those days most families just had the one. As it happens, we had two, but that was not an extravagance. We had to have two tellies because it was my Nan's house, and we had the downstairs, while she had the upstairs. She had her own telly, but ours was rented. Does anybody still rent their television ? More to the point, does anyone’s ever break down any more ? I don’t remember any telly I’ve had in my married life ever breaking down before we decided to replace it. When I was a kid , the repairman from Ketts rentals in West Ealing spent so much time round our house I used to think he was another relative.

Another thing which seems funny to recall it is that there were no video recorders then. I'm not sure exactly when they were invented, but I never knew anyone who had one until the late 70s, and we never had one until I had started at university. So if you missed a programme you wanted to see, or if it clashed with something else, then that was it - you missed it. There were plenty of repeats on, but these were six months down the line, not later the same week or even the same evening. I think that it may well have been Eastenders which pioneered that particular practice, and it was about 1985 when that came onto our screens. As I said, there were arguments, but then also there was a hard core of programmes which we never argued about , and we just always watched by an unspoken consensus. Comedies like “Porridge” and “The Good Life “ , and other things like “Blue Peter “ , “Top of the Pops “ “ Tomorrow’s World “ and others were all highlights of the week’s viewing. Mastermind was one of these.”

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