One of the few television programmes I care to watch these days is University Challenge. Of course, I can’t abide that awful fellow, Paxman; give me Bamber Gascoigne in a tweed jacket any day. I like to challenge myself by answering all the questions and comparing my final tally with the teams’. I usually achieve a comfortable margin, particularly over the metropolitan universities.
As with so many institutions, UC has succumbed to the practice of “dumbing down”. I find it distressing that so many of the questions these days are devoted to popular culture or obscure science, rather than the arts and humanities that were its mainstay in the Gascoigne era. Another irksome trend is the producers’ tendency to make up the numbers by inventing some entirely spurious teams, often with preposterous names such as Huddersfield and Teeside. I mean, really!
Anyhow, the reason I mention this now is that tonight was this season’s final, with Corpus Christi facing Manchester (a case of gentlemen against players, if ever there were one). The Oxford team was led by a formidable young lady with an encyclopaedic knowledge – in fact, the kind of catch that I hope young Tarquin will make, when the time comes (at this juncture, the Lady Hermione peers over her copy of Horse and Hound and counters that her bookish learning probably doesn’t extend to preparing a decent roast partridge … touché, darling - but surely that is why one has a cook).
Inevitably, Oxford triumphed, and trooped up to be congratulated. I was reminded of my own victory on the programme, heading up the old alma mater team back in the 70s. Which reminds me, I must get Dawkins to thin out the trophy cabinet, it’s looking awfully crowded again.