An excerpt of this journey through the Weakest Link by Mr Ken Searle features in our most recent zine, as promised here is the full article…
The time, what’s the fucking time? I’ve been stuck in the BBC Studios (Weakest Link Division) for an interminable length of time, I’m feeling like a session with the Spanish Inquisition and Gestapo combined would be about as heavy as the systematic ‘Death By Quizshow’ that the BBC – a body funded by the taxpayer – are putting me through. When it started, I felt like Rocky Balboa, ready for that underdog-inspired round. Now, I feel like I’ve just been kneecapped by the IRA. Survival, not prestige or the money, is all that matters.
They’ve all gone – the Welshman, the Geordie, the dinnerlady, the DJ, the psychic, the Mancunian, the single Mum. Just me – the student – and the pensioner left. Youth vs wisdom, and £1510 to be snatched. So he thought GK Chesterton wrote a collection of stories about Father Ted, and I thought you needed a Permit to Ride (damn the Beatles!), but this is the ultimate battle now. Anne Robinson, a much-stretched hag with a manner somewhere between that of Thatcher and your least favourite elderly relative, hangs in the manner of a bat in Notre Dame, surveying those to beneath who dare to peer on her imperious surroundings. Sadly, she’s not upside-down, but I’m sure she can afford to have her face look more like a Picasso painting if she tries.
I thought I’d have used up my luck long, long before this moment, so the initial nerves were gone and I’m just knackered and wanting to go home in one piece, yet still anxious to keep going. It’s been a long day, and I have to get on. Pensioner’s starting to crack, I think, as Sudden Death questions approach. Sanguinity is flooding through me as he misses his first penalty.
Robinson barks out my first question/penalty. I step up as it becomes apparent that I don’t have the faintest idea what she’s on about. Something about molluscs and their precious stone. Amber – no, I’ve seen Jurassic Park, it’s mosquitoes that produce them. Emerald? Can’t think of anything else. Nope, it’s pearl, I blast over the crossbar and it’s still all-square, the pensioner’s missed too. Who cares? 0-0.
Shot Two. Pensioner gets a good penalty in on a question about Bill and Ben, the Flowerpot Men. I’m alert now, the sweat patches are infecting the calm and it’s 1-0. Again, the question folds into itself and I only hear the keywords: 2002, runner, part of some motorway named after them – who’s the runner? Two names flash into my mind as I step up: Jonathan Edwards and Paula Radcliffe. A pause as I think, remembering Edwards was actually a triple-jumper, so it must be the People’s Paula, forgetting other runners exist. Oh, it is her. Good shot, it was a good guess, and it’s 1-1.
Shot three. It’s a miss! He only bloody passes a pisseasy question! The torture now is that I must score with a correct answer… and it could be anything. It could be cricket. I’m lining up the ball now, terrified, and I’m listening to a question on a Nirvana song from 1991: it’s either ‘Smells Like Team Spirit’ or ‘Lithium’. Is ‘Lithium’ an album though? I think so, so I plump for the former, though is it ‘Team’ or ‘Teen’. ‘Smells Like Te Spirit’ are the only words to tumble out, and the penalty is slot away easily, albeit a touch unfairly, to make it 2-1.
It’s now shot four, and the pensioner’s seeming anxious. Stalling a bit on his penalty question about which country in South East Asia totally banned smoking. The goal would be mine if I got that question – it’s Bhutan of course. But he’s unsure. He’s vacillating. And he’s saying Nepal and giving the keeper the easiest shot possible! If I score now I’m 3-1 up, but the question Robinson’s thrown at me… not a simple one. An English battle, fought in 1485, in 2010 they rearranged the sight. Okay, huff puff. This is gonna be tricky. Scrub the ‘rearranging in 2010’ and think of battles fought in England – Marston Moor (1640s), Bosworth Hill (?), Stamford Bridge (1066), Trafalgar (1805). Bosworth Hill has no date attached but stands out as a Big Battle, so hesitantly I say it. ‘The Battle of Bosworth Field, I’ll accept’. Again, pure luck, but 3-1 and the best of the five. Pensioner can’t come back.
A bit of controversy abounds over whether Bosworth Hill is acceptable. But it is, and the victory is mine. I’ve got hands to shake, torsos to hug, but that will come later. Now, I’m in a daze. This is no anti-climax. Robinson briskly approaches me, outstretching a gnarled hand. ‘Young lad, young lad’, she trills, before walking off and preparing for her next group. For her, it’s all just a job. For provincial nobodies like me, unfit to walk on this hallowed turf except with a security pass as ‘Guest’, it is life-changing. Elation will come later. Survival has come first. As I later comment, ‘I don’t think I deserve to win. If I had to be honest, I think the real victor was Trivia’.