Just before we left New Zealand, Harriet’s friend Tegan suggested we all go to a pub quiz. She knew of a good one in a stodgy pub down on Lampton Quays (which — blowing all your minds here — is pronounced “keys” everywhere else in the English-speaking world). The pub looked more like a library, or an old-fashioned salon where aristocrats stuffed tobacco in their pipes and quoted Alexander Pope and Churchill. It was packed. Every table in there (or on our side of the pub, anyways) was playing. People came to this quiz every week and played for blood. The quizmaster actually called himself the quizmaster and had prepared a slideshow, one slide for all 80 questions or however many there was. One of the additional rounds was a puzzle round with anagrams and other opaque word games. We placed in the middle of the pack and won one of the side contests, and got showered in candies and toys.
A few nights ago, I suggested we all go to a pub quiz. I’d passed a chalkboard outside Broadway Markey advertising the best pub quiz in East London at a pub called Cat & Mutton. The pub looked decidedly unstodgy — probably a hundred or more years old, all wood, giant ceilings, significantly dingy. The quiz room upstairs was almost empty, only four other groups there to play, and the staff hadn’t even bothered to put someone at the bar. The hosts were a Canadian girl and an English guy with an completely incomprehensible accent filling in for their friend on vacation. There was no slideshow. The questions were unbelievably specific and nobody got more than half of them right per round. The judges didn’t even get some of them right — during the pancake round, we had to identity where each kind of pancake was from, and they insisted that the fat puffy pancakes in Picture 8 were Russian blini.
For the “creative round” they gave us a huge sheet of aluminum foil and asked us to come up with a new olympic sport. Our team made snowmen in a snowman-making contest. We even had five tiny foil Olympic rings and a three-tiered foil awards podium. The winning team made a functional foil beer bong. We didn’t even place.
Despite their blatant bias against us, they gave Miranda at our table like four chances to win a free drink in the free drink round. The judges were also terrible at math, and we wound up with at least ten more points than we thought we should have. We got first place. We won five pounds each. (We had a chance to win much more, but I pulled the wrong prize envelope.) The quiz ended. We were utterly confused. I find it striking that I had my first English pub quiz in New Zealand, and my first Kiwi pub quiz in England. We’re definitely going back next week.