A rare visit to the pictures…

Saw ‘Starter for 10‘ last Friday. Set at a UK Uni in the mid 80s and about a bloke who is determined to go on University Challenge and bed his blonde teammate.

It doesn’t quite work out, of course, but it’s a damn good laugh. They seem to do Uni Challenge a bit different in the UK to the way we used to do it here.

The year I was on it only a couple of teams took it seriously. Auckland wasn’t one of them. We took the attitude it was a week’s free holiday in Dunedin, and that was about it.

The attached picture is from the Listener sometime in late 1989. I’m amazed I ever had that much hair. Note the mixed image – underneath the scarf and long dark overcoat is a check shirt bought from the local Dairy Factory back home.

There was quite a bit of partying but I had glandular fever at the time and I’ve never drunk so much tomato juice in my life.

The first night there the organisers – TVNZ – figured we’d like to see a video. They put a great deal of thought into it. You can imagine them thinking ‘what sort of film would people who go in for University Challenge most like?’ and came up with Monty Python and the Holy Grail.

The room we saw it in was packed. Many of them there knew every word and kept talking along with the film. This completely annoyed the manager of the Massey team, because she was the only person in the room who had not seen it at least three times.

Nerds? Who said nerds?

Some of the teams had done a lot of training. One team was reputed to have creative visualisation exercises to motivate them, whereby they visualised the prize – a PC – on their desk. At least two of the teams – Waikato and Vic – had been selected quite a while before and had spent the ensuing period doing training quizzes.

We’d had one training session. It was meant to be three hours but after the first hour we went to Shadows.

We still nearly won. Came up against Vic in the semi and they were all completely hungover.

The final – against Waikato – initially, was a draw. We’d got one question awarded though which turned out to be not right – from memory we had to name a bunch of South American countries which had something in common. Can’t recall what.

Anyway, we’d named Paraguay, I think, which wasn’t right. Waikato challenged this, were proved right, and we had to re-enact and refilm two thirds of the game.

When we got on the bus to the airport afterwards, the Waikato team got on after us and we starting singing ‘Don’t cry for me Paraguay…’

That was the last Uni Challenge they had in NZ.


Forgot to add one of the best bits….the manager of one of the previous year’s teams was recounting a discussion they had had with Pete Sinclair over the dinner on the final night. Talk had turned to things that had a surprisingly aphrodisiac quality. Sinclair volunteered, with a deadly straight face, that “one thing, which beleive it or not, is a mild aphrodisiac, is Marmite.”


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