I had a parcel to collect from the post office, so I set off early. For no adequately explored reason the posties have closed their car park to the public, so I had to park underneath the Stour Centre. It’s a public car park where the parking is charged at a penny a minute. Fair enough at first sight, until you realise there’s a minimum fee of one hour’s parking. I object to paying that when I was parked for a total of five minutes. And then in the post office… oh dear. For security they need to see I.D. For example a credit card. So I brandished my credit card. The chap behind the counter went to take it. I moved back, and told him he could look at it from a distance. I wasn’t letting him see any of the details. He seemed quite happy. Next time I’ll show him a train ticket for all the notice he took of my credit card.
Work was same as ever, and then home to check my emails. I had an email from the Prime Minister and his puppet. A few weeks ago they emailed me asking for me to grass up my managers and point out some public money that is being wasted, so I squealed. They were grateful for my blabbing; and said that in total sixty three thousand people had squealed on the system. I wonder if my suggestions will be taken up. I won’t expose the shortcomings of the public sector here just yet, but should any major savings be made, I shall publicly take the credit in a future blog entry.
And then to Woodchurch. I’d been dreading this month’s astro club for a couple of weeks; ever since I saw that the scheduled activity had been cancelled in favour of a quiz. Some fifteen years ago I got involved with a local snake club and it had a lot of parallels with the astro club. As well as me getting far too involved in something about which I didn’t really know that much, we met monthly for talks from expert speakers, we did “reptile roadshows” for the public, we spoke at local schools. It was really good. But in retrospect the rot set in when we had the first quiz night. The committee of that club enjoyed the quiz, and within a few months every meeting was quiz night. Those who wanted a snake club stopped coming, and the thing folded within a year of the first quiz. I *really* don’t want the astro club to go the same way.
Were my suspicions correct? Well… I had heard grumblings during the week from club members of my acquaintance who weren’t overly keen on the idea of a quiz. And it’s no secret that attendance was noticeably down this evening. Having said that, there were still over three times as many people who ever came to a meeting when we were in Stanhope, and it is holiday season too.
The evening started well, with a talk from Jason about what’s current in the world of astronomy, and then a few words from Steve on the need to help redecorate the hall. I then gave a small presentation on the fun I’d recently had with the club’s solar scope, and then after the raffle we had the quiz. It was a shame that S.E.K.A.S. who had challenged our club to a quiz didn’t have a big enough turn-out to field a team of their own. But we supplied them with a couple of our members to make up their numbers. And then our team stepped up to the mark. I’d volunteered for the team thinking that it would be churlish of me not to, but I never expected to be selected. In the event we were rather short of volunteers for the team, and I was on it. I suspect I enjoyed the evening far more being on the team than I would have if I was a spectator. The audience did look rather glazed at times. And the quiz was (in places) a tad on the specialised side.
Round One consisted of photos of various galaxies, nebulae and the like, and we had to identify the Messier and/or NGC number (WTF?). Round Two featured the birthplaces and birth dates of an assortment of famous astronomers, and we had to identify them. Round Three was pictures of telescopes from around the world – what were they called? Round Four was another load of photos of various galaxies, nebulae and the like and we had to identify in which constellation they were to be found. We hadn’t really scored well up to now, and neither had the opposition. And no one in the audience had got an answer right when neither team had a clue and the question was thrown open. I was a tad bored by this stage – and the audience were catatonic. Round Five was astro-trivia, and we began to come into our own here. Round Six was the sci-fi round, and the audience began to perk up a bit. And I think it’s fair to say we handed the opposition their arse in this round. And by the time the last round (astro-music) arrived, our lead was pretty much unassailable. (Fancy not knowing the difference between the theme tunes to Captain Scarlet and Joe 90!).
Had the event been a success? Well, in the first instance I must applaud the efforts of the chap from S.E.K.A.S. who had organised the event; he’d clearly put in a lot of hard work. And from a purely personal (and selfish) point of view I enjoyed myself immensely. But was it a success? – I’m afraid I’d have to say no.
I was very conscious that I was actually taking part in the event: a lot of people were merely spectators. When we won with a clear lead – forty five points against their thirty three, we as a team did my patented victory dance to celebrate. Perhaps a bit silly, but during the quiz I’d tried to throw in little snippets to amuse the audience. After all, the success of quizzes on the telly isn’t that they are quizzes, but that they are entertaining to the spectator. Had the entire club been involved in the quiz, perhaps divided into several competing teams then perhaps it might have gone better. In retrospect I think most of the audience very soon became bored with the event; it was noticeable that quite a few people had quietly slipped out during the evening. I would suggest that future quizzes involve everyone either individually or in teams, and that the questions be a little easier.
Actually I’d go further than that; I’d suggest that future quizzes (as well as being all-inclusive) be but only a small part of the once a year annual social evening. We’ve a winning formula of an evening with a news update, one or two minor talks, a main lecture, refreshments and raffle, then star-gazing. It works. Certainly we shouldn’t hesitate to try something new, but sometimes things won’t quite work. I don’t think quizzes are our “thing”. Sorry….