It was a warm and steamy night in London Town. Tourists swarmed around Covent Garden, bewildered by zebra crossings, distracted by stalls covered in shiny beads, tour guides waving their umbrellas in frustration as their charges were sucked into this baby clothes boutique, that cupcake emporium.
There was no such loss of focus upstairs at the Prince of Wales, as over 100 HOSPA members mopped their brows and got down to the serious business of the annual quiz, a decade-long institution giving the working man a much-deserved break from all matters financial.
No mere evening out though, this was a test extreme. Ten rounds, including music, sport and puppets, with questions ranging from “what replaced Purchase Tax in 1973”, through “what family of welfare scroungers lived at 30, Kelsall Street, Liverpool” to “complete the title of the 1960s puppet show, ‘Fireball XL’ what?”
The competition was fierce. The last two years have been dominated by the team from Solution Builders, but they were unlikely to have it their own way, with Marriott, who had their own previous run of two years eager to reclaim the crown.
Aside from the old battlers, there were new pretenders to the throne. STR Global were debutantes at the contest, but fielded three teams: Quizzie Rascal, Quiz Eubank and Quiztopher Columbus. Representing the kids were BORN SOCIAL, HOSPA’s social media gurus and the source of much groaning at the sight of a 1970s-themed round.
With HOSPA treasurer Sarah Dovey as quizmaster, backed up by Dorchester Collection’s Magda Mirowska prowling the aisles looking for illegal connections to the internet, the well-oiled machine kicked off, as hands sticky with smoked salmon and chicken drumsticks were hurriedly wiped off and pens were picked up.
Eyes glanced at the bottles of champagne and Fortum & Mason’s hamper for motivation as brains were wracked for the answers to tricky vegetable-based questions. Team names were scribbled at the top of sheets as they were taken amid pleas for an extra 10 minutes, five minutes, 30 seconds.
And what team names. Hospare Parts. Postcard from Abu Quiztada. Victorious Secret. Winners all, if only it was that sort of quiz. But it wasn't. It was a quiz where idiocy and confusion were rewarded, however. BORN SOCIAL won a bottle of champagne for answering “Bison Range” to “What was the name of the Ewing family ranch in Dallas?”. The Team To Our Right Are Cheating won a bottle for scoring only 0.5 points in a round of a possible 20. Quizzie Rascal showed an enthusiasm for social networking by proclaiming that Facebook had organised the annual Great British Beer Festival.
As ever, there could only be one winner (well, unless another team had scored the same number of points) and Solution Builders made it three in a row with 115 points, winning the Fortnum & Mason hamper kindly provided by Etc Hospitality, closely followed by Marriott with 110, winning dinner at the Spaghetti House and Dorchester Collection with 103, winning a tour of the Sky studios. The lowest score went to Quizzie Rascal, with 45, but for all spread of knowledge, there was one matter on which all teams were united: everyone was able to identify Psy’s Gangnam Style from the lyrics. A proud moment indeed.