I guess that I am a sucker for exams of all sorts. So when I got an email a couple of months ago, asking if I would go on the Radio 4 quiz show,'Quote Unquote', I said yes. That's the show that quizzes about famous and not so famous quotations, who said what about whom.
Well it's not quite true that I said yes straightaway. My first reaction was to think that I could only lose by showing up my ignorance. The nice producer said that I didn't have to worry, as some of the questions would come from my specialist area. Even worse, I thought. If I am revealed as ignorant about quotes from the backwaters of James Joyce -- well so what? If I don't know my Virgil, then I look dead stupid.
But anyway I said yes.
I'm not going to give away the result! We recorded two programmes last night, which will be broadcast in February or March: that is me, Ariel Leve, Marcel Theroux and Arthur Smith. Overall I thought I got off lightly. No I couldn't answer all the questions (just like an exam), but I did enough to hold the head up high. And OK...if I cant quite quote a one-liner from Virgil in Latin on demand ...well you try doing it without notice in front of a couple of hundred people.
More interesting was the whole occasion. As always with the BBC, there was a powerful bit of public interest at stake. The recording took place at the BBC radio theatre.Tickets were free, and there must have been a couple of hundred people there. They had not come to admire me, but almost certainly attracted by Nigel Rees who has run this programme since the 1970s or by Peter Jefferson, the quotation reader, who has been the distinctive voice of the Shipping Forecast....South Uitsera, Dogger etc ...(and the man who memorably said 'f+++' between the pips a few months ago).
The show is an engaging combination of stand up comedy and University Challenge (and Gail Trimble would have done better than me), ie funny and a bit learned at the same time ...and it is hard to imagine how it would exist outside public service broadcasting.
Do listen when it comes on. And ... yes I'm brave enough .. let me know what you think.
And that, plus another show, is probably enough of me and radio for a bit.