Our first-round draw in the annual Growmore Quiz was one of the most enjoyable ever.
We (the mighty Petersfield Wey) were up against the Lymington Grockles, who had made their way up to West Meon sports hall from the far south-west corner of Hampshire just in time for the 7.30 start on a Wednesday night.
You may be unfamiliar with the Growmore Quiz concept: it is unique.
Two teams of six, mostly but not always from the farming world, compete over a selection of rounds: general knowledge, current affairs, and two agriculture rounds.
Eliminate the ‘ringers’
You get four points for a correct answer, and are then “out” for the rest of the round – although if no-one knows another answer in the same round, you can go – for one point. This cleverly eliminates the “ringers” (ahem, ahem, Stockbridge ‘A’).
There’s a “snap” round – you stand with your opposite number in the row of six; first to answer correctly wins.
Then there’s the “debatables”; six topics are handed out on slips of paper. “This house believes…” It can be agricultural (“…glyphosate should be banned”) or not (…Her Majesty should abdicate asap”).
There then follows five minutes of frantic scribbling, as we all prepare 90-second speeches. Depending on the toss of a coin, you might be starting the “debate”, in which case you can oppose or propose, and your opposite number has to do the opposite – and they don’t know what you’re going to do until you’ve started your speech. So they have to prepare for both eventualities. Quite a challenge.
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Some of us get points deducted for mentioning Farmers Weekly too often, some are allowed to ramble on if they are entertaining enough (who could forget Dan’s “Cirencester taught me nothing but how to undo a bra strap with one hand”?), but most question-masters are fair and generous.
Another couple of traditional rounds follow, then it’s over. There are short gracious speeches by the winners, generous talk from the losers, we thank the scorers and the question-master, have a beer and a sandwich, and make our way home.
It is the perfect antidote to the onset of winter evenings, and pops up on your midweek calendar as something to look forward to between the weekends.
Anyway, our match against the Grockles was turning into a classic.
I had managed to get a farming question right, Tod had managed to avoid answering “Uranus” to any question that came his way (no, we don’t know why, either), Jackie had once again turned her debatable topic into a heartfelt plea for Scottish independence (odd, because I think the topic was about why we love puppies) and the Ministry vet had to be dissuaded from taking the names of those who were unsure about tail-docking legislation.
Just after the debatables, a man walked in to the hall, mouthed “Sorry I’m late,” and took a seat, boosting our audience considerably – from 0 to 1. We all nodded amicably, and got on with the quiz.
Steaming sausage sandwiches
About 20 minutes later, he put his hand up, bringing everything to sudden halt. “Excuse me,” he said. “Is it safe to assume that this isn’t the AGM of the Meon Valley Sawyers Association?”
“No, you silly sod,” shouted the sports hall manager from behind a growing pile of steaming sausage sandwiches. “You’re a month early!”
“Oh, not to worry,” said our new friend. “I’ll be off, then. Mind you, I do like tractors.”
It was a good 10 minutes before laughter subsided, and the evening could restart.
Yup, the Growmore Club quiz; nothing beats it. Roll on the next round.