It wasn't until September 2006 that I was idly surfing the net one evening, and found myself bringing up an online application form for Mastermind. On a sudden impulse I filled it in. My reasoning was that I could use Henry Ford as my first specialist subject. I knew that they had loved it when it had been my chosen subject for the semis. More than that, they would have a set of questions , which they wouldn't have used in 2006. Just maybe they might decide to save themselves one set of questions to make for this series.
I don't know exactly what their reasoning was for having me back, but whatever it was, I'm grateful for it. They rang me in October 2006, and gave me an audition over the phone. This time I didn't feel that I did quite so well on GK, but acquitted myself well enough, probably about 15 out of 20. I have heard of people applying for years before they get on the show, and I don't really know what to say to them. I do think that they are probably a little more well disposed to former contestants than they used to be. After all, to take just my series, in the Final half of the contenders were former contenders. Two of them were making at least their third appearance
All I can suggest is that my obvious strengths as a contender appealed to them. These , in no particular order, were : -
• I was a known quantity. I hadn’t let them down , and whatever happened I wasn’t likely to embarrass them or myself. They knew I’d learn my subject, and they knew I’d turn up.
• They might have felt a little sense of obligation towards me for the fact that I had come so close to the semis the previous year.
• They liked my specialist subjects – and this is much more important than you might imagine.
Whatever the case, I was given a place in the first round, to be recorded at the end of January 2007.
The Show –
What difference a year makes
My specialist subjects were:-
Round 1 - Henry Ford , life and career -
Semi Final - The Life of the Prince Regent - Later George IV -
Final - The History of London Bridge.
There was actually a reasoning behind these seemingly random and unconnected choices of specialist rounds. Both Henry Ford and George IV were choices from 2006. I had also offered London Bridge as a subject in 2006 , but they had turned it down in favour of what I had. The other two had been accepted as my semi and final subjects, so I knew that they would be okay.
Having picked the same subject which I had revised but not used for the 2006 semi finals, I skimped on my preparation. I'm not ashamed to admit it, since I was working very hard in school at the time, it being the busiest time in the school year.I did do quite a lot of revision, but nothing to the standard of what I had done the year before . I was just hoping that it would be enough not to embarrass me, and , if possible, to see me through to the semis. Since my first appearence I tended to find that my confidence would weathercock between pure pessimism, and overwhelming arrogance, and this was not a particularly good thing. On this particular day my confidence was at a low ebb, and I felt that I was going in on a wing and a prayer.
The heat was filmed early in the afternoon, which would enable me to drive up to Manchester on the day, and drive back straight afterwards. This suited me perfectly, since I find driving relaxes me, and it meant that I wasn't spending time worrying in a hotel room. I’d never been to Manchester before, but I was reassured to see that the old Granada studios where they film the show is relatively easy to find once you get into the centre of Manchester.
The others arrived shortly. After an uneasy few minutes we all began to chat to each other, and I got the feeling from what was said that just maybe I could be in with a chance. For one thing, none of them had ever appeared on Mastermind before, whereas I had, which was a nice reversal of last year.
The first of the other contenders I spoke to was Tim Vick. He was the most immediately open and friendly of the other three contenders. He was a former teacher, answering questions on German Wine. A nice guy with a good sense of humour, he'd appeared on 15 to 1, and was a regular in his local quiz league, so I felt that he'd know his general knowledge. That made him a threat, since good GK can rescue many a seemingly lost cause. However, it seemed to me that German Wine would be a huge subject, and this could prove a problem for him
Malcolm Crockett was the next contender. He was a chef, and very quiet and reserved at first, although seemed a genuinely nice fellow when you had a quiet talk with him. He was answering questions on the Life and work of Frida Kahlo, an artist. I honestly thought that this was a really good choice of subject. It was a little esoteric, and probably there wasn’t too much written about it. It was certainly narrow enough to, as biographical subjects tend to be. So by my reckoning he could well be the most serious competition I felt that he was the most likely opposition of the other three contenders. If he got out to a lead of three or four points on the specialist round, then I thought he would be hard to beat.
Finally, there was Stacey Mitchell, a much younger contender than the rest of us. Again, she was fairly open and friendly once the ice had been broken. She was answering questions on the life and career of Jennifer Aniston. This was a subject that seemed easy on the surface, but on reflection was probably wider than you'd like it to be, but again if she built a lead on the specialist round, then she would be dangerous.
Remarkably, Stacey is actually a friend of my best friend at University, a fact which I did not find out until after the heat was broadcast in August. They are in the same Amateur Dramatic Group. Whoever said that it’s a small world never said a truer word.
I will make no bones about the fact that I had a bit of luck during 2007. Firstly, I was chosen to go first in the specialist round. My first reaction when I found this out was one of immediate panic, but then a realisation set in that going first would be no bad thing. After all, I wouldn't have the experience of having to watch someone else set a massive score before I went on, which had happened to me last year. Also, if I could set a good score, that would put pressure on the other three contenders too. So I sat, and the questions began. Badly. I had to pass on my first question,
“Which school in Dearborn did Henry Ford attend ? “
How the hell was I supposed to know that ? It didn’t say that in the books I’d been looking at ! Not a start guaranteed to fill you with confidence, but then there was a question I'd prepared for, and I got into a rhythm.
“ Where did Henry Ford win a famous car race with Alexander Winton ? “
Well, that was great, because I knew the answer even before John Humphrys had finished asking the question.
“Grosse Point, Michigan “ I replied. I was away. Ok - I did pass another question, and got another wrong, but apart from that I did really well, and set a score of 14 and 2 passes, exactly the same as I had achieved on the Olympics the year before, except that I'd worked a lot harder for that show. As an example of the way my luck went in this series, as the buzzer went I began to congratulate myself on a good round. So much so that I didn't immediately notice that John had started to ask another question. With the result that I didn’t really listen to the question. I asked John Humphrys for a repeat, but of course the buzzer had gone, so he couldn't. I'd just heard the last word of the question, premises, and there were three possible answers. I stammered the first one which came into my head - "Piquette ". It was right ! I walked back to my seat with a sense of overwhelming relief. Based on what had happened last year, even if someone managed to throw in a massive score of 17, it wouldn't mean that I was out of it. Game on.
Tim was next in the black chair. It seemed at first that he was answering a lot of questions correctly. However it began to dawn on me that his questions were very long, and he wasn't answering terribly quickly either. By the time the round was over he had scored 9 . I felt for him, since his subject was so wide.
Next up was Malcolm Crockett , the danger man. I had the feeling that he would do well on the specialist round, and I was right. He only had one question wrong, and he didn’t pass on any of them, but he wasn't very quick in answering. Whereas I had been asked 17 questions, he was only asked 15. Thinking back on it, had he been a little quicker he would probably have scored more than the 14 and no passes which he achieved. Having said that, it was a fine score, and it put him in the lead on count back
Stacey finished the round off. None of us had set truly massive first round scores, and if she could establish a lead of three or four points she would be in with a good shout. As did we all, she started confidently, but a couple of questions caused her to take a bit of time, and some others caught her out. Like Tim, she too scored 9. Since that show was aired Stacey has come in for some horrible criticism for her choice of subject. Frankly I think that this is just elitist claptrap.
So, at half time I was sitting pretty, tied with the leader , Malcolm, on 14, with the General Knowledge, where I thought I would have an advantage, still to come. Barring an incredible round from Tim or Stacey it was really and truly a two horse race - me , and Malcolm - head to head. There was a bit of a hold up before the final round now for re-takes, and I started to calm down, and think seriously. This really was my revelation moment. This time last year I had been in third place, 3 points down on the two leaders, so I couldn’t help feeling pleased with myself now. However there was a nagging doubt in my mind. What worried me particularly was the two passes I had made in the first round. If Malcolm beat me on General Knowledge by answering more questions correctly than me, then I would have been the first to shake his hand, and say jolly good luck to him. However, if we tied on answers and he beat me by virtue of those two passes I would be kicking myself all the way home. I couldn't take back those passes, so I had to make sure that I didn't pass any more, whether I knew the answers to the questions or not. So whatever I did, I resolved that I would come up with some kind of answer for every question I was asked . I would not have more than 2 passes. I would answer as many correctly as I could, and those I didn't know I would take a stab at. Then it would be all down to how well Malcolm could do.
Winning the Show
By virtue of passes Stacey went first in the GK round. She finished with 15 overall. Tim came next, and, being the good league quizzer that he is, scored a rousing 13, to finish with 22 and 2 passes.Anything in the teens in GK since the resurrection of the show has proven to be a good score. After all, I only managed 10 on GK back in 2006, so nothing was guaranteed as far as I was concerned. Then it was my turn. The main thought which went through my mind as I lowered myself into the chair was this - just answer the damn questions ! -. The first few questions were easy meat, and I was well into the zone. Then I was caught on the hop by the question,
" in which no longer existent county authority did the child sex abuse scandal of etc.. .. "
The answer, Cleveland, popped into my head, but as soon as it popped in, it popped back out again. Precious seconds ticked away, and so I blurted out 'Northumberland' knowing it was wrong, but desperate to avoid the pass. It may well have cost me an extra question. Then the last question on the buzzer on astronomy I narrowed down to Mercury or Venus. I went for Mercury, but Venus was correct. Oh well. So I scored 14 and no more passes, which gave me a total of 28 and 2 passes. 4 points and 2 passes better than my 2006 performance. I'm sure that I must have had a huge grin all over my face as I walked back to my seat, happy that I had done my best. In fact, since the show many people have told me that they always knew when I knew the answer before John Humphrys finished the question, since I would just smile slightly. This is just one reason why I never play poker.
It was all down to Malcolm now, and the pressure was well and truly on him. I had answered quickly, only had two or three wrong, and scored 14. Malcolm had answered 2 questions more slowly than me on the first round. By that reckoning, he was either going to have to have a clear round with virtually all the answers correct, or he was going to have to go like the clappers to catch me. The least he could afford to score was 14 and 1 pass. 14 and 2 passes would mean a tie break, 14 and more than 2 passes and I would win. Anything less than 14, and I would win.
At the start Malcolm was asked a question , to which the answer was, if I remember correctly, Stephen Hawking's A Brief History of Time. Almost immediately he passed. Then there were two or three correct answers, but all given quite slowly. Then a slowly given wrong answer. A couple of correct answers, then another pass. All square on passes, and he was behind on time, according to my calculations. Then another wrong answer. Some correct answers. Then a couple more passes. So he needed 15 to win, 14 wouldn’t even get him a tie break now. He must have been aware that it was all slipping away. It is the most terrible feeling, and there is nothing which you can do about it. Malcolm scored 8 for 22
How can I explain what it was like ? To go through those previous TV shows, and come close to achieving something, and having each one end in failure, then to finally have a success made it all the more special, and I will always have fond memories of this particular show. Beating my previous year's score by so much was something special, and winning the show by 6 clear points was the icing on the cake. Alright, 28 points didn't necessarily mark me out as a potential champion, but it did make me feel as if I was someone who could mount a proper challenge in the semi final.
Learning a New Subject
There was a huge amount of time between the heat at the end of January, and the semi final in the middle of May. I used my time wisely, and revised really thoroughly on my new specialist subject - the Life of the Prince Regent, later George IV.
By the end of March I was beginning to have problems with retaining what I had learned. As the pile of question cards I made grew towards 1000 I began to find that some answers just wouldn't stick. So what I tried was to separate the questions into different categories, and test myself on these categories, rather than just in random order as they came. It seemed to do the trick. Category after category seemed to become firmly lodged in my memory, and only needed retesting every couple of days to stay fresh. By the time of the semi final itself, I was question perfect, on everything except the dates of the Regency crisis, which stubbornly refused to stick.
With the first round, driving up and back in a day, and getting right on with it were the perfect things for me to do. No time for brooding or worrying, just in , away we go, and out again. Although there was more time to become nervous in the semi final, at least I had the elusive first TV win behind me now. As it worked out, there wasn't that much worrying time anyway. Mike and I arrived fairly late on the Friday evening, due to terrible traffic delays, and we were due in the studio by 9 am on the Saturday morning.
Once again, I was the first to arrive at the studio. There was a strangely relaxed atmosphere in the place on this day. I don't think much was going on there - for all I know our two semi finals were the only shows being filmed that day .I found that the atmosphere in the green room that day was totally different from the atmosphere in the previous year's semis. Maybe it was because we were in Manchester now, while we had been in Leeds last year. Whatever the cause, there was a subdued tension last year, maybe because I was a little in awe of some of the brilliant semi finalists I saw last year. There wasn't the same feeling this time. This time I was there by right. I had proven I could be a winner.
The other contenders in my semi were all really nice, but none of them struck me as potential superstars who would absolutely wipe the floor with me. I saw the most likely opposition coming from Sheila Altree, a retired laboratory technician , answering questions on the films of Val Lewton. She had the air of someone who would know what was what on General Knowledge, and she could obviously learn a specialist subject, or she wouldn't have come this far. Actually I was right there. Obviously you don’t know each other’s first round heat scores, but I subsequently found out that in her first round heat she scored 28, same as me, but got 15 on General Knowledge. What I didn't know at the time, and only found out much later, was that Sheila Altree has her own special place in the history of Mastermind. Up until 1995, the rules stipulated that you only ever got one chance on Mastermind. Win , lose or draw, you could only ever appear in one series. The rules were changed in 1995, for which I and more than one other winner can be very thankful. Sheila had managed to appear on the show twice before this change in rules. I believe that she had divorced, and maybe remarried, thus changing her name. Alas, after her second appearence, another former contestant asked to be allowed back after seeing Sheila on the show, they reviewed the tapes, and she was disqualified with regret. None of this I found out until long after the show
The second contender, Alastair Finch, a doctor from Cleethorpes, had also appeared on the show before, and that in fact this was actually his third attempt, I think. He had never reached the semi final before. I wished him well, but couldn't help thinking that he might be very much the underdog of this particular show.His specialist subject for the semi was The Battle of the Somme, and this was something of interest to me. I believed that he would do very well in round 1, maybe even get a lead, but he would probably get found out in round two.
The third contender, Matthew Williamson, was the one I took to most. He seemed an absolutely smashing guy, with a great sense of humour. Younger than myself, he wasn't obviously a quiz superstar, but I felt that he could do pretty well, and was the dark horse. I didn't see him being weak at either general knowledge or his specialist subject, the Novels of Jasper Fforde, again, a subject of interest to me. The way I looked at it, I believed that he was the kind of contender who, if he took a lead of a couple of points in the first round might well be able to hang onto it in GK.
So the show itself seemed like one of those semi finals of the previous year without one outstanding contender, the kind of semi final which I thought I could have won. As it turned out, I was drawn to go last in the first round. This would not have suited me at all in the heats, but now I had just that tiny bit more confidence , having that elusive first TV win under my belt. I knew that I had worked hard on my specialist subject , George IV, and I felt that of the others , only Sheila could possibly match me on General knowledge. I doubted whether any of them could actually beat me on it. Sheila was first. She surprised me by passing , and by getting some questions wrong, and ended up with 11 and passes. That's a good score, and with good GK it could be good enough to win some first round heats, but deep down I felt that it wasn't good enough to win a Mastermind semi final, however good her General Knowledge.
Then it was Alastair's turn. I thought that his questions were very fair, but even so his score of 15, 1 wrong , and no passes was very impressive. However, it didn't phase me in the way that a score of 17 or 18 would have. It was good, but not impossible to match, I thought. After all, I’d had 14 in the previous round, and I knew I was better prepared this time round. Then it was Matthew's turn. I think that he'd told me that he had 12 in his specialist subject in the first round. If that was true, then he certainly surpassed himself now, scoring, like Alastair , 15 right, 1 wrong, no passes. This was a little more serious, for Matthew, I believed, could do well in GK, more so than Alastair.
John Humphrys called me , and I walked over and sat down in the chair, determined to do well. And I did ! The questions were all ones I had picked out myself among the 1000 or so questions I had learned, so much so that I was surprised to find that I had answered one wrongly. As I understood the question, my answer was correct, so I must have misheard or misunderstood. Even allowing for that, I was a little surprised that I too only managed 15 right, 1 wrong, no passes, exactly the same score as Alastair and Matthew. Still, as joint leader I was in a better position than I had been in the heat. And more than that, the other contender I believed would do particularly well on General Knowledge was 4 points behind, and to all intents and purposes out of contention. So with the unusual situation of 3 of us tying for the lead, we kept the same order for the general knowledge round, which meant that I would go last. Perfect.
As I had expected, Sheila put in a very good GK round to score 13 for 24. It was all the more impressive since John Humphrys had made a mistake while asking the questions. He had asked Sheila which Roman Road goes from London to York, and she had incorrectly answered "Watling Street ". John Humphrys thought she had said ‘ what ‘, and so repeated the question. Cue frantic earphone call from the director, and the round was stopped. This caused the most massive delay while the tape was rewound , and checked for the amount of time left etc. I would say that this caused a delay of between 20 minutes and half an hour, and I'm afraid that it did affect me. I seriously lost my cool, and sat there fuming, and its probably a very good job that I was last to go. What Sheila must have thought about it all I can only speculate, since we didn't speak after the show. I can't imagine that she was happy about it, although she did manage to appear remarkably composed throughout the whole ordeal.
Whether the delay affected Alastair and Matthew as well, I cannot say. Whatever the case, Alastair was next up. He started well, but one question threw him, and he hesitated for precious seconds before getting it wrong. This seemed to destroy his confidence, and he slumped to 9 points with some passes. A tricky round, I felt, with some tough questions , its unfortunate for Alastair, but this was by no means a bad performance. Actually this put him level with Sheila on 24. This score, I was sure, would just not be good enough to win this semi final, and so it was , as far as I was concerned, a two horse race, just as the heat had been. Only Matthew, the dark horse, was left before me. He started well, and had a couple which I wouldn't have had, although I too would have had some correct answers which he didn't have. Then a question caught him, and he passed on it. In the end he battled his way to 11 , for a score of 26 and one pass. Had I had his questions, I felt that I would have won. The question was whether I could do it on my own questions ?
I don't think that I had completely recovered my composure by the time I walked over to the black chair, but I was calm enough to realise that the target of 11 and no passes to win was within the scope of my capabilities. 2 minutes to achieve my ambition of getting to the final of Mastermind. I remember just thinking to myself - you will never have a better chance of getting to the Mastermind Grand Final- just don't pass. Keep answering the questions and you will get enough to go through.- What followed was actually a very ragged General Knowledge round. I dropped points on simple answers, yet pulled a couple of answers from absolutely nowhere. By the time the buzzer went I had given an answer to every question, and although there were my fair share of wrong ones, I thought I had done it. However, thinking you've done it, and knowing it are not the same thing. It is just impossible to count and answer questions at the same time as you sit in that chair. John Humphrys, aware of this no doubt, seemed to take sadistic delight in drawing out the announcement
" David Clark - you have scored twenty . . . eight points, and no passes . "
I let out a huge sigh of relief before going back to my seat. I remembered this when I watched the show. What I didn’t remember was gasping “ Yess! “ afterwards, which was quite embarrassing watching the show back again.
Through to the Final
I looked around for Mike, and we gave each other the thumbs up. There were still a few things to be reshot regarding Sheila's GK round, and this took quite a bit of time , so it seemed like ages before we got back to the green room. I rang Mary, my wife, who was incredibly delighted, and as soon as was decently possible Mike and I made our excuses and left. As we passed through the double doors to the car park, I let out a huge shout of " Yyyyeeeesssss ! " , only to be confronted by the sight of Alastair and his family coming towards us. Oh well. Nothing I could have said would have covered my embarrassment, so I offered him my commiserations , and we beat a hasty retreat
The drive back home was wonderful, and the sense of euphoria and satisfaction at reaching the final was huge. Having said that, I was annoyed with myself that I hadn't managed to beat my first round score. I felt that I had given in a little to the pressure , and made heavy work out of something which should have been quite easy. The problems with Sheila's GK round had certainly unsettled me, and I suppose as well the target seeming so achievable had made me put a lot of pressure on myself for the GK round too. There was one other thing which had put me under a little pressure for the semi finals. The production team had already told us all the date of the final - June 15th - which also happened to be my 43rd birthday. I tried not to think of this as somehow being a sign of fate, but it certainly put a little more pressure on me to get through. With hindsight I now think of it as being just the most obvious sign of the luck which attended me throughout the 2007 series. As soon as we returned to the green room, Fiona from the production team also told me that the final was being held in Glasgow Caledonian University this year, as a tribute to the late Magnus Magnuson. Yet another sign ! The Clark side of my family originally came from Scotland, my grandfather having moved south to England during the Great Depression.
A whole New Experience
Now, having won the semi, and qualified for the final, the great temptation would have been to say to myself that I had now achieved my wildest dream, getting to the final of Mastermind, which was true, and that I could be quite happy with that. Actually, that was also true. Honestly, I didn't actually feel that I could really win the final. I did in fact say as much to quite a number of people. Yet while its true that I didn't believe that I could win, I also had every intention of doing my very best in the Final , and finishing as high up the leaderboard as I possibly could. Luck had been with me to take me this far, and there was no guarantee I would ever get to the final again, even if I tried another five or six times. I owed it to myself to do as well as I possibly could.
There were about 4 weeks between the recording of the semi final, and the recording of the final. Learning a specialised subject to Mastermind depth in just 4 weeks is a tall order. Yet the fact was that all 6 semi finals were recorded across 2 consecutive days, so nobody was really going to have any more time to learn and revise than anyone else. Much more so than the semi final, this was a level playing field. So I set to work on the same day that we returned home from Manchester. I already had my main source book, and the bulk of my revision was taken from this, however Ebay and Amazon were also useful in finding other secondary sources too.
It seems an obvious thing to say, but there were differences between the build up to the semis, and the build up to the final. You keep the number of people you tell about how you are doing in Mastermind to an absolute minimum until the programmes have actually been shown, but there is no doubt that the level of excitement among those people who know was considerably higher for the final than the semis.
Making the Film
Before the final takes place, the BBC make a film with each of the finalists, showing something about them, and their final subject. The subject which I had nominated for the final was
" The History of London Bridge ".
It is true to say that the three subjects which I took were all chosen on the basis that I already owned books on the subjects. However this was another inspired choice, it turned out. I have always loved learning about London’s history, and spent hours walking around parts of the city, and the City. Its not only this, though. The story of London Bridge is a fascinating one, and far too rich and involved for me to begin to discuss here.
For my film, we began the day in Ealing, West London, where I was brought up, and then went to the current London Bridge.
We visited St. Magnus, the church at the city end of the Old Bridge, which has a 14 foot long model of the Bridge, and then, the piece de resistance, we visited the Museum of London after it was closed for the day.
It was a truly wonderful day, which I will never forget for as long as I live. In many ways it was a strange day, since to me, it didn't really feel like we had been doing anything much all day, and yet it was after 8 pm when we finished. For someone like me, with an interest in the history of London, and a deep affection for the city, it was the kind of experience which money can't buy.
A couple of things have especially stuck in my memory about the day. Firstly, as we were driving across the bridge itself, the sound man asked me whether I really wanted to win the whole thing, and I surprised myself with the vehemence of my answer -
" Of course I do ! "
which I then qualified with ,
" - we all do ! "
Then Karen, the director mentioned that I had got a really high score in my semi final . Had I ? I had scored 28, the same as I had scored in the first round. So was she being polite, or did that mean that there was no superstar in the semis who had scored well into the 30s ? Could it be that I was actually in with a chance ? I didn't honestly think a lot more about that during the rest of the day, but it was a thought which I kept returning to as the day of the final drew closer, and my mood swung from defeatism to wild overconfidence, and back again.
Then the other thing, which was quite similar to this, was that Karen interviewed me on camera in St. Magnus' church, and one of the questions which she asked me was
" What do you think your chances are in the final ? "
A deceptively nasty question, that . If you say that you're going to win, you look arrogant at best, and rather stupid as well if you don't win. If you say that you're just happy to get to the final and aren't even thinking about winning, then everyone knows you're lying . If you say that you don't think you're going to win, then you look like a wimp. So I replied,
" I have a one in 6 chance, the same as everyone else. If the questions go my way, then I'll do well, and if they don't then there's nothing I can do about it. "
This became something of a mantra for me in the days leading up to the final. For four weeks I obsessed about the final, so much so that it was a pleasure to get into school, for at least when I was teaching, or working with the children, I wasn't going over and over the final in my mind.
The day started in Elthorne Park in Ealing. Karen had decided that she wanted to take the angle of my recollections of watching Mastermind with my Nan in her front room, so it was a case of going back to my roots. Sitting on the steps of the bandstand I could point out the street I lived in, the school I went to, and the park I used to play in. I remember she asked me what I hoped to get out of the day as part of the interview. The honest answer would have been – a little TV exposure and a free lunch – but that seemed a little ungrateful. So I gave them the answer I thought they wanted, which was that I was hoping for some connection , emotional if you like, to the bridge and its history, to make it all come alive to me. This was complete nonsense, I thought as I reeled it off. Yet amazingly, it actually did happen during the day. From Elthorne Park we drove off to the Bridge, and filmed me standing looking thoughtfully at it. And the thoughts which were going through my head were mainly – God, that bridge is nondescript – and how many times is he going to film me walking up to that bloody bridge ?
From there, though , we drove off to the church of St. Magnus the Martyr.This church was at the city end of the old bridge, and is some 30 metres away from the modern bridge. And I couldn’t help it. I started to get excited. There was the church tower. The arch holding up the tower had actually been the beginning of the pathway onto the bridge. There beside it was a blue plaque saying as much. Then as we entered the church, and I was introduced to Father Philip Warner, there were all the features in the church connected with the bridge which I had read about. There is reading about things, and then actually seeing them, and believe me the two experiences are very different things. The main reason why we went to the church is that it holds a 16ft long model of the bridge in about 1400 ad. I met John Aggett, the man who built it. Getting down, I looked through the great stone gate at the Southwark end, and for a moment, just for a moment, my imagination took off and did the rest. It was almost as if I had actually been on the bridge myself. The emotional connection which I had been talking about in the park. Most strange, and kind of wonderful in a way too.
Then to cap off a day which had just become better and better, when we visited the Museum of London, curator John Clark showed me Peter de Colechurch’s casket. This needs explanation. Peter de Colechurch was the original architect of the first stone London Bridge ( the one with the houses on it. ) He died before its completion in 1209, and as an honour, his were the only bones to be buried on the bridge, in the crypt of the Chapel of St. Thomas a Becket , not quite halfway along the bridge from the City side. In the reign of Henry VIII the chapel was demolished, some years after the Dissolution of the Monasteries. The chapel was converted into a shop, and the crypt into cellars. Thus it remained until 1760, when all of the houses were removed from the bridge, and several of the arches rebuilt and remodeled. This lasted until 1831, when final demolition of the bridge began after Rennie’s Bridge – the one now in Lake Havasu Nevada – was completed. During the demolition of Chapel Pier, which had held the chapel , a casket was found containing a few bones. These were believed to have been Peter de Colechurch. They were encased in a glass casket, and a small wooden casket was made for this, from the piles which were driven into the riverbed as part of the bridge’s foundations. Unfortunately, it turns out that the bones in the casket aren’t human. Peter de Colechurch’s bones were probably cast into the river at some time during its history. But still, to see such an object which I had read about , made from part of the bridge itself, and actually be permitted to touch it for luck, was just the sweetest icing on a particularly delicious cake.
The Grand Final itself
My wife Mary, and my oldest daughter spent the two weeks in the lead up to the final with my mother in law in Spain. They were due to fly back the day that I was due to fly to Glasgow. My son Michael was going to be away on holiday at the time as well. So we decided that no one would accompany me to Glasgow for the final. I know it sounds cold and nasty, but I felt that much better not having to worry about any of the family while I was there. It wasn't as if I would be totally alone, either. I had invited my cousin Margaret, who lives a bus ride away in Gourock, to accompany me to the final. Margaret and I had been working on tracing the family history for a few years, but hadn't met face to face for a very long time. I flew to Glasgow on the Thursday evening, arriving quite late, and after a bite to eat in the famous Sauchihall Street, settled into my room, and tried to sleep. It would be a lie if I said that I had a particularly good night’s sleep, but at least it was better than the night’s sleep I’d get the following day, on the Fiday.
Friday, 15th June, 2007, my 43rd birthday. The day of the final. We weren't being picked up from the hotel until 3:30pm, and I wasn't meeting Margaret at the bus station until midday. This gave me a few hours for sightseeing. Margaret and I met up, and had lunch, then it was back to the hotel to prepare for the show.
3:30 came and went, with no sign of anyone from the BBC. There we were , standing in the lobby, a group of people who were obviously all the contenders and their families and guests. Hardly surprisingly there was no fraternisation between us at this time. Half an hour late, at 4pm a member of the team from the BBC turned up. Now here's a curious thing. We could see the University from the lobby of the hotel, yet the lady from the BBC insisted on walking us in the opposite direction, thereby adding at least 5 minutes extra to our journey, in the pouring rain as it happened. We didn't really understand that at all. Oh well.
For the record, the finalists were : -
From left to right - Stuart - Derek - David - Me - Sandra - Anna
Arriving in the green room, you could tell that this was a class above the first round heats, or even the semis. The room was a massive reception room. Bow-tied stewards stood by the drinks table, ready to attend to your every need. The hierarchy of the University introduced themselves. and finally we were all introduced to each other. I would like to be able to say that I didn't try mentally sussing out the strength of the competition as we talked, but I'm afraid that I did. One thing came through as we talked, though, was how nice everyone was. I mean really genuinely nice, not the false pleasantness which sportsmanship demands. I don't know if I can explain this adequately, but none of us had appeared in a Mastermind Final. Derek, to be fair, had been stand in for the final in 2005, but actually competing in one is something different. So there was this sense of shared experience between the six of us. I really hope that the others felt it too.
Also, there was a feeling among us, I think, that we had all been through something very similar in the last few weeks since the semi finals, something probably unique which nobody else , except maybe the families who had to put up with us, could understand. We swapped our revision horror stories ; each of us had become obsessed, and I think that we all confessed to having dreamed about our specialist subjects on more than one occasion.
The Final in the wonderful Saltire Centre of Glasgow Caledonian University
Time for the actual final was almost upon us, and they told us the running order for our specialist subjects. First was Stuart, answering questions on the history of VeniceStuart had appeared on the show before, and not just that, he had taken part in all of its BBC incarnations. In 1988 in the days of Magnus he was a contender, then on the radio in 1999, and on TV under John Humphrys in 2004. Stuart had scored a massive 32 points in his semi final, the second highest score of the whole series, and a better score than any of the other finalists managed in the series.Second was Anna, the baby of the group.I believe that this was her first ever attempt at Mastermind, which made it a fabulous achievement, getting to the final at the first attempt. Anna was answering questions on Steve McQueen. I felt sure that she would do really well in the first round.
Third to go was the other David, a retired civil servant, full of wit and charm, as so many retired senior civil servants are.David was answering questions on The Normandy Landings. I was certain that he would do very well on his specialist round.
Fourth to go was Sandra, the second lady in the final. Sandra was answering questions on the TV series " It Ain't Half Hot Mum " - a personal favourite of mine in its time. Sandra told us that she had been through the agony of a tie break in the semi final, a very rare occurence. Although I was sure she would do well, it seemed to me that there were an awful lot of episodes to learn. Also Sandra admitted that she had won her semi final on a tie break, she had been behind after the specialist round, but pulled up on GK. so I felt that it was very difficult to predict exactly how she'd do. I was drawn to go fifth.
How did I rate myself ? Well, I knew that I had been consistently scoring well – 28s in both first round and semi was no mean achievement. I also knew that I hadn’t had perfect rounds in either – there was room for improvement given a little rub of the green. God, I wanted to score 30 or better !
Finally, there was Derek who was to answer questions on the Godfather trilogy of films.Good choice, I thought. Three films were do-able in 4 weeks revision. And there was more than that. Derek had been reserve for the final before. He had been a semi finalist in 2005, and come within a point of reaching the final. He, more than any of the other contenders, seemed to me to have the air of a champion in waiting. In both the heat and the semi, in my heart of hearts I had thought of myself as favourite once I had met the other contenders. Now, at best, if things went well I was still only second favourite. It didn't fill me with confidence, but then I wasn't here to win at all costs or die trying. I was here to do the very best I could, and finish as high up the leaderboard as possible. If I won . . . well, we could cross that bridge if we came to it.
So the first round began. Stuart scored 12, a good score on what seemed to me to be a very wide subject. However, I thought that would probably leave him with a mountain to climb for the GK round. I was sure that several of us would beat that score, and I took heart from the fact that in 3 goes so far I had never yet scored less than 14 on the specialist round.
Anna came next, and as I had predicted , she scored very well, with 13. A good score, but then not an unbeatable one. My three specialist rounds this year and last had all been higher than that. However, it would definitely leave her in the shakeup in the GK round. So far so good.
Still, it was clear that the stakes were being raised with each contender, especially when David weighed in with a highly impressive 16. This gave me genuine food for thought, being better than the highest score I had ever achieved on my specialist subject.16, I thought, gave him an opportunity, but wouldn't put him totally out of reach. If I could match or improve on my specialist score in the semis, then I could overhaul him on GK.
Sandra followed next, and I have to say that I thought that some of her questions were incredibly difficult. One of the questions asked what a tailor's sign showed in the opening shots of one specific episode ! So I think that Sandra did brilliantly to score 12. Unfortunately for her, it left her with a 4 point gap to close, and that's hard, probably too hard in a final. Then it was me.
As I have said, I do believe that sitting in the black chair gets easier the more that you do it. I knew that I could not have worked harder on my specialist subject. However I also knew that it was a funny subject, one of those subjects where you could work as hard as you like, and still not find that you have covered all the bases. So, in the circumstances I was glad to score 15, with no passes, and the ones which I got wrong I genuinely had not encountered the answers to before. A good guess might possibly have given me one more point, but no, credit where its due, it was a good score for me. One point behind the leader was a situation I could live with. Nobody who had gone so far was unbeatable. Game on. It was all down to Derek now.
Derek , as I had expected him to do, produced a barnstorming round to score 17 and no passes. Brilliant.
Turning round at halfway two points down on the man who I believed was probably the best quizzer in the bunch, I had to face the fact that the dream of winning was probably over . Never mind. I had done my best, and I could live with it. I wasn't going to be champion this year. Yes, I could overhaul David, I felt, but not Derek. So, being realistic if winning was no longer an option then there were two things left to worry about. I was determined to finish as high up the leader board as I could, and that meant passing David to take second place. Also, I wanted to achieve my highest ever score, 30 or more if I could. So, although I never believed that I was going to win the show, at the halfway stage my mind was set, and I was ready to go for it on General Knowledge.
As in the first round, Stuart went first. He did well, and scored 14 to go up to 26. Good score. Next up, Sandra. She produced a superb round to score 15 and go up to 27. These were frighteningly good performances considering that my highest ever combined score was 28. Anna came next. Now , sometimes it happens that you are watching the show, and playing along, and you will be struck with the impression that one of the general knowledge rounds seems considerably harder than the others. In this case, poor Anna was the one to suffer. I thought that some of her questions seemed harder than any of the others had been asked, and it certainly seemed to affect her composure. She had scored 10 on GK in her semi, but couldn’t match that this time. She ended with a score of 21. Then it was my turn.
Walking to the chair, I reminded myself that I needed thirteen for the outright lead. Pointless to think about such things really, since once the round starts you just can't answer questions, and count the number of right answers you've got at the same time. Yet a wonderful thing happened. As I sat in the chair, chatting with John Humphrys about London Bridge, the pressure seemed to melt away. Somehow it wasn't about Mastermind any more. It was a quiz, just a quiz, me , and the questions, and the answers. So the round began, and for once I got the pace right. I didn't jump in before the end of the question, nor blurt it out, nor waste time about ones I didn't know the answer to. I just answered calmly and quickly, passing on none, and getting three wrong. Unlike the semi final, I didn't know the answers to any of the four which I got wrong.
My speed meant that we had got through 19 questions, giving me 15 correct answers, for a combined total of 30 points and no passes. At that point I didn't think it would bring me a win. However I did think it would guarantee me second place, and more than that it was my highest ever score, and I'd got out of the 20s. Happy? You bet I was. Second place in the Mastermind Final on my 43rd birthday – well, it couldn’t get much better than that. Could it ?
David came next. I sat there, counting on my fingers the number of questions which he answered correctly, and pretty soon I was sure he was down on time. After all he only had a one point lead on me. Scoring 14 wouldn’t be enough to actually beat me – he had to score as many as I had done to beat me. Then he passed on a question, which meant a draw wouldn't be good enough. Finally the buzzer went, and he finished with 12 , for a total of 28. An excellent score, all the more creditable for having been achieved in the final. David’s best score in the series. The worst position he could achieve would be third.
As for me - well, I had earned my runner-up spot, and that was something I could live with, in fact, more than that, it was something which I could be very proud of. All that remained was the formality of Derek's general knowledge round. I whispered good luck to him, to which he replied he'd need it, but I said that if he just focussed he'd be fine. That whole exchange seemed a bit strange to me at the time, as I thought he was a dead cert to achieve it. 2 minutes, and it would all be settled.
The round began, and I found myself counting the correct answers, even though I knew deep down that he was going to do it. Then it started to happen. Derek wasn't going very quickly. He wasn't going very quickly at all. . . and he wasn't getting them all right, either. Time was getting on, and it seemed as if he was only creeping towards the total. 14 for a win, 13 and no passes for a draw and a tie break. I counted 12 correct answers, and the buzzer went. In a few milliseconds a couple of thoughts crossed my mind. I was still in it ! All bets were off, and I could win. If he answered this question right, then there would be a tie break. After his performance in this round, I fancied my chances in a head to head over GK. Still, if he didn't give a correct answer now. . .
" Correct. "
Derek had answered the last question correctly. I turned to Sandra ,
" Tie break ! "
I groaned, but she grabbed hold of my arm , and said,
" You've done it ! You've won ! "
I said no, but she pointed out that I had miscounted. And then, straightaway, in confirmation, John Humphrys announced the result,
" Derek Moody , you have scored. . . 29 points - "
What followed next is a bit of a blur.
I had won.
That wasn't supposed to happen, surely - not in the real world. I waited for the announcement that there had been a mistake, or a miscount, but it never came. Instead, the floor manager began to tell me where I would need to stand while I was being presented with the trophy. There was a lull in the proceedings before the handshakes were filmed, and then Sally Magnusson , Magnus Magnusson's daughter, and a successful and respected broadcaster in her own right, was called up to present the trophy. I had actually dreamed of this moment, and when it happened it was a moment of strange unreality, almost of deja vu. I expected to wake up , since that was what had happened the last time I had felt like this.
John Humphrys asked me a few questions about how I felt, and in all honestly I'm not sure what I said, but I hope that it was not too crass or arrogant. Finally came the traditional moment which ends each series of Mastermind, when the champion is asked to sit in the chair, holding the trophy, while the famous theme music is played. To be honest, I felt like a bit of lemon sitting there, holding the trophy, and I'm sure I must have looked like one, but it was a good moment too. When John Humphrys invited me to take the chair, it was kind of like the acknowledgement that, for this series at least, I had beaten the chair. That's the way it should be, for it really wasn't as if I had beaten 5 other people. We had all been part of a shared experience, and I'd go so far as to say that of all the people present there, probably only the 6 of us understood just what it meant to all of us.
No sooner had I got back to the green room clutching the bowl, and begun to display it proudly to everyone, than I was called back to the chair for a photograph session, sitting in the chair, holding up my bowl, grinning like a cheshire cat. Talking about the bowl, in my salad days, when I was young and stupid, I used to say that I couldn't understand why anyone would put themselves through the ordeal of Mastermind, just to win a glass bowl. Many people have said the same thing to me, especially children in school. I can understand why . But right there, at that moment, I don't think that there were many things which I would have been prepared to swap that bowl for. Its a symbol - the Mastermind winner's rose bowl - and an object that very few people are fortunate enough to have won. The green room was wonderful, and I managed to phone home, and share the good news, to the most incredible screams of delight I have ever heard. But as time wore on, all I really wanted to do was to get out, get away, and try to get my head together, over what had just happened. Thankfully Margaret needed a cigarette, and so we took the opportunity to slip away, and back to the hotel which we were both staying in.
I nipped upstairs to make some phone calls to my best friends from work. I know that we were supposed to keep the result to ourselves, but it was something which I had to tell my closest friends. Margaret and I met back down in the bar. To my delight, we were joined by 3 of the other contenders, David, Anna and Derek, who were staying in the same hotel, and we stayed in the bar for a long time, just talking, not just about the show, but about our experiences in Mastermind this year, and quizzing and quizzes in general. It wasn’t then about winner and losers, just about a group of people who had shared a remarkable experience with each other. I hope that this doesn’t sound trite, but those couple of hours sitting in the bar in the evening were possibly my favourite part of the whole day. I can honestly say that this was the perfect way to end a practically perfect day. My 43rd birthday, and a day that I am sure I will remember for the rest of my life.