In mid-January I joined four ‘Binsonites in an interview at Corpus with the producers of University Challenge. For some of us, it was our third time attending and youthful pretensions of swanning in and winning the whole thing had been long-since ousted by a grim mercenary view of proceedings; the richer and more established colleges being chosen preferentially. So it was with a resigned sigh that we continued our mundane, quotidian existence, the terrible monotony only briefly punctuated by the much-welcomed occurrence of an early morning outing.
The news then, when it came, brought considerable surprise, a reversal of fortunes surely not seen since Robert Downey Jr.’s mid-1990s transformation. A few mad, panicked hours of telling everyone I saw were swiftly brought to a close when I actually read the email, specifically the line that stated that we should not actually tell anyone. Far more serious, however, was the revelation that the filming was to take place on Saturday 27 February, this date being etched into my brain as being the Saturday of Lent Bumps. What should I do, and how would I announce this to formidable captain Greg?
Tear-filled recriminations followed, but when Lent Bumps came around, and after a successful three races seeing us to 9th on the river, the time had come to leave. Confident that I’d entrusted my seat to safe (and probably better) hands in John Mulvey, and buoyed by Robinson’s famous football cuppers win the night before, it was rather groggily that I stumbled into the taxi due to take us to the station- customarily (to the continued annoyance of captains past and present) 5 minutes late. After a journey to Salford spent vigilantly eyeing anyone who had any feasibility of being competition, we were in the studio, faces matted with foundation and airbrushed to unblemished perfection.
The action is all well-documented on YouTube, but we somehow emerged victorious, our ragtag motley crew, and prepared to be ushered into a world of flashbulbs, photographers, and sultry Saint Tropez summers. What we actually got upon leaving the studio was 5 minutes of Jeremy Paxman, an overfull glass of wine and a mediocre array of pretzels. He stayed and chatted with us though, in the process revealing a much nicer side than perhaps appears on TV. After he left, and we were asked to leave the studios, a very frugal one-course Wagamama’s quickly turned into a sumptuous three-course buffet when we remembered mid-meal that the BBC had agreed to pay for it (that’s right, license-fee-payers). A rather dazed trip home the next day followed a sojourn in the glamorous Holiday Inn Salford, and then the worryingly imminent prospect of a deadline came and brought us back down with a bump to Earth. Until next time…
George Barton, 4UGrad, Robinson College