I am at an age where ‘things’ that are older than me, excite me, be it music, antiques or, er, University Challenge.

First aired in 1962, it remains a quandary where most of the questions illicit a response along the lines of ‘do you understand the question, let alone the answer?’, yet, ageing like a semi-stewed wine, my average has moved onto seven or so correct answers weekly as I believe I am the second coming of Stephen Hawking when I manage to hit the back of the academia net once again.

The attraction is not the questions however, but the realisation that even though we are not like them, we can, on our day, fight toe to toe intellectually on pop culture topics, although not so much on arts or science, or literature, or history…

With obscure names, such as Simeon Chumley-Warner or Johnson Farquar-Chimbunda, it soon becomes apparent that an academic intellect does not travel into style, fashion or having the basic components of a personality as they find comedy in an obscure 17th century potter's work or on the molecular structure of something I can’t even pronounce.

First presented by Bamber Gascoigne (whose looks and name were right at home on set) for 25 years before Paxman took the reigns for the following 29 years, it is now presented by the capable Amol Rajan.

Numerous entertainment figures to have appeared, which go to prove the class divide is truly alive when attempting to break into the sphere, include Stephen Fry, Kwasi Kwarteng, Mariam Margolyes and David Starkey.

The high point of absurdity came in 2017 when the peculiar Eric Monkman bashed the buzzer as if banging in a nail with fury and venom, as he and his nemesis Bobby Seagull (yes, really) flew into the final before both embarking on shortlived TV presenting careers.

No matter what is on, myself and my wife, come a Monday night, will settle down at half past eight to listen to the clanging theme tune before mimicking one of the eight contestants, none of which would look out of place in the Star Wars Bedouin Bar. My tactic has remained steadfast for decades with topics I know nothing of such as, say, Art, where my answer of ‘Monet’ is guaranteed a paltry ten per cent success rate, much the same as ‘Brahms’ for classical music questions or the childish screaming out of Uranus! for anything space or planet related.

But then when, half way through and lagging behind on nil points, a subject gift from the gods comes a knocking as ‘football’ or ‘pop music’ rear their heads and its game on. But then, against the grain, the 40-year-old virgin in tweed manages to answer a question about Slipknot as I gawp open mouthed and wonder once more why I misjudged these people so.

I guess, in reality, I have always had a twisted fantasy to appear on the hallowed ground. Besides attending an audition for Blockbusters, UC has always been a different world and one which I will never frequent. I dream of being there and giving the most stupid answer to a question as I pretend it was a joke when it patently was not as I declare ‘I’m Brett Ellis from Southbank, reading the Ronnie O’Sullivan autobiography’, but, alas, its never going to happen and instead I will but admire the laser-like zoom from the cameraman, the booming announcer's voice (who peculiarly sounded like a chicken recently when attempting to say ‘Birkbeck’) and punching the air each time I manage to fluke an answer courtesy of Monet or Brahms (see above).

Anyhow, that’s it for this starter for ten, as I go and settle down with a mug of cocoa and try to avoid the irritating and smug ‘Only Connect’ which precedes the aforementioned show and makes University Challenge look little more than a poor man’s tipping point…

  • Brett Ellis is a teacher