I did not have to wait long to get the final big phone call. I was at work, having finished teaching for the day, trying to get my ridiculous pile of marking down to something merely the size of a wardrobe, rather than the house-sized mess I had in front of me. The producer was very nice, informing me of possible dates, the rules, asking me about my specialisms, and confirming the order I would want to do them in. I came off the phone feeling very happy, looking forward to telling my friends and family. It was only later (about twenty minutes or so later) that I realised that this all meant that my frankly half-assed idea of getting on the telly for a giggle had now actually come to pass, and that the chances of making a royal moron of myself in front of several million people were fairly high.
Not wishing to waste time computing how long the odds were against me, I decided to set about constructing a revision timetable, to fill the 4 months or so I had to prepare. Happily, I had the summer holidays in the middle of it – some quality time to get stuck into some reading without the spectre of 10E breathing down my neck like an angry fart. However, no Arnold Rimmer am I. My timetable was sketchy at best, and basically consisted of a list of dates, with a general topic next to it:
|This photo was in the local paper - honest to God. The shame.|
11th July – British prime ministers
Etc etc ad nauseum
So, I spent my summer holiday reading reams and reams of mostly net-based documents (mostly Wikipedia, if I’m going to be dangerously honest), trying to absorb the knowledge of millennia. I learned loads about the prime ministers and British history circa 1800 – I can still remember that Castlereigh committed suicide over some failed diplomacy in Vienna, and that Lord Liverpool was in charge during the Peterloo massacre of 1819 (but wasn’t actually there, of course). But revising general knowledge is like trying to fill a small pot with millions of bees – no matter how hard you try to cram them in, they won’t stick, and you’ll probably get badly hurt too. Deciding I was essentially allergic to bee stings, I changed tack, and focused nearly all of my attention on my specialism – the Titanic.
I spent a small fortune completing my library of Titanic books (and some of them were very large), and set about reading them. I learned that the toilets were manufactured by Armitage, before Shanks ever got involved, and that the piano in the smoking room was a Steinway. I learned that its call sign was MGY, for some reason, and that cruelly the first news of the disaster reported that the ship was limping to Halifax harbour. These were happy days – having an excuse to totally immerse yourself in a topic you love is a wonderful thing, and I even built myself a scale model of the damn thing, so I could visualise all the locations. In short, I over-prepped like a maniac, and all but neglected the general knowledge. This was to be my downfall.
To be continued…