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?’.

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 potters work or in 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.

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 short lived 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.

East London and West Essex Guardian Series: Brett Ellis will always watch University ChallengeBrett Ellis will always watch University Challenge

My tactic has remained steadfast for decades with topics I know nothing of such as Art, where my answer of ‘Monet’ is guaranteed a paltry 10% success rate, much the same as ‘Brahms’ for classical music questions or the childish screaming out of Uranus for anything space or planet related.

I guess, in reality, I have always had a twisted fantasy to appear on the hallowed ground. Besides attending an audition for Blockbusters, University Challenge 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’.

Anyhow, that’s it for this starter for 10, 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.