The Today programme, asking Hunter Davis what “4000 holes in Blackburn Lancashire” was about brought me back to the subject of general knowledge. It struck me as an odd question, for surely it is common knowledge that it was taken from a newspaper article, and anyone who doesn’t know, probably doesn’t care. Hunter skillfully turned this inane question into one about which particular newspaper article inspired the verse.

This reminded me of the weakest Link, in particular an edition when all the men had been voted off with 3 female contestants left. Before I get accused of sexism, I will say that was probably a coincidence. Anyway, they were asked several general knowledge questions, about song lyrics, TV shows and politics as I recall. After getting each one wrong, the contestants would roll their eyes as if to say “how do you expect me to know a stupid bit of trivia like that.” It seems knowing things has ceased to be something to be proud of. Or even expected. Heaven forefend that on a quiz programme your ability to remember facts is tested. It also reminded me of an episode of the Golden Girls, where Bea Arthur’s character failed a game show audition for being bright. I’ve heard this about UK game shows too, which is surely a sad indictment of human attitudes.

This also reminded me of a conversation I had with someone who was giving me a lift once, about the Reflecting Britain project. My chaufeuse (one of two people I would nominate for a diamond but for the fact neither is a member of the Lib Dems), opined that few women went into Engineering because few kids knew what it really was, and few women go into politics, because they don’t feel the need to be right. *

Anyway, I am firmly of the opinion that knowledge and intelligence is to be respected, certainly more than surgically enhanced looks or a forceful personality.

* I was writing an article about gender balance in Engineering and politics, but it’s trapped on the hard drive of my old PC.


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