It’s a long way from Bath to Manchester. Four hours by car, give or take, through rain, through wind, through tailbacks, through contraflows.
It’s a journey made no less arduous by the realisation that Costa Coffee have detected your imminent arrival from their armoured watchtower at Stafford services, and have adjusted their prices accordingly.
Four coffees and a couple of buns for 17 quid? They must indeed have seen us coming.
And even with an excellent driver, there’s the daunting prospect of the long ride back after a two-hour stay.
However, go we must. Four regulars from the St James Wine Vaults quiz night have – shall we say? – “volunteered” to audition for BBC2’s Eggheads, and landlord Neil has taken the wheel to ferry three of us Oop North for our date with destiny.
The Eggheads, as you may know, are hyper-brainy people who’ve already won various TV and radio quizzes. They get set up in a quiz challenge against teams of punters who want to recoup their licence fees with the prize money.
But before you can get on the show, you have to audition. Hence our Mancunian adventure.
In the moments when pub quizzer Jamie isn’t having last night’s winnings extracted from him to pay for the coffees, the journey up (sorry, oop) is punctuated with brain-sharpening multiple-choice questions from Neil’s official Big Book of Knowledge.
Do you know what a Glagolitic Mass is? Or who won the Grand National in 1911? Us neither. Which doesn’t bode well.
After a slight contretemps with a John-Cleese-themed sat-nav system which is only interested in taking us back to Bath, not away from it, we arrive in Manchester, where contrary to popular belief it doesn’t rain all the time.
The auditions themselves take place in the Palace Hotel, a Grade II Victorian red-brick extravaganza built as the headquarters of Refuge Assurance and whose corridors, all green and white tile, remind one a little of the sort of school where the masters wear mortarboards and the cane still swishes. Molesworth would have felt right at home.
The auditions, by contrast, are a jolly affair. Two young BBC folk cajole us and four other teams into pretending that we’re really playing Eggheads, we make a reasonable stab at proving our telegenicity (it’s great having your own column, you can make up whatever words you like), and even if the head-to-head, brain-to-brain bit is a bit nerve-wracking, we come out feeling fairly confident of success.
For now, though, we must wait. Our audition tapes and notes go to the Big Important Producer, and if they like us then we could be off again, this time to Bonnie Scotland, for our stab at fame and fortune.
If we don't get on the show, they don't come back to us. Which should save a bit for the licence payers.
Will we, won't we? Watch this space.