THi Talking Briefcase

I once spent the day at Hamley's toy shop in Regent Street, London, answering Trivial Pursuit questions chosen by the general public. If I got one wrong, the questioner would win £50; if I got a second question wrong, they would win £100; and if, God forbid, I got three questions wrong, they would stand to win £5,000, in cash! Questions were picked entirely at random and throughout the day there were queues of people desperate to try their luck and catch me out.

At one point, I noticed a man who studied me closely for five minutes, before joining the queue. He was particularly interested in my black briefcase, resting against my chair. I suspected a scene. Sure enough, when he eventually chose a card, he turned around to everyone and announced, 'Right, I want that briefcase removed before I ask a question.' An assistant dutifully obliged and moved the case ten feet behind me.

'Further back, please,' the man demanded. Only when the offending object was completely out of view, or should I say out of earshot, for it had become apparent that the man credited my briefcase with unnatural powers of communication, did he proceed to ask me a question.

The question came out as a mumble. I think he was concentrating more on what my briefcase might be saying. I asked him to repeat it and he turned, victorious, to address the audience, 'You see! Have any of you noticed how often he has to have the question repeated?'

Everyone stared at their shoes, as only the English can do when a public row breaks out. I finally established what the question was, 'How old was Anna Kournikova in May 1992 when she was described at the finest tennis prospect of the century?'

'Ten,' I replied automatically. The man threw down his card in disgust, and walked off saying, 'It's a fiddle, it's a fiddle.'

It wasn't, of course. He failed to appreciate the brief chain of mental events that had provided me with the answer. Two key words, 'Anna' and 'tennis', were enough to trigger an image of a tennis court (location) I had once played on in Hertfordshire. It was owned by a friend of mine called 'Annie'. I could vaguely see a man playing the piano on the tram lines: it was Dudley Moore from the film 10. This strange image provided me with my answer.

Needless to say, nobody won any prize-money that day, and the insurer's £5,000 was returned safely to the bank.

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