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Last Updated: Monday, 8 January 2007, 12:37 GMT
Mastermind host 'was a gentleman'
Meg Ellis
Meg's specialist subject was female politicians 1918-1992
Writer and translator Meg Elis appeared as a contestant on Mastermind in April 1995.

Although she did not win her round of the competition, she has fond memories of the experience, and of host Magnus Magnusson in particular.

She recalls how she ended up on the programme.

I applied for Mastermind in the mid-90s - I think it was 1995 or 1996 - mostly because my family got fed up with me shouting the answers from the armchair.

They asked me to attend a test or interview in Manchester, where I was asked general knowledge questions, and talked about my specialist subject.

My subject was women members of parliament from 1918 to 1992. This was before the 1997 election when the Blair babes came in.

He was always pleased to see former Masterminders and gave the impression that he remembered each one
Katharine Drury, Blackpool

I was interested in politics and the lives of women who'd been MPs, because they seemed to need that extra bit of oomph. There were more obstacles in their way - so they were very interesting women.

A couple of weeks later I got the notice I'd been accepted. I was absolutely gobsmacked. I just went: "Oh my God!"

They held the competition in Aberystwyth, which is my hometown and I had mixed feelings about that.

It was nice to do it somewhere I was familiar with but the audience was filled with people I knew and I thought: "Am I going to make a fool of myself?"

But Magnus Magnusson put you at your ease - although he still kept an edge because of the nature of the programme.

He met with us and talked to us, then he took us on a sort of run-through under Mastermind conditions - although the questions weren't the real ones, of course.

One of questions he asked was "which is oldest parliament in the world?"

I didn't know and, of course, it was the Althing - Iceland's parliament!

Mastermind chair
Elis was one of the lucky few chosen to sit in the Mastermind hotseat
When I got that wrong, he said: "You can go now and never come back!"

He was joking, of course. It wasn't in a nasty, Anne Robinson sort of way.

He was very warm, as so many of the tributes have said, and a real gentleman.

He took it seriously - in the sense that he was very professional and wanted to make a good programme.

But I remember as we were walking down in the National Library - which was where the programme was being filmed - and all four of us were looking at each other nervously, and Magnus said: "It's only a bloody game!"

When you're in the famous chair all the lights are lowered, and the only light was on him.

I do remember making eye contact - but mainly you're concentrating on the questions.

His one bit of advice was not to get into what he called the "pass spiral" - when you fail to answer couple of questions and you begin to feel you can't answer any of them - and I did sort of get stuck on that a bit.

I didn't do very well - but I take comfort in the fact that one of my fellow competitors came runner-up in the whole series.



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