Tuesday, 19 December 2006

Jolly Xmas fun for all the family

Christmas quizzes and Christmas competitions are among the most grisly of the things that Christmas brings; the mere thought of them is depressing. I have come across one which could actually be enjoyable, even though there isn’t much likelihood of me completing it, let alone winning one of the three prizes.

It is the Advent Calendar Competition run by the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. I doubt if many will accept my recommendation to follow the link I have provided but I shall describe it anyway, so there.

There are actually three competitions: one is closed, one ends today and one will go on over Christmas. In the first, every day from 1st to 8th December a page opened on the website illustrating someone who is listed in the ODNB. You click on the picture to get the full entry and on 8th December you had to answer the question: What festive theme links these eight people? The people were William Rossetti (brother of Dante Gabriel), Ewan MacColl, Quentin Bell, George Bernard Shaw and four others of whom I had never heard (so you see what I mean about me not getting anywhere near an entry or a prize), and the answer was: Like Father Christmas, each had a fine white beard at some time in his life.

The second part began on 9th December and ends on 19th (today). Those who feature are Bob Barclay (jazz musician), Dorothy Osborne (letter writer), Phiz (Dickens illustrator), Catherine of Valois (consort of Henry V), Sir Carol Reed, Nancy Astor, Anne Jane Thornton (sailor and cross-dresser), Constantine the Great, Sir Ebenezer Howard (founder of the garden city movement), Jacob Isaac (writer) and Ellen Ternan (Dickens' friend).

Today you are asked the question: Together, these eleven men and women point to a twelfth seasonal person. Who?

There is still time to enter this second part; you will have to fill in the form today. The third part starts on 20th December and goes on until 31st. Win either, and you might get OED books to the value of £200 (or the equivalent in US$).

Generous of me to urge people to go in for this, really, because the more entries there are the less chance I shall stand of winning a prize.

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