"Cheese has always been good to me."
Jim Friteuse

Saturday, January 19, 2013


Martin Garré locked the doors of the Royale-With-Cheese, the underground Triveasy he co-owned with his more intelligent wife, and wandered wearily through the empty, early morning streets of Orangatanga after another busy night of dice-throwing and question-answering. Still, his fortunes had increased exponentially since the Prime Minister, David Lange, had banned the sale, manufacture, transportation and playing of the game Trivial Pursuit in October 1985.

The Prohibition of Trivial Pursuit in New Zealand (POTPINZ) was a major reform movement that began life in 1983 after the game’s initial release in the United States and was sponsored by the Protestant evangelical and Non-conformist churches in a desperate bid to stop the populace from believing they were more intelligent because they could answer numerous questions on a range of trivial subjects and also from asking unprepared members of the clergy awkward questions about fictional characters on Sunday mornings. 

Thousands of people from all walks of life began phoning in sick just so they could carry on playing; on one occasion the chairman of a popular chain of Burger Bars actually phoned himself to throw a sickie whilst he was halfway through a game and struggling to answer a question on Food and Drink. 

In 1985,  as a result of the number of work days lost to New Zealand’s obsession with the game, the government stepped in

Something clearly had to be done about the situation. The government wanted to ban the game, but owing to the fact that the Prime Minister was a fan nothing could be done. It looked like POTPINZ was never going to succeed in their demands, but all that changed on Sunday 24th November 1985. John Russell Brand, the Minister for Arts, Culture and Heritage described the reasons for the PMs change of heart in his autobiography My Arty Farty Culchy Wulchy Herity Werity Life.

We had been playing Trivial Pursuit all night and the PM was determined to win. There were six of us in that tiny smoky room – the PM, the Minister of Defence, the Minister of Foreign Affairs, the Minister of Justice, the Minister of Education and myself. The PM only had one wedge to get, which was Entertainment – he threw the dice and it was a five, exactly the right number for him to land on the Entertainment Wedge Space. We all groaned and called him a jammy bastard to which he responded by telling us that if we wanted to argue about it he wouldn’t be shuffling the cards next time but he would be reshuffling the Cabinet.’

We decided that it would be best if we all shut up.

It was my turn to ask him the question and so I picked up the top card and read from it. “At the start of which film is Richard Harris savaged by a grizzly bear and left for dead?”

“That’s easy,” yelped the PM. “It’s “Man in the Wilderness!”

I knew he had answered the question correctly and was about to give him his final wedge when I looked at the answer that was written on the card. “I’m sorry, David,” I smirked, “that’s not what it says on the card.”

The PM looked flabbergasted. “But it’s the correct answer,” he protested.

“It says A Man Called Horse on the card,” I told him with a smile. I knew that this was a common mistake with the early Genus editions of the game.

“But that’s not right!” he shrieked. “A Man Called Horse is where Richard Harris is strung up by his nipples by Indians!”

“I’m sorry,” I said, “but as Minister of the Arts, Culture and Heritage I am going to have to go with the answer that’s on the card.”

It was at this precise point that the PM upended the board and ordered everyone out of the room shouting, “It’s my game and I’ll decide from now on who can play it with me!”

The next morning he ratified the legislation that prohibited the sale, manufacture, transportation and playing of the game Trivial Pursuit throughout the entire nation.

At first Martin Garré thought that the October of 1985 was not a good time for him and his wife Sellian (see Note 1) to arrive in New Zealand.

As the prohibition of Trivial Pursuit started to grip the nation, gang warfare broke out. Rival gangs, mainly immigrants from Australia and Italy started to illegally manufacture and sell bootleg copies of the game to anyone who would buy them. Corruption was widespread amongst the police and politicians as Trivial Pursuit parties began to take place in underground bars and garages. Politicians were (as usual) always open to bribes and large sums of money began to change hands, sometimes accompanied by an easy Entertainment question. As a result open warfare between the two rival gangs, The Trivies (Italians) and The Pursies (Australians), broke out. At first this was in the form of aggressive question and answer sessions, but fairly soon the questioners were imposing time limits on their opponents. It was inevitable that blood would eventually be spilled; during a heated argument about whether Richard Harris was savaged by a grizzly bear at the start of Man in the Wilderness or A Man Called Horse a Pursie received a minor trauma to the forehead after a Trivie hurled a box of questions at him from across the room.
Martin Garré discovered to his delight that October 1985 was a very good time to arrive in New Zealand. Using the money he had saved whist he was in America he was able to put a deposit on a Triveasy’s in Orangatanga, just one of a franchise of underground Trivial Pursuit dens that had sprung up throughout New Zealand during the first few months of the ban.

Martin (or Mr Garré as he liked to be called) had moved to America after a short spell in the Middle East. His idea was to settle down in the heart of a right-wing, gun-toting, Jesus-loving town where he would do next to nothing whilst his more intelligent wife ran his life. He had been married to Sellian for over twenty-five years and although he knew that she was a lawyer he had no idea that, like most lawyers, she was also a criminal mastermind. Unfortunately, just as she was building a vast criminal empire right under the noses of everyone in the community, Martin went and spoiled it all by admitting, during a Citizen’s Meeting in December, that he didn’t believe in Santa Claus.

The residents of the street where he lived went ballistic. When they heard the news of Martin’s antisantaism they burned down his house with flaming torches and chased him and his wife out of town and all the way to the docks. It was fraught time for Martin and Sellian but they managed to escape on a steam boat to New Zealand with just a few clothes and Martin’s treasured collection of albums by The Eagles (and a healthy bank balance thanks to Sellian’s criminal empire).

Once they opened the Royale-With-Cheese, Sellian immediately set to work. Under the cover of the Triveasy she started importing sub-standard Australian Bitey Cheese and repackaging it as Cheddar. After six months she controlled all the import of Bitey throughout the country and, by employing the Pursies to smuggle the cheese into the country using secret pockets sewn into the crotches of their trousers and the Trivies to set up Protection Rackets, thus ensuring that all the country’s cheese outlets stocked their product, business was booming.

This did not, however escape the attention of The Big Top (the unofficial name for New Zealand’s Secret Service) and Everard Hinchcliffe sprang into action. Unfortunately with half of his agents operating out of the country and the other half acting as double agents for Egypt, he was left with a very difficult decision to make.

Once he had made that decision, Hinchcliffe walked, with a heavy heart, down the corridor to G Division.

Sir Crispen Fotherington-Smythe was working on his autobiography, The Ilchester File, when Hinchcliffe entered his office.

“Big C,” said Sir Crispen, “what brings you down to this neck of the woods?”

“Well, G,” said Hinchcliffe, “do you remember last year when you told me that you really envied the lifestyle of the agents you sent out into the field?”

"I do."

"Well the police are putting together a special six-man team to break the Trivial Pursuit rings and to try and put a stop to the import of Bitey. They're calling themselves The Unteachables. You interested in joining them as literary advisor?"

"I say, top hole!" said Sir Crispen. "When do I start?"

Note 1: Sellian is an ancient Welsh name given by Druids to the first-born girl of any couple who had achieved a record result in the annual cow-tipping contest (See Note 2) during the Festival of Yrttghyrnstry (See Note 3).

Note 2: Annual Cow-tipping contests in ancient Wales were held once a year, usually on the second day of the Festival of Yrttghyrnstry (See Note 3), and was only open to young men and young girls who had just produced their first daughter. These couples would then have to dispense words of advice to cows – for example: ‘Produce more milk you stupid bovine or you’ll be for the dinner table, see.’ (see Note 4). The couple with the most original tip would win the competition and be allowed to call their daughter Sellian, as well as nominating a person in the tribe they didn’t like to be offered up as human sacrifice to the God Blodwyn (See Note 5).

Note 3: The Festival of Yrttghyrnstry was an annual event held in ancient Wales and organised by a committee of Druids with long white beards and grey flowing robes. They mostly talked about sheep, cheese and sacrificing young virgins but on the odd occasion (usually once a year) they talked about the Festival of Yrttghyrnstry. Their meetings were normally dry, boring affairs, but once in a while one of their number would come up with an amazing, world changing idea; it was during one of these meetings that Jones the Druid (see Note 6) came up with idea for the wheelbarrow. After explaining how useful his ‘whel-brow’ would be he was immediately sacked from the Society of Druids and branded with the mark of the Black Sheep for being too forward thinking.

Note 4: Obviously the phrase used in Note 2 (see Note 2) was an English translation of the original ancient Welsh tongue. Ancient Welsh is a difficult language to understand as at that time the Welsh had not only not discovered the vowel, but the predilection for using the letter Y as many times as possible in a sentence rendered almost all written documents from that period virtually unreadable. So if the statement, Produce more milk you stupid bovine or you’ll be for the dinner table, see were to appear written in ancient Welsh it would appear thus: Prydcy myry mylk yyy stypyd byvny yr yyyll by fyy thy dynner tyble, syy.

Note 5: The God Blodwyn is now more commonly known as the patron saint of Welsh Theme Parks. In ancient times he was depicted as a lascivious, drunk with a barrel of mead under one arm and his other arm around the neck of a rather attractive ewe.

Note 6: After Jones the Druid was expelled from the Society of Druids he wandered the countryside talking to animals and stuff until he eventually left Ancient Wales (see Note 7) and discovered England where he formed his own nation.

Note 7: If you want to know more about Ancient Wales visit the website www.druidsrus.com or read Jones the Historian’s bestselling epic Pillows of the Yrttghyrnstry.