expert Hilary Kay recently took part in an episode of Celebrity Mastermind
- and being a contestant on the fiendish quiz was, she says, more nerve-wracking than 'wrestling with pythons'.
Hilary, who chose 'The Life and Works of Josiah Wedgwood' as her specialist subject, competed against actress Samantha Giles, comedian Richard Herring and football pundit Mark Lawrenson.
The special festive edition of the show will be broadcast later this month. We caught up with Hilary for a behind-the-scenes glimpse of what it's like to face quizmaster John Humphrys from Mastermind's trademark black chair.
Was it an easy decision to pick Wedgwood as your specialist subject?
Josiah Wedgwood was the first subject that came to mind. But I guess I could have conjured up a plan B if the Celebrity Mastermind team had said that somebody else had picked the same subject.
Were you confident that you already had a broad enough knowledge of the subject?
I made a documentary for BBC One on Josiah Wedgwood a few years back, so I was reasonably sure that I knew what I knew about the subject. But the problem was that I didn't know what I didn't know! So I read a biography in the week running up to the recording.
You're obviously used to appearing on TV. Did that help with the nerves?
I don't think it matters how much telly anybody has done. I bet everyone's nerves kick in when the lights dim and the opening theme tune plays. And then there's that long, lonely walk to the black chair. I'm getting sweaty palms again just thinking about it.
Who do you think had the toughest specialist subject?
Everybody was incredibly impressed by the challenge Richard Herring set himself. He chose Rasputin
as his specialist subject - such a tough one as most of the answers were, naturally enough, in Russian. Doing Mastermind
in English is bad enough. It reminded me of that quote about Ginger Rogers, who danced just as brilliantly as Fred Astaire, while doing it backwards and in high heels.
Were you concerned about the general knowledge round?
Yes - that was the real worry. I tried to do a bit of swotting up by watching University Challenge and Mastermind but I found that every new nugget of information I picked up just forced something useful out of the memory bank, so I gave up and hoped for the best.
Was there much of a competitive spirit between the contestants? Or were you all just hoping to come through it relatively unscathed?
In the green room beforehand, the talk among the four contestants was about how little prep we had done and our hopes that we wouldn't look like complete no-brains when the time came to climb into the chair. We agreed that our nominated charities would be the winners whatever happened but how, next time, it might be less nerve-wracking to raise money for them by wrestling with pythons or bungee jumping.