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North Norfolk TV quizzer has her eyes on the prize in BBC2’s Only Connect

PUBLISHED: 18:17 20 March 2017 | UPDATED: 22:04 20 March 2017

Retired teacher Phyl Styles, who has reached the semi-final of the fiendishly difficult BBC2 quiz show, Only Connect. Picture: Karen Bethell

Retired teacher Phyl Styles, who has reached the semi-final of the fiendishly difficult BBC2 quiz show, Only Connect. Picture: Karen Bethell

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A TV game show veteran is hoping her love of language will stand her in good stead, when she pits her wits against some of the country’s top wordsmiths in the semi-final of BBC2’s fiendishly difficult quiz show, Only Connect.

Retired teacher Phyl Styles with her fellow contestants on the BBC2 quiz show, Only Connect. Picture: suppliedRetired teacher Phyl Styles with her fellow contestants on the BBC2 quiz show, Only Connect. Picture: supplied

Retired teacher Phyl Styles, who lives at Sheringham with her husband Alan, cut her quizzing teeth as a student in the 1970s, appearing on the BBC2 classic University Challenge, which was then hosted by revered quizmaster Bamber Gascoigne.

She went on to compete on the long-running Channel 4 show 15-1 and on BBC2’s Catchword, before, in 2001, being named series winner on the hugely popular show Countdown.

“I suppose words are my thing,” Mrs Styles said. “I love foreign languages and crosswords, I love the etymology, the history of language and just how words shift and change and acquire new meanings.”

After her Countdown success, Mrs Styles, who volunteers at Sheringham Little Theatre and Woodfields School, joined the show’s thriving online community, where fans and former contestants organise face-to-face tournaments and compete via the internet.

“It was through there I was approached by the producers of Only Connect,” she explained. “In the beginning, I was absolutely terrified, but, once we got into the swing of things, I began to really enjoy it.”

Hosted by Victoria Coren Mitchell, the programme, which is now in its 12th series, has been dubbed ‘Britain’s hardest quiz show’.

Mrs Styles, 66, and her two team members – former University Challenge contestant Thomas Cappleman and fellow Countdown contestant Graeme Cole – had no “high hopes”, she said, and were surprised to keep winning week after week.

“We knew this was a real quizzer’s quiz and we knew we had certain weak areas and although we were strong on traditional questions, each time we won we were just amazed.”

Mrs Styles, who, before retiring to Sheringham, juggled a 40-year teaching career with bringing up her own two children and fostering more than 100 babies and toddlers, has her fingers crossed for the semi-final, which will be screened on Friday.

“It is a tough show and would be wonderful get to the final,” she said. “But there are no prizes, it’s just the glory of it.”

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