Hi - Welcome to Peacockshock. My house on the internet. I'm Ian Peacock

I live in Newcastle - the most northern, friendly and cool city in England. I'm a media person and writer. You may have heard my witterings on BBC Radio 4. I'm mad about animals and live with my eccentric but fabulous cat Bollinger. I go to the gym, swim a lot and listen to music non-stop. My family mostly live up north, but also in Denmark and the USA. I've lived in Durham, Salzburg, Innsbruck, Cambridge, Oxford, Hertford and London.

So...don't dither on the doorstep. Come in and have a wander round. You can either just scroll down this page and see what takes your fancy. Or you can mouse around the house and click on the different rooms and areas. And keep coming back for new stuff.

Enjoy your stay.


Hello from Northumberland – Whittle Dene

Whittle Dean lake reflection 2

Whittle Dean lake reflection 1

Here’s the same photo, twice, rotated 180 degrees. So which one’s the right way round? This is Whittle Dene where Newcastle’s drinking water comes from. It’s on the Military Road which follows the route of Hadrian’s Wall.

Damn Daniel! White Vans versus white vans. Divided by a common language.

OK, I’ll explain.

There’s a bunch of video clips which have recently gone viral, featuring a Californian teenager called Daniel. He’s a snappy dresser who likes white Vans trainers (or ‘sneakers’ if you’re from the US).

damn daniel white vans

As soon as he appears, his friend Josh says Damn Daniel! – as in ‘Wow Daniel! You’re so cool!’ – and occasionally adds the phrase: ‘Back at it again with the white Vans.’

white vans slip on sneakersVANS logo

The confusing thing for us Brits is that white vans over here are vehicles, as opposed to shoes. And, as you no doubt know if you’re British, the stereotype is that they’re driven by oafish blokes prone to road-rage, sexism and voting conservative.

White Van Man (first coined in 1997) is now an unofficial voting type, like Essex Man, Mondeo Man and Basildon Man – not to mention The Man on the Clapham Omnibus. All men. It’s like the Suffragettes never existed.

White Van Man in training 

As for the popularity of ‘back at it again with the white Vans’, it certainly has a pleasing rhythm and it’s fun to say, but Slate Magazine makes a good point:

The truth of the video’s appeal may be that it’s a charming window onto a friendship, where one kid mocks another in a truly uncruel way, for just being himself. Oh, only you would walk around like that and wear shoes like that, you’re being sooo Daniel right now.

Josh and Daniel even appeared on Ellen and Daniel now has a lifetime’s supply of white Vans. The Vans marketing people must love him.

But, for me, the big question is: Why are white vans (as in Transits) and white Vans (as in trainers) so popular in the first place? White makes no sense on the street.

My friend M – aka The Imelda Marcos of Manchester – wears white trainers all the time. But he’s permanently on edge about them getting splashed or stood on, usually by me. The wetter and muddier it is, the more likely I am to commit an offence. I’m totally with Serial Mom when it comes to no white shoes after Labor Day (September).

White trainers are hopelessly impractical and a pain to keep white. But that’s precisely why they’re popular, according to my fashionista sources. If you can keep your sneakers pristine, then you’re cool.

One student at Damn Daniel’s high school told Hollywood Life:

It is kind of a big deal at our school to step on anyone’s new shoes, especially white shoes. That was the idea behind the video. The video was pointing out that he was being risky for wearing white Vans. Josh was kind of teasing Daniel about wearing new white Vans knowing that they would get stepped on. Everybody comes up to you and steps on them.

So is it the same rationale when it comes to the popularity of white vans (vehicles) in the UK? Is it about proving that you can keep your van as white as your Vans (so to speak)? Probably not. White vans are always filthy.

There is a more prosaic and possibly more plausible theory, which a white van dealer outlined on a white van website:

(1) white is highly visible

(2) white paint doesn’t fade, and

(3) it’s easier to put signage on white than on colours

All intelligent reasons. And it’s a perhaps surprising fact that your typical White Van Man is considerably more intelligent than the average driver.

In a 2011 survey of two thousand UK motorists, white van drivers scored highly in questions on art, music, geography and the Highway Code. Taxi drivers came bottom in almost every subject.

white van man intelligent quantum physics cartoon

So what are the statistics on van choice?

57 per cent of UK van drivers opt for white, according to Direct Line. That’s two million vans.

11 per cent have silver vans

10 per cent prefer blue

As for me and white vans, well this is me in the only vehicle I’ve ever owned:

Ian Peacock car

Bolly the cat with white trainers - Damn Daniel

Damn Boll! Back at it again with the white Vans!


I appear to have sparked controversy by suggesting that I roam the streets at night attacking unsuspecting plants with weed killer. Please note that I was indulging in Juvenalian satire (pretentious? moi?) and don’t literally mean everything I say. Rather like Swift, who didn’t eat children to the best of my knowledge, despite writing:

I have been assured by a very knowing American of my acquaintance in London, that a young healthy child, well nursed, is, at a year old, a most delicious, nourishing, and wholesome food.

OK, I don’t like lime-green conifers or cordylines, but it’s only because they just don’t fit in with the dark green, mossy tones of indigenous British plants. Britain is, as Emma Thompson so eloquently put it, a ‘cake-filled, misery-laden, grey old island’ and long may it remain so. I like my plants to act like Philip Larkin and look like Vera Stanhope.

But rest assured, I never use weed killer and I do actually like some weeds … even going to the lengths of defending them against weedists during a Radio 4 outside broadcast from Hampton Court Flower Show once upon a time.

Shakespeare also had a soft spot for weeds, writing in Cymbeline:

Fear no more the heat o’ the sun,
Nor the furious winter’s rages;
Thou thy worldly task hast done,
Home art gone and ta’en thy wages;
Golden lads and girls all must,
As chimney-sweepers, come to dust.

In Warwickshire, ‘chimney sweeper’ was a term for dandelion heads, which ‘come to dust’ when you blow on them.

In fact, one of my favourite literary characters is a celebrity weed.

Little Weed was the third character in the 1950s BBC children’s series Bill and Ben, about a gay couple with learning difficulties who lived in a garden. According to Wikipedia:

Little Weed was of indeterminate species, somewhat resembling a sunflower or dandelion with a smiling face.

At the end of each adventure, Bill and Ben would say bye-bye to each other and to the Little Weed – ‘Babap ickle Weed’ – to which the Weed would inevitably reply with tremulous cadence ‘Weeeeeeeeeeed’.

Amongst fans there is controversy about whether they actually said ‘Flobbalob’, as is popularly supposed.

I once interviewed the wondrous Peter Hawkins, who voiced Bill and Ben (and Weeeed) – not to mention Captain Pugwash, Tintin and the Daleks – but sadly failed to ask him about Weed or the Flobbalob controversy. However he did confirm that he was fluent in Oddle Poddle, a language he invented.

Here’s Peter Hawkins voicing Bill and Ben during the interview:

Talking of funny voices, I was very young when I did the interview and I had hay fever. End of excuses.

Babap ickle Weed.

weed bill and ben

Non-U gardeners beware


Note plastic pot with label and barcode still attached

As you no doubt know, I’m a garden snob. I openly vandalise variegated ivy after dark. I’d rather poison myself with Roundup than be seen in the presence of a plastic pot. And, as for the tasteless suburban wretches who sprinkle nasty white pebbles on weed-resistant membrane, let death seize upon them, and let them go down quick into hell, for wickednesse is within their borders.

I thought I’d seen it all until this week, when I walked past a so-called ‘town house’ and spotted wilted brown cordylines cohabiting (in plastic terracotta pots) with lime-green conifers. It was so brutally Non-U, it would have literally killed Nancy Mitford on the spot.

Watch this space. I have a goodly supply of Domestos and weedkiller at Peacock Towers and am not averse to strolling abroad in the small hours.

lime green cyprus

Good grief


Actually, we’re having Ethiopian Hen this year

Thanksgiving turkey boy vintage

There’s nothing like a Meleagris Gallopavo with all the trimmings for Christmas (or Thanksgiving). That’s a turkey to you and me. Or a twrci if you’re Welsh and like spelling things oddly for the sake of it.

I’m sure you know why turkeys are called turkeys. They came to England from America, so they should really be called Americas. But they looked a bit like Guinea Fowl, which came not from Guinea but from Madagascar, via Turkey. So the English decided to call turkeys Turkey Fowl … then dropped the fowl. And the Americans followed.

But that’s nothing compared to continental Europe where the Greeks call turkeys ‘French Chickens’ and Croatians call them ‘Peruvians’.

In some versions of Arabic, turkeys are ‘Ethiopian Hens’. But they’re ‘Dutch Chickens’ in Malay.

No wonder your typical turkey looks a bit manic.

Talking of its appearance, the turkey is known as a ‘Seven-faced Bird’ in Japanese, because it allegedly has seven facial expressions. That’s quite a few more than some Hollywood actors I could name.

Over in China, they call it a ‘Fire Chicken’ because of its orange head. But it’s not a chicken, obviously, despite the Tamils, who call it a ‘Sky Chicken’ and Urdu speakers, who see it more as an ‘Elephant Chicken’.

Meanwhile in Swahili, the poor thing is a ‘Great Duck’.

Thankfully, some languages are more sensibly onomatopoeic. The Persian word is ‘Booghalamoon’, which does sound a bit like a turkey gobbling. Sort of.

And in Geordie and Scots, it’s a ‘Bubblejock’ (or ‘Bubblycock’ I’ve since discovered).

Yes – it does sound like a terrible Grindr pseudonym, but it’s for real, as in: Her Grace turned to him and said, ‘Rax me a spaul o’ that bubbly jock.’ (1862)

I have no idea what that means and I’m not sure I want to.

As for the Turkish word for turkey (the bird), well, it’s ‘Hindi’. No idea why. And the Hindi word for turkey is ‘Tarki’, which sounds more like an otter to me.

Pass me another chocolate liqueur.