Quirky cultural curoisities

All Greeks are Ancient

As you know, I recently became obsessed with people called Jesus, God, Lucifer etc Here in England, where understatement is everything, we tend to avoid epic names. You don’t tend to bump into many Beowulfs or Boudicas, unless you live…

Why are there no dogs called Snoopy?

I recently asked this online. My friend Craig replied: Same reason as so few people are called God, Poseidon, Zeus, Apollo, Demeter etc. Snoopy is the God of dogs. True, unless you’re polytheistic on the God of dogs question. You’d…

Is a palaver worse than a kerfuffle?

This was today’s question over lunch in the Peacock household. We decided that a palaver was marginally worse than a kerfuffle but weren’t sure why. The whole thing frankly caused a right how do you do (probably slightly worse than…

Adjective Apocalypse continued

As soon as I fulminated on Peacockshock about foppish copywriters using adjectives as nouns, I was targeted by malicious leaflet distributors who’d clearly read my blog and knew where I lived. The first offender was a flyer from Pure Gym inviting…

Give artisanal and find your happy

I saw a van today with ‘Delivering Fresh’ on the side and came very close to asking the driver if I could see his fresh – the fresh in the back of his van. But I decided, rightly or wrongly,…

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). As soon as he…

Eateries Galore!

I just read this phrase in a local paper and I’m apoplectic with rage. I sort of get the whole ‘bid’, ‘tot’, ‘axe’ thing, as short words save space. But ‘Eateries’? ‘Galore’? What sort of person writes this stuff? How…

Where’s the ideal place for you to live in the UK?

I was sceptical, but I clicked and had a go at the BBC’s Where in Britain would you be happiest? quiz.

I answered questions about how conscientious, neurotic, extrovert, trusting and imaginative I was. But they seemed pretty general and there didn’t seem to be enough of them.

I was thoroughly expecting it to get it horribly wrong and come up with Swindon, Middlesbrough or Scunthorpe.


But the blurb was encouraging.

According to the BBC:

The predictions made in this test are based on research by scientists at the universities of Cambridge and Helsinki. In a collaboration with the BBC, they conducted a survey of the personalities and life satisfaction of over half a million people. They found that certain traits clustered in regions around Britain. For example, people living in metropolitan areas like Manchester or London were very open. High levels of agreeableness were found throughout most of Scotland, and pockets of the Midlands were particularly conscientious.

And my results:

Happiest place for me:

Cambridge (65% happiness)

Interesting. I lived there for five years and was very happy. It’s still one of my favourite places and I occasionally think about moving back.

Me in Cambridge

Me in Cambridge

Unhappiest place for me:

Newham in the East End (54%)

According to the BBC:

Notable neighbourhoods include West Ham and Forest Gate. Residents generally reported higher than average levels of openness, extraversion and neuroticism for Britain. Levels of conscientiousness and agreeableness were lower than average.

Verdict on Hertford, where I live:

61% happy

Not far behind Cambridge, so that’s OK.

Me in Hertford, near Peacock Towers

Me in Hertford, near Peacock Towers, not looking terribly happy, but I rarely do in photos

They predicted the best place for me near here would be:

Saffron Walden (62%)

Pretty accurate. I like Saffron Walden a lot. Picturesque town, with Audley End nearby. Not far from Stansted Airport. Geographically half way between Hertford and … Cambridge. Sort of.

Saffron Walden

Saffron Walden

Notable residents of Saffron Walden:

The late Hattie Jacques

hattie jacques cross matron

Ian Lavender

Tom Robinson

Jojo Moyes


Jeff Hordley (Cain Dingle from Emmerdale)

cain dingle

Well, I’ve met Tom Robinson a few times. And people frequently describe me as a cross between Hattie Jacques, Cain Dingle and Pike from Dad’s Army, so I’d say the quiz is spot on.

Why not have a go yourself? And please tell me where you end up.

BBC Where in Britain would you be happiest quiz

Oliver and Olivia most popular baby names in Hertfordshire

Oliver Cheshire

Oliver Cheshire, from Hitchin

I just discovered that Oliver and Olivia are the most popular baby names in Hertfordshire, according to the Hertfordshire County Council 2014 Registration Service.

Can’t think of many famous Hertford Olivers, but Oliver Cromwell stayed overnight at the Salisbury Arms in 1647. He liked it so much he now haunts it.

Sadly, I can’t find any famous Olivias whatsoever from these parts. But Olivia Coleman’s from Norfolk. Not too far.

olivia coleman broadchurch

In Hertford, the most popular boys’ names are William, Henry, Oliver, Theodore, Alexander, Edward and George. George Ezra is from Hertford and is called George, obviously. George-Ezra

For Hertford girls, it’s Isabella, Alice, Georgia, Olivia, Eva and Penelope.

No comment. Don’t want to get beaten up in Waitrose.

As I said to my cat Bollinger earlier, name snobbery is a terrible thing. I’m not a name snob as such, but I do find unimaginative copycat naming a bit sad. And I am partial to an unusual name.

Over the years, I’ve worked with a Horatio, an Anastasia, a Che (named after Guevara), a Byron and a Hieronymus … but I do work in the media.

Meanwhile in real life, I have a friend called Jesus. My godson is named after a medieval Japanese knight (but shortens his name to something more normal-sounding). My friend H (a novelist) once had a hamster called Clytemnestra. And I had a great uncle called Theodore Octavius Christiansen Peter Tversted. We called him Uncle Teddy.

Anyway, must rush. I have to feed my Pit Bulls Chantelle, Charmain and Tyler. Talking of which, here’s Katie Hopkins being a ridiculous name snob

Katie? What sort of name is that? Sooo Stevenage.


Carl Orff, who didn't say orff

Carl Orff, who didn’t say orff

I watched Bargain Hunt the other day, presented by the flamboyant Tim Wonnacott. Much as I like his colourful, well-scripted voiceovers, I do find myself fretting about his dipthongs. He occasionally sounds almost normal. But when it comes to the word ‘off’, he suffers from a weird sort of Poshness Tourettes. More orften than not, his offs turn into aawffs.

No one says ‘aawff’ nowadays. Not even the Queen. Deborah Dowager Duchess of Devonshire does, but she is a real Mitford and she’s 150 so she’s allowed to. Brian Sewell says it too. And Jacob Rees Mogg. But they’re both fictitious.

Tim Wonnacott’s aawffs do match his pink bow ties and camp specs on chains. But they do sound aawff-ully forced to my ears. I’m hoping his producers will eventually wean him aawff the habit, exclaiming, ‘Going, going gaawnn. I say, he’s lawwst his aawffs.’

Adlestrop – by Edward Thomas, written in June 1914, before the outbreak of the First World War


Yes, I remember Adlestrop –
The name, because one afternoon
Of heat the express train drew up there
Unwontedly. It was late June.

The steam hissed. Someone cleared his throat.
No one left and no one came
On the bare platform. What I saw
Was Adlestrop – only the name

And willows, willow-herb, and grass,
And meadowsweet, and haycocks dry,
No whit less still and lonely fair
Than the high cloudlets in the sky.

And for that minute a blackbird sang
Close by, and round him, mistier,
Farther and farther, all the birds
Of Oxfordshire and Gloucestershire.

As far as

Once upon a time, in the days of yore in the Land of Grammar, people used to say things such as:

As far as county towns go, Hertford’s nice but a bit quiet.

As far as small pets go, guinea pigs are pretty good.

As far as laws go, it’s rather old-fashioned.

‘As far as X goes’ means: ‘To the degree that X is considered or exists’. As far as definitions go, that’s the best I can manage.

The problem is … people have wilfully started dropping the ‘go’ and the ‘goes’, like schoolkids dropping chocolate wrappers. I have no idea why, but it makes me apoplectic with rage. Yes, as far as grammar, I’m pedantic.