Bookish Nooks, Cultural Crannies
Studies serve for delight, for ornaments, and for ability (Francis Bacon)

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!

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.’

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