Quirky cultural curoisities

Have We Lost Our Marples?

Am I alone in being shocked to the core by the fact that ITV have renamed Miss Marple “Marple”? This is admittedly better than “Ms Marple”. But, in my opinion, it’s simply not cricket and ought to be nipped in the bud before it gets nasty. What next? “Muffet” sitting on a tuffet? I think not. I am, however, warming to Geraldine McEwan. I suffered severe Marple trauma when Joan Hickson took over from Margaret Rutherford. But I soon took to her. And now I’m starting to see Miss Marple as a continuously regenerating Dr Who figure. Apparently, ITV considered Prunella Scales, Julie Walters and Dame Maggie for the part. Angela Lansbury also played Miss Marple in a film. And the first ever screen version was played by…Gracie Fields. But Joan Hickson remains the quintessential Marple. And Agatha Christie herself thought so. When they met on a film-set (in 1962, years before the BBC series) Christie said she’d be perfect for the role. Ian Peacock, ITV News, St Mary Mead.


Thanks to the eagle-eyed Harry Parker for observing that George Formby (Ukulele entry) is in fact playing a banjolele. Please note that, in the photograph, Kermit is playing a banjolele – also confusingly known as a ukele-banjo and wrongly referred to as a ukulele by George Formby. A banjo is a different thing entirely. I think. Whereas the guitar-like instrument in the Hawaiian jungle is a ukulele. Probably.


Me, brandishing my Ukulele
I’ve long been a devotee of grunge music performed on ukuleles. And so I was delighted to see the Ukulele Orchestra of Great Britain playing a Nirvana hit on TV the other night. This charming little instrument originally comes from Hawaii, but it has ancestors in Portugal and Brazil. “Ukulele” (please note the correct spelling) means “jumping flea” and is correctly pronounced “OO-koo-LAY-lay”.

The Oxen by Thomas Hardy

Christmas Eve, and twelve of the clock.
“Now they are all on their knees,”
An elder said as we sat in a flock
By the embers in hearthside ease.
We pictured the meek mild creatures where
They dwelt in their strawy pen,
Nor did it occur to one of us there
To doubt they were kneeling then.
So fair a fancy few would weave
In these years! Yet, I feel,
If someone said on Christmas Eve,
“Come; see the oxen kneel
“In the lonely barton by yonder coomb
Our childhood used to know,”
I should go with him in the gloom,
Hoping it might be so.

Spelling The Blues

I’ve just transferred some jazz CDs into iTunes, which automatically updates track information from the internet. This is a splendid idea. Or it would be if the database people could spell. Thanks to them, my computer playlist now refers to the blues legend Bessie Smith as Bossy Smith. And my PC has given a well-known rag tune the charming new title of Buggle Call Rug.

My Next Radio Programme

The Secret Life of Telephone Numbers produced by Alan Daulby
BBC Radio 4 (92-95FM)
Repeated: Monday 27 December 2004 (Day after Boxing Day) 8.02pm
‘Choice’ in Radio Times
Here’s what the Radio Times critic says:
There was once a man who was so enamoured by the “girl with the golden voice” that he tried to persuade the speaking clock to go out with him. This is but one of the many strange-but-true stories that come up in a surprisingly compelling journey through the untold history of telephones in Britain. The comfortingly familiar sounds of old telephones and dialling tones make for an evocative picture of our not too distant past.

What Sex Are You?

If you like writing and are either male or female, you should visit Gender Genie. Just go to the site and write something (or paste in something you’ve written) and it will tell you what gender you are (or should be).

Etymology Of The Word “Kangaroo”

When Captain Cook first saw one these odd marsupials, he asked a nearby aboriginal Australian: “What’s that animal called?” The aboriginal replied “Gangurroo.” And that became its name in English.
What Cook didn’t know was that, in aboriginal Australian, the word “Gangurroo” was the equivalent of “Dunno mate.”
The word “llama” has a similar derivation. When a bunch of European settlers first saw one, they asked “como se llama?” meaning “what’s its name?” The confused locals hadn’t a clue what they were talking about, so they just repeated the final word “llama” over and over again.

Caribbean Iguana on Hammock

I looked up the etymology of “hurricane” the other day and discovered that it’s an old Carib word meaning “evil spirit”. Who were the Caribs? Well, they lived in Guadeloupe and were portrayed by Columbus as cannibals. But they were in fact a friendly bunch and used to place pineapples outside their villages as a sign of welcome. They’re also responsible for the words “Caribbean” (obviously), “hammock” and “iguana”.

Online Research Tips

Wikipedia is a great online encyclopedia. To research anything on earth, ignore the rather busy front page and type your keyword into the search box half-way down the left-hand column.
If you’re a Googler and you’re after UK stuff, don’t go to the main Google. Go instead to Google UK and click on ‘Pages from the UK’ under the search box.
BBCi is always good, especially for news and weather.
Thinkexist is an excellent source for quotations. And
Picsearch is great for celebrity pix. Though the Google images search is very good too.


Hurricane Ivan has finally hit the USA. I’m surprised Bush hasn’t invaded it.
Ivan’s an odd name for a hurricane.
For several hundred years, hurricanes were named after the saints days on which they occurred. For example Hurricane San Felipe in 1876.
But now they’ve gone all secular and a shortlist of 21 potential names for future hurricanes is compiled every year by the World Meteorological Organisation. It’s done several years in advance. So we already know what hurricanes might be called in 2008.
Names can be repeated. But, if they’re attached to particularly fierce hurricanes, they’re ‘retired’ and never used again . Ivan will probably be retired after this year. Recently Keith was retired and replaced by Kirk. Michelle was supplanted by Melissa. And Lenny was sacked, giving way to Lee.
In 2005, we face the prospect of hurricanes called Dennis and Stan. Gordon may sweep across the Caribbean in 2007, along with Florence (the name of one of my rabbits). Dean and Sebastian, who sound like a gay couple from Islington, are potential names for 2007. And old biddies Bertha and Arthur are shortlisted for 2008, along with the flamboyant Hurricane Hortense.