Here, there, everywhere

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.


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


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

Hummingbird Audio Landscaping

baby hummingbird on flower hummingbird audio landscaping Ovid would approve. Over the last few months, I, a peacock, have metamorphosed into a hummingbird, in the form of the lovely Hummingbird Audio Landscaping That’s why I’ve not been peacockblogging. Like a hummingbird, I’ve been flapping my wings non-stop and have barely touched the ground. I’ve also been blogging for Hummingbird.

You may care to poke your beak into some of my posts:

Underwater speakers

New MEPs – how not to get lost in translation

BPMs to biceps – top tips on gym playlists

What not to do at conferences (with video bloopers)

MRI proof that dogs really understand English

Why ‘relaxation’ music makes me seethe

The Great Hertford Flood 2014 – dramatic audio

Rescuing a baby hummingbird

Evolution and hummingbirds – Alfred Russel Wallace at Hertford Museum

Are you an owl, a lark or a hummingbird? Whatever you are, blame your parents

History of football commentaries, with crazy audio clips

Hummingbird tattoos

How do hummingbirds fly?

Hummingbird Audio Landscaping also has amazing, quirky Twitter stuff: @hummingbirdbeak Follow now, or I’ll peck you.

And, on our YouTube channel, you can see me (in a suit) and co-designer Kathleen Griffin doing our thing at glitzy Lancaster House So now you know what I’ve been up to. Normal service resumes here as from today.

Happy 2014

Happy New Year. It’s great boon to know that 2014 has been designated International Year of Family Farming.

pet sheep pet bear pet buffalo


I am so sorry. North Korea hacked into my account overnight and has been posting on Peacockshock. I’m doing my best to remove the entries.

Our Great Leader Kim Jong-Un

Kim Jong-un just loves his guinea pig Kim Jong-pig. It has a cute uniform and lives on his desk. As long as the U.S. brandishes its nuclear cudgel, we will take steps to increase our nuclear arsenal. The moment of…

Our Great Leader Kim Jong-Un

Kim Jong-un adores his puppy Kim Jong-dog. He carries it around everywhere in a fabulous bag he purchased during Pyongyang men