Monthly Archives: August 2006

Atrocious Precocious

The Hertford East train to London is usually swarming with toxic chavs who shout and wear horrid clothes.
One might think the Hertford North line would be a touch less irritating on the child front. But – no – it’s increasingly awash with posh brats from Bengeo.
Tonight, there was a small boy singing at the top of his voice: “I’m going back to school! I’m going to Oundle!”

Migrating Peacocks

Distribution of surname Peacock in 1881 and 1998 respectively
Spatial Literacy is a fascinating new website where you can view the distribution of your surname in the UK and around the world. The UCL researchers behind it also discovered lots of name-changing over the last century. One trend was to add an ‘e’ at the end to make your name seem posher (Peacocke – yes, they do exist). And some names have totally disappeared – notably Cock, Handcock, Hickinbottom, Haggard and Daft.

Bombproof Your Horse

I’ve just discovered The Bookseller Prize for Oddest Title of the Year.
This year’s winner was:
People Who Don’t Know They’re Dead: How They Attach Themselves to Unsuspecting Bystanders and What To Do About It
The runners up included:
Bullying and Sexual Harassment: A Practical Handbook
Ancient Starch Research
Previous winners include:
1980 – The Joy of Chickens
1982 – Population and Other Problems
1988 – Versailles: The View from Sweden
1990 – Lesbian Sadomasochism Safety Manual
1992 – How to Avoid Huge Ships
1994 – Highlights in the History of Concrete
1996 – Greek Rural Postmen and their Cancellation Numbers
1998 – Development in Dairy Cow Breeding and Management and New Opportunities to Widen the Uses of Straw
1999 – Weeds in a Changing World
2002 – Living with Crazy Buttocks
2004 – Bombproof Your Horse

Peacock – Lark or Owl?

An Octodon Degu
I was in a bad mood for most of last week and decided it might have something to do with lack of sleep. So I started sleeping in beyond my usual 6 am most mornings. I ignored Bollinger’s howlings and scratchings (there’s no snooze button on a cat) and blocked out the light by wearing an eye mask I’d been given on a plane. And it worked. I’m feeling much better.
We get two hours less sleep on average than we did a century ago. In 1910, the average was 9 hours. In 1975, it was 7.5 hours. By 2002, it was 6.9.
The negative effects of sleep deprivation are well known. The KGB used it as a form of torture. And getting up too early can harm your health. Dr Peter Axt argued in a recent study that late sleepers live longer than earlybirds.
Circadian rhythms are still a bit of a mystery. We certainly don’t have a single body clock. We have countless watches in different cells, all ticking at slightly different rates, taking cues from our genes, hormones (melatonin etc) and environmental cues such as light.
And they all work on a cycle that’s slightly longer than 24 hours (much longer in the case of adolescents – hence their odd sleeping habits).
Circadian rhythms may be regulated by an area called the SCN (superchiasmatic nucleus), but sleep research has yet to solve all the mysteries of Morpheus.
Sleepologists use humans in their experiments, but also diurnal rodents such as the octodon degu – a sort of Chilean gerbil on steroids. My favourite degu study is: Crepuscular Rhythms of EEG sleep-wake in the Hystricomorph Rodent Octodon Degus. A gripping read.
Octodon degus are just like us. Some of them are natural owls. Others are larks. Others are a bit of both – referred to by sleep experts as ‘hummingbirds’.
I suspect I’ve been fooling myself for years that I’m a lark, when in fact I’m an owl who likes to go to bed early. Perhaps this category could be named a peacock.

Alaskan Moose Legislation

I was reading about Alaskan laws today. Apparently, in Alaska, a moose may not be viewed from an aeroplane. It’s also considered an offence to push a live moose out of a moving plane.

Apostrophe Apocalypse

According to the Times letters page, a Gloucestershire college is currently advertising: ‘study opportunities, including National Diploma’s, Degree’s and Master’s Programmes’.
Clearly, our university’s, college’s and student town’s are losing it when it come’s to apostrophe’s.
I was in Cambridge the other day and ended up going clubbing at a place called 22. It was fun, but I was deeply shocked by the random apostrophe’s and typo’s on their plasma screen’s.
A further inspection of their website uncovered the following horror’s:
‘Friday nights have evolving- Reinassance – The Re-Birth. Friday nights have changing with a new Dj line up and a whole new feel about the night come down and join the revolution.’
‘Its never to early to book your tickets.’
‘Closing times may vary due to trading pattens.’
In Cambridge, of all place’s.

Profound Footballer Quotations

‘My parents have always been there for me, ever since I was about seven.’
David Beckham
‘Alex Ferguson is the best manager I’ve ever had at this level. Well, he’s the only manager I’ve actually had at this level. But he’s the best manager I’ve ever had.’
David Beckham
‘I definitely want Brooklyn to be christened, but I don’t know into what religion yet.’
David Beckham
‘If you don’t believe you can win, there is no point in getting out of bed at the end of the day.’
Neville Southall
‘I’ve never wanted to leave. I’m here for the rest of my life, and hopefully after that as well.’
Alan Shearer
‘I’m as happy as I can be – but I have been happier.’
Ugo Ehiogu
‘Leeds is a great club and it’s been my home for years, even though I live in Middlesborough.’
Jonathan Woodgate
‘I can see the carrot at the end of the tunnel.’
Stuart Pearce
‘I couldn’t settle in Italy – it was like living in a foreign country.’
Ian Rush
‘The Brazilians will be South American, and the Ukrainians will be more European.’
Phil Neville
‘I’d rather play in front of a full house than an empty crowd.’
Johnny Giles
‘Sometimes in football you have to score goals.’
Thierry Henry

Computer Says No

I phoned a ‘business support centre’ yesterday. In case you’ve not encountered these abominations, business support centres are offices full of very thick people, usually in the north, who are paid vast sums to delay payments from large organisations to smaller ones (such as my company).
For several months, I’ve been badgering a large organisation about invoice 025, zero two five, which kept going missing.
After yet another bewildering conversation with a confused youth who denied my entire existence, I suggested he could find me by looking up a previous invoice which had been miraculously paid. It was 018, zero one eight.
“Sorry. We have no record of that. It can’t have been paid.”
At that point, I had a flash of inspiration. “Why not try inputting ‘018’ without the leading zero?”
He inputted ’18’ and ’25’ without zeros, and both invoices showed up.
‘Isn’t that preposterous?’ I fulminated.
‘No,’ he replied. ‘Our system always gets rid of the leading zero.’


Here are some photos I took of Monty on Friday. Monty’s 17 and lives in Wymondham in Norfolk. We brought him up as a small child in Cambridge. As you can see, he’s on very good form. His hobbies include sitting on the lawn and under his favourite shrub.