Monthly Archives: October 2006


It’s midnight and I’ve just finished packing before setting off tomorrow. Packing took about 17 hours.
I have various tried-and-tested packing checklists on my computer and I travel pretty regularly. But packing never fails to take up a stupid amount of time.
And I always mislay my international plug adaptor. Always.

Hola. Voy a Espa

I’m frantically swotting up on my dodgy broken Spanish this weekend, as I’m off to Andalucia next week to celebrate Mum’s 80th.
I’m also trying to think up a surprise of some sort, inspired by Matthew Parris’s mum’s 80th party. That also, by coincidence, took place in Spain.
Mrs Parris used to be an actress and loves Shakespeare. So they arranged for a bunch of actors to do a scene from A Midsummer Night’s Dream, with his mother playing Titania.
“I need elevation, up in the branches,” she said. So her Spanish son-in-law (a builder) fetched his JCB, filled the scoop with flowers, put her in it and lifted her into the air as she asked: “What angel wakes me from my flowery bed?”
I love that story. But I’m not sure Mum would be terribly happy about performing Shakespeare in a JCB scoop. I have a feeling she’d prefer a nice cake and a cup of tea.

October 17th 2006

Apparently, the History Matters project was inundated with blog entries on 17th October. I don’t normally do diary-type entries, but I decided to record all my movements on that particular day for posterity. No matter how mundane. Here they are –

Woken up by Boll howling and scratching outside the door. Boll is banned from my room at night as she fidgets and runs around and I need my beauty sleep. Read Who Moved My Blackberry for half an hour. Silly but funny and very 21st century.

Woken up by Nicky Campbell on Five Live, reading out listeners’ comments about annoying things in supermarkets. Jenny, a supermarket assistant from Hertford, says customers irritate her more than anything. Decide to look out for Jenny in Waitrose, M&S or Tesco and give her a hard time.

To kitchen, accompanied by Boll. Boll has Science Diet cat food for breakfast. Put heating on. Make full caffetiere of coffee and drink it all.

To office (upstairs in house). Send emails to solicitor and to friends Fran and Henrietta.

Emergency ironing session.

Bath, with Classic FM on. Jane Jones has a fine basso profundo in the morning. Used to be quite squeaky at lunchtime.

Breakfast. Special K with Red Berries. Boll demands a second breakfast. Give in.

Put new playlist on iPod. Lots of Jet, Killers, Feeder. Fast stuff to make me feel anarchic while commuting with boring city people in suits. Spend hours doing it.

Train – Hertford North to London. According to The Times, cod fishing is to be banned. I’ve stopped eating cod and had haddock mornay for dinner last night, which Boll shared.

Carrot Muffin and latte at Coffee Republic near Broadcasting House.

Bump into Melvin Bragg whose hairdo has undergone another inexplicable tectonic shift.

Interview Radio 4 presenter Peter White – very nice chap – about website accessibility, for forthcoming radio programme. New BH open-plan offices are horrid. Just like all offices everywhere. Devoid of character. Not very BBC at all. The BBC used to have a peculiar Reithian/Orwellian/Bohemian chic. I miss it.

Central Line to Chancery Lane.

Latte at Caffè Nero. Full of lawyers. Decide I must see the new David Hockney, Holbein and Velasquez, but no chance this week.

Arrive at Disability Rights Commission to do another internet accessibility interview. South African receptionist. Why are all receptionists South African?

Tortuous tube trip to Hoxton, via Bank and Old Street.

Meet friend Wilhelm and interview him about website accessibility. Go for drink in a frighteningly trendy Brazilian café called Favela Chic.

Train from Old Street to Hertford.

Hertford. Walk past what used to be a Travel Agents near my house. There’s a notice saying it’s about to be occupied by an undertaker. I reflect on this and decide undertakers are just travel agents who don’t do return tickets.

Diversion to Waitrose to buy comfort crumpets, a Thai Green Curry readymeal and a sachet of Organic Chicken Whiskas.

Home. Eat large pot of natural yoghurt. How can it be fat-free when it’s so creamy?

Begin five hours of editing, with occasional breaks to have tea and crumpets and to play with Boll.

Doorbell. A woman who looks like a pixie is standing there, brandishing a portfolio. She explains that she’s a Polish artist selling paintings. Hertford seems to be full of Eastern Europeans at the moment. I politely tell her I’m too busy. She seems like a nice person, but I’m not in the mood for buying art.

Balance exercises. The vestibular system in my cerebellum decided to go berserk during my mini-stroke last year, so I have no real sense of balance. I just rely on my eyes to stop me falling over. I look drunk when I’m tired and try to walk. And I fall over within seconds if I stand up and close my eyes. So … I sit down, close my eyes, stand up, turn clockwise, sit down, close my eyes, stand up, turn anticlockwise, sit down etc etc etc. Balance physiotherapy is a new thing and I’m a sort of guinea-pig.

Have a TV dinner. Thai Green Curry Chicken with noodles. Glass of Hardys Cabernet. Watch Bratcamp on Channel 4. Not very good. No characters.

Watch the top of the Ten Oclock News (‘The Ten’ as we media types call it).

Go to bed. Read book. Lock Bolly out.

22:31 ish
Fall asleep.

Four Bishops

Thank you to Jane for informing me that Richard Hale School in Hertford has produced four bishops (almost five). David Smith (former bishop of Bradford), John Gladwin (Guildford), John Flack (Huntingdon) and Richard Chartres (John Peel lookalike and bishop of London).
Perhaps they should be invited to bless the new pub when it opens. I may suggest this to Wetherspoons.

Five Bishops

I note that the forthcoming JD Wetherspoons pub on Parliament Square will be called The Five Bishops and I approve of the name.
In 678, Hertford Castle, which is nearby, was the venue for the first General Synod of England. And it was attended by no less than five bishops – Bisi, Putta, Eleutherius, Winfred and Wilfred.
It would be nice if the clientele of the pub were somehow made aware of this. It would also be amusing if Wetherspoons introduced a competition to pronounce ‘Eleutherius’ every night at 11.30 pm.

Be The Hit of the Party

A man crying out to be sectioned
During a recent search for a spam filter, I accidentally stumbled on a website for Spam enthusiasts. I know it will give me nightmares. One of the products advertised was an outfit which ingeniously disguises you as a can of Spam. Perfect if you’re out on the pull.

Clever Marketing

Outside the art shop on St Andrew Street –
Sorry. We’re now selling Christmas cards.

Owl Crisis

The Hertford Owl
I was walking down Fore Street at the weekend and noticed a large owl on a chimney. I watched it for a while, then had to go. It was very still, very statuesque.
It was still there on Sunday. And Monday too. Sitting in the same position. So I went into a nearby restaurant to ask about it. Perhaps it was unwell or something.
“Oh, the owl,” they said. “It’s a stone owl. They put it there to stop small birds perching on the roof. They’re not very bright. Easily fooled.”

The Meaning of Tingo

This is a fab new book by Adam Jacot de Boinod, published by Penguin. It’s a fascinating list of single words from around the world, embodying concepts which we English speakers have to express via long phrases.
bakkushan (Japanese) – someone who looks cute from behind but ugly from the front
Drachenfutter (German) – peace offering made by guilty husband to wife (literally – dragon fodder)
Backpfeifengesicht (German) – a face that cries out for a fist in it
fyrassistent (Danish) – assistant lighthouse keeper
mamihlapinatapei (Fuengian language spoken in Chile) – shared look of longing between parties who are both interested, yet neither is willing to make the first move
koro (Japanese) – hysterical belief that your penis is shrinking into your body
fucha (Portuguese) – to use company time and resources for your own purposes
Latah (Indonesian) – uncontrollable habit of saying embarrassing things
Yuyin (Chinese) – remnants of sound that stay in the ears of the hearer
tingo (Pascuense language spoken on Easter Island) – to borrow objects from a friend’s house, one by one, until there’s nothing left
Adam Jacot de Boinod’s website

You Mghit Fnid Tihs Itnreseitng

Aoccdrnig to a rscheearch at Cmabrigde Uinervtisy, it deosn’t mttaer in waht oredr the ltteers in a wrod are, the olny iprmoetnt tihng is taht the frist and lsat ltteer be at the rghit pclae. The rset can be a toatl mses and you can sitll raed it wouthit porbelm. Tihs is bcuseae the huamn mnid deos not raed ervey lteter by istlef, but the wrod as a wlohe.
Yes. You’ve probably seen this before, as it’s done the rounds on the internet. But is it true? Here’s what one Cambridge language expert has to say about it.
You can also scramble words using an internet word jumbler.
Here’s something I jumbled using it –
Hawets blriilg, and the sihlty toevs did grye and gbilme in the wbae. All mmisy wree the bvoogores, And the mmoe rhats obtaurge.


Sad news. Fran’s cat Teddy died last week during an operation which revealed he had an aggressive and terminal form of cancer. I didn’t meet Teddy but I was a big fan and followed his progress. Here’s an excerpt from Fran’s tribute to him:
Three days ago I had to make the awful decision to have Teddy put to sleep.
Even if he came round from the anaesthetic, he would only live for a day or two. So the best thing was to give the go-ahead for him to go while he was still asleep. Which was what I did. I went in a couple of hours later to say goodbye to him. Emma had wrapped him in a towel, and she and Danny were incredibly kind to me while I held him in my arms and told him how much I loved him.
It’s so hard to get my head round how quickly he’s gone. He’s left an enormous hole in my heart. I miss him from all his favourite sleeping places; I miss him rushing downstairs when I got home in the evening, then jumping up onto the table to examine any plastic bag; I miss his gorgeous orange mackerel markings and slightly scabby pink paw pads; I miss playing fish on a string with him; I miss his enormous motor-boat purr; I miss his great furry bulk draped over my knees; I miss him at night when he’d jump up onto the pillow next to me and gently put a paw on my hand. I miss him and I want him back.
Teddy, you could not have been a more wonderful cat. I wanted to spend years with you, but at least we had five months together. It’s not nearly long enough but I hope I made you as happy as you made me. Goodbye, my bold boy.