Thursday, 15 January 2009

Thursday 15/01/09

Welcome to the voice of rational insanity. Sometimes I don’t know why I bother doing this – I get a good number of hits, but very few comments. Perhaps there’s simply too much stuff here.

Getting some interesting, yet sporadic hits from Latvia again. Probably the ex’s family as the search is on my name and I don’t know too many people in Latvia. I hear there have been riots In Riga over accusations of financial mismanagement on the part of the government. I hope the ex’s parents don’t get caught up in any of the violence.

Here’s a solution to the Euro Greens wanting a ban on all pesticides – genetic modification! Vegetables that is, not the Euro Greens – although the latter wouldn’t be such a bad idea (they could be modified to grow brains). What could be a more elegant solution than GM? However, the Luddites in the green camp are against that too and won’t be happy till we’re all riding horses, wading knee-deep in cow and horse shit and eating pest-infested, putrid and misshapen food. There is the argument that reverting back to pre-industrial farming methods will result in higher levels of employment within farming, but the downsides are those of higher food prices, extinction of any export markets and mass unemployment when cheaper food is imported from abroad by the supermarkets. To avoid those consequences would require protectionist measures of draconian magnitude (and secession from the EU). In fact we’d have to fence ourselves off completely from the rest of the world and become totally self-sufficient in everything – even footballers and NHS staff!

Talking of greens, and blues and whites – in fact every coloured wire under the sun. Why is it that the last item to be replaced in a wiring circuit is always the one found to be the cause of the problem - especially when you’ve gone to the expense of replacing everything else? If you don’t believe me try fixing a faulty Christmas tree light.

A while ago the heater motor on the Volvo packed up on settings 1,2 and 3, but was OK on max – not exactly a fault you want in mid winter, especially when the motor is additionally screeching like Kate Bush and threatening to disintegrate. Last time this happened it was a Kate Bush CD someone had left on the CD player. The previous time to that it was a relay heater motor switch. Anyway, I decided to replace the motor with a 2nd hand unit from a breaker’s (£30). While it cured the Kate Bush issue it didn’t solve the control problem. I then replaced the relay with a new item (£5) – still no joy. I finally tracked it down to a temperature fuse on the resistor pack. Shorted it out with a length of wire and a couple of clips and it works perfectly. A new resistor pack is £40 plus VAT; a 2nd hand one from a breaker is still £29. Managed to source a new temperature fuse from Maplin’s for 60p (plus £3 p&p). Not sure why I’m telling you this, as the chance of anyone a) having a Volvo, and b) having a heater motor failure is quite remote; however, you never know. Remember though; on hearing strange noises always check the CD player for Kate Bush CDs before attempting any dismantling or expenditure.

Why is it that Volvo drivers have such a bad name? Besides the Merc they are virtually the only car you have a good chance of taking for it’s 200,000 mile service. I simply love parking my completely rust-free, 14 year-old Volvo 850 GLT Estate next to a 10 year old wrecked rot-box of a Vauxhall / Ford / Peugeot / etc. I also love telling people how I’ve had well over 100k miles of relatively trouble-free motoring and how I can fit the entire stock of the local B&Q in my boot. Best car I’ve ever had! According to consumer research, Volvo drivers can be categorised as follows:

Feel society is less well-ordered than in the past. On the lookout for bargains.
Reads: Daily Mail
Watches: Holby City, Animal Hospital
Hobbies: Bingo, bridge
Health: Trusts doctors and does not drink heavily

Except for the second sentence, nothing could be further from the truth. We’re more regulated than we’ve ever been, I wouldn’t read the Daily Mail if you paid me (except to gather fodder for the blog), only watch Holby City because Hay does, don’t and didn’t watch Animal Hospital, consider both bridge and bingo to be games for old ladies, don’t trust doctors all that well (unless they qualified over 25 years ago) and drink like a fish.

To other matters European. My surname, as many of you will have gathered, is Van Bergen and I was born in the Netherlands to a Dutch father and English mother. When transliterated the name means ‘from mountains’, without the definite article ‘the’. As well as being grammatically incorrect, there are no mountains of note in the Netherlands, the country being renowned for being as flat as four day old beer. That points to the name actually meaning ‘from Bergen’ the Norwegian city, which makes far more sense. To a degree that clicks with my family’s maritime heritage, it being eminently possible that we were Baltic or Nordic Traders from Norway at some time in the distant past. Now, as it happens there exists a Bergen tartan that is worn by the Bergen Pipeband and Bergen Scottish Society in Norway, which is astonishing. I know of at least one of my readers who will find that interesting, as he’s a bagpipe player. Mind you, I wouldn’t pay 20 quid for a tie that looks like it belongs to a person about to undergo a fashion make-over. As far as I’m concerned, tartan should only be displayed at Christmas – and even then only if you really can’t afford a Christmas tree.

Another bit of useless information. Dutch protocol dictates that when used in conjunction with a forename, any name with ‘van’ in it assumes the lowercase v. When the surname is used on its own it assumes a capital V. So while my surname is Van Bergen, my full name is Philip van Bergen. Not many people of Dutch origin are aware of that and maintain a capitalised V in all circumstances, especially Americans.

Here’s a handy little utility if you’re interested in finding out about the distribution of your surname around the world. The traditional urban English surname of Khan, for example, predominates in a crescent shape comprising Yorkshire, Lancashire, the Midlands and the Southeast. It’s rather disturbing that a surname which came over in 1066 and reputedly spread throughout England does not show up in any of the searches – that surname being The-Conqueror. I do believe that the first The-Conqueror started the trend for double-barrelled surnames, although others suggest it was an earlier name, The-Great, which has also disappeared with time. Alfred The-Great was apparently the first British holder of that surname, but many think it is a corruption of The-Grate, as he had some issues surrounding cakes and fires. As every schoolboy (and girl) student of textbooks on the French language knows, the surname ‘The-Great’ in fact migrated to France, where the exploits of a certain M. Le Grand have become legendary, along with those of his colleague M. Le Brun.

I believe William The-Conqueror was also known as William The-Bastard – but not to his face. However, I can find no remaining trace of ‘The-Bastards’ in the UK, although there are a great number of ‘Bastards’ in France (check it out if you don’t believe me).

My own surname seems to have followed me from the Northwest to the Southeast and then the Southwest. However, neither I nor my immediate family are responsible for popularising the name in the east or west Midlands. Strangely enough, when receiving a quote for car insurance I was once confused with another Van Bergen who drove a Porche. He was certainly not from the 1960 wave of invasion.

Here’s an amusing legal story that had me in stitches. A District Judge who was appearing as a solicitor to represent a family member told an usher to 'fuck off' and called the CPS lawyer 'a fuckwit'.

An MP has caused controversy by stating that disloxia is a moth and a faction. Hay has always believed it to be thus (and I tend to agree), as it’s far easier to ascribe your child’s inability to read to a syndrome than admitting he or she has a literacy problem, as the latter reflects badly on the parent while the formed does not. Learning ability is a spectrum and the distribution will follow a normal distribution curve; many will find learning simple, some will find it hard, a few will find it impossible.

Another politician, Baroness Vadera, has been lambasted by the Do Nothing But Complain Party (aka Conservatives) about the use of the words ‘a few green shoots’ in relation to the economy. Just the usual playing at politics by Cameron’s Complacency Party and when you listen to the entire interview it’s just a storm in a teacup (and I was a life-long Conservative voter).

There’s a lot of publicity for a film called Frost/Nixon, which recounts the events surrounding an interview of Nixon by David Frost in ‘77. The blurb says the interview changed the rules of journalism and portrays the events in the film as a crucial turning point. Buggered if I recollect it! As far as I was aware Frost has always been renowned as a most accommodating interviewer, allowing the interviewee to virtually say what he or she wants and to plug whatever book he or she happens to have recently written. People queue up to have Frost interview them as he’s a pussycat and doesn’t give them a hard time.

Last night Hay and I were reminiscing about certain highlights of our time together. I remembered the day she first met my mother – it was the day we had her carted off to the mental health unit at the local hospital in Southport; mother that is, not Hay. Not exactly the best circumstances in which to meet your partner’s mother.


  1. Hi Chairman
    Are the spelling mistakes deliberate in the dys;exia piece.
    If not that is very funny.


  2. Ha ha I did a typo myself.
    It must be catching.


  3. Typos in fact seem to be the order of the day!

    Ch. Bill, I know that you probably know this, but in terms of wondering where 'The Bastard' went: "Fitz derives from the Old French "fils", meaning 'son'. It was usually used as a patronymic prefix in cases of illegitimacy - thus, Fitzwilliam would have been the illegitimate son of William", hence surnames such as Fitzgerald, Fitzroy, Fitzpatrick, and so on ad nauseam...

  4. Fhina,

    Yes I'm aware of the Fitz prefix, but I still can't find any Fitzbastard in the records.


  5. keep on blogging Bill, just cos you don't get many comments doesn't mean we don't get great enjoyment from it. as to doxleziian, my son has it, and there is no doubt that it has something to do with word descrambling in the the brain. At 8 years of age, he had the reading ability of a four year old but the mathematical ability of a 14 year old. He is now an adult and has successfully overcome the initial difficulties, but please don't mock it, as I know of the utter, complete and devastating consequences it can have. As an aside, I keep a selection of old Audis, the freshest of which is now 16. I find one has to keep the odd one in reserve!

  6. Deborah,

    Have a read of this:


  7. Sorry - that should read


  8. Wrong again. Let's try again:


  9. Nah - it refuses to accept the full link and truncates it.