What’s in a Name?



Image courtesy of bump

According to a recent survey, certain surnames are dying out. This news reminded me of a conversation I once had with a friend who asked if my father was upset that his surname would die out with me, since I’m his only child. This led to a long and complicated conversation, the gist of which was that I don’t think he gives a shit. We have a complicated relationship with names in my family.


For a start, he doesn’t even use the surname on his passport for unofficial business. The only reason I can think of for this is that his proper surname is quite unattractive. He’s settled for a more common variant of it. When my mum and he divorced, she changed my name to the common variant, disliking the actual surname, and presumably, feeling reluctant to burden me with her very Irish maiden name which I imagine she’d got a fair bit of flack for at school.

Much like the time she wouldn’t let my aunty lick my head as a baby to give me curly hair, this has come back to haunt her as I am permanently disappointed with both my straight hair and my surname. My stepdad has a much more interesting surname, but they don’t seem willing to marry just so her grown child can change her name.

Since moving to Belgium, I’ve realised that I’m finally in possession of the exotic surname which I’ve always dreamed of. This is not as pleasing as I’d hoped. My surname contains an R, and I find the letter R very hard to say correctly in French. Couple this with a random H, and you have something which nobody even knows how to start pronouncing. When I say it, it sounds like I’m gargling.

Russia – Culture Smart! by Anna King

When I was about five, I received my first atlas. I have a very clear memory of asking my mum what that massive section of the world that seemed to be called USSR was all about. At that instant an obsession was born. One that has continued to this day – intensifying somewhat when I made a proper Russian friend, and when I visited that Russian.

An obsession with maps was also born, but that’s perhaps another story.

When I saw this book in Waterstones before Christmas I didn’t buy it, reasoning that it would probably appear in my stocking on Christmas morning. Well, apparently nobody else spent quite as much time lurking in the Russian travel section as I did, and it did not appear. The Amazon voucher I received did the trick, though. Let’s gloss over the fact I said I wasn’t going to buy any more books.

The book starts with a history section which is really interesting, before moving onto different areas of Russian life, explaining the customs that you should bear in mind, and providing an insight into the Russian way of thinking.

My favourite section was about Russian superstitions. I love a good superstition, so it was great to add a few to my list: never shake hands across a threshold (this is repeated many times – must be important), always sit for a while before making a journey, don’t return to the house if you’ve forgotten something, do get married in the rain, always give an odd number of flowers.

Overall, the book was very interesting, and the illustrations made it feel quite fun, although I sometimes felt that I was told something but the details behind it weren’t fully explained. I found it a nice addition to my carefully stored up Russian knowledge, and I look forward to investigating the answers to the questions it left me with in the future.

The Irish Guy

This is my current favourite busker in Brussels. He’s referred to as The Irish Guy by my colleagues, or ‘your cousin, Paddy O’Flanagan’ by my friend Thomas.

He normally plays the tin whistle, but I think he’s playing a recorder here. I once saw him playing a melodica during a snow storm.  

He has a bit of a rota going on, although I’ve never quite worked it out. Some days he’s outside Arts Loi metro, sometimes he’s up near Schuman. I once saw him in Galeria Inno (the worlds most disappointing department store). I’ve been trying to take a picture of him for weeks.

We have yet to determine whether he’s actually Irish.

Booty issues

After suffering with increasingly bad pain in one foot for two years I finally braved a trip to the podiatrist the other week. She measured and prodded and took moulds and I am now the proud owner of some fairly dainty little insoles. They go quite nicely with my different length legs, flat arches and arthritic big toe.

I am promised that they will become comfy within ten days, my toe will stop hurting within three months, and I won’t need to go back to see her for a year. Oh, and I will be able to shove them into a pair of heels and totter round like an injured giraffe for the first time in six months. Huzzah!

To celebrate, I had ordered a replacement pair of my favourite-very-comfy boots (Adidas Honey Desert). I was pleased to find them, the original pair were bought in Russia (❤), but they turned out to be available here as well. Just not in my size. Anywhere. I finally located them on the Offspring website, placed my order and sat down to wait impatiently by the door.

Until I realised they’d cancelled my order without bothering to tell me. I was slightly relieved since I’d managed to choose the wrong size, but mostly I was outraged. Raa!

To understand my outrage, you need to understand that I have dreadful feet. When they’re not being destroyed by shoes, they destroy shoes themselves. The current pair of favourite-very-comfy-boots have survived four months of heavy wear, and my heels have now ripped the back of them, revealing some very stabby plastic. But they are fleecy inside and so, so comfy (aside from the stabby plastic). I need to have a new and healthy pair in my life.

Imagine my delight when googling pictures of my favourite shoes, preparing for an angry blog post about how much I hated Offspring and how the world was clearly against me, I found them. USC have them in my size. I don’t know why I didn’t think of USC before – I never do. A friend of mine works there and yet I just don’t seem to register its existence. I can tell you exactly where it is in Brighton, but I don’t think I’ve ever been inside.

Cue frantic ordering of shoes, plus a couple of dresses and a nice green cardie for luck. I’m getting it all delivered to my mum for extra non-international delivery luck. Come on USC. You can do it. Please!

James Bond: Diamonds Are Forever (1971)

James reckons he’s killed Blofeld, and to be frank, he gets quite cocky about the whole thing, pissing M right off. He gets sent off to investigate a diamond smuggling operation, much to his disgust. Things perk up a little when he thinks he’s going to South Africa, but he ends up in Amsterdam instead – in your fashe Mishter Bond.


Everyone who’s touched the diamonds seems to end up dead – maybe they have some kind of poison on them? Oh, no. That’ll be the two possibly-gay probably-retards following them around. They’ve even knocked off the kindly diamond smuggling nana!

Of course, Blofeld isn’t actually dead. He’s just got a bunch of doubles hanging around. Bond cleverly/meanly kicks Blofeld’s cat so he boots it off to his real owner, but easy-B has cloned his cat as well, and James just kills the clone. I would dispute the accuracy of this – if you kick my cat, he’s not going to be running in any specific direction. He might not run at all if you have any food in your hands.

The plot gets a little confusing at some point and it’s very early in the morning and I can’t remember the order things happen in. Bond definitely stumbles across what appeared to be the faking of the moon landing, steals their moon buggy and had the slowest chase in history across the desert.

He heads off to set free the billionaire, who’s life Blofeld has confusingly managed to take over, and gets into a fight with the billionaire’s bikini clad bodyguards. Strange that they’ve made no effort to free their employer from the small apartment downstairs, where he is being stored. Presumably, they’ve been too busy backflipping around the sitting room.

It all ends as you’d expect, with Blofeld in a tiny submarine being smashed repeatedly against a wall by Bond in a crane. No mention is made of his dead wife, and Bond takes a cruise back to Blighty with Jill St. John in tow. How she avoided going to prison for her role in the whole diamond operation remains a mystery.

Better than the last film, not as good as that one in Japan.