Guardian

Dear Nicholas Blincoe


Dear Nicholas,

I hope you don’t mind my using your first name, but given that you have done the same in your open letter to Israeli FM Avigdor Lieberman on CiF, I thought you wouldn’t object.

It certainly is a small world; by strange coincidence it seems that you and I are also neighbours of a sort, for whilst you were born and grew up in Rochdale, I was born only 9 miles or 14.48 km away from there, albeit several years earlier. That’s certainly closer than you are to Mr. Lieberman, as Nokdim is some 17.2 km to the south of Bethlehem. In fact your repeated suggestion that Nokdim is in Bethlehem is rather curious, but I guess since Beit Jala is apparently only your second home, your first being in London, then mistakes are easily made.

How strange though, that you forgot to mention that from your ‘pretty hill village’ over 400 shooting incidents targeting Gilo took place between 2000 and 2002 . What  a coincidence too that although you complain about Nokdim ruining the view from Mount Herodium, you forgot to point out that Nokdim was originally named after the former museum manager of that same historic site, David Rosenfeld, who was murdered in 1982 by two of his Palestinian employees. Oh, and then of course there’s the Daheisha refugee camp right next to Bethlehem – I’m sure you meant to point out that it was built by the Jordanians on land owned by the JNF.

You suggest that Mr. Lieberman take up the offer of Palestinian citizenship made by PM Salam Fayyad, but you must admit that when that same Prime Minister allows himself to be publicly photographed burning Israeli produce, that hardly bodes well for peaceful co-operation and normalised relations between Israelis and Palestinians. Neither, of course, does the suggestion by President Abbas that he would not even accept Israeli Arabs into his spanking new Palestinian State.

Now for the record, I am no supporter of Mr. Lieberman’s party but I do think you are being a little obtuse regarding his proposal for a loyalty oath for all Israeli citizens; after all, not only was the proposal rejected by the Israeli Knesset, but it was never intended to apply only to Arab citizens of Israel. You do have to admit though that we do have something of a problem with people like Azmi Bishara; I wonder how the PA would suggest we deal with people like him?

Also, you know, there really is no need to descend so low as to make snide remarks about Mr. Lieberman’s dress or former job. I realise that you have a bit of a background in politics (and now I think I understand where Nick Clegg gets some of his ideas about Israel from), but all the same, such cheap shots do nothing to convince Israelis that there is any kind of respect for them on the other side, which is surely a basic requirement for any kind of future treaty. Although it is true that Israel does not have a constitution in the formal sense, neither does the UK, and contrary to your assertion, Israel does guarantee equality by law for all its citizens – you could try asking some of the Palestinian members of Israel’s gay community about that.

You state that you are ‘deeply wary of Hamas’, and I will have to take you at your word about that, although I must say that it seems quite novel considering the fact that you have not only  co-edited a book about the ISM, but are also active in that organisation. That small world again! I happen to know a guy called Adam who used to be the chef at Mike’s Place – the Tel Aviv bar blown up in 2003 by two British terrorists who it later transpired had met with ISM members before the attack and eventually turned up in a Hamas video. Strange, that.

What is particularly interesting is that in all your various book reviews and writings you seem to have a remarkable ability to completely ignore the reasons why the Israeli army has been forced from time to time to go into West Bank towns or why the anti-terrorist barrier had to be built. Incidents like the Park Hotel terror attack for example. Mind you, I suppose that’s a bit of a pre-requisite for joining the ISM in the first place. Take this ISM event, for example; a ‘candlelight procession from the burnt Paradise Hotel in Bethlehem to Jerusalem’. No mention of how the hotel came to be burnt, but of course the implication is that Israel is to blame. Well, here’s that small world at work again Nicholas, because oddly enough, one of my sons was inside that hotel when it was set on fire, not by the Israeli army, but by Palestinian terrorists throwing Molotov cocktails into it in an attempt to harm the Israeli soldiers inside. My son and his comrades eventually managed to put out those fires, but occasionally he still has nightmares in which he is choking from smoke and burning to death in the Paradise Hotel. That same son was in Bethlehem again when the subject of your wife’s film, the siege of Bethlehem, was taking place. I do have to say that I find it rather curious that all blame for the plight of Palestinian Christians is apportioned to Israel in these political campaigns, when the evidence clearly shows that the main reasons for their exodus from Bethlehem and other towns under PA control  have little to do with Israel. Were I a cynic, of course, I might think that fiction is sometimes more ‘commercial’ than truth when one has a certain political agenda.

What a pity then, Nicholas,that you have not seen fit to stand by your own words;

“[N]ovelists are very, very bad at being involved in politics, because they always want to do and say their own thing.”

Let me suggest that you try listening to your own advice. As someone once wrote; it might be the saving of you.

66 replies »

  1. Excellent article, IN.

    He’s a right little nimby, isn’t he, complaining about the view being spoiled from his second home by Barrett type houses. Those uncooth Israelis, no?

  2. He’s a old fashioned snob and the article reeks of it. As you say he has form (from the Liberal England site referenced above):

    The silliest point occurs where Blincoe accuses Huhne of being posh. This is a childish insult at the best of times, but in a contest where both candidates attended the same public school it is simply ludicrous.

    Noble Arabs vs uncooth Israelis. I had an upper-class, public school educated journalist friend (BBC, Channel 4 etc) who could not help herself from showing disdain at the modern building in Israel compared to the picturesque Arab villages; part her and her caste and part what she was fed by her Palestinian ‘fixers’ who understand the British mentality very well and played her like a violin. I used to mock her – and she took it well because she was a ‘good sport’.

    But during Gulf War 1, she made a comment which I was never able to forget and completely forgive. She was proud of her courage as a war reporter – and with reason. The Israelis were equipped with gas masks etc and my friend described the Israeli reaction to the possibility of being bombed by scuds with such contempt as ‘hysterical’ – the implication that Israelis were ‘cowards’ as opposed to brave English journalists like herself.

  3. IN………it’s a shame that you could not write this article in the Guardian,but then the Guardian(for starters this article is too good for them) prefers fiction and articles from the likes of Nicolas Blinco,Seth Freedman,Ben White,Neve Gordan,Rachel Shabby,and the rest of the of the Guardian (un)stable of writers.

    IN…………… Good One,Cheers.

  4. Yes, as modernity says, this is definitely delightful to read — though this shouldn’t distract from the fact that this very knowledgable and well-researched piece also provides a devastating illustrations of just how many distortions, omissions, half-truth and outright lies Blincoe served up to an audience that wouldn’t be able to detect even a fraction of Blincoe’s inventions.

  5. when that same Prime Minister allows himself to be publicly photographed burning Israeli produce

    So you consider the West Bank to be part of Israel.
    Thanks for confirming your Greater Israel aspirations – which I always suspected.

    @ Hawkeye

    Do you really have nobody better than this?

  6. Excellent article, Israelinurse.

    Although it is true that Israel does not have a constitution in the formal sense

    Please allow me to provide supplementary information to this statement.

    An ongoing Israeli legal project for several decades has been the passage of a dozen Basic Laws, in the aggregate forming a Constitution, including the 1992 Basic Law of Human Dignity and Liberty.

    Nevertheless, Blincoe wrote

    Israel has no constitution.

    rather than Israelinurse’s more careful formuation.

    It is mind-boggling the propensity of Guardian authors to spout, daily, all sorts of blather about the state of Israel, based upon little more than ignorance.

  7. Well, I’m not Hawkeye in disguise, but if I were, I’d now tell pretzelberg: boy oh boy, they don’t come any better than Israelinurse!!!

  8. In fact, not only do Guardian authors display ignorance and bigotry towards Israel, they also display an inability to do even the most elementary research:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Basic_Laws_of_Israel

    While these laws were originally meant to be draft chapters of a future Israeli constitution, they are already used on a daily basis by the courts as a formal constitution. Israel currently functions according to both material constitutional law, based upon cases and precedents (unwritten constitution), and the provisions of these formal statutes.

  9. Superb work Israeli Nurse

    Blincoe and The Guardian are a disgrace: “The appalling in pursuit of the abysmal”

  10. Abbas’s Sudan trip is ethical.By Nicholas Blincoe.

    Nicholas has to write these sycophantic articles that suck up to Abbas,brown-nosing seems to be an inherent trait in these British Arabists.

    Guess how long Nicholas Blincoe would have lasted in Beit Jala,if he didn’t suck up to Abbas.

    In the Arab states paying homage (especially to the nether regions) to the Rais is a given.

    If I had the address of this Nicholas Blincoe character I would send him a box (or a carton) of Kleenex to wipe his nose.

  11. You do have to admit though that we do have something of a problem with people like Azmi Bishara;

    You also have to admit that he is born in Nazareth. He is not some immigrant or son of immigrants.

    How about bearing that in mind given that the Israeli foreign minister is from Moldava?

  12. Me Vs the kids……. Nicholas Blincoe
    The Guardian Saturday 7 February 2009

    For a year crime writer Nicholas Brincoe was harassed by a gang of children on his estate.Then one night his worst fears came true.

    He was attacked by two 13 year olds,one who was small,barely 5ft 2,the other was a ghostly pale 13 year old.

    This guy can’t even get along with these kids that live on his estate,what hope has he got sticking his nose into ME politics.

    He could not defend himself from two tiny little kids………A marshmallow.
    He should have complained to Abbas.

  13. pretzelberg,”So you consider the West Bank to be part of Israel”

    Yes I do,BTW the ORIGINAL name is Judea and Samaria.Try to remember that.

    Azmi Bishara is a nasty traitor,and I resent my taxes being used for paying this sleaze bag’s wages.

  14. So, Nicholas Blincoe is a non-Jewish European settler whose (privileged?) presence is allowed because his mother was a useful European who agreed to align herself against the whole process whereby Jews came to be other than a tiny, discriminated against minority in the land in the first place.

    A crime writer? An English, Arabist male Agatha Christie? Who regards the architecture of Israeli Jews as an insufferable eyesore? And Israeli or other Jews should listen to him why?

    Some other views of his:

    “Israeli archaeologists are like the fireman in the novel Fahrenheit 451; their job is to erase the traces of non-Jewish civilizations, not to investigate them.”

    http://www.thedrawbridge.org.uk/issue_2/o_little_town/

    Somehow I don’t think he is the greatest friend of the whole process whereby Jews came to be other than a tiny, discriminated against minority in the land.

  15. @ goodonecheers

    Yes I do,BTW the ORIGINAL name is Judea and Samaria.Try to remember that.

    And before that, I suppose, it was inhabited by the dinosaurs?

    Is nobody here embarrassed by this unenlightened pre-20th-century kind of nonsense and willing to challenge the God-botherers?

  16. pretzelberg – if it is you – what’s got into you? The man wrote a pack of lies, dished up cheerfully as usual by the Guardian, and IsraeliNurse has brilliantly, systematically, destroyed every single one of them. And the best you can come up with is to attack her?

    If these posts really are pretzel’s – I have a feeling some troll refugee from CIF has stolen his moniker.

  17. ‘He is not some immigrant or son of immigrants.’
    Oh dear, Pretzelberg – that’s not a very enlightened attitude! We in Israel are very proud of and grateful for our immigrants. Political parties run election campaigns declaring that they will increase the number of immigrants if elected. We are very aware of the contributions made by immigrants to our society, and if you take the time to read the excellent new book ‘Start Up Nation’, you will maybe begin to understand how that attitude has helped Israel’s economy and why we are not wallowing in financial swamps like much of Europe – and Britain in particular- at present.

  18. You also have to admit that he is born in Nazareth. He is not some immigrant or son of immigrants.

    Irrelevant to the fact that he committed treason and should have been hanged for it.

  19. Yet another Guardianista (Pretzelberg) displays his ignorance.

    Judea and Samaria are simply the Hebrew terms for the area, just as Mumbai or Eire or the Malvinas or Shechem differ in name from one language to another.

    Or do you think Wales should be termed “the western territories”?

  20. ‘He is not some immigrant or son of immigrants.’

    No. His mother appears to have been a European who married a Palestinian Muslim or Christian. So what? Was this an option for most Jews? Would it have made Palestinian Muslims or Christians more willing to allow Jews to immigrate so long as they married them?

    No, to all intents and purposes. Palestinian Muslims and Christians simply didn’t want too many Jews, and were often highly ambivalent about those they already had.

    Blincoe’s mother is one of a privileged few: useful Europeans (Jewish? cultural Christian?) who doubtless adopted wholesale the Palestinian Muslim and/or Christian national cause, and wholly anti-the Jewish; who were allowed to become Palestinian on condition they remain few and strive wholeheartedly for Palestinian Christians and Muslims and against the Zionist enterprise i.e. the reason why Jews were more than a tiny discriminated against minority in the land in the first place.

    Blincoe is no friend of Israel or Israeli Jews, judging by what he has written of both. And his mocking invitation belies the ego and egocentrism that allow him to elide his own special circumstances, as though they were applicable to anyone else.

    The typical solipsism of the narcissist.

  21. Romantic European (cultural Christian?) Orientalist marital tourism was not an option for most Jews who became Israeli, who often had rather more pressing concerns, such as finding a refuge from persecution or discrimination. Or, indeed, poverty.

    They weren’t out to found colonies of their seed or eggs in or with exotic Dusky youths or maidens, so long as they “went native” and took up the cause of the Noble Savage.

    Nor to beget heirs who gave themselves airs thereby.

  22. Spot the – it’s actually his wife’s mother who is Russian and met her future Palestinian Christian husband whilst he was working in Russia, as I understand it. Blincoe’s wife was born in Russia, so I guess Pretzelberg would say that she was an immigrant.

  23. Thanks, Israelnurse.

    So Blincoe is just an English (cultural Christian?) marital tourist? How romantic, how aesthetically pleasing, noble, raw, savage and beautiful!

    Not like those bourgeois, common or garden “Zionists”, who like their mod cons, ruining his view.

  24. “Spot the – it’s actually his wife’s mother who is Russian and met her future Palestinian Christian husband whilst he was working in Russia, as I understand it.”

    i.e. during the period of Soviet-Arab rapprochement and state sponsored “anti-Zionism”.

    I doubt Blincoe would like what Lieberman would have to tell him about that.

  25. I think that Nicholas wife is a palestinian.

    Has a palestinian wife,and barracks for the ISM,Hamas,and the palestinians.

    And to top it off writes idiotic articles about Israel.

    A real charmer.

  26. Well researched and well deserved IsraeliNurse.

    Blincoe has a sort of rating system on the same principle that very immature children employ when deciding who is in their in-group and who is out, not on merit but on origin and possessions.

    Blincoe is of course a foreigner in the ME, just as Lieberman is. He is married to someone whose mother came from Russia and married someone who is said to have been born in the region himself, but we have no proof of that and we certainly don’t know where his parents came from.. Still, that gives Blincoe a slight advantage.

    Blincoe’s house is in a village that is older than the village that Lieberman lives in. Implied points to Blincoe again. Perhaps Lieberman has a second home in a place that is older than Blincoe’s second home’s location .Perhaps neither one has a second home. This point is moot until we find out.

    We don’t know anything about Blincoe’s clothes. He tells us that Lieberman’s are shiny. Blincoe’s are probably just shabby enough to pass the test.

    Now we know. Blincoe can join the elementary school in-group. Well done.

  27. Pretzelberg you seem to imply that being local is a plus while being an immigrant argues some moral stain on one’s character. Do they kick you out of bars in Germany because of your origin or because you don’t pay for your drinks?

    You suggest that Azmi Bishara has a greater right to betray the Israeli people whose taxes paid his salary because he was born in the region If he had been an immigrant and did the same would his crime have been greater?

    In the days when people knew their neighbours personally they could vouch for them and a stranger was automatically suspect. The population has increased to the extent that you can’t vouch for most people around you, so being local carries very little weight now. Seemingly habits outlast their usefulness even with people who are themselves foreigners who have settled in the place they are living in.

  28. Correction to the Blincoe rating-game: my comment at 2;25

    It seems that both Blincoe and his wife are immigrants to Beit Jalah. His wife, born in Russia, had a father who claimed to be Palestinian though we have no proof of the origin of his parents. Very tenuous, I’d say.

  29. A Carol
    (to the tune of “Oh Little Town of Bethlehem”):

    Oh little town of Bet Lechem, however could you fail
    To recognise or give a prize to your son of Rochdale.
    They call his name Nick Blister, an everlasting chump.
    You always scratch, ne’er to dispatch this Blister from your rump.

  30. Spotthearch

    Thanks for that article from The Drawbridge. The whole article is worth reading for the sheer perversity:

    When my wife was a child in the 1970s, her whole family would decamp to their orchards in the hills at harvest time, to sleep beneath their trees. This local tradition is echoed in the Jewish Festival of the Booths when Jews are required to eat a meal beneath a canopy of leaves. Today, my wife’s orchards have been stolen by Israel and nationalized by the Jewish Land Agency. The fertile hills have been built over by the settlements of Gush Etzion and Gilo, and though the Jews who live there no doubt continue to celebrate the Festival of the Booths, the age-old traditions they mimic have been destroyed

    That’s right – the traditions of Sukkot echo the ancient tradition invented by Palestinians – naturally – of sleeping outdoors when it is hot. Sukkot merely mimics age-old Palestinian traditions. Talk about re-writing Judaism to fit with his wife’s wildly inventive ‘narrative’. Well, that too is a Christian tradition.

    Modern Jerusalem is gruesomely ugly. It is also an entirely new kind of city, unimaginable in the 1970s when I studied O-level geography.

    Parts of modern Jerusalem are ugly, parts are beautiful. Just like any other living city in the world. London, Paris, Cairo, Amman, Beirut. But only Jerusalem the capital city of the Jews is unimaginably, gruesomely ugly.

    The man is twisted and not – to echo Bella – in a good way.

  31. The guy’s a Christian supercessionist:

    This stratagem bears comparison with the biblical claim to the primacy of Mosaic Law and Hebrew, which itself depends upon a prior, furtive recourse to the law of Cyrus and the alphabet of the Aramaic language. In both cases, the attempt to aggrandize one people, requires the Bible to posit a pluralistic society and a universal legal code that it simultaneously suppresses and erases.

  32. Well done IN – excellent riposte to Blincoe and very well researched. It’s good to know who our detractors are and what motivates them.

    Strange how the English mentality and character dictate an empathy with the noble savage as characterised by Palestinian Arabs, yet seem to be repulsed by the multifarious character of Israeli Jews, represented by the blackest Ethiopians to the blondest Californians (or Russians) and every cultural and ethnic influence in between.

    I write, BTW as a London born Brit so have experienced the ‘otherness’ that some of my middle and upper class compatriots display towards Jews – having said that, some of our best friends and supporters are the Christian Friends of Israel who often make lengthy journeys and are happy to put themselves in harm’s way to support Israel here in the UK and I am grateful for their wonderful support.

    Having learned that Blincoe is part of that odious organisation, ISM, who have been so instrumental in causing not just harm but death to people involved with it, is it not yet time for the Israeli government to outlaw this dangerous and cynical group, who have no compunction and indeed revel in putting their often naive supporters, in harm’s way for the potential publicity?

    pretzelberg – I echo AKUS’s comments.

  33. This Blincoe is hilarious with his ideas of Jews copying the ancient traditions of the arch-ancient Palestinians!!! — I’m telling you, all those Israel haters are real entertainers. But anyway, it reminded me of a recent article that is quite relevant to the discussion about immigrants here:
    “History lesson for Arab MKs”
    http://www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-3830109,00.html

  34. Excellent article.

    It is the sad lot of the average (or should I say “below average?”) anti-Israel author contributor on CiF to be cursed by the lack of a sense of humour.

    Any attempt to poke fun at them results in deletions and mega foot stomping by CiF.

    Which is why this site is such a valuable antidote to the rubbish they dish out.

    On a slightly different note, did I read (here or elsewhere) that our delightful Seth Freedman has been cast out of the ISM fold? I am amazed that they are so fussy. Freedman’s particularly brand of mendacious nastiness should be right up their street.

    cityca, I agree that Israel is too slow in dealing effectively the ISM and similar which do harm to its people. It seems that they could take a lesson or two from the Egyptian authorities’ actions towards “El Gobbo” George Galloway, and make the ISM members personae non gratae

    Well done CiFwatch.

  35. If Blincoe wrote that he can’t see Herodion because Nokdim is in the way, then he is lying again. Beyt Jala is west of Bethlehem. The Herodion is southeast of Bethlehem and north or northwest of Nokdim. The Herodion rises up from a plain. So it could hardly be that Nokdim blocks the view of the Herodion from Beyt Jala. Rather, it is more likely that Herodion blocks the view of Nokdim from Beyt Jala, although Nokdim may be too low on the plain to be seen from Beyt Jala in any case, as well as being south of Herodion, as far as I know.

    I suggest we check our maps and determine where all these four places [Bethlehem, Herodion, Beyt Jala, and Nokdim] are in relation to each other.

    So far it seems as if Blincoe has invented another falsehood, depending on the general ignorance of geography to let him get away with it.

  36. IsraeliNurse, Eliyahu

    You are expecting too much from this scholar of geography. He wrote a very long and boring article on CIF some time ago about his heroic odyssey buying something in the IKEA shop in Tel-Aviv. The only problem is that the only IKEA outlet is in Netanya about 30 km to the North from there. Now you have to understand if someone wants to demonise (with the help of CIF) then to bother with basic facts like the place of his adventure – clicking on a Google/Yahoo map – is only a waste of time. Most readers don’t know the difference anyway – for them they are both abandoned Arab cities occupied by the Zionists after expelling the indigenous Palestinians. (The original name of Tel-Aviv was Tel-Habib as you certainly know)
    In according to his own account he made the trip illegally without an entry permit (where were those horrible checkpoints!?) so I expect some Israelis to complain to the police and next time when he wants to visit his “second home” he can be arrested and tried in according to the good British customs regarding Israelis. True seeing his knowlwedge of geography the court would acquit him accepting the sad fact that this guy sometimes doesn’t know where is he at the moment.
    Blocking his entry to Israel would be helpful for him anyway – he hates the skyline of Tel-Aviv/Jerusalem (I’m completely devastated!) so his aesthetic sensitivities will be protected.

  37. sababa – But anyway, it reminded me of a recent article that is quite relevant to the discussion about immigrants here: “History lesson for Arab MKs”

    http://www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-3830109,00.html

    Interesting article by Assaf Wohl. It seems that Israeli school childrem are going to have to be more fluent in the history of the area if they are going to compete with the next generation of Israeli Arabs.

    That is. the original history. Not the one that Knesset Member Zahalka has adsorbed.

    I was very impressed by Dan Margalit in that confrontation. He stood up to the plate the moment that he was offered it. No hesitation at all.

  38. AKUS: “..pretzelberg – if it is you – what’s got into you? ”

    AKUS, your live and let live philosophy is admirable but imo nothing has got into pretzelberg! He’s just the same pretzelberg as he always was.

    If he lived centuries ago he’d probably have been burned at the stake for disagreeing with the ecclesiastical authorities about how many angels could dance on a pinhead! He’s confrontational for the sake of being so.

    Pretzelberg, what DO you think you stand for? Because you come across as being very confused to me.

  39. “Now for the record, I am no supporter of Mr. Lieberman’s party but”

    .

    You will maybe be too young to remember Monty Python’s Minehead Bye election

    I am not a racialist but,,,and this is a big but…

  40. @ AKUS / cityca
    Sorry to disappoint. I don’t think I’m obliged to provide an assessment of the entire article before commenting. It was just the phrase”Israeli produce” I took issue with. I also wanted to point out that Azmi Bishara is a native – because I sense that some posters here consider him a foreigner.
    Frankly I don’t understand the big fuss over either point. Anyway: bon weekend.

  41. SilverTrees

    “..pretzelberg –If he lived centuries ago he’d probably have been burned at the stake

    Or been targetted.

  42. Anybody remembers of Blincoe’s article on CIF about the disclosure of the BNP members addresses? He demanded in his opus that every citizen living in areas where the postcodes match to the list put a declaration on their entry doors that they don’t belong to this party. And he is a member of an other party called Liberal Democrat…. Funny…

  43. Sababa

    Wohl’s article is really interesting, and most Israelis don’t knowabout this. If you open the Haifa phone book there are hundreds (if not thousands) of Arab names like Mughrabi, Masri, Naji.
    Mugrabi means – someone from the Maghreb, Masri means Egyptian, and the name Naji signs that the person is probably of Iraki origin.

  44. Hi Peter,

    Happy new year.

    “Mugrabi means – someone from the Maghreb, Masri means Egyptian, and the name Naji signs that the person is probably of Iraki origin.”

    And Mr Baker is probably descended on the male line from someone who baked bread…..

    Depending on how many generations ago that was, you can work out how much of that persons origin was baking, or indeed from Iraq – Grandfather = a quarter, Great Grandfather = an eighth, and onwards.

    I happen to know that I’m descended on the male line from a Norman Knight in the 11th century – given that this is probably 40 generations back, this particular knowledge makes me less than a millionth Norman, even though I share the man’s christian and surnames, and he is undoubtedly a direct ancestor of mine (along with a million others, some of whom are probably my ancestor many times over).

    Family names are little more than a comfort blanket when it comes to origin – they tell only one of a million stories, and are often changed (ask any geneologist). As my father is fond of telling me – it’s not the name that links you to the past, it’s the inheritance. Barbara Windsor got nothing, while Brenda got to be queen.