Sunday, April 09, 2006

Site-d online

Flower Mound, Texas. A grave? A sudden vision? Wordsworth in the Wild West? Actually more of a Kansas or Oklahoma place-name than a Texas one. Just doesn’t go with a ten-gallon hat. The USA does have a knack for names that stay in the mind, like Elizabeth, New Jersey and Independence, Iowa. There’s a Jamaica Bay in (of all places) cold Massachusetts and a town in Illinois called River Forest.

Repulse Bay, Hong Kong. Somehow reminds me of A Ballad of the Fleet – “At Flores in the Azores Sir Richard Grenville lay / And a pinnace, like a flutter’d bird, came flying from far away … ” (I'm told that "pinnace", meaning "light boat propelled by sails or oars ... a tender for merchant and war vessels" is the root of the Bangla panshi, best known in the phrase chal pansi Belghoria!) Also the Al Stewart song about “Lord Grenville”, which is a little off. Grenville was knighted but not elevated to the peerage. In any case, Stewart’s Celtic whinge is nowhere near as rousing as the “fight of the one and the fifty-three”. All very scatty on my part, because H.M.S. Repulse was a 20th-century battleship (how did a bay in Hong Kong come to be named after it?), not a 16th-century nobleman. But they both died in action at sea.

West Wickham, Bromley ( … is so bracing, as Plum told us) Followed, of course, by Plumstead, Bexley. Ideal settings for galloping clergymen and hallooing aunts. One of the rare flashes of wisdom from the Indian Council for Secondary Education - The Great Sermon Handicap was actually prescribed reading at one time.

Laredo, Texas“As I walked out on the streets of Laredo, as I walked out in Laredo one day …[1] Tell Sackett riding into a new town, “loaded for bear”, loosening his guns in their holsters and humming to himself. A haze on the distant hills, the air chill enough to slow the fingers yet the sun cracking highlights off the dust on the street. Clint got his Oscar for the gritty realism of the pig-farmer in Unforgiven, but his Man with No Name was part of the romance of the Wild West, a West that may never have existed in history. The genre, however - from the corny Lone Ranger and Hopalong Cassidy through John Wayne and John Ford, Peckinpah and Sergio Leone, Gunsmoke and Rawhide to Unforgiven, from Zane Grey and L’Amour to Six-Guns and Saddle Leather – is somehow more real than the reality.

Dnipropetrovsk, Dnipropetrovs'ka Oblast'. (An Oblast is an administrative division in Ukraine.) Going by the name, this is a town on the Dnieper. I had to look it up. Brezhnev and Tymoshenko were from near here. Apparently the region produced a clique within the CPSU, a so-called “Dnipropetrovsk clan” that effectively ruled the USSR till the rise of Gorbachev. Grey plains by a steely river and an iron curtain over all.

A smattering of names in a strange tongue, from the “cockpit of Europe” (L. Mukherjee and the story of Bismarck left some phrases in my mind). Leuven, Vlaams-Brabant – did Anton van Leeuwenhoek’s family come from round there? Couldn’t find a direct mention (he was born in Delft anyway), but this must be my mysterious reader from the Katholieke Universiteit Leuven. Apparently Leuven is a university town with one of the “liveliest bar scenes in Belgium”. I’ve never been there, haven’t read much about it, so that could be the equivalent of “the hottest strip-joint in Kabul”. Would somebody enlighten me? Brussels, Brussels Hoofdstedelijk Gewest. Yes, right, how’s the old neigbourhood doing these days? And most intriguingly, 't Broek, Brabant. What kind of a name is that? Apparently a suburb of Brussels not too far from the airport.

Also Alphen Aan Den Rijn, Zuid-Holland. This seems a little out-of-the-way, because the Wiki entry is in Flemish and Google throws up “Find Nannies and Au Pairs in Alphen Aan Den Rijn, Zuid-Holland”. I didn’t dare delve further.

Great fun anyway. Thanks to my friend from Reston, Virginia, who pointed out the “Locations” tab in Sitemeter!

[1] Streets of Laredo is also the second volume in the Lonesome Dove series by Larry McMurtry, who is in the news as the screenplay writer for Brokeback Mountain. He still uses a typewriter.

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km said...

Now this is the kind of a post that can make mince-meat out of any Monday morning.

And while we are talking about places, how about a big round of applause for King Of Prussia in Pennsylvania!

Gamesmaster G9 said...

Pennsylvania takes the cake when it comes to amazing names. King of Prussia is good, but you can't beat Intercourse, also in PA.

Sue said...

The Great Sermon Handicap was actually prescribed reading at one time.

Actually, I have these days when I sympathise wholeheartedly with Ruskin Bond, who requested that his writings not be made into texts, because he didn't want them dissected till all the fun went out of them.

I know, it's always reassuring to stumble upon schooltexts you actually enjoy reading, but some authors deserve better than that.

dhoomketu said...

Good one, have been thinking of long of what to do with frequent readers who don't reveal themselves?

Sunbury, Slough and Bhatia, Gujarat here I come.