Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Up My Street

My girlfriend and I are on our way to see some old friends. They have moved since we last saw them, and we only have a small fragment of hand-drawn map to guide us. As a consequence we are late, and driving aimlessly around a modern housing estate – the kind where all the roads are named according to a central theme.

“Look at that”, I say, as we pass a small parade of shops for the third time. “Shackleton Drive.”

“I know”, she says. “That doesn’t help us.”

“Yes, but Shackleton was famous for perhaps the most astonishing feat of courage and survival ever – leading his men across the Southern Ocean to safety. Of all explorers, he is perhaps the one most associated with having a lot of drive.”

Suddenly the hairs on the back of my neck stand up. I slam the brakes on.

“Look! Look!”

“Is that their house?”

“No. Scott Close.”


“Scott narrowly failed to lead the first expedition to the South Pole. Of all explorers, he is probably the one who got the closest to his goal, without achieving it: Scott – Close.”

“I think we need to do a left up here.”

I drive off.

“Why are you turning right?”

“Don’t you see? This whole estate is named after explorers, but in an amazingly apt and witty way. I bet that each road has had the same amount of love put into thinking up its name. I want to see what the rest are called.”

“Can’t we do that afterwards?”

“It’ll be dark then.”

I look at my girlfriend, slightly concerned that the etymology of street names might not fit into the intersection of our Venn diagram of hobbies. I try to rouse her interest in the project.

“Don’t you think this is brilliant? Someone in the planning department has made this series of wonderfully subtle little jokes, and I might be the first person to have discovered them. This is... this is beauty.”

Alas, someone in the planning department hadn’t made a series of wonderfully subtle little jokes. All the other road names are rubbish – most of them just have the suffix Close, even applied to people such as Sir Edmund Hillary, who clearly achieved his objective.

“How can Amundsen be a Close as well as Scott?” I rage. “And it’s not even as though Amundsen Close is further south than Scott Close – that would have at least made some sense.”

My girlfriend phones our friends to explain that we are back by the shops and we may be some time.

I do not enjoy seeing our friends as much as I usually do. I am disappointed and distracted. At one point, my girlfriend leans over to me and whispers, “You’re thinking up road names, aren’t you?”

I was. Here they are:

Hillary Rise

Magellan Circle

Drake Alley

Oates Walk

Upper Piccard Way and Lower Piccard Way

Stanley Approach

Lewis Estate

Cook Court

Armstrong Crescent

Columbus Road (the last little bit of the way)