Heron Island, Great Barrier Reef, Australia

Sunday 8 February 2009

Here's a game for a dull grey Sunday (or any other time you feel like it). Inspired by discussion on an internet messageboard, I've been looking at some of the more outlandish place names in the UK and what they suggest. Bill Bryson had something about this in Notes from a Small Island (try searching that document for "Potto"), and I've certainly seen the occasional newspaper columnist pointing out how many sound like the kind of Edwardian character ac-TOR one spots from time to time in ancient movies on TV (such as, for example, Norton Disney, Compton Pauncefoot, Nempnett Thrubwell).

But a little wandering around the atlas suggests to me nothing so much as an old music hall playbill:

Little Man ("The Tiny Tot with the Twinkling Toes")
Wendens Ambo ("He Fills the Stage With Flowers")
Crungie Clach ("With Her Tumbling Chihuahuas")
Queen Camel ("Belly Dancer With A Difference")
Steeple and Helions Bumpstead ("The Banjo Buffoons")
Peterstone Wentlooge ("The Vagabond Siffleur")
Lamorna ("Bel Canto Contortionist: A Smile and A Song With Her Feet Behind Her Ears")

Imagine the scene backstage, on the night when Peterstone Wentlooge hit the bottle, sat on the star chihuahua, and said something to Little Man that resulted in his second house performance reaching a much higher register, Helions Bumpstead performed solo (Steeple Bumpstead's banjo having been damaged after he told Queen Camel - once too often - not to get the hump), and Wendens Ambo and Lamorna combined their acts to reach new heights of invention (until an unfortunate incident involving a spray of chrystanthemums and the Mayoress of Poulton-le-Fylde led to their being banned by every Watch Committee north of Finchley and west of Watford).

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