Beach Blanket Babylon Boulevard


Although my parents and teachers always told me they didn’t have favourites and favouritism is basically a bad thing,  I do break the rules when it comes to street names.   Beach Blanket Babylon Boulevard is definitely top of my list.  Its actually a street in San Francisco, perhaps not surprisingly. 

Nobody has ever really been able to explain where the name derives from – I get the Beach Blanket bit. I could also almost accept the Boulevard part as well,  although as far as I can recollect,  it doesn’t really resemble  Boulevards as one thinks of them in Paris or Berlin i.e.  a wide street with majestic buildings, often trees and sometimes side carriageways.  Let’s not even start on the Babylon part…… but despite all that I love the name.  I believe there is a quite a famous stage show of the same name and also now a couple of restaurants in London as well also using that name.

As with any favourites,  it is good too to have a second choice or backup…for me that street is Wych Elm Rise.

I haven’t really researched if there are multiple variants on this in different towns.  

This one is is in middle class, leafy Guildford in Surrey, England. Well one would expect Elm trees to feature in a leafy town!

Guildford gets many adjectives and descriptors. A town in the Stockbroker belt is one of them – the town certainly has more than its share of well heeled commuters at the station each morning heading to their city jobs on the train.


I realise that anyone not an native English speaker is probably now lost in a web of confusion with all these adjectives – ‘well heeled’? we could just say wealthy but the etymologists will show a link to good shoes being a sign of prosperity; leafy, we could just say nice streets with trees and so on.  But of course the English language at times is designed to confuse! 

 Only yesterday one of my very ‘English fluent’  German colleagues asked me why my ‘out of office message’ on my e-mail said I was taking a days annual leave.

To him that was a complete contradiction – I am  taking  a day off not a year off!

So back to Wych Elm Rise – why do I like that name?  I used to live on a road adjacent to it (called Warwicks Bench…but that’s another story)   and when giving a friend directions to find the house,  on hearing the Street name he was convinced I was giving him a crossword clue (14. Across.   Scottish origin tree on slope,  11 letters).


I could very easily do a top 10 of favourite street names, but for now I will just leave you with number 3.  Nothing at all cryptic or exotic about this one.  It is Hill Street in Glasgow (and I’m sure there are many other Hill Streets in the world)

I had to walk up this hill every day to go to  secondary school and it often vexed me that the great Victorian city planners of Glasgow (which unusually for a UK city is based on a grid system like so many US cities) couldn’t come up with anything more imaginative!

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Please come and visit us!

Visitors to the UK from North America are often bemused by the complexity of choice in our ‘next generation’ coffee shops.

A university degree in coffee is really most helpful when bombarded with questions and choices. Flat white?, Americano?, Latte?, Machiatto?, Espresso?, Latte?, to name just a few; then choose your milk – full, semi or skimmed?

Yes but from a cow? or an almond? or a soya bean?

Then there is size..and of course confusing terms here..is ‘large’ bigger than ‘grande’?, do you want to eat in?, do you want to take away? do you want to use your own cup?, would you like to contribute to clogging the oceans by having a plastic straw? And so on. Even the tiniest of coffee shops doesn’t feel satisfied if they can’t answer every answer you give….with another question..

But that is just the world of coffee….

Despite the UK being smaller than California, we helpfully have a bewildering range of regional accents that are challenging enough for those of us that live here to always tune in to correctly. And these really do vary dramatically by such small distances…for example Liverpool and Leeds are only 70 miles apart..but you could be in two entirely different countries comparing Leeds Yorkshire dialect to Scouse (Liverpudlian). Head 70 or so miles south from Liverpool to Birmingham and it’s totally different again. North from Leeds up to Newcastle on the train for an hour..and it’s Geordie you will hear.

As if that’s not confusing enough for the visitor try asking for a bread roll….

And when I say bread roll, I mean a plain bread roll…not Artisan, Granary, seeded, wheat germ, fancy pants bread.

For these we just use the correct and proper name of ‘Artisan, Granary, seeded, wheat germ, fancy pants bread’ everywhere.

No, I mean for simple white rolls to make a simple sandwich.

..a bread roll is a Stottie Cake in Newcastle , in Manchester it’s a tea cake, further south and it’s a Bap and so on. And there a numerous other regional variations.

Despite the internet, movement of people, international tv and movies in English the accents, dialects and localised terms have against all odds survived a blending that although simplifying things in a way would have been a sad loss.

For how long , I am not sure, but meantime enjoy and be bemused if you come to visit us.