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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Exceedingly good cakes……..

If you live or have loved in the UK, (or possibly ex pat communities such as Dubai or the Spanish costas) , you will know that Mr Kipling bakes exceedingly good cakes! Not just because the advertising ‘strapline’ says this, but because they really are.

Mr Kipling alas is not a real baker but a fictitious baker invented in the UK in the 1960’s to support the evolving supermarkets.

Cakes had historically always been sold from small independent cakes shops or bakeries and Mr Kipling was devised by Rank Hovis McDougal, a large UK Miller and baker to create a brand for the supermarket shelves.

The reason for mentioning Mr Kipling is French Fancies!

I am not really one for lists of favourites…but I do have a league table of five various food inventions that are worthy of mention. At no. 5. Triple chocolate chip cookies – a slightly soft chocolate flavoured cookie featuring bits of white chocolate and milk chocolate. An amazing chocolate triple triumph.

No. 4 is Pork crackling (with apologies to all vegetarians) mmm, it might be 11pm but I could eat some now; ranking number 3, are baked crisps (for those in North America by crisps, we mean potato chips…whereas in the uk, chips are what you would call French Fries. Which in France are of course are just called Fried potatoes….and so on….. Anyway I have digressed…at number 2 has to be any cake containing marzipan… Battenburg and Simnel cake are two noble examples but far ahead, leading the no. 1 ranking…are French Fancies…..by Mr Kipling. The name has a slight hint of risque , or double-entendre but in reality it’s just a small cake. Albeit very nice being sponge cloth a fondant cream top and coated with soft icing. The whole thing is about 30% sugar!

I learnt only today that a special Christmas version of this is produced with frosted, sparky icing. It might only be March now…but I am getting excited already and look forward to introducing these into my life.

In recent weeks, for some bizarre reason I have had an immense craving for these…were it not for the fact I am male, and also aged well beyond pregnancy age, I would have been so convinced I was pregnant and showing signs of extreme food obsessions…

Have a good week…….

Marzipan…it’s on my list

If I was doing a top 5 list of foods that made you think, why did somebody invent this? I have a few candidates for the list.

Smashing almonds into tiny pieces and then adding copius amounts of sugar may seen a little left field to most cooks but sure is worth the result. End result ….a construction material for building cakes and a sort of carpet underlay for icing. But also an artist’s pallet for creating things…well mostly miniature fruits…not sure why fruits. Why not a potato or a lettuce?

Also on the usefulness front is it’s ability to soak up alcohol and then just act like a normal chocolate in the chocolate box!

But the downside is that it’s a marmite situation. You can’t just think marzipan is ok, you either love it or hate it!

I am a marzipan lover but appreciate the world of the non-likers….. let me help you. Just send it to me

Dirty old town

For those who are fans of the Pogues, they will know the lyrics of this song are something like ‘ I met my love by the gas works wall, Dreamed a dream by the old canal, I kissed my girl by the factory wall, Dirty old town’ . Now I don’t think that town had a name but somehow I don’t think it was Bellavista, Beaumaris or anything remotely suggesting anything looking nice . Naming of towns isn’t driven by people ..having said that for new towns it perhaps is (we have a few of these new towns in the UK and these probably have had a committee or a focus group to name them).

Yes, unlike children whose parents spend many hours hours of researching popular names. Hopefully being sure that the trendy name you give your child is really what you intended and will survive the years without causing undue embarrassment in the playground or on the school bus. In our family at the time of great grandparents era we have at least one relative who was proudly named Fanny. Say no more..but trust me, it might be not so cool to be called that in North America, in the uk it really is decidedly awkward.

Its not just the names , another example is the regretful parent of David Ian McDonald when it came to initials being marked on schoolwear.

Generally speaking town names have just evolved from some simple geographic description or derivation from a Latin or Roman name from the past. This usually tends to work, but just occasionally you end up with some tidy and pleasant town or village having a name…well that makes it sound rather not so nice, or even having connotations of…well anything but the intended name.

In the UK we have numerous examples of these…I could probably name about 50 with ease…but in the interests of brevity, here is my top 5.

Snodland – as a child when being driven along the motorway and seeing the road sign, for this inoffensive Kent town , my childish brain and equally childish humour saw this as Snotland… causes much hilarity when you are aged 12!

Ramsbottom – include the name ‘bottom’ in any town name and immediately it opens itself up to some suggestion of toilet humour, add the word Ram and you have a sure fire winner. Ramsbotton does have a connection with Rams for sure being in North Pennine sheep country but that is where it ends . Not a bottom in sight and in facts it is a very friendly and bustling market town.

Seaton Sluice – the very name conjures up some kind of porcelain contraption with a not very pleasant function. Now I have never been to Seaton Sluice but I am told its actually a most appealing village on the Northumberland coast.

Grotton – the human brain seems to want to focus on the first four letters here and just think Grot! In reality Grotton is a very pleasant semi rural residential area to the east of Manchester bordering Saddleworth. Nothing grotty about Grotton.

and finally…..

Upperthong – yes, that is the name, not to be confused with nearby Netherthong. Not surprisingly Upperthong residents dread that moment when doing a telephone order for goods or services and being asked their address…. the responses they get back are inevitable and yes probably funny the first time, but I imagine it gets a bit tiresome after 10 years!