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April 2007 - Great Industrial Cities

Now, if ever there was a title to completely confuse the innocent and potentially put off those in search of this month's specific subject, then that one up there has got to be the one.

We'll have hoards of urbane urbanites rushing here from search engines, everywhere, to lap up the delights of Nick Harvey's words of wisdom this month, about all the largest conurbations on our planet.

They will have failed to realise, however, that they might just have been taken in by what started out as just a little bit of a lighthearted exaggeration but could, possibly, turn out to be one of the greatest April Fool pranks ever.

Those of you who are regular devotees and familiar with the ways of the Nick Harvey creature, will have been ready for the slight exaggeration, because, as some of my friends are all too fond of reminding me, I seem to be a bit prone to that sort of thing.

So, dear viewers, be you of the urban or rural variety, welcome along to this, the fourth chapter of the book of Harvey for 2007.  I do hope you enjoy the contents, even if it does turn out to be nothing like the title led you to expect.

You see, I decided, a little while ago, to talk of villages in this month's exciting epistle, and the way that many of them are not quite what, or where, they appear to be, or even quite how they sound.

Some just like to make themselves sound a little more magna than they are in real life; while others seem to have lost their pairs somewhere along the line and can appear to be like jelly without custard, Morecambe without Wise or Punch without Judy.

I used to love all those names that were used for villages in my youth.  Pairs of villages, where one was large and one was small, would have such grand titles as Cheverell Magna and Cheverell Parva.

Gone now, in almost every case, are the Latin versions of old, replaced by the more modern, boring and anglicised, Great Cheverell and Little Cheverell.  Gone too, in my opinion, is the grandeur that used to go with those original Latin names.

It was whilst writing last month's epic, talking of the derivation of the names of the Langford villages, down near Salisbury, that I managed to get my brain wending its way in this particular direction.

I fell to musing over village names of yesteryear and the reasons why many of them have changed as time has progressed.  I suppose it's all something to do with the reduced Latin teaching in schools nowadays.

So, come on then, own up, how many of you have already had to resort to looking up the meaning of the words magna and parva, in order to continue enjoying the delights of this month's ramble?

During my muse, I also started to lose sleep over the reasons behind some of the obvious pairings now being incomplete.  Chew Magna, over near Bristol, for example.  Whatever happened to Chew Parva?  Did it ever exist?  Could it now be sitting at the bottom of that damn great lake, I wonder?

It's not just pairings of size that had me worrying, either.  John Betjeman made a famous television programme about the village of North Lew in Devon.  I visited the place last summer to have a good look around, both the village and the surrounding area.

As hard as I looked around that lovely part of the county, nowhere could I find a South Lew, nor even an East or a West.  So why was the one extant village named with a point of the compass in the first place, I had to wonder, if it was not to differentiate from it's fellows of similar nomenclature?

Then we need to visit Southampton.  No, it's all right, madam, I haven't gone completely mad quite yet.  I do know there's also a Northampton to balance things up, but that's not the problem.

It's the ends of Southampton that I'm afraid I'm having a bit of trouble with.  Experts on that fair location will confirm that Southampton has a West End, but, sadly, no sign of an East End.

Further confusion is added to this interesting situation by the fact that Southampton's West End is actually located to the east of the city, and not quite where you'd have expected to find it.

I could go on and on for hours about all these strange phenomena you know.  Have you ever taken time out to seriously consider all the Norwoods around London?  I bet you haven't.

Perhaps we should place all the Norwoods under Nick Harvey's Acme microscope for a few moments for some in-depth analysis?

South Norwood and West Norwood are near Upper Norwood and Lower Norwood, down around Croydon, in the south-east of London.  North Norwood's over near Southall in the west of our fair capital.  Then there is, or rather isn't, East Norwood, which somebody appears to have stolen and taken to the dear old United States without asking anyone's permission.  No sign of an East Norwood round London at all.

You see, it does become rather confusing to the weary traveller, innocently assuming that once he's arrived at one Lew, Chew, End or Norwood, he must be fairly adjacent to all its fellows.  Oh no he hasn't, madam!

Another confusion has got to be the local pronunciations that sound nothing at all like the actual spelling of many village names.  The most famous of these happens to not be all that far from North Lew, down in Devon.  The spelling is Woolfardisworthy, but it's pronounced as Woolsery by the locals.

And please don't ask about the Mildenhalls.  They pronounce the one in Suffolk the same way as it's spelt, but the one in Wiltshire is pronounced Minal, just to confuse the visitors.

But then there's Poulshot, which, at long last, brings the story full circle and back to the title of this month's exaggerated extravaganza,

Nothing wrong with Poulshot, you're probably thinking to yourselves.  Yes, there's just the one, no missing pairing you'll be pleased to know; and it's pronounced just about how it's spelt, though best to make sure the first half's like "pole" and not "pool", just to ensure you don't upset the natives.

No, it's Poulshot's old nickname that inspired the title for this month.  For some inexplicable reason, during my youth, the place was frequently, rather sarcastically, referred to by me and many of my peers as "The Great Industrial City of Poulshot Docks".

Talk about making the place sound a bit more magna than it really is, it can't have a population of much more than about four hundred even now, let alone back in the dark ages when Nick Harvey was but a youth.

When it comes to biscuit taking, that Poulshot example really does deserve to be handed the entire tin.

So there you are, dear viewers, we really did get round to mentioning just one great industrial city in the end, even if it only turned out to be great in the eyes of those describing it.

I shall try to be a little more truthful in my choice of title for the next grand edition on May the first.  I trust you'll all be joining me, promptly, for that one.

In the meantime, I'd better get on, I suppose.  I've got a message here to ring a Mr C Lyon over at Bristol Zoo.  I've no idea who he is and I can't think why he'd want to talk to me.

Never mind.  I'll catch you all again next month, then.  Right, I'm off, where's me jester's hat?

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