Wednesday, March 27, 2013

a house by any other name

Here's a thing I've never really understood: house names. I mean, I understand that back in the day some sort of descriptive thing was how houses were identified, before mapping, widely agreed road names and numbering of houses, and that even now some houses just have names and not a number. But, in general, they've all got numbers, so stop it. Particularly if you're going to foist some abomination like Ersenmine or Shaynoo on the unsuspecting house-purchasing public.

Here's another thing, though, slightly ironically in the light of all that: our house has a name. I mean, it's got a number as well, and when I give out our address I just use the number, but the fact remains that there is a name emblazoned both on the exterior of the house by the front door and decoratively on the internal glass above the door between the front porch and the hallway.

Now I have no idea what the significance of the name is - there are a limited number of options, the most obvious one being the legendary rugby ground in Dunedin, New Zealand. There is also a Carisbrooke Castle on the Isle of Wight, but strictly that has an extra "e" at the end. There are other places that use the name, but it seems on the whole unlikely that the previous occupants named their house after either a New Zealand sporting goods company (who presumably just took the name from the rugby ground anyway), a firm of Essex accountants or a Manchester dental firm. Maybe my predecessor, in addition to being a furniture-staining Buddhist, was a rugby enthusiast who'd once been on holiday to New Zealand. My old university flat-mate Andy's parents lived in a house called "Tenerife", which I always assumed was because they'd once been there on holiday. Either that or it was a doomed attempt to make a house in the middle of Aldershot seem a bit more exotic. [Weird coincidence footnote: today, March 27th, is the anniversary of the 1977 Tenerife airport disaster, the worst aviation accident in history].

The only place I can recall living in before that had a name was Willow Cottage, in Normanton-on-the-Wolds on the south-east side of Nottingham, where we lived for a couple of years in the early 1980s. To be fair, that didn't have a number, so the name was actually part of the address. And there genuinely was a very big and old willow tree at the bottom of the garden, so it wasn't just a made-up name. I seem to recall the house next door being called "Cartref" (in fact it still is), which is pretty high on the list of boring generic house names, since it's just Welsh for "Home". In a road with no numbering system, you're pretty much obliged to give your house a name, though, even if you don't fancy the idea much. Something boring and generic will do, as long as it's unique - my parents' house is called "Annedd Bach", for instance, which just means "Small Dwelling".

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