What's in a name? Not much if you happen to live in Penge
As I write I am flying over Rangoon (or whatever it is called these days).To the north up the Irrawaddy lies Mandalay on that famous road.A little to the east is Chittagong & Cox's Bazaar.These names contain within them all the romantic adventure that it is possible to stir up in the imagination of a 10year-old.
I have a fictitious image of the Road to Mandalay that I am certain bears no resemblance to the truth, but it has served me well in my own lifetime as a repository for dreams.Now, at 37,000ft, all I see is a mass of lights that do not reveal their secrets or their true identities. In actual fact, though, beyond appealing to my own sense of indulgence, they are great names - and names, I believe, are important to our perceptions of any place. It is difficult to imagine anything good about Penge, due to the ugliness of the name.Not only does it affect my perception of it but, I believe, the people who live there must find civic pride difficult.
I am flying through my daughter Nancy's night-time as I progress over India towards Vienna.Somewhere through a layer of stripey clouds, she is sleeping and, I hope, dreaming of beautiful places with beautiful names.
Names are puzzling me at present because my work with Yorkshire Forward has allowed me to observe that South Yorkshire is one city and not a collection of towns dominated by Leeds and Sheffield.People living in Barnsley (a beautiful name) will use Doncaster (horrible name) for particular services - as, indeed, they will use Wakefield on other occasions.Add to the list Halifax, Huddersfield, Rotherham, Pontefract, Bradford and there exists not only a sizeable population but also an identifiable place that people belong to and identify with.
If the area is going to attract investment, as well as funds for establishing new and ignored infrastructure, it must have a name.
Somehow, South Yorkshire Conurbation does not have a unifying ring to it.SYC doesn't look right and certainly doesn't trip off the tongue and fill you with awesome excitement and expectation.
I appeal to all of you to send me your suggestions for a name to give new meaning to this wonderful part of the country.A name that will inspire people of all types - those who have never been there to go, and those who live there to identify proudly with it. It should be good enough to inspire a new football team to emerge and challenge Birmingham and Manchester as major centres.
Perhaps the name should reflect the fact that it will be a city of green separations between well-defined centres of habitation with individual identities. I will buy a pint of Barnsley Bitter for the most inspiring suggestion that emerges.
'Night night, darling Nancy - don't let the fishes bite.' India has now drifted past and Afghanistan lies below me. It is a pity that the name Kabul is taken.