Thursday, May 2, 2013

Apropos of nothing, on streets and their names

Our address in Malibu was '20700 Pacific Coast Highway'. That's right, twenty thousand and seven hundred. You'd be bummed if you were coming to visit and you hit Pacific Coast Highway at, say, number 37, wouldn't you? It's not uncommon for a US street address to begin with such a long number. A scan through my address book reveals a 4010 Rodalite Drive, a 3517 Woodcliff Road and a 5463 Paradise Drive.

These big numbers are partly driven by the fact that the number leaps another 10, or 100 (depending on the city's system) with every block. But it's also because in the US a single road will run for many miles under a single name. Everything really is bigger in America, I suppose. Pacific Coast Highway is a great example, running as it does the length of California, for over 650 miles. Strange to think that we were living, technically, on the same street as someone 8 hours drive north in Mendocino County.

The streets of Saltburn are rather shorter. It's almost as if the Victorian planners had too many ideas for this little town. In addition to the jewel streets - a set of streets running down to the clifftop, called Emerald, Diamond, Ruby, and so on - there are a number of grand-but-small terraces and short 'parades' of houses.
So Victoria Terrace turns into Albion Terrace after just a couple of bends in the road. Glenside would be a decent length but for the fact that a block of it is called Balmoral Terrace, and Windsor Road is interrupted by a single block of Warrior Terrace.

As a result I can't imagine there's a house number higher than, say, 150, anywhere in this town.

This kind of name changing along a street is not uncommon in the UK. After all London's Oxford Street is only so-called for a bit more than a mile, before becoming Bayswater to the West and High Holborn to the East.

At this point I'd like to make a pithy, insightful comment about the significance of such a difference between us Brits and our American cousins. But I'm afraid I've drawn a blank.

I think we just file this one under 'Quirky Transatlantic Differences - About Which No Conclusions May Be Drawn'. Or, to coin the irritatingly popular phrase, "Just sayin'".

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