Spent last weekend out of London. In Windsor, to be exact, so about 40 minutes from home...technically. South East Trains had other ideas and took us on a wild trip around South-East England on the way home, a two and a half hour wild trip, taking in such exotic destinations as Staines, and Virginia Water. So it was kind of like we went much further afield (although thank God we didn't, or I'd probably still be on a train trying to get home).
So, Windsor. Lovely lovely place, all castle-y, lots of sweet shops - Ye Olde Time Sweet Shoppe and Ye Old Time Fudge Shoppe and Ye Olde Time Touriste Junkke Shoppe With Sweetes - their marketing (ok, their sweets and fudge - marketing had nothing to do with it) really sucked me in. Windsor is just as you would expect it to be, civilised and quaint and a bit posh, just like the Queen really.
And then, after our lovely weekend in Windsor, a short visit to Staines (an inadvertent visit, I'd like to stress). As a disclaimer, all I have seen of Staines is the train station, the bus stop outside the train station, and the train station again. But I don't like it. It's not a pleasant place, not like Windsor. And that's not really too surprising, because if it were a pleasant place, surely it wouldn't be called Staines? You don't build a gorgeous little village, full of leafy trees and dappled sunlight and cobblestones, and then stand back and decide to caption your hard work 'Staines'. No, Staines is a name designed to make the office drones who have to work out there hate it just that little bit more, to remind them that they're not there for a good time.
There are lots of places in England like this, and you have to wonder about the logic, and whether places would be more or less nice if their name were different. Slough's an obvious example (thank you The Office), but also - Wolverhampton? Really? You're going to call an already slightly tired, downcast town, in the Midlands, Wolverhampton? In New Zealand I used to know an English guy whose grandmother lived in Grimsby. When he told me I think I physically recoiled, and although I've never been there, I have his word for it that it was indeed a fairly grim place.
I'm pretty sure that in England, at least, names are an excellent way of judging whether you might want to go somewhere. Windsor - yes, Wolverhampton - no. Brighton - yes, Blackpool - no.
It's not just applicable to towns and cities either. For example, you shouldn't expect any updates from me in the not too distant future about wild nights in Putney - first and foremost, because I don't really 'do' wild nights in the traditional sense* (last time I went clubbing was literally a year ago, and I'm proud of that) and secondly, because the choice is pretty limited. There is one fairly nasty sounding place that I've heard some stories about, bad stories, to make it clear, and also, now that the Walkabout has been taken over, another club, going by the portentous name of 'Wahoo'.
If the purple and black colour scheme weren't enough to keep you away, or the completely unnecessary velvet ropes outside, the name surely would be, all on its own. Wahoo. Why why why would you call a club that? You may as well call it 'The Really Really Fun Night Place' or 'Put Your Hands Up in the Air'. You're never going to fulfill even your own expectations with that name, let alone anyone else's. You know how nothing makes something more unfun than when it's meant to be brilliant fun, and there is an air of total desperation pervading it, with everyone grinning maniacally, a wild look in their eyes that clearly asks, 'are we having fun yet?' Calling your club 'Wahoo' is taking that and putting it to the power of 10. It is just a bad idea. Like calling your town Staines. Or like Wolverhampton, which in itself is a bad idea.
Shakespeare had it right. Names are important, more important than a lot of people realise apparently. Unless you're selling food of the sweet variety - then you can call your shop whatever you like, I will still make an appearance.
*I wrote 'in the traditional sense' to seem a little cooler, but really, I don't 'do' wild nights in any sense at all.