There is a view of the world that says you can judge what sort of environment you are in by the names of the public houses that appear across the landscape.
This is not to say that I encourage people to go around sampling the wares, nor do I wish anyone to drive dangerously while peering out at passing public house signs, but still, it is a fascinating topic, as I hope to show in the next few lines.
For example, I read recently that in the town of Billingham in County Durham there are pubs called The Astronaut and The Telstar.
As you may (or indeed may not, depending on your generation) know, Telstar was the name given to a fairly early set of communication satellites launched in 1962. Apparently both Telstar 1 and Telstar 2 are still floating around the earth, but neither work anymore as is the habit of technological devices.
Telstar was also a piece of pop music (I use the term “music” in its loosest form at this point) originally recorded by the Ventures, and then by the Spotniks (don’t blame me for these names) and then by the Tornados who in true popular music fashion released an album after the earlier versions of the song were released called “The Original Telstar”.
In contrast I recall a public house in Dorset called “The World’s End” for reasons which never became apparent, and in Portsmouth there is one called the “Jolly Taxpayer”. I think someone’s imagination was getting carried away at that point.
Staying in the south there is the The Nobody Inn, in Doddiscombsleigh, in Devon – a town which ought to have a prize for its own name, let alone the pub. While moving north we might find the Bunch Of Carrots in Hampton Bishop, Hereford.
The appallingly sexist The Quiet Woman, in Earl Sterndale, Buxton has a picture of a lady carrying a tray but without a head, and we should undoubtedly move on rapidly from there to perhaps the longest (although I am sure I am right to say “perhaps” because there’s bound to be an exception) pub name which is the The Old Thirteenth Cheshire Astley Volunteer Rifleman Corps Inn, which is to be found in Stalybridge.
However, I personally have had a liking for the bizarre such as “The Case Is Altered” in Pinner which reminds me of “The Bull And Spectacles” in Blithbury, Staffordshire which was originally called The Bull. I think someone was just trying to grab attention.
Anyway, all of these seem to be supplanted now by the Octagonal Pine Cube, a public house that appears to offer a mix of the traditional and exotic. Not to mention the downright impossible.
Moving back from the pub to the satellite, I wondered what satellites were called these days, and was disappointed to see that most were named after scientists – which of course is fine as a tribute, but not really imaginative.
Israel has named some satellites after old testament prophets (they have a communication satellite called Amos, for example) and China celebrates its philosophical heritage with Mozi hao named after Mo Di the philosopher who lived from 470BC to 391BC. Sadly I am not knowledgeable enough to tell you what he philosophised, but I am sure you can find out via Google.
Mexico has a satellite named Morelos after the revolutionary Jose Maria Morelos, which seems rather apt. But I do particularly like the fact that some of the great science fiction writers of the past now are in space, as with the satellites Jules Verne and Lem, the latter named after Stanislaw Lem – who was one of the first writers of sci-fi humour as well as the very non-humorous Solaris.
Recently, however the Galileo satellites have been named after competition winners which has made a nice change. I wonder if pubs have ever thought of doing this – run a competition and have the pub named after the winner for a year. If you ever see this happening remember you read the idea here first.
If pub owners don’t do that I fear that the suggestion that turned up recently in New Scientist magazine of a pub called the iPhone and Dongle might well come to pass. A pub in which, I presume, no one ever talks to anyone face to face. It would then presumably become known locally as The World’s End.
New Scientist did, however, do us the service of finding a few other pubs which have been named after scientists coming up rather interestingly with Sir Richard Owen, the naturalist who is remembered for creating the word Dinosauria.
Actually from what I recall Owen was himself something of a “Fearful Great Reptile” (as Dinosauria means) whose work led to the creation of the Natural History Museum, an institution which changed the perception of what museums could be.
Trouble was he had a nasty temper and was always rowing with other scientists, so his popularity was never high.
But still, he’s had a pub named after him, which is, I guess, more than most of us have.
I wonder if anyone has ever thought of naming a pub “The Admiral”.