Thursday, March 13, 2008

When the name of a town is bigger than the town

Yesterday I was, along with everyone else on my department at work, in a Swedish town called Arboga. Now Arboga, is probably best known for its liver paté, which can be bought in probably every food shop in Sweden. What else it might be famous for I don't know, other than the fact that it crops up regularly in news, economy, sports and weather reports.

So I was expecting a medium sized town, with plenty of industries dotted around. Instead I found a quaint little old town with some fantastic old buildings, lanes and alleyways, flea markets and churches, and so small that on the way round the square I almost met myself on the way back!

And it got me thinking about how the names of some places are so well known and have a such a tradition linked to them and such reputations that when you finally arrive in them, you're not disappointed just shocked at how small they are.

Perhaps the best example of this is in Ireland and indeed the one that has shocked me the most, namely Tipperary, made famous of course by the song that was sung (apparently) by British and Irish soldiers fighting against the Germans during the First World War.
Driving through it for the first time in '92, I nearly feel out of the driver's seat, as I said to the missus, "Is that it?"
Again, I was expecting some kind of medium sized town, instead I found a lovely small rural town, with no more streets in it than could be counted on one hand!

And in England I've heard many people talk about and praise the greatness of York and Lincoln, both tiny, ancient cities. And they are officially cities. They've given their names to the surrounding counties and are known and famous for so much. The difference between great name and small size is probably greatest in those two English towns.

Maybe, the greatness of such places and the knowledge of their names lies in just that fact. That they are small homely places that their sons and daughters gladly talk about and praise when they're away from and missing home.

It's a long way to Arboga... nah, it doens't quite have the same ring, does it?


Rammstein said...

Reminds me of a Swedish comic strip where this evil genius set up shop someplace and controlled the world from his lab, and on the screens in the background you could read New York, London, Arboga.

James said...

Well, after hearing the news a few days ago I think Arboga is the capital of evil!