Making fun of tourists - it's one of the few compensations of living in a place that, come summer, is overrun by camera-hovering, rucksack-wearing, slow-walking, Starbucks-clogging hordes. Who hasn't sniggered at the hapless European backpackers wandering around Oxford looking for "the university" or laughed at the Americans requesting directions to Ly-ces-ter Square? Nevertheless, it seems a particularly cruel trick to pull on London tourists to change the name of one of the city's most celebrated landmarks.
This week, it was announced to a deafening peal of baffled whys, that Big Ben was to be renamed The Elizabeth Tower in honour of the Queen's 60 years on the throne. I say renamed but of course no one is actually going to call it by its new name – apart from tourists clutching their newly reprinted Rough Guides. Big Ben may be inaccurate – strictly speaking, it's the bell that's called Big Ben, not the tower that houses it – but Big Ben, I suspect, is what it will remain.
Renaming things is a tricky business. When it comes to places, it becomes a matter of local pride. It's why residents of Primrose Hill in North London have been battling with the council over the proposed renaming of Dumpton Place as the more fragrant (but less well spelt) Jasmin Mews this week.
And it's why occasional attempts, almost always by estate agents, to rebrand quarters of London – Holborn as Midtown, Fitzrovia as NoHo etc – rarely put down roots. Calling places by their "local" names – the weirder the pronunciation, the better - is a way to claim ownership of them and feel at home. So Big Ben will remain Big Ben among defiant Londoners for generations to come. And Holborn will never become Midtown – not least because if it did, Londoners would have one less local pronunciation trick about which to feel terribly smug.
* The French tennis player Gilles Simon has trotted out the old warhorse that men deserve more prize money at Wimbledon than women. Women finally achieved parity at the tournament in 2007 but the No 13 seed, knocked out in the second round this week, thinks it is already time to go back to the bad old days. "In Grand Slams men spend twice as much time on court as the women", he said. True, women play the best of three sets rather than five, but winning is about more than hours put in on the grass. If it wasn't, John Isner and Nicolas Mahut, whose match in 2010 lasted 11 hours over three days with a 70-68 final set, would be crowned champions and be billionaires several times over.
Simon also claims men's tennis is "more entertaining" than women's tennis. Whether he's right or not, is he then suggesting that the prize pot should vary according to how much viewers enjoy a match? In that case, Pete Sampras who thunked his way to 14 predictable Grand Slam titles should be penniless and Lukas Rosol's giant-slaying of Rafa Nadal this week would have earned him a huge bonus. But that's not how it works. The top prize goes to the player who beats everyone else and nothing – not how long it takes, how good it looks or whether they wear shorts or a skirt to do it - should change that.
There are times when even the most level-headed commuter gives in to melodrama and describes the rush-hour scenes at their local railway station as "apocalyptic". Now the bar has been raised. This week, thanks to a combination of rather too much of the wrong kind of rain, astonishing bad luck and, no doubt, a little incompetence, passengers were trapped on a London to Glasgow train for 15 and a half hours. The service, which usually takes four and a half hours, set off from London at 11.30am, was blocked by floods and landslides in the Lake District, then caught fire at Lockerbie before rolling into Glasgow in the wee hours.
"Fire, rain, landslides…" said one world-weary passenger on the news. "Everything but pestilence". I'm sure the railways could arrange that for next time.Reuse content