You think you know your way around town, and then a marketing campaign comes along and scrambles the map. This week, in an article about a shop opening attended by Peaches Geldof, I read for the first time about an area called the "Newburgh Quarter". It took a couple of minutes to register that this was actually a place in London.
To me, the words evoked a district of bohemian boutiques in a Californian city, with maybe a guy playing jazz guitar in the corner of a sun-drenched square, picturesque laundry swagged across balconies, that sort of thing. I was disappointed to learn it's just a make-over of plain old Newburgh Street, a short parade near Carnaby Street of independent menswear shops, a pub whose patrons spill on to the pavement every night of the year, and a Brazilian café that sells good cakes but is always empty when I pass.
Perhaps they got the idea from the newly-minted "Opera Quarter", which isn't in a Paris arrondissement and, according to its website, doesn't even include the Royal Opera House itself, but basically designates two blocks of eateries near the London Transport Museum.
You can't blame shopkeepers and restaurateurs for getting together to promote their area, but the trend for explicitly "quarterising" London feels a bit fake. In any other city, the word celebrates the historic presence of a particular ethnic group or demographic. But I guess the burghers of Carnaby Street didn't get positive market-research feedback for "The Skinny-Assed Bike Courier Quarter".
Not really one for life-saving
Mounted on a pillar between the Paul bakery where I buy my coffee and the Starbucks where I used to, is a big, green plastic box. It's a defibrillator. I noticed it yesterday for the first time and I've got to say, I was worried: If a banker went into cardiac arrest on his way to Canary Wharf Tube station, would I know how to use it? Or would I accidentally help him on his way and give myself a nasty burn at the same time? "You're not supposed to use it," says my colleague. "It's there for the emergency services." Thank God. I can't do anything before I've had a coffee, let alone save a life.
Confused by Ukip
Another week, another interesting leaflet slipped through the door, this time from the UK Independence Party (Ukip). Among the Union Jacks and giant pound signs is a photo of Sir Winston Churchill, whom the party appears to be putting forward for the European elections, or at least has adopted as its mascot. Did I get that right? The rest of the hand-out is also quite confused. "Say NO to giving the EU £40m a day" it screams, and then, in mega-type on the reverse, the donation hotline to Ukip's own treasury. Bin.