After a wonderful couple of weeks in the middle of the Green Mountains of Vermont, Strudel and I have now decanted to Maine for the next two weeks. I have no idea where we’ll be going next. All the maps and signs are so confusing that it’s difficult to know which way to turn.
Take this VT-ME trip, for example. I know it’s all New England, but the geography is all wrong. I have only found two exceptions. One is Castleton, which is a small place in both old and New England. The other is New Hampshire. The original Hampshire is a county, and English counties function as a sort of hybrid between US counties and states, so you know where you are there. Well, you know you’re in some sort of Hampshire.
But Manchester, for example, is completely out of whack. For a start, there are too many Manchesters for my liking. There’s one in New Hampshire, which I had heard of before; but there’s also another in Vermont. Who decided that was allowed? Surely there are other place names available. And, if you must duplicate them, at least have the goodness to keep them more than 120 miles apart.
But that’s nothing compared to the problems with scale. The Manchester with which I am most familiar is a city with a population of over half a million within an urban conurbation of nearly 3 million. Whereas New Hampshire’s version has only 120,000 inhabitants, and Vermont’s has barely more than 4,000. Surely that’s more like Boychester.
Of course, Vermont has the second-lowest population of all the states in the US, so maybe those in charge there feel the need to give their towns and villages names that conjure up images of places that are much bigger. But I think using the name of Dorset for a village with barely more than 2,000 people in it is going a bit far. After all, the original is a whole county.
As it happens, that original is parked right next door to the original Hampshire. So, really, I think that Vermont should be called Dorset. Now it might be said that having a village in Dorset called Dorset would only cause more confusion, but there’s already New York, New York, and that seems to be doing alright.
Probably the main problem with such renaming would be that signs referring to the state as Lovermont would no longer work. But, honestly, I think we might have that Sorted.
Which is just as well, because there’s a surprise round every corner on street signs in the Green Mountains. I saw one that said “Peru 5”. Wow, that’s a great shortcut. Of course, we didn’t go because I hadn’t brought my passport.
I must admit, though, that I had no idea that, when Paddington Bear said he came from “deepest, darkest Peru”, he was referring to a particularly woody part of the Green Mountains. Though, now I think of it, it does help explain the sign Strudel and I came across while walking. It said: “Bear crossing.” I just didn’t realize that bears could be Catholic.
Things didn’t improve when we passed into New Hampshire. One village — nameless, of course — had a sign up on its Main Street that said: “Do Not Pass.” What, ever? What do you expect me to do? Stop the car and wait for Godot?
So I took a chance and passed it. I was still looking round nervously, wondering if I’d have cops on my tail, when I came across a sign, advertising a business that must surely be unique. It announced: “Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu.” Well, maybe it’s just me, but I’d have thought jiu-jitsu would be quite enough to contend with already without having all your pubic hair wrenched out at the same time.
You can surely imagine that, when we finally arrived, I was quite hungry. So I took a look at a menu outside one of the restaurants here. It had an unusual typeface, but that wasn’t all that was unusual about it.
For light fare, one of its offerings was a “Mouse Salad”. Compared to the other items on the menu, this was really quite inexpensive, so I guess that mice must be plentiful in Maine. Though I can’t imagine the lengths that the chefs must have to go to in order to produce the main course that is apparently served with “Mouse Steak Sauce”.
That takes us back to questions of scale. How big is a mouse steak, and how many are needed to make a decent sauce?