How To Plan A Town (after George Mikes)

Level: B1

Activity: Discussion

On the Continent doctors, lawyers, booksellers — just to mention a few examples — are scattered all over, the city, so you can call on a good or at least an expensive doctor in any district. In England the idea is that it is the address that makes the man. doctors in London are crowded in Harley Street, solicitors in Lincoln’s Inn Fields, second-hand bookshops in Charing Cross Road, newspaper offices in Fleet Street, tailors in Savile Row, car merchants in Great Portland Street, theatres around Piccadilly Circus cinemas in Leicester Square, etc. If you have a chance of replanning London you can greatly improve on the idea: green grocers should be placed in Hornsey Lane. butchers Mile End, and gentlemen’s conveniences in Bloomsbury.

Now J would like to give you little practical advice on how to build an English town.

First of all, never build a straight street. The English love privacy and do not want to see one end of the street from the other end. Make sudden curves in the streets and build them S-shaped, too; the letters L, T, V, V, W and 0 are also becoming increasingly popular.

Never build the houses of the same street in a straight line. Start numbering your houses at one end, go up to a certain number on the same side, then continue on the other side, going back in the opposite direction. You may leave out some numbers if you are superstitious; and you may also give the same number to two or three houses.

Give a different name to the street whenever it bends; but if the curve is so sharp that it really makes two different streets, you may keep the same name.

Street names should be painted clearly and distinctly on large boards. Then hide these boards carefully. Place them too high or too low, in shadow darkness, upside down and inside out, or, even better, lock them up in a safe in the bank, otherwise they may give people some indication about the names of the streets.

I have been told that the theory I have described above is all wrong. In every other country, it has been explained, people just build streets and towns following their own common sense. England is only the country of the world where there is a Ministry of Town and Country Planning. This is the real reason for the muddle.

Answer the questions on the text:

  1. Is your city planned according to the author's theory?
  2. Do you think your city is well-planned? Can you prove it?
  3. Is it easy to get lost in your city? Why/why not?
  4. How do you understand the idea “It is the address that makes the man”?
  5. Are certain professions concentrated in certain streets in your city?
  6. Do you think such concentration is convenient? Why/why not?
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