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Five Roads by Nigel Roth



We’re going to take a short drive.


From my house, let's head up Edwards Street, past the big corner house, The Beeches, now used to house old folk and their teeth, and left along South Street, which miraculously, and very Englishly, becomes Newmarket, after the junction.


A few miles along, past the old area of Kenwick, we'll head east at the roundabout and onto the Manby Road towards that very town.


Manby, named, as were many of the villages in the Lincolnshire Wolds, for the Viking who settled his farm there, is known for absolutely nothing. It’s so ordinary that it had to adjoin with the neighboring village, Grimoldby, to add an Italian restaurant and two village shops to its name, none of which I’ve ever visited.


It does, though, have one curious feature.


Towards the end of the Manby Road, which by now has transformed again, this time into the Manby Middlegate, we’ll take a right on the Carlton Road, and make our way past the post office to a road on the left and a sign revealing its tributaries within that small enclave.


There are five roads, and they tell a story.


The first of these is Valiant Road, and I wondered how it became named so.


Now, I know the accepted meaning, courageous and very determined, but valiant actually derives from the Middle English word for robust, or well-built, so the houses along this particular street are more likely to be constructed to last than ready for battle.


Middle English, incidentally, was the language used in the land of the Angles in the gap between the gradual disappearance of Old, and the even more gradual appearance of Modern, English. The Angles, of course, were the collection of Germanic tribes that settled here in the Middle Ages, and gave this staunch anti-German country its German name.


The word is often used, as we know, to describe that boundless determination in the face of adversity, so it’s possible those houses on Valiant Road are built below the water level, or on unsteady land, and that's why valiance is needed.


William Shakespeare, that bastion of words who never managed to spell his own name the same way twice, speaks of valiance in his awful poem A Lover’s Complaint, which tells the terrible story of a young woman who has been seduced and dumped by a bounder. By way of the consultation with a weird old shepherd, we learn that the man was handsome, witty, charming, and had a 'subduing tongue'. The poem is woeful and long, and includes a moment where the shepherd seems to suggest that horrific old trope about being stronger because one survives,


The scars of battle 'scapeth by the flight, and makes her absence valiant, not her might.”