The game of the name
FOR a long time I wanted to move to Crackpot in North Yorkshire, just so I could get stationery printed with that address. As I child I lived near Dorking, but there were no such creatures as dorks in those days.
Nonetheless, Dad said no daughter of his was going to reside in Horsham; I was an adult before I even vaguely understood his concerns.
One of the best things about driving around Britain is to read the village signposts. These days I’m sure that rush-about motorists snap signs for Cockermouth and Crapstone and their pics are posted on Instagram or Facebook before you can say Upper Tooting.
Dad, Mother and I used to travel on day trips by country buses and British Rail’s finest and much would be made of disembarking and taking a picture of a sign for the likes of Great Snoring with junior Susan in the frame as evidence we really had been there.
The camera was a thing of mystery for myparents and Dad’s hands would shake while he took a snap and sometimes he would cut me out altogether, for which I am now quite grateful when it comes to poring over faded family album shots of Slackbottom and suchlike.
Whenever I watch telly series set in the soft green counties, such as Miss Marple or Midsomer Murders, I have a good old smile at the village names, most of which are made up, such as the sinister-sounding Wychwoodunder-Ashe of Agatha Christie’s Murder is Easy and the entire suite of corpse-filled settlements in DCI Tom Barnaby’s neck of the woods, from Badgers Drift to Midsomer Mallow. I’d love to live somewhere called Badgers Drift, actually, with the prospect of the black and white storybook creatures snuffling about and either of the actors who play the Barnaby copper chaps — John Nettles as Tom or Neil Dudgeon as John — settled in for a pint and a bit of chatter about the latest body discovered in the library at the big house.
There’s something so comforting, too, about motoring through Britain with the big and trustworthy AA Road Atlas by one’s side (I have earmarked the 2014 ‘‘Big Easy Read’’ edition online) rather than a GPS escort who, in England, always is equipped with a voice that sounds like the famously calm and collected Lady Penelope from Thunderbirds. Such dead posh navigators will likely refuse to take you to interesting spots like Slappers Rock in Cornwall, anyway, even if you rattle them and insist you have no intention of posing for saucy photos.
Motoring in other parts of Britain can also prove enormous fun. Once in County Sligo, Ireland, the rental car agent insisted I take a red vehicle so I would stand out along country lanes in the soft (wet) weather; green, he whispered, could be a disaster.
At Inverness, the chap who delivered the car to my hotel had popped a packet of fudge in the glovebox and Skelbo fiddle music in the CD player. I hummed along merrily to Dr McInnes’s Fancy and Fiddle Feet and Spoons as I motored to Fort William via Loch Ness, where, truly, I resisted looking for signs of its famously elusive but nonetheless much-photographed resident.