Day 19 Dublin to Belfast


I’ve always been a huge fan of Van Morrison, especially his song Sense of Wonder from the album of the same name . He writes many a great line, but this has always fascinated me:

On and on and on and on we kept singing our song
Over Newtownards and Comber,
Gransha and the Ballystockart Road

So when this leg of the relay came up I was delighted – that’s just where the Torch is today!

How glamorous those names sound, and Newtownards (on a ‘virtual’ visit) seems to live up to my expectations.

Not sure how much the others do, though. That’s the problem, isn’t it – the foreign and unknown seems so exotic.

Would Route 66 sound so good if it went:

It goes from Wigan down to Newbiggin

Bognor and Wrexham seem oh so pretty

I wonder whether the location of stories adds to or detracts from their appeal. Cambridge, Bath, wildest Cornwall, rural Devon, the beautiful Peak district – all of those seem to be the classic sort of places to set a romance. Would there be the same appeal if a piece of escapist fiction was set inWalsall or Middlesborough? What if my Jonty and Orlando had been working at Loughborough University?

Or do those locations sound wonderfully exotic to a non-UK ear?

As Charlie Cochrane couldn’t be trusted to do her job of choice – manage a rugby team – she writes.


28 responses »

  1. I have a non-fiction book called “An Irish Heart.” It is a history of Irish migration, which is both happy and sad, but it is the name that speaks to me.

    Even though my Irish ancestry is several generation behind, I still have an Irish heart.

    Well done, Charlie.


  2. Loughborough University would work for me! Personally, I think the UK has some of the absolute best place-names–although I’m sure many of us Stateside mispronounce them horribly (I apologize).

    A US author choosing to set a novel in coastal California, rural Nebraska, or Cape Cod is sending (we hope intentionally) a message about the characters’ regional subculture and attitudes–nuances that are likely lost to many outside the States. Likewise, UK locations will have more meaning to those readers who recognize the subtext of settings, while the rest of us remain relatively clueless (except for the hints the author provides, of course).

    If I know nothing else about an actual location, I’m influenced by how a name sounds. To me Wrexham sounds old, Wigan and Newbiggin have a bit of whimsy, and Bognor sounds a little depressing (like a dire location in Tolkien’s world). I think a skilled author can plop interesting characters almost anywhere and make magic happen. But an exotic- or romantic-sounding name probably does help things along. And if it’s a location that others love–or dream of–the setting becomes a draw in itself.

    • *nods* I think you’re absolutely right, you know. We give all sorts of clues to our characters by saying where they live, or details of their lives (says a lot whether they shop at Tesco or Waitrose!) which don’t always cross boundaries.

      I love your take on our place names. Bognor has its less than glowing moments!

  3. *g*! Great blog! Ah, Bognor was the sight of my earlier childhood holidays, and I have surreal memories of it as a sundrenched mediterranean paradise with towering white buildings and palm trees. I now know that the reality is a little different…and smiled at Karen’s Tolkien comment. It’s not that awful thought, really 😉

    • I couldn’t help feeling Karen could be right. or something from Bored of the Rings, maybe?
      I feel the same about Margate and Great Yarmouth as you do about Bognor. Childhood paradises. 🙂

  4. Loughborough would so not work for me – I spent seven rather unhappy years living in the town and couldn’t wait to leave. But Walsall? *snorts* Actually, once I stopped giggling… there’s some fascinating bits in Walsall, including the old Leather Works museum. The Black Country isn’t quite as ‘black’ and featureless as its name implies.

    I won’t mention what King George V is supposed to have said about Bognor on his deathbed. 😀

  5. Now you’ve planted a seed that I should write something set in Wrexham (given it was the local town where I grew up!)…

    Jonty & Orlando would have to have more rugby players involved if they were at Loughbrough… and Walsall causes excitement for some people – my colleague’s from there & whenever she packs a up parcel that’s headed for Walsall, she does this little dance of happiness 😀

      • Is Selly Oak desperate? It has the university and the huge new QE hospital… and is, um, not that far from where I’m living now. Perhaps I’m desperate too. 😀

    • *boggles* Is there really a place called Intercourse? I thought Mucking and Messing were bad enough… not to mention a nice little piece on the news the other day that Dull (in Scotland) was trying to ‘twin’ itself with Boring (in America).

      • And in re Selly Oak, it’s a bit of a curate’s egg. Some parts are gorgeous and others are…um…not gorgeous. And it was the first place I could think of whose name didn’t quite live up to reality. Apologies to all Birminghamites. London is just as bad. 🙂

  6. Why *do* they name the seaside towns so oddly?! Bognor, Selsey Bill, Cromer, Skegness…

    Just want to note that the most delightful and witty and poignant get-together film I’ve watched this year – Weekend ( and featuring a gay couple, too) – is set in amongst huge tower housing blocks in Nottingham. Can’t say more glamorous than that for a romance, can you?! 🙂

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