Join us on a tongue-in-cheek romp around England in book titles. All of the books mentioned are available from Birmingham libraries.
Our tour starts in the North West of England, in the Lake District, where we meet The Maid of Buttermere (Melvyn Bragg). She takes us for a stroll around Haweswater (Sarah Hall), before it’s time to cross the Pennines into the North East. Here we meet The Jarrow Lass (Janet Trotter) before heading down into Yorkshire. After helping Yorkshire Rose (Ann Cliff) in a fruitless search for The Harrogate Secret (Catherine Cookson), we spend a bit of time On Ilkley Moor (Tim Binding) before going to a meeting of The Yorkshire Pudding Club (Milly Johnson). We then head on down to Hull, but all too soon, it’s time to say Goodbye, Hessle Road (Daphne Glazer) and continue our journey.
Next day, it’s across the Pennines again – this time stopping on the way for a drop of Pennine Vintage (Kay Stephens). We take The Road to Wigan Pier (George Orwell) – described by some as The Pride of Lancashire (Anna Jacobs) – but all too soon, it’s time to say Farewell to Lancashire (Anna Jacobs) and head out to Manchester to search for that must have piece of footwear, the Manchester Slingback (Nicholas Blincoe), which apparently looks very becoming when worn with The Liverpool Basque (Helen Forrester). We continue to Liverpool, and then go Across the Mersey (Annie Groves) in the company of Three Women of Liverpool (Helen Forrester) and head for Derbyshire. Our visit is brief – just time to read the news in The Matlock Paper (Robert Ludlum) and pick up a packet of Buxton Spice (Oonya Kempadoo) before it’s time to go south. In fact, we’re off to London (Edward Rutherfurd).
On our Flight into Camden (David Storey), we pass over a long queue of people Waiting for Godalming (Robert Rankin). We safely negotiate The Brentford Triangle (Robert Rankin) which is rumoured to be the site of The Brentford Chainstore Massacre (Robert Rankin) and land on London Fields (Martin Amis). Our first port of call is 84 Charing Cross Road (Helen Hanff) where we bump into The Duchess of Duke Street (Mollie Hardwick). Always one for a bit of a gossip, she can’t wait to tell us about the Whitechapel Conspiracy (Anne Perry) – she blames it all on The Witches of Chiswick (Robert Rankin). When we finally get away from her, we head for the markets at Portobello (Ruth Rendell) and then off for a spot of lunch in Brick Lane (Monica Ali). After a slight accident with the A-Z we end up somewhere East of Ealing (Robert Rankin), and we just have time to pick up a stick of Brixton Rock (Alex Wheatle) before going to catch our train, the 4.50 from Paddington (Agatha Christie). Don’t worry about the odd looking character eating marmalade sandwiches on the station – he’s just A Bear Called Paddington (Michael Bond) – and quite harmless.
It is our misfortune to be on the same train as The Merry Wives of Windsor (William Shakespeare). They are travelling to the West Country for a day out with The Wives of Bath (Wendy Holden). One of the passengers was heard to mutter that he hopes they will be going east, and then they might vanish in The Norfolk Triangle (Brian Cooper). Our new found friend on the train, who turns out to be A Shropshire Lad (A.E. Houseman) tells us to make sure that we don’t get into a Bath Tangle (Georgette Heyer). If we do, he says to call The Bath Detective (Christopher Lee), and hope that he has finished dealing with A Body in the Bath House (Lydsey Davies) and can help us.
We decide that Bath sounds far too dangerous and continue into Dorset. We go for a stroll On Chesil Beach (Ian MacEwen) and meet A Dorset Girl (Janet Woods). She recommends a trip to Devon, so we take her advice and end up in a charming pub in Westward Ho! (Charles Kingsley). Here, we listen to the local gossip. Much of it seems to centre round Love and Doctor Devon (Alan Titchmarsh). Apparently, he’s known in the area as Devon’s Desire (Quinn Wilder). They say he’s even had a fling with The Witch of Exmoor (Margaret Drabble)!
Leaving Devon, we make our way down to Cornwall, stopping for refreshment on the way at Jamaica Inn (Daphne Du Maurier). We don’t want to get Caught Out in Cornwall (Janie Bolitho) so just plan a quick visit to The Carringtons of Helston (Malcolm Ross). All they want to talk about is the Cornish Harvest (Rosemary Aitken), so we soon say our goodbyes and continue our journey.
Our train goes the pretty way, past Watership Down (Richard Adams) where we see The Children of the New Forest (Captain Marryat) enjoying a day out. We arrive in Brighton, where we meet a Lancashire Lass (Anna Jacobs) who tells us about a grisly Murder on the Brighton Express (Edward Marston) – apparently, the body was Buried in Cornwall (Janie Bolitho). We decide to make a swift exit from Brighton, pausing only to buy a stick of Brighton Rock (Graham Greene).
We continue round the coast, and, hearing a cry of “Look We Have Coming to Dover!” (Daljit Nagra) gaze out of the window just in time to see the white cliffs. We pause in Canterbury to listen to a few Canterbury Tales (Geoffrey Chaucer), and then it’s on to Cambridge. We take a leisurely stroll by the river, and, seeing a lone oarsman speeding downriver, we wonder if he’s a Cambridge Blue (Alison Bruce). After a memorable meal at The Cambridge Curry Club (Saumya Balsari), it’s back on the road again.
We now head for that other great seat of learning, Oxford. Our visit is brief – not even enough time to go down to the river to seek out an Oxford Blue (Veronica Stallwood). We have to get the Last Bus to Woodstock (Colin Dexter) in order to catch the Cotswold Connection (Charles Jackson). On the bus, there is a group of Stratford Boys (Jan Mark) – they’re a rowdy lot, chanting England, England (Julian Barnes). After a while, they calm down and start telling tales of Death in the Cotswolds (Rebecca Tope). Apparently, there has recently been A Cotswold Killing (Rebecca Tope). Our visit to the Cotswolds is beginning to sound like A Cotswold Ordeal (Rebecca Tope), so we decide not to go and see The Owls of Gloucester (Edward Marston). Instead, we stay on the bus until we get to Evesham. There, we meet a host of interesting characters, like Agatha Raisin and the Wizard of Evesham (M.C. Beaton).
We now move on into Warwickshire, as we have an invitation from The Foxes of Warwick (Edward Marston). It is a house warming – they have recently moved from Kenilworth (Sir Walter Scott). Here, we meet the Warwick Heiress (Margaret Abbey). No-one really knows where her money came from, but it is thought to have been a Lancashire Legacy (Anna Jacobs).
Our tour is almost at an end, as we make our way back to Birmingham, pausing to wave at The Belles of Bournville Green (Annie Murray) as they come out of work. We then call in at the Botanical Gardens, to see the famous Birmingham Rose (Annie Murray). We end the day sitting with a few Birmingham Friends (Annie Murray) admiring The View from Tindal Street (Alan Beard), sipping a glass of Birmingham Nouveau (Alan Mahar) – a cheeky little wine made from that well known grape Birmingham Noir (Joel Lane).