Anton Rippon: It's a rocky road trying to explain where I'm from
"WHAT'S your favourite road?" asked the man at the bar. He can spring some surprising questions but they generally lead to an interesting debate. So I'm always ready for him.
"I suppose it's whatever book I'm on at that moment," I said, "but if you really pushed me, I'd have to say anything by Charles Dickens. Although I like a good political biography, too."
"No, I didn't say 'read'," said the man. "I said 'road'." He has an odd accent, sort of colonial, and I've had trouble in the past, picking up some of his words.
"Oh," I said, "well in that case I've always thought that the A6 through Derbyshire has much to commend it.
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"It's the spine of the county and a drive along there is always rewarding. You've got pretty, often spectacular, scenery. Most of the main tourist attractions and settlements are within easy reach. You can go from the south of the county, almost from the point where the Derwent joins the Trent, right up the north-west, towards Disley and Stockport. Yes, I would say the A6."
I've always felt that Derbyshire is one of England's most interesting counties. I suppose that being born and bred here helps.
I'm proud of my Lincolnshire heritage. My father's family comes from the Fens and I spent many happy childhood summers there. And, way back, there's Scottish and Irish blood, too. But my mother's side came from Derbyshire and, if anyone asks, that's where I'm from.
It is pointless to be more specific. I've tried telling people that I'm from Derby. But then they say things like: "Oh, I once went to Bakewell." And then you have to explain that Bakewell isn't really all that near to Derby. They're thinking of the glorious county; I'm telling them that I live in an industrial city.
Explaining to an American is particularly difficult. They've never heard of Derby – except for the Kentucky horse race which they pronounce "Durby" anyway – and your best bet is to ask if they've heard of Robin Hood – which they undoubt-edly will have, thanks to the combined efforts of Ridley Scott, Russell Crowe and Cate Blanchett – and then advise them to get a map and look an inch or so to the left of Nottingham.
Or you could tell them that you live 120 miles from London, in which case the chances are that they'll ask if you know the Queen.
Sometimes I say "Yes" because Americans are quite useful people to have around if you're trying to sell a bridge over the Thames.
I was on business in Atlanta and a lawyer in our party suggested that we all went on to a local bar run by an Englishman. "You'll love to meet him," she told me. "He's third in line to your throne." I resisted a strong urge to confront the pretender and tell him that the game was up – that I was on nodding terms with the Duke of Devonshire.
Truth be told, the ducal nod wasn't actually aimed at me in sunny Derbyshire but who was to say otherwise on a rainy night in Georgia? You can't kid a kidder, especially when he's from our neck of the woods.