Sunday, October 14, 2007

Oooohhhh, ye'll take the high road...

Warning: This post is also going to be another one of those definitely-not-a-book-review-picky-harridan-spouting-bad-puns rants. Not a review, 'cos then I'd be adding my 2p/80 hellers to Amazon instead, and talking about characterisation and plot and whatnot, but 42 others have done this, with the average rating coming out pretty… average. Which would be my opinion, except for, well, what follows. Bear (hurhur) with me.

There's an episode in one of the Paddington Bear books (and I googled until I was getting very red-faced from some of the sites that did appear, but couldn't find the name) where the marmalade-munching bundle of good-yet-furry intentions goes to Scotland Yard to report a crime. Confusion, mishaps and hard stares ensue, followed by a swift resolution and a warming mug of hot cocoa. Awww...

But there's a clue to my dismay at my latest commute book here, because Paddington Bear lives with the Greens at 32 Windsor Gardens. This is located in Notting Hill. That would be Notting Hill, London, England. Like the film and the carnival. It's quite posh, actually. But the key point? Is the "England" bit. Note how it's not "Scotland". Scotland is a long way on paws (although not as far as Peru).

But of course, Paddington is anthropomorphosized bear, so perhaps we shouldn't rely on his sense of orientation. After all, who knows what kind of funny practices he might have picked up in Darkest Peru? That supra-cranial stash marmalade sandwiches is definitely suspicious.

So take the case of the most famous dope-addled detective of them all, Sherlock Holmes, who famously puffed on his pipe at 221b Baker Street. Again, in London, England. Where he would periodically show up his rival in detecting, Inspector Lestrade, who worked for Scotland Yard. Presumably also in London unless he had a very fast horse.

But shockingly (perhaps it's a cunning ruse to lull local criminal masterminds into a false sense of security by convincing them that the police have moved and are busy looking for nefarious deeds elsewhere) the Metropolitan Police Force, who police Greater London, have an HQ called, "New Scotland Yard". In England. Not Scotland. There's a big triangular sign in front that goes round and round and round and round... I've gone past it on the bus (yes, a red double-decker one).

Or perhaps it's just that 180 years ago, the public entrance of the police HQ was in Great Scotland Yard, and London being London, the name stuck, even after it moved few times (but only within London). What this says about Londoners, I'm not sure. It's probably not flattering. At least they stuck the "New" on at the beginning. Anyhow, keeping the name wasn't so much about foiling dastardly villains, but dastardly villainous filing. (oh help)

So if, say, a writer of contemporary romantic suspense were to feature a psychotic serial killer going on a mad rampage through the modern-day Highlands, I'm pretty damn sure that the local laird (uuurrgggh) wouldn't be calling for and/or dodging the attention of Inspector MacTypecast from Scotland Yard. There's that whole 12-plus hours journey on a very dull motorway with nothing but boiled sweets and local radio for sustenance for one.

Instead, Laird MacTitebreeks o' Leathern (uuuurrggh) would be enjoying a visit by representatives of the Northern Constabulary CID. Probably a whole bunch of them with forensic investigators and everything. Maybe a task force in fluorescent vests. Maybe even a secret subdivision of the Scottish Crime and Drug Enforcement Agency staffed by a brotherhood of vampires. Ian Rankin probably knows best.

Someone, somewhere is very glad I dumped that business about UK police ranks and how they're referred to in the vernacular.


Bookwormom said...

Are you saying you found a book wherein a Scottish laird sends all the way to London for police assistance? As opposed to the local constabulary, whatever they may be called? Did you find a copy of Paddington that mistranslated the name and or location of Scotland Yard? Both? Neither? Stuck on an interminable escalator again?

LOL ;)

Suisan said...


That's pretty dim, to think that Scotland Yard is, eh, Scottish. Has this author ever read any classic English murder mysteries? Ever?

On the other hand, there once was a TV show which filmed in Boston, Massachusetts, "Spenser for Hire", which routinely and frequently mispronounced street names and famous landmarks. I always pictured the assistant cameraman waving his arms in the back ground, stage whispering, "TREH-mont! TREH-mont! Not TREE-mount Street!"

But alas, the director and actors knew best.

EvilAuntiePeril said...

Hello bookwormom, yes to the first. Twice in a row, actually, which is how I know that the gods are laughing at me.

Hi Suisan, I suspect that the authors have only ever read murder mysteries set in England before the end of the 19th century, and assumed that 1)Scotland and England are the same, and 2)nothing has changed since then.

I would love to share with you the rabid Scots nationalist's comments on this, but they would probably get me barred from the internet.