By Fiona M Jones:
Back in the years when people wrote with pens on paper and your postal address mattered, I used to wish I lived somewhere with an interesting name. Something more evocative, more resonant—more amusing even—than Crossford, Sturry and such like.
Does Canterbury sound fascinating, with its 14th-century literary pretensions—Geoffrey Chaucer’s tales of pilgrimage to the tomb of the holy martyr? Unfortunately the pressures of tourism and commercialism have pasted over history with anachronism and kitsch in a way that Chaucer himself would most gloriously have pasted into satire. Everything calls itself Chaucer. I’m not sure there isn’t an electronic cigarette outlet called Chaucer Vapes.
I do currently reside in Fife, where Macbeth held brief tragic Thanedom, but Birnam Wood or Dunsinane might fall more trippingly off the tongue… unless, again, the local shops sell Macbeth as a plastic fridge magnet wearing a tam o’shanter in the wrong tartan?
I think I’d settle for Bogside, temporarily at least—a name rendered charming by its sheer lack of pretension. Or Yetts o’ Muckhart, Coaltown of Balgonie or Milltown of the same. Lower Largo, birthplace of Robinson Crusoe’s real-life antecedent, sounds oddly musical; Saline (say “Sallin”) will always get mispronounced like a Shibboleth for Sassenachs. Gallowridge might suit a certain mood of late dark-eved autumn. Rumbling Bridge—
It’s a wonderful name, both picturesque and onomatopoeic, and the place lives up to its name. The bridge is 300 years old, a narrow two-tiered arching of stone across a roaring gorge that erodes deeper every year until in places the water itself disappears from view if not from hearing, far below you between black rocks, thin-spreading foliage and spray-dampened fern.
An inconvenient single-track road crosses the old, mossing bridge, and down beside the bridge a path follows the gorge upstream, far above the white-rushing, dark-pooling waters or suddenly close beside. Bare trunks of long-fallen trees straddle awkwardly the rocky sides at their narrowest points—deadwood smoothed by weather or greening once more into mosses and small ferns. Other trees cling precariously, obliquely, above precipitous edges, their roots holding together the very same ground that they originally broke. It is a short walk up through the loud, narrow valley towards flatter land and calmer water, but it feels longer, the inanimate roar and rumble putting time out of rhythm. If I lived in Rumbling Bridge I could take this route twice a week, seeing every time a different view of light and flow, weather and greenery, and progress of water cutting deeper still into earth.
Yes, I would like to live in Rumbling Bridge.
Fiona M Jones is a creative writer living in Scotland, a regular contributor to Folded Word and Mum Life Stories, and an irregular contributor all over the internet.
Fiona on Twitter