To Derby

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Smoke-mirled, blue-black

Everyone knows that the 1645 expedition reached Derby but turned back a little way south of there. Not everyone knows, when they are a Scottish schoolchild receiving this instruction, where Derby is. I did not, because at that stage of my geographical development I knew where places in England were only if they featured as stops in the railway board game, The Great Game Of Britain, whose formative influence on me was very great and means that I still picture trains as British Rail logos gliding about the country, and Great Yarmouth as a place of Siberian exile. When I eventually visited the real Great Yarmouth this notion was only reinforced.

Charles EdwardSince I reached years of discretion I have, of course, known where Derby is; I have even been through it in trains; but until this week I had not set foot there. This is the statue of Charles Edward, outside the Cathedral. The inscription quotes Dr Samuel Johnson: ‘It was a noble attempt.’ Why this statue is directly outside the Cathedral I do not know. I note that in Hereford, in a roughly similar position, there is a statue of Elgar leaning against a bicycle. (I am sure that if Dr Johnson had ever seen a bicycle he would have said ‘It is a noble attempt’.) There is something going on here, deep in the English psyche, but it is probably better not to enquire. Let me distract you instead with Derby’s very fine two-storey bicycle parking.


Herself: I think you are a century too early. Not good, for railway timetables.

K: Shurely she means that Charles Edward arrived in Derby in the late afternoon?

Peregryn: I am ahead of my time.

Herself: The train now approaching Derby is the eleven pm from Prestonpans. Not having met Garibaldi, the Prince did not say “Westminster o Morte!”

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