So last night I was casually reading before bed, as per my usual ritual, when a simple word in a book set my teeth on edge:
“I know where it is, my brother used to work near there.”South? Where the hell is South? I yell. Seriously….where?
“It’s worth a try. Which direction?”
“South” Gunning the engine, he turned the car in that direction.
So you’ve probably realised by now that I wasn’t exactly reading Austen, but still I realised this annoying truth that seems to occur with directions in a lot of novels - from a lot of American authors, I might add - they always appear as compass points. Now, I’m not sure how many of us are taught to guide by the sun (or the moon in the case of this particular raunchy vampire piece), but no teacher has ever sat me in a playground and asked me to readjust myself to the earth’s natural pull. I know, in some corner of my mind, that the sun sets on one side and rises on the other from some brief encounters with cowboys books and pistols at dawn in my earlier childhood reads, but put me in the middle of nowhere and ask me to head south and I haven’t a frigging clue.
So why, in books, are heroines (without diplomas in navigation) constantly referring to cardinal points in how to get from A to B? Do they have compasses on them, or is this how it is done in the States? If my friend asked me how to get to the pub, should I no longer use road names? Am I supposed to state “It’s south westerly, until you hit the tip of the nearest earth plate, then take a slight north westerly turn, then it's on the eastern side”? No, I wouldn’t.
So please authors, if you've gone far enough within your imagination to write a fiction book, I beg you to at least invent fictional roads, or even stick to left and rights. Failing that I give you a pre-Midge-approved one-liner, which you have my permission to use for free:
“I’ll programme it into your sat nav, love”.