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June 24 – The Birds and the B's
In search of Barnard Castle, County Durham

We head north into County Durham, in search of Barnard Castle. This should be an easy drive, I think to myself with the atlas open in my lap. North on the A1 to the A66, then a short jaunt on the B6274 to the A688; there's Barnard Castle plain as day on the map. I settle back and enjoy the scenery and the Celtic music tape that Robin has popped into the cassette deck.

It's at this time that we have a conversation about Brough Castle, which we will see later in the day, and how we've been mispronouncing it all along. I rise to our defense, pointing out that the letter combination "ough" has many proper pronunciations (rough, through, bought, though.) We'd been pronouncing Brough as rhyming with 'though' and had been corrected the day before, learning that it rhymes with 'rough'. Bruff, like a subtle reminder from a dog on the wrong side of the door. Which would lead one to believe that Brougham Castle, which will be our last stop of the day, should be pronounced Bruffam, but nooooo, Brougham is Broo-um.

We then discuss the pronunciation of Pennine (the mountain range we are traveling toward), which I had mentally been pronouncing Pen-een, but it turns out to be Pen-9, and the Cheviot Hills along the southern border of Scotland, which is not Chevy-ot, but Cheevey-ot. And what's with all of these silent W's, I ask. Berwick is not Burr-wick as it's spelled, but Bare-ik. Same with Alnwick which is Annick and Keswick, which is Kezzik. It's enough to drive a phonetically trained American reader crazy!

We decide that it doesn't matter how a town name is spelled, just pronounce it however you'd like; you're bound to be wrong anyway. Thus begins a little game of massacring town names that we pass. This amuses us off and on for the remainder of the trip.

Before long we see a brown English Heritage sign that confirms we are on the right course; Barnard Castle, straight on. We drive and drive and drive some more. We pass a sign that reads "Barnard Castle, truck entrance" and drive and drive and ... drive some more. Have we missed it? And how could we possibly have done so?

Then we pass a small white sign that reads simply "Bd Castle," with an arrow pointing to the right. "B-D Castle," Robin scoffs as she turns around at the first opportunity. I shake my head, laughing. If there was any doubt, this confirms that today is going to be as grand an adventure as has been every day that has gone before.

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