Twin towns (the actual towns, not the very funny Rhys Ifans film) have long fascinated us. They were conceived after the Second World War as an act of reconciliation - Coventry twinned with both Stalingrad and Dresden as all three had suffered horrific bombing in the war.
In peace time, they have been used to build cultural, political & economic ties between places that are not geographically close but share some similarity – Toledo, Ohio with Toledo, Spain anyone?
Our favourite has to be the twinning of Dull, Perthshire with Boring in Oregonclass – both towns thinking the publicity would be a good tourism boost, and it was.
Some towns even have imaginary twins – Wincanton, England is partnered with Ankh-Morpork from Terry Pratchett's Discworld, who proclaimed ‘benign amazement’.
2010 also saw Walt Disney World in Orlando, Florida paired with Swindon. The Mail, unwilling to join in on the fun, drily summarised the newfound partnership: “One is a magical place where dreams come true. The other, is Swindon.”
One plucky fellow has even blogged a three month road trip around 50 European twin towns – well worth a read as he ends up in some very strange places! His experiences are now also available as a book.
Not all relationships last though, Oxfordshire village Wallingford were surprised to find that there was no protocol to un-twin, having not heard from their French twin for over ten years. And, interestingly, in 2013, towns questioned their twinning arrangements after Russia’s clampdown on LGBT rights. Milan, Venice, LA and Melbourne all reconsidered or suspended their links.
Should you be a town searching for your twin, there is a European Union website – kind of like macro internet dating! How about Togo, who are looking for a partner in France or Switzerland; are interested in sustainable development, healthcare and education and would prefer to communicate in French!
Whether the practice of town twinning will dwindle in the age of cheap travel and the internet, who knows? We’ll still have Dull & Boring to keep us entertained.