I have had many nicknames over the years, from the inevitable adolescent reflections on my anatomy, an avenue we will not explore here thank-you-very-much, to the classically inspired… and just about everything in between. Most have had a literary inspiration, when I think about it. My sons long ago began to look down from their lofty heights and call me a hobbit. That one has not only stuck but appears to have taken root and is now applied by many friends worldwide. I want it on record that this refers solely to my vertically challenged state… I do not have hairy feet. And they are tiny. Though it is true I am seldom seen with shoes and I have an inordinate passion for mushrooms and my Shire, where the roots go very deep.
I may have Peter Jackson to thank for a lucky escape. There was a moment when it looked like I might, for similar reasons of vertical poverty, be known as the Ewok. My eldest son occasionally calls me slave… from whence it took no great leap of the imagination to transform me to a house-hobbit. This backfired somewhat when he inadvertently gave me a T-shirt in lieu of a sock, but at least he seldom calls me Dobby.
When I was very young my grandfather had several ‘pet’ names for me, all from the ancient myths… which was, I suppose, the start of my introduction to mythology. Persephone… that was the earliest myth I remember learning… an appropriate name for a young maid although it is dark story for a child on first glance. I remember listening to my grandfather tell the tale while I was eating pomegranates… a rarity and a luxury in those far-off days in Yorkshire. However, he didn’t just tell the story, he explained it, teaching me how the story links to the seasons and the deeper reasoning of life, death and rebirth, going deeper still through the Eleusinian mysteries, to initiation and the journey of the soul. Looking back from here, the links between that story and what and how we teach within the Silent Eye seem extraordinarily prophetic.
Sometimes my grandfather called me Penelope… and from there I learned the story of Odysseus. My home city was a mill town and between the weaving of the shroud and one of the roots of the name Penelope being ‘weft’, I suppose it was appropriate; it is odd but we accept these names and seldom question them. His other name for me came after he had shown me a door in a mirror. He called me Carya. I had almost forgotten that until I began to write. I remember no legend, only that she was a seer. I had to smile looking it up when I read ‘daughter of Dion’, a name associated with I path I have walked since my childhood and a book my grandfather himself gave me, The Mystical Qabalah.
My given name was never, ever used unless I was in deep trouble. My family just called me Susie… yet my mother always called me Lucy. I owe that one to C.S. Lewis… a firm favourite, read over and over again… and, I admit, still read with love today. A little odd when the other girl in the Narnia stories already shared my name. Why? I never thought to ask. Perhaps because I believed in things that ‘weren’t there’, like the door to another world that waits to be stepped through or the Lion who gets bigger the more you grow.
I have been given other names. Some, I must own, wholly unsuitable for polite society. There was La Tomate and Yorksheere in Paris, Bibiche in Corsica, Suzanne to friends in France who invariably quoted Leonard Cohen. I married the man who sang that song to me one night… and that led me to the most beautiful names… Mum and eventually, Grandma.
It never stops. We are many things to many people… son and father, daughter and mother… friend, lover, colleague or playmate. We all have many roles and every person will see us in a unique way. Perhaps that is why we end up with so many names. They are powerful things, defining and reflecting, almost creating and giving life. Most of them we give ourselves, deliberately or inadvertently.
There have been a couple of relatively recent acquisitions too, again with what one could call literary associations. Wen and Don are not portraits of the authors of The Initiate and Heart of Albion… but the majority of the conversations are ours and reported more or less verbatim. No surprise then that Wen… and every conceivable variant of the name’s origins… seems to have stuck, which is rather nice. With the possible exception of the evil Wendolina hobbit, generally and liberally applied when I am pointing a camera in my co-writer’s direction…
One of my favourite’s though, I brought entirely upon myself. Over a beer one Sunday. I should have known better. Terms of endearment come in all shapes and sizes. Even diminutive ones.
Wen and I are uncomfortably ensconced in the beer garden of The Old Horns Inn.
Uncomfortable because the High in Bradfield means high enough to be extremely windy and February is probably not the best time of the year to be in a beer garden in Albion.
Still, it is sunny in spite of the cold and the view is certainly impressive, but as I shiver into my pint, I tuck myself further down into my jacket and gasp as another icy blast of wind whips my breath away.
I suppose I ought to be thankful that it is not raining.
Wen hardly seems to notice.
She likes high, cold and windy places and she appears to be in full flow, her red locks flickering in the gusty wind like flames.
“We’ve burrowed ourselves into the land like two little grubs,” she announces, looking out over the valley with a winsome smile and more than a hint of heady triumphalism.
“You speak for yourself,” I say, hunkering even further down into my inadequate jacket, “I’m no little grub.” Doomsday: The Aetheling Thing