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Thursday 9 October 2008

A Gamut of Names

I have fixed up to go to London – I am in Edinburgh – to sign 250 copies of the The Maze of Cadiz for Goldsboro Books nearer the publication date of November 13. It is their book of the month. I’ll blog how I get on. I have also been asked to an informal readers’ group lunch at Heffers in Cambridge, some time in November

Meanwhile, nearly four weeks ago, my nearly 90 year old father-in-law came for lunch – and then, on leaving, fell on the last step of the stairs. He was born on 11-11- 1918, the last day of the First World War. Had he been a girl he would have been called Irene. The name means ‘peace’ apparently and since he was born in the North East of Scotland where they speak something called the Doric, Irene didn’t stick as an alternative. At his grandmother’s funeral, my husband was approached by an old man who asked ‘Are you Peacie’s loon?’ -Are you Peace’s boy? (I don’t think that quite qualifies as a feminine side, more nominal gender and a cross-check).

Luckily, though a little shaken by the fall, my father-in-law was all right. We all decided however that it would be better if he stayed over.

I have rarely heard him speak of his war time experiences. He takes – as my own father took – a sceptical view of the treatment of his generation as heroes. What he does occasionally talk about is ‘the fog of war’. I don’t think he means just the difficulty of knowing what is going on in any action – that ‘fog’ includes the ignorance, incompetence and accident that accompanies any effort to wage large-scale war. He was lucky, for example, to avoid the fate of some of his regiment who carried on to Singapore after the Japanese had taken it, because nobody had thought to revise the orders. Instead, he was disembarked in India and later sent into Burma ‘to see where the Japanese were’. A lot of men died in this endeavour but not one of them was killed by the enemy. They died from disease (some in accidents, usually drowning), having been sent out in the rainy season without jungle equipment, medicine or proper maps.

As a result of this expedition many changes were made but he returned with malaria and pneumonia and weighed six stone. The doctors told him that the experience would undoubtedly shorten his life. In those circumstances it is difficult to get anything right at all.

He is now back to walking four miles a day and following the state of the world. He’s had quite a lot to work on recently.

The designer of my website is Seth Nichols. He lives in Barcelona. Because his middle name is Francis, in Spain he is often called Seth Francis. We know about this. In Spain people have two surnames, father’s first, mother’s second, and, faced by English multiple first names, tend to take the second in a full name as the surname.

My husband’s second name is William. You just get used to it – and to people not knowing your real surname.

More delightfully, I was often called ‘Lucy’ when in Cadiz. I don’t know how this started. At one time I tried to correct this but was told that, no, I was known as ‘Lucy’ and that would have to do. It gives you a gamut of names. If someone had called out Lucy William – I’d have looked round.

The feedback so far on the website has been very good. ‘Clean’ and ‘clear’ are words that people use a lot. Website design is something I know very little about and Seth led me through a pertinent if gentle yes/no process – and provided me with colour charts. I am intrigued by the word ‘clean’ - I take it to mean the opposite of ‘cluttered’. ‘Clear’ would be ‘unfussy’ as well as ‘easy to follow’? I certainly did not want curlicues and flowers. The site has also been called ‘professional’. Well, yes – Seth is a professional web designer, though I understand I was very lucky to find him.

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