What’s in a Name?

During my time at university, I took a creative writing module which explored a variety of writing styles and techniques, and encouraged us to think more abstractly about our own style. To put this into practice we were set a task, which required us to pair our names with the five main senses and create a ‘description’ of our name.

Although the task was only to describe our own name, I couldn’t resist doing the same for another. Alexis. It was a name given to a character in a novel I began, a name I have always loved, and also the name with which I was almost christened. Sometimes I think I would have preferred to be called Alex, or Alexandra, or Alexis, as the name feels significantly stronger than Sarah. Is that weird to think? Can names be strong, or are they simply what we make them? I feel Sarah is soft, not weak, but not powerful either. Sarah is safe, comfortable, secure, but Alex shouts adventure, courage, strength! I have always loved the etymology of names, and spend hours choosing names for my characters in stories. But this was something new, unexpected, and fresh to muse over, so here are my descriptions, which make my feelings of these two names abundantly clear.

Sarah

My name is the colour of ripe peaches. It smells like fresh country air and feels soft but solid, like a well-plumped cushion. My name tastes sweet, like melting toffee and sounds like water flowing gently down a stream.

Alexis

If my name was Alexis, it would be deep purple with streaks of yellow; strong like the indigo night flashing with light just before the storm breaks. It would smell like deep forests, where the light rarely penetrates. It would feel solid, with no hint of weakness, despite its rounded corners. It tastes like red grapes, solid but sweet once bitten, with a slight tang at the end. It sounds like a firework, first a whispering hiss followed by a great explosion of uniqueness.

So there you have it – fairly obvious which is the ‘stronger’ name. The fact is though, I like both of them, even though I far more fit the description of my actual name. I envy Alexis, I really do, but I also think some softness is required, particularly with the harsh traumas being inflicted on the world at the moment. So I will be content with Sarah, whilst taking my adventuring one step at a time as always. Sarah is good, Sarah is solid, but there’s another thing to remember too.

The middle name, so often secret, hidden away like a constant embarrassment. I’m not embarrassed of my middle name, rather, I think of it as a secret strength to use when times are tough. Una. That’s my name, Sarah Una, which brings yet another element to the softness of Sarah. Una brings strength, but a more magical, fantastical power, I think. Una brings majesty and brightness; a different type of adventure than Alexis, but adventure none the less. Una lifts Sarah, and Sarah keeps Una grounded, together creating a fusion of fantastic soundness.

So what does make up the fabric of a name? I guess only us as individuals will know, as they do become so closely intertwined with our personality. Regardless of that, it’s interesting to think about. Maybe in a few years Sarah won’t mean sanctuary any more, maybe Una will take the helm and steer her across new realms of strength and weakness and open up a whole world of experience. Maybe, or maybe not. Either way, Sarah Una is solid; Sarah Una is an entity in herself, and Sarah Una is determined to explore, achieve and drive herself to write her own outstanding, sparkling story.

Absurdist Plays and Claims to Fame

I actually wrote this piece several years ago during my first year of university. For some reason I side-lined it for a rainy day, even though it always brought a smile to my face the few times I stumbled across it afterwards. Now I’ve finished uni, a new sense of nostalgia has joined the happiness I feel when reading this piece, together with the need to preserve the memory. Aside from a little necessary doctoring (it’s amazing how much one’s writing can develop in a few short years) this story remains the same as the day it was created.

***

A short while ago, as part of one my modules at university, I was asked to read the play ‘Waiting for Godot’, written by Irish playwright and poet Samuel Beckett. After flicking through the bible-thin pages of my literature anthology, I found the play in question and began to read with that all too familiar excited sensation of beginning a new book. Within minutes however, that feeling – a feeling I would soon accept as the norm – was crushed.

The play was insane. Insane, ridiculous nonsense which would crush anybody’s spirits with its convoluted, pointless dialogue and dismal setting. Having said that though, it fitted perfectly into its namesake genre: ‘Absurdist’. It was a play that meant nothing, where the characters talked with speech which amounted to nothing. After slogging my way through Act 1, my brain couldn’t take any more of the gobbledegook, and I had to go cook some ‘brain food’ (fish fingers). Afterwards, lo and behold, I had a brainwave! Instead of reading the play, I could watch it, by the aid of the wonderful invention of YouTube. Once again I settled down and, strangely, just ten minutes later I found myself laughing at the performance on the screen. It’s amazing how words on paper come alive through performance. I’ve never been much of a dramatic, but sometimes for the magic to happen you really do have to see it with your own eyes.

Anyway, the next day my friends appeared to have discovered the same thing as me, and we returned to our Poetry and Drama class with renewed hope for ‘Waiting for Godot’. We soon began to understand in more depth why exactly this was classed as an ‘Absurdist’ play. Of course, then came the questioning of the author. Why would Samuel Beckett choose to write a play like this; a play that supposedly makes no sense no matter how deeply you look into the so-called plot? What were his influences? Was he insane, or just the subject of an era of hard times? The usual answers of course – religion, politics, and feminism. I won’t enter into a debate of exploring the intricate mind of Mr. Beckett now, but rather I will skip ahead a few days to when I visited home, and told my family about this ‘Absurd’ experience.

I happened to mention the play when I was home one weekend, and at once my mum’s ears seemed to prick up. Like Samuel Beckett she is Irish through and through and, given the pint-sized population of Ireland, that means that one way or another everybody in the Republic of Ireland knows each other. Saying that, there are now approximately four million people living there, but still, I should have guessed what was coming… “Samuel Beckett was related to my mother.”

Surprise didn’t quite cover my reaction. Although, simultaneous to my surprise swept into my mind the widely-used phrase among my Irish relatives, ‘Ireland is a village’ which rapidly turned the situation into something entirely possible. I am technically (and by technically I mean my great aunt’s something’s something, so I have approximately one percent Beckett blood) related to Samuel Beckett, the renowned novelist, playwright, theatre director and poet. Not a bad claim to fame I reckon. Plus, as I mentioned to my friend in the next poetry lecture, it probably explains why my imagination is slightly questionable at times!

***

Hope you enjoyed reading this blast from the past as much as I did!

Thanks for stopping by 🙂

This Blog is Still Finding Itself.

I began this blog with the intention of creating a space for me to record my memories of places travelled, as well as finding the fantastical and magical aspects of seemingly normal, everyday places. The first few blogposts followed that ‘rule’, but since then my writing has taken off in many adverse directions.

I have opened up so much more than I ever imagined I would, just in these first two months. About my writing, myself; things very close to my heart that I barely discuss with my friends, let alone strangers. I guess I loved the idea of having an anonymous presence, where people would only judge the posts as they came and then disappeared into the endless vortex of other blogs. It was to be a completely effervescent lifestyle, where I could live in a single, temporary moment before moving on to something else. That much has remained the same, I still get a wonderful, spontaneous kick of adrenaline writing each post. It’s exciting for a day or so when I see the responses, but then it fades until I begin the next blog, and so on. Apart from that, the rest of the blog seems to have taken on a life of its own – my life – but in a format that only shows the deepest, most heartfelt thoughts, moments, and memories of mine.

I am okay with this, I think, but I will endeavour to continue writing about my travels far and wide too, discovering the magic and majesty wherever I go, and recording those moments in my blog. It may not be implicit where I see the magical elements during my travels but, rest assured, if they have made it to The Fairytale Traveller, there will definitely be some fantastical existence intertwined within the words, no matter how obvious or obscure. I can only hope that you, my fellow writers and readers, will be patient with me, until my words begin to form something greater than themselves, than myself; until the stories flow without restriction, the words dance about the page, and The Fairytale Traveller begins to breathe a life of its own.

Thanks to you all

Kiss

I remember the first, the second, and the third. The first was funny, because my hands were in front of my face. I wore a starry dressing gown and fluffy slippers, because I’d just woken up. It was 9am, and you’d brought croissants and orange juice so we could have breakfast together. You ate, but I couldn’t eat a thing. My stomach was knotted for no apparent reason. You were just my friend, after all. It was a normal Tuesday, and I was set to go to a lecture in an hour, but you had insisted on coming over as soon as possible. I said yes of course, and there you were at 9am sharp (the only time you’ve ever been on time anywhere) with breakfast and a smile. You ate three croissants and I ate three bites, then I went to get ready for class.

You followed me to my room, stood in front of me, looked at me for a long time. I waited, my stomach so knotted it was practically twisted inside out. I turned away. You turned me back. I smiled, and jumped backwards to stand on my bed. You smiled, ready for this, for my awful indecisiveness although there was nothing to decide. I flopped down, tucked my knees up to my chin, curled my arms around to cover my face, eyes gleaming over the top of my arms. You were in front of me, at the side of me, above me, all around me, but I stayed still.

A giggle. A wriggle. That was all it took. Your hands held my wrists and firmly, gently, tried to remove them. I was resilient. No words, just smiles, just playfulness. I would not be won easily. A sudden laugh, and the barrier was broken. My arms parted, and your face was there, inches, centimetres, millimetres, a hairs breadth…

I tensed as the sudden hot pressure became familiar. I relaxed. I smiled, and kissed you back.

***

The second was full of hunger, so much hunger. You were about to leave. We both had places to go, things to do, lives to live. A fleeting hour, and our precious time was gone. Bitter sweetness increased the passion. A year of pent up feeling, all channeled into a moment. The hunger was immense, the yearning, the want, the need, all transferred in one fleeting gesture of affection. Breaking apart left me in a daze. I still wore my starry dressing gown and fluffy slippers. Why had I not attempted to look the part? Because I hadn’t believed anything would happen? Because I didn’t want anything to happen? No. Because I knew you wouldn’t care, no matter what state I looked. I was already yours.

***

The third was almost a whisper, sending me into a momentary lapse of reason. In front of my door we said goodbye. So much had happened in that hour. So few words, but so much emotional release. I don’t remember a word of what was said that morning, only those intense few moments of happiness, of emotional relief. You walked out of the door, and I floated back to my room in a daze. It was only the beginning of a long journey, but already I had seen so many different, hidden sides to you. You were a puzzle, and still are several years later. But I love you for it, and I love the complex passion you bring to us.

Signature Scar

A tiny, white, vulnerable, line of skin.

So slightly different from the rest, it seems insignificant.

But it holds a memory; a mixed memory.

When my left big toe is bare, that memory returns.

Ireland. The Shannon. The Boat.

Surrounded by family. We could see the riverbed if we leaned far enough over the smooth edge.

We trailed our fingers behind us through the water, making our own currents. Tiny fins cutting the blue, making ripples.

We were ready. Wetsuits. Goggles. Flippers. Wait. No flippers.

The middle of the lake beckoned us.

The key turned in the ignition and we were still.

 

We rose, turned to enter the cool water.

One, two, three, then my turn.

I leapt.

Landed.

My senses reacted.

I struck out.

Ducked my head under.

Dived.

Kicked.

Pure, blue, clear, bliss.

 

I climbed out glistening, shivering, numb.

I looked down.

Red.

Confusion.

My toe was cut, blood coursing.

It was cleaned, sterilised. Only then did we see the line.

Reddy-pink now. Not white yet.

A tiny, almost missable mark.

Signature mark.

Souvenir.

The Shannon has a rocky bed.

I wasn’t the only one.

We all have a signature mark somewhere.

A signature scar.