Nameless Souls on Sepia

They were just nameless souls on sepia, staring out seemingly into space:  a peer into a time long since past and now, not often remembered with any degree of regularity. With its jagged edges, it was evident that part of the photograph had been torn away, why is a mystery. Someone in the family, though I cannot recall who, had once mentioned that there had been a rift within the family back in the days when they used to gather at the beautiful hill station of Mussoorie, when escaping the harrowing heat of the city. That was as much as was known. There was no accompanying documentation and nothing written down to suggest who the people in the picture may have been. That they were ancestors seemed a little more than likely. The photograph depicted a wedding scene. Three people remained in the frame. Two seated and one standing or rather two standing but as one had been unceremoniously decapitated he could not be counted. He could have been anyone. The bride wore a lavish wedding gown of lace with what appeared to be a full layered veil laid lightly and carefully, so as not to interfere with her elegant upswept hair which was so fashionable in the early 1900s. Seated beside her was an older man with a head of thick snow white wavy hair, and sporting a long white beard: a little like Santa Claus in a suit. Beneath the hairy façade was a man not unlike my father. In fact, but for the beard it could have been my father sitting beside the bride.  It was the eyes that gave it away. They were the same eyes that had watched over me all my life. Only my father’s eyes had seen different things to those of the apparently stoic figure of the man pictured here. Their worlds were far apart but their narrative of origin was one and the same.

Aunty Paddy had been a gifted and animated storyteller who had a penchant for making colourless characters come to life. She would captivate us with stories of heroes, heroines and travellers tales. “Children….are you listening carefully?” would be our queue to gather round to hear how our ancestors had sailed across oceans in search of fame and fortune. The story told so eloquently and consistently by Aunty Paddy, revealed that long ago when great vessels with billowing sails ruled the waves, travelling the trade routes carrying spices, silks and other luxury commodities, and when George III was King; two or possibly three brothers had set sail from bonny Scotland for the far off and exotic land of India. One of them or maybe all of them had been seduced by what the East had to offer, fallen madly in love with and married an Indian princess, and lived out his days happily ever after in India. This was perhaps a rather romanticised account but this was how the story had been told and retold. One brother had perhaps been a doctor, one a sea captain and the third, if indeed there was a third could have been anything Paddy decided him to be. Such is the power of the narrator. The stories were most likely a mixture of myth and reality but to us as children they were fact rather than fiction, impressing upon our imagination that we were indelibly connected to this mysterious and mystical other world, where gods were more than one, and princes were one and many; a world that had captured the hearts and souls of our forefathers and that was forever in our blood.

Shared experiences, cultures, customs and habits all go some way to forging our identities. What we are told as children often stays with us as adults. However, there are other commonalities that can engender an inherent sense of identity and belonging, such as the idea of shared stories and myths. There is no hard definition of myth. Myth is sometimes seen as being synonymous with fantasy and fairy stories, and little to do with fact. The notion of myth often conjures up images of superheroes and superhuman beings that create an idealised view of where we come from, therefore adding to our sense of worth. To us, these pioneers were real life superheroes; they represented the true to life fodder of fairy tales and fiction, that filled our minds with the machinations of an ‘Other’ world. 

Linking myth to the narrative form is relevant, especially when considering Anglo-Indian narratives of origin because their change in circumstances, and the transitions they underwent in adapting to a colonial and a post colonial era both in Indian and in British society is shrouded with princesses both real and imagined. Of particular interest is what has become known as the princess myth which seems to circulate in many Anglo-Indian families. The myth suggests the presence of a noble ancestral connection and more specifically an Indian princess. What is of importance is why this myth has been created and the reason why some families lay claim to a princess in their midst.

Aunty Paddy’s version of events is echoed in a letter dated 19th December 2004 written by Marjorie Williams to her niece;

     …thank you so much for sending me a copy of the family tree…It’s very interesting that so many Howatsons lived in India. Where does the Scottish side come in? I suppose Thomas Howatson who was originally married to (an Indian Princess)? So I heard. My story was that two brothers, Thomas and George set sail from Scotland – one a doctor and the other a sailor or captain of a ship. I can’t tell you where I got this story from – maybe Paddy…

The letter demonstrates firstly, that we find our narratives of origin appealing at any age. Marjorie Williams was 81 when she wrote the letter. She is unable to remember where she got the story from, ‘…maybe Paddy’ she asserts. Paddy was her elder sister who had died some years earlier and who it is purported knew more about the history of the family than anyone else. When Paddy past away, so too did much of the family narrative.

In addition the letter typifies the element of the ‘Indian princess’ myth that circulates in many Anglo-Indian families. Marjorie Williams is Anglo-Indian. Her father was Hugh William Howatson born in Calcutta, India, in 1886, habitually resident in India until about 1900 when he was sent to Britain to finish his education and later to follow a successful career in medicine. It was in Scotland that he met, fell in love with and married his own princess. His princess was Annie. It was close to one hundred years earlier, when Hugh William’s great grandfather Thomas Howatson had set sail for India. What Thomas would have thought of the Britain that his great grandson Hugh returned to can only be guessed at. It is known that following an irregular marriage in Glasgow, Hugh and Annie journeyed to India and travelled about with their young family for a few years, only to return permanently to Britain later. The reasons for their movements between these two great lands, is unknown. The Diaspora to other lands following partition and independence is well documented but what of those who returned to the fatherland beforehand. What are their stories? Our sense of ‘self’ is governed by what is going on the world and is in a constant state of flux. 

It is only by telling our stories and passing them on to our children that we can preserve the memories and myths of past lives. Many stories are passed down between one generation and another, while other stories remain untold and are lost forever. So next time, when you are gathered cosily around the dining table after a sumptuous Sunday lunch as is quite common among families, laughing at the crazy antics of dad’s schooldays,  finding out about grandma’s culinary gifts or hearing of an aunt’s penchant for telling tales, take note and listen very carefully to the snippets and anecdotes of your elders for these are your stories, your narratives of origin: savour every word and share!

© Liola Lee 2010

This was a piece I wrote a few years back. I was lucky enough to have its included in a lovely Anthology titled ‘More Voices on the Verandah’ which was the final in a series of works by Anglo-Indians and those of Anglo-Indian descent. The Anthology is available still and is edited by Lionel Lumb

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Today is the day ~ 1970s…

The 1970s were crazy and colourful! Chopper bikes, curly perms and clackers were all the rage. For those of you who were not around in the 1970s, clackers were a toy that was on trend, basically two small balls on the end of strings which made a sort of clacking noise. We certainly had some strange toys! Hem lengths were confused with the mini, the midi and the maxi all vying for top position. The hippies of Woodstock back in 1969 left us confused and unsure as to which way now, not that I went to Woodstock as I was only 7, although I bet it would have been fun! In 1969 I was just 7 years old, a little kid just starting out on the journey of life, no real life experience as yet, just the enthusiasm and innocence of childhood. Glam Rock, Punk, Rock ‘n’ Roll, pop…all taking the stage. The 60s may have been swinging but the 70s were electrifying! My idol was David Cassidy, brown eyes, husky voice and a smile to die for. Here just thinking about him makes me sigh like a teenager. It did n’t even matter that he was in the Partridge Family who to be honest were a bit square, and not in the least bit funky but David sang to my soul with Could it be forever and How can I be sure?  This guy, who was 12 years older than me, somehow knew how I felt, knew who I was, and somehow spoke to me in a way that no one else could. My relationship with David was deep and meaningful. Then years later Robbie Williams came along who incidentally is 12 years younger. I wonder, if like me they are Tigers in Chinese astrology which moves in 12 year cycles. Umm that’s an interesting thought. I’ll have to check that out. Robbie took me through my adulteens and dare I say it my adulthood. Oh yes, Robbie went through everything with me, through his music of course. I am probably dwelling on the 70s just now as this was the timeframe in which I was 16 and in all honesty my daughter is now 16 and I am feeling at a crossroads. It really does not seem that long ago that I was the same age and going through the same experiences that she is just now. I am sure that she would be horrified at the very thought that I may have been as she is now. I am sure to her it does not seem descent that a woman of my 48 years should have ever experienced the first flush of youth. To my daughter, all I can say is just you wait until you have a daughter or son of your own.

© Liola Lee 2010

‘Today is the day’ …was a collection of musings I wrote during the Peri menopause years. It’s spoken in the first person, and was based largely on my journal entries written around that time. Journalling is a wonderful way to express this, that and whatever else needs to be said whether aloud or silently…

Memoirs ~ Head Sore

Class six proved as ineffectual educationally as class four. I don’t really remember learning that much in either class, as most of the time the teacher was shouting at the class trying to gain control. It was a losing battle for the teacher most of the time. She was soft, and the kids knew it! Miss Lawrie mentioned previously, was far too nice to be teaching at Kelvin Grove. She might have been safer teaching the infants! What her memories of Kelvin Grove Junior School must be, can only be guessed at but it is my guess that when she left, it was like being set free from a horrible period of punishment.  

At this time in educational establishments boys were still given the cane if they were really naughty. I often remember taking the register up to the Head Teacher’s office, and seeing a queue of boys sitting outside waiting to be caned. It was just accepted as the norm. I was glad I was a girl at such times as boys really did seem to have a much harder time at school. Mind you, I always felt that they shouldn’t be naughty then. Whether the punishment fitted the crimes committed is debateable. 

One day, a day like any other at Kelvin Grove but not like any day I had ever had Miss Lawrie left the classroom, a common occurrence, to fetch assistance from another teacher to help calm the class down as it was beyond her skills to achieve this. While she was away from the classroom a boy named Paul took a ball of hardened plastacine and hurled it hard at the windows between the classrooms; a good throw if he had been playing cricket. One of the windows smashed. There’d be trouble now. Paul hurriedly went round the classroom threatening that anyone who told on him would get it. By that he meant he would hurt them. Even in class six Paul was the best fighter in the school and not someone you upset intentionally, at least not if you had any common sense. He was a volatile and unpredictable boy who could be charming one day and a monster the next. Paul was blond, blue eyed and athletically built. He had a nice voice that gave little indication of the stormy nature that brewed within but he was a troubled boy who was just dismissed as naughty. That was the thing if you misbehaved you were quickly labelled and the label would stick and over time you lived up to the label as if you had decided to give people what they expected.

My mistake that day was being little Miss Goody Two Shoes. Rather than say I knew nothing about the window I told the truth and told the teacher that it was Paul who broke the window. I am sure he got the cane for that, not something that I had given any thought to at the time. I found out later that Paul used to get beaten by his dad at home not because his dad was necessarily a bad man but because that was how he viewed fatherhood and had probably had a similar upbringing himself by his own father. I think if I had known that about Paul I might not have said anything but as it was I thought it was the right thing to do.  With hindsight I know that I was more scared of getting in trouble from lying than I was of anything Paul could do to me. I had been brought up to tell the truth and shame the devil. It was better to admit to a lie than to prolong the lie and get found out that you were lying. I paid the price for informing on Paul. He waited until dinner play when there was the minimum of staff supervision. It didn’t matter that I was a girl. At that age boys rarely think that they mustn’t hit girls. Paul took my bag off me which I recall quite clearly was a dark maroon colour with a white rim or edging that I took off my toy shopping trolley. He roughly snatched that bag, swung it high above his head and then brought it down hard on mine with forceful anger. The pain was excruciating. How my neck didn’t break I don’t know. No one did anything to protect me as they were all too afraid to stand up against him. They could only help and support me in the aftermath when I cried my eyes out. It seems that very few people stand up to bullies, not because they are cowards necessarily but just because they are trying to survive in a tough world and let’s face it they are scared of getting hurt themselves.  At these times you don’t always think about standing together and uniting against the bullies not when you’re children anyway; not always even when you’re an adult.  

I only ever remember one person standing up to Paul. The girl’s name was Sharon. I don’t remember why they fought, just that they did. As the fight started, cheers of “FIGHT! FIGHT! FIGHT!” could be heard chanted across the playground. The children descended on the fight as vultures to a rotting carcass, surrounding the two figures in the middle. No child present tried to stop the fight; it was n’t the done thing. Paul repeatedly punched Sharon with precision to the head while Sharon’s flailing fists tried to fight back. She did n’t, would n’t back down. Never before have I seen such determination to stand one’s ground. Whether she was brave or stupid depends on where you are standing but on that day in my opinion that girl was the bravest person that I had ever seen. She had no way of beating him; her tear stained face was red with crying but she kept going. She was the first person I ever saw stand up to a bully even though she was scared. Whether he ever felt any remorse for hurting me, Sharon or anyone else I have no idea or whether he felt he was justified in punishing me for telling, again I have no idea. I had been caught between the devil and the deep blue sea and either way I would lose. I didn’t ever tell on Paul again. That was the first time anyone had really hurt me physically. It wasn’t to be the last. I got over it and Paul  forgot about it, even being kind to me when he kicked a football against my head.  He was a strange boy who puzzled me. 

Paul was one of those boys always in trouble for fighting, and losing his temper, yet it was unheard of to involve Educational Psychologists back then. The boy would get in trouble, possibly get the cane, maybe a letter home. At home he would probably get a smack from his mum, even worse from his dad. Parents knew that kids could do wrong, and invariably did do wrong. If the child was in trouble it was a case of “What did you do. You must have done something”. Parents did not go in, and accuse the teachers of unreasonable behaviour. Parents let the teachers do the teaching, and the teachers left parents to do the parenting. There was no overlap. Parents didn’t crowd the playground at the beginning or end of the school day. The minute children entered the school gate ,the kids became the school’s responsibility. Each understood their role in the development of the child, and neither interfered with the other. That’s just how it was.

In Kelvin Grove it was better to just flow and fit in with the main crowd, if you didn’t want trouble. Back then it didn’t do to be too different. The kids that were different were the ones that tended to get picked on. I remember some of the kids that were given a hard time. Among them I remember a boy by the name of Sinclair Hart. What were his parents thinking giving him a name like that, then sending him to a like school like Kelvin Grove.  Personally I think it is a beautiful name! A film star’s name! His name was different, and he himself was a little eccentric to our rather limited life experience. In fourth year juniors he was still wearing grey knee length shorts, another no-no. On top he would wear a tank top over his shirt and sport a bow tie; no kidding, a bow tie. He wore his hair short and smart unlike the other boys who had longer, messier hair that was typical of the 1970’s.  Sinclair looked out of place, and his appearance along with his name made him stand out as did his beautifully pronounced diction. I do not know what became of him but think that maybe his parents eventually withdrew him from the school and sent him elsewhere. With retrospect I now think he was a real character but never attempted to be friendly as it would have brought trouble on me. Yet earlier on in the school my younger sister and I had been among only a few pupils who bothered to wear school uniform. So maybe we were not that different after all. That didn’t last long when we saw that wearing uniform didn’t fit in with the other kids. As I grew up I decided that I did n’t want to be the same as everyone else and tried my best to be different. Sometimes I succeeded, and sometimes I did n’t. It would get me into trouble from time to time but by the time I was an adult, I had learned that it is okay to be different, although to be honest there were plenty of times when I chose to be different just to be awkward, and not because it was the right thing to do for me. Mostly it was because I did n’t like being told what to do.

Another pupil who was treated with disrespect was a young South East Asian boy by the name of Barrett. I think he too was friendly and decent, and never remember him doing anything to hurt anyone else. Yet he was berated at times, which looking back was not only unfair but pretty dehumanising. Children can be heartless at times, and demonstrate a ruthlessness one would not usually associate with childhood. It is often not until we are adults that we realise how cruel, and thoughtless we have been and even though we have been so thoughtless ,we brush it aside as just part of growing up. 

For the most part I managed well enough, just every now and then would I do something that landed me in trouble with those kids, I would have rather steered clear of. Even the nicer kids could sometimes be cruel. Maybe they didn’t realise it at the time. I know that in Secondary School I was guilty of being inadvertently cruel in a secondary sort of way. That in a way is even worse than the ones being overtly nasty. 

I look back, and know that I could have made a difference to the likes of Elaine and Kay  who at secondary school were often the butt of cruel and snide remarks. Both girls acted like they did n’t realise it but I am sure they knew it and felt hurt. Elaine was a skinny girl with blond hair and freckles who reminded me of a pop star called Clodagh Rodgers, a winner of the Eurovision song contest with a song titled  I’ll be your Jack in the Box.  She used to be picked on, and called skinny ribs but it’s Elaine who’s had the last laugh now as I am sure that many of those who made these remarks are overweight with middle-aged spread, and would now die for a figure like Elaine’s.  Then Kay who was very short and busty was given a hard time for being big chested. Some of the girls used to taunt her about having greasy hair as they did Elaine, and yet don’t the majority of teenage girls suffer with greasy hair from time to time. What was the big deal? Kay actually looked to me like a young Liza Minelli, although her hair wasn’t as dark. I never told her or anyone that but had I let her know that she was like the famous caberet star then it may have helped her self- esteem. Instead I watched in silence from the sidelines minding my own business. As an adult I know now what I ought to have done but growing up is difficult. No one tells us how to do it. We just do it the only way we know how.

Memoirs ~ The Orange Moon, Wolf Man and Flight of Fancy

The Orange Moon, Wolf Man and Flight of Fancy

The Orange Moon sounds like the stuff of fairy tales and magic. The Orange Moon was in fact an orange sandy slope that had its beginnings beyond the bottom edge of our garden at number 5 Hillcrest Road, and that stretched way down towards the newly built Hillcrest Estate, where the new tower blocks had been erected; towering brick built boxes.  The Orange Moon linked the past of a bygone Victorian era with modern 1960s architecture.  I wonder how many children sat on the Orange Moon dreaming of bright futures both before and after me. I am not sure who thought up the name but it was what it became known as and provided a wonderful platform for play, and make-believe. We would meet some of the kids who lived on the estate there, and play and mess about. It was a wonderful slippery slide, and quite steep and was the stage for many stories. The Orange Moon didn’t belong to anyone; it was just there and bought kids together who might not otherwise have played together. It was a childhood haven where there were no visible divisions at least not in my eyes. Issues like class, religion and colour had no place in our childhood; childhood was a time for play and a time for being children; a time for fairy tales and fantasy with the odd argument thrown in for good measure. The Orange Moon was a meeting place and playground all in one. Back then all those issues that now provide meat for myth to ambitious Politicians did not exist or if they did, we as children did not tend to think about such things. 

Hillcrest Road only had a few houses still standing. Those still there and occupied were numbers one through to nine. If there was any house beyond number nine I am none too sure. One through to nine, are the ones I remember. Next to number nine was the wood and in the woods lived the Wolf Man, so –called because of his pet wolf. He was a big man with a dark countenance. He had thick black eyebrows and dark menacing eyes and long messy wiry hair, the original Gruffalo. He had giant shovel like hands that looked as though they could have easily strangled someone to death, in the instance of a breath if he so chose. He looked dirty like he had been crawling through the dirt or had somehow got covered in soot. He must have been dirty as he lived in the woods and probably had nowhere to wash. He looked almost not human like a wild man who was part animal. He never spoke but roared if he caught us near. He didn’t like children and use to chase us away. As if that wasn’t bad enough, he had a pet wolf or wolf companion. Either way it was a ferocious beast with large yellow glinting eyes, and sharp teeth that wouldn’t think twice about ripping you apart limb from limb. It was wise to take heed and not venture too far into the woods. It was common knowledge what had happened to Little Red Riding Hood. It was also known that curiosity killed the cat but as I was neither Little Red Riding Hood nor a cat I felt that gave me some sort of advantage over the situation and decided to investigate. I was always a curious child and liked to find things out for myself. 

One day I was playing outside with Tina who lived with her family in number nine. Tina was a playmate before she too had to go to school. Tina was a pretty girl but had scarring on her stomach where a boiling hot cup of tea had fallen on her and scalded her. I had never seen the scarring but had heard what had happened to her as a lesson never to reach for boiling hot drinks on the side where I could n’t  reach. Now Tina was also quite a curious child and together hand in hand we ventured towards the wood to see what we could see, although what we thought we’d see and how we thought we’d act we hadn’t as yet given any thought to. As we got closer we could smell a fire burning. The fence was a mixture of grey corrugated iron and wooden post railings that had seen better days and beyond that lay the woods. You hear tell that you can’t always see the wood for the trees, but for a wood there really didn’t seem to be that many trees. It was more waste land than woods. So this was where we were supposed not to go. What was all the fuss about? Then, “ROARRRR” it was the Wolf Man and his wolf coming after us chasing us. We turned on our heels and ran as fast as we could screaming all the way back to Tina’s house where we bolted through the door, quickly slamming it shut behind us. We hadn’t looked to see if the wolf man was coming, we didn’t dare in case he caught us up. How long we lay against the door I don’t know but it seemed like ages. I can still recall vividly how breathless we were, how afraid and excited by the fact that we had escaped. We did n’t go looking for the Wolf Man again. 

Following the excitement with the Wolf Man of the wood was another wonderful experience. There was a dog kennel at the side of the house, although Prince, our dog who I was scared of was now living with a nice old lady down the road, although my mum and dad said she had lured the dog away by giving him treats. I distinctly remember flying, that’s right flying from the roof of the kennel to the back door in broad daylight. I can remember the sensation of flight. Although I had only flown a few feet in the air, it gave me quite a thrill and sense of awe and wonder.  Unfortunately, I had no witnesses so couldn’t prove it. You’d have thought they’d have believed me after all, I’m a girl and if I said it, it must be true, mustn’t it? Girls don’t tell lies do they? At least that’s what I’ve heard said in recent years by those that claim to be in the know.

Time turns things upside down and inside out, and addles our brains like nothing else can. The wolf man turned out to not to be a wolf man at all. He was the Watchman whose job it was to keep trespassers and unwanted children away from a waste site, where there was much debris and potential danger to unsuspecting individuals, especially children. The wolf too was a figment of my imagination and was actually the watchman’s guard dog, a German Shepherd. Yet, as a small child I was adamant that I had seen a wolf man and his faithful lupine companion. The reality was he was just a workman but the story of the wolf man and the wolf makes for better reading and was what we told everyone at the time; and at the time it was what we convinced ourselves to be true.  As for my flight of fancy, that is exactly what it was. Perhaps I jumped or dreamed of flying but as to actually flying, you tell me. If I could do it then, I would do it now wouldn’t I? Or just maybe you forget how to fly when you’re an adult.

© Liola Lee 2010

Memoirs ~ What’s in a name?

What’s in a name?

‘a rose by any other name would smell as sweet’ ~ William Shakespeare

Maureen was always a great lover of shoes and was nicknamed Maureen Pork Shoes by Daddy, ‘Pork Shoes’ referred to the sort of porky crackley noise that the heels made as they clicked and clacked on the ground, similar to the tap, tap, tapping of tap shoes only better. Shivie was dubbed ‘Shivie Shoestring’  because it rolled off the tongue beautifully and Maureen couldn’t have a nickname without Shivie having one as well, and me, well I was Lollipop later to be called Lolly due to my having a head of unruly curls which everyone said (at least the older generations) was like former child star Shirley Temple, today I am just Lolly as the ‘pop’ has long been dispensed with and Sammy was Salmon and Shrimp, now where did that come from?  Like my dad I have given my children pet names when they were small, just terms of affection really. Name calling, whether it is a nickname, pet name, a label or something more sinister is often part of the fabric of our lives. As children, we become familiar with the saying ‘sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me’. Whoever made that one up was obviously never on the receiving end. Children can be cruel to others with no thought to the damage they may inflict. I am no angel and have been as guilty of name calling as the next kid, and I too have been many times on the receiving end.  I was four eyes, glasses girl and sick mouth which referred to me being a sicky baby; both the latter names were taunts by my own sisters. The other I was called in school; it is therefore no wonder that I deliberately broke my national health glasses or left them at home on a regular basis. Even between brothers and sisters there is at times an innate cruelty that exists. Perhaps it is some sort of survival mechanism, a sort of survival of the fittest mentality. Some of us eventually learn that we have been wrong to cast names as if they were stones at vulnerable targets, some of us do not.  Maureen and Shivie’s nicknames have long since been dropped, though never forgotten, just put away in the past with memories of glimmering dresses and seriously sparkly shoes; my nickname has stayed with me like an old friend.

Our names are chosen usually before we are born though sometimes after. Names are perhaps our first label after boy, girl, son or daughter. A first name is like a wish, or in some cases a curse consciously or unconsciously bestowed on us at the beginning of our journey in life. It helps define who and what we are. Often we are named after a favourite relation as a mark of love or respect, and sometimes we are named after places, saints and celebrities. Sometimes we are given names that are unusual or made up but for whatever reason a name is given, it is part of our identity. It is often hoped that certain traits and positive gifts and attributes will somehow rub of on our offspring. Sometimes we like our names and sometimes we wonder how, if our parents loved us they could ever have given us such a name. Sometimes we wish we were called something else, and some even go on to change their names to ones they wished they had been called from the start. At other times we are called names that are other than our own that focus on some caricatured aspect of who we are and what we look like. 

I use to wonder how I had come to be called Liola. To my knowledge nobody in the family had the same name. My parents had disputed how it should be spelt, my mum wanting the Spanish spelling linking it to St Ignatius of Loyola and my dad registered it with the Italian spelling which upset my mum no end at the time, and that remained a bone of contention from time to time thereafter, although not in a serious way you understand. Sometimes I’d wish it had been spelt in the Spanish way as I could have had a more creative flow in my signature because of the ‘y’. Aunty Eva used to write Lyola in all her cards, and Cousin Britta always thought I was Leola until I corrected her many years later. I have been called Leila, Lola and all manner of deviations from the correct spelling and pronunciation. For the most part I have said nothing, purely out of politeness but then as I got older I decided that I would like people to call me by the name I had actually been given. However, there were and are, always those who persist in calling you what they are or were sure they had heard no matter how many times they were or are corrected.  Sometimes people hear what they want to hear, and not what is actually being said. Of course those closest to me would always be allowed to call me Lolly if they so wished.  On that point my younger sister has always called me by my proper name, and has only ever called me Lolly on one occasion; that’s fine too.

A few years ago I heard, quite  by accident that the Italian Playwright Luigi Pirandello had penned a stage play called Liola, although there was a grave accent on the ‘a’. I was intrigued thinking that I may discover that my namesake was a beautiful heroine in some fine romance or literary masterpiece; someone I could perhaps look up to and aspire to. After much searching I managed to obtain a copy on loan from the local library which ordered it in especially for me. A shame it was in Italian; I did n’t understand a word and had to go googling to find out what the play was about. The play was in fact a comedy about a rogue gardener who had numerous romantic liaisons, not quite what I’d had in mind. Recently I found out why I had in fact been called Liola. It was because my Mum  admired a girl of the same name at school who was a really good piano player, and who went on to become a Nun. I am therefore named after a piano playing Nun, so there is a story after all.  The need to find some meaning in my name is to do with my journey of self -discovery. I believe we all at some time in our lives need to make sense of who we are in terms of finding a purpose to our existence. Well, it is true enough of me. I have always felt that there is some greater purpose for me being here but to date I am no clearer as to what it is that I am meant to do. I am still waiting for some sign, some signal from somewhere. Maybe I am totally arrogant to think that I am destined for something more than I have. Perhaps it is better to just be, live in the here and now and fully focus on what we have right now, cease worrying about what has been and what might be. Maybe I am mistaken and am only fooling myself. Only time will tell whether there really is a plan. Perhaps all the signs are there already and I am too blind to see. 

© Liola Lee 2010