The Old Manor

On a recent visit to a friend’s house, Him Indoors and I thought we’d swing by a place we used to rent in Battersea. We were curious to see whether the fruit trees we planted in the front garden had survived.

I say front garden. A strip of earth a metre by 30cm barely constitutes a window box, but still. Undeterred, we had planted a couple of apple trees, knowing that they would probably outgrow the space. To our astonishment they were still there, carefully pruned and trained by the current tenants.

“I wonder if Connor still lives here,” I muttered to Him Indoors. Connor must have been 5 or 6 years old back then. He spent his days tearing up the neighbourhood on a three-wheeled scooter, only to be occasionally apprehended by his mother. She would slam an uncompromising hand on the young man’s shoulder as he hurtled past, spitting expletives at the residents, to shout, “Connor! Stop being so f***ing rude!” Or, at a slightly further distance (multiply the matriarchal decibels by a factor of 50), “Connorrr! Get out of that f***ing tree!”

“He’s probably old enough to go twocking by now,” sighed Him Indoors darkly as we parked nearby. Twocking, for the uninitiated, is a slightly mangled acronym of ‘Taking Without Owner’s Consent.’ Essentially car theft, of which there is a fair amount in south London. Luckily, the car survived the evening and we saw neither hide nor hair of young Connor. Perhaps he was inside. His house, or possibly prison, we just don’t know.

It’s difficult to disassociate names from the named. A bad experience can put you right off, leaving an unshakeable conviction that you will never, ever name your child Alison because of that awful girl you went to school with (names have been changed to protect the innocent.) Consequently, choosing a name for a baby tends to result in going through those of everyone you’ve ever met and avoiding most of them.

There’s no reason why naming a child after an old nemesis would make you love them any less. It might even redeem that name for you in the future. Connor however was a pretty pervasive influence. Two couples I know have named their first-born after him, and I eye these lovable infants with utter suspicion against my better judgement. For those awaiting the news of number two next week (hello Mother), I can tell you one name that is definitely off the list.

How did you choose the names of your children/pets?  Did you avoid the names of old nemesises (nemisi?)

Author: Rachel Wheeley

Comedian, podcaster, based in London, UK

One thought on “The Old Manor”

  1. Hooray, you’re still blogging! I had Citybumpkin carefully RSS’d, but then managed to carefully never look at my RSS reader, so I’ve missed a bunch.
    Baby names! – otherwise known as names. And that’s the problem, isn’t it? I worry about parents who call their kids Happy, Skeeter or Wub-Dub, which may even suit them up to their 3rd birthday but look a bit daft on the office door of the Technical Director of Geophysics Procurement. If they haven’t already prevented them getting that office door. Or any job, ever. Or friends. Maybe the parents assume their kids will just change ’em if they need to, like Zowie Bowie (Duncan) or Chastity Sun Bono (Chaz – oh, and while she was at it, she changed sex as well).
    We plumped for sort of serious/lighter options: James/Jamie, William/Billy, Robert, Robbie. Up to date (they’re 19, 17 & 11) they’ve been Jamie, Billy and Robbie, but Billy is William at school, which is kind of weird, but he prefers it that way, he actually doesn’t want to be entirely the same person there.
    My nemesis at school was a Nicky, so I ruled that out shortly after being told, “You’re going to be a father.”
    “Right. Where did you put that really thick laundry marker?”
    Julia said, “I quite like Nicky.” So I had to adopt my I’m-very-upset-and-barely-managing-to-cope expression, which is quite similar to common or garden sulking. But then, after kicking around a few likely names, she told me she’d promised an old friend years ago to call her first-born Jamie. I’m guessing ‘boy’ was specified, but hey, Jamie Lee Curtis doesn’t seem to have suffered. So, choice made, promise kept. And they grow into and entirely inhabit their names. I sometimes look at them fondly from across the room and try to imagine them as Robin, Rory, or Edward. Or Eleanor. And fail. And they go, “Dad, stop staring at me! You’re weirding me out.”

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