Nicola Vincent-Abnett

Nicola Vincent-Abnett
"Savant" for Solaris, Wild's End, Further Associates of Sherlock Holms, more Wild's End

Saturday 13 February 2016

Six Degrees of Separation… by Accident

OK, in this particular case, not quite six degrees.

Once in a while, I’m reminded of someone from my distant past, someone from school or university, and I wonder whatever might have happened to him or her. It’s often difficult to find those people now, especially the women. Time moves on; it’s three decades since I left university for goodness sake.

Nevertheless, we have the internet, so I always do a quick google search, just, you know, out of curiosity.

Last evening, sitting around, watching television and catching up with each other, the husband, the dort and I were talking about names. There is some confusion about our names; it’s something I’ve talked about before.

You all know that I’ve never felt very comfortable with my given name, and that I generally go by Nik. This confuses people. It confuses them because it’s not a standard feminine abbreviation, and there are still people who insist on calling me Nicky (or is it Nikki?). Some of those people get away with it, others I gently correct. Formally, I occasionally use Nicola, and overseas, too, but otherwise, only members of my very immediate family ever refer to me by that name.

I should probably have changed my name a very long time ago; I have thought of it often.

I deed-polled my surname, and both of my children chose to deed-poll theirs. They don’t have the names that they were born with. It was a family thing, and it didn’t change anything or cause stress or anxiety when it happened.

The dort also goes by a first name that isn’t her given name, although it is a recognised first name. This isn’t as odd as it sounds, and it’s very common in my family. Neither of my parents called each other by their given names, and none of my mother’s siblings used their given names. Several of my father’s relatives were also known by names that didn’t appear on their birth certificates. I have a brother who doesn’t use his given name, either… It rather makes me wonder how I got stuck with mine.

I mentioned that the dort might change her given name, by deed poll to the name that she goes by, but she’s perfectly content to leave things as they are. Questions are raised from time to time, but she says that it’s easier than having to produce additional proofs of identity every time she fills in a form, and, of course, she’s right.

We started to talk about what I might change my name to. It’s a tricky business, choosing a name, and many were mooted, but nothing stuck. The name I would choose for myself is, apparently, the name of the dullest woman on Earth. I rather like that. I rather hope that it might mean, in person, I’d confound expectations.

The dort came up with a string of options, and I only halted when she landed on Vivien.

I have no special fondness for the name Vivien, and it’s probably not one I would have come up with on my own, except that when the dort mentioned it I remembered something.

I remembered a girl that I was at school with. She was extraordinarily beautiful, and, although I didn’t know her well, I remember her telling me once that her name, in full, meant lovely lily, little bay. It sounded rather romantic to me then, and I can’t help thinking that it still does.

There wasn’t a huge amount of ethnic diversity in the grammar school that I attended in Kent, except that, in a way, there was. De Cala, Vivien’s name, isn’t terribly Anglo-Saxon, is it? I imagine she must have been Spanish or Portuguese, but if I ever knew I’ve since forgotten. I do know that I went to school with one girl who was Polish and another who was Armenian. The girl who sat next to me in Chemistry was Iranian and the tall, striking blonde in my form was Icelandic. There were Smiths and Browns, but there was also a DuQuesne and an Adjentetti.

Anyway, I’m wandering horribly off the point.

I was reminded of Vivien De Cala, and of what she told me about her name, because the lily is meaningful to me.

I talked about the name and it’s meaning, and I talked about the beautiful girl I was at school with. The dort suggested I google her, and so I did; who knows, I might have anyway. I didn’t hold out much hope of finding her, because women of my generation married, and when we married we took our husbands’ names.

Douglas Booth and his Wiki page
Google search did, however, come up with a hit for a woman called Vivien de Cala. There wasn't a photograph, and even if there were I haven’t seen the girl I was at school with for thirty-five years, so I don’t know whether I’d recognise her.

Vivien de Cala’s name popped up on a Wikipedia page… it popped up on somebody else’s Wikipedia page, because if this is the girl I was at school with then she’s a mother now, and she’s the mother of somebody who has made a name for himself. Given how beautiful this young man is, it wouldn’t surprise me in the slightest if the girl I was at school with did happen to be his mother, but what a very strange person to be separated from by a single degree of Kevin Bacon.

I might, just might have been at school with Douglas Booth’s mum… If her name had been Jane Smith or even Alison Tate, I’d be a little less confident, but how many women do you suppose there are out there with a name that translates as lovely lily, little bay.

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