Friday, February 20, 2009

identity crisis

The Ship is the alumnus magazine of St Anne's, my old undergraduate Oxford college.   For once, I'd been highly efficient and sent in details of my new publication.   But when I opened it up, I found I'd been turned into someone else, married off to someone called Jennet, and credited with writing the book, precociously, in 1973.

To be sure, my official, birth certificate name is, in full, Catriona Jennet Flint: an improbable mouthful.   My parents wanted to call me "Kate," but thought that two short sharp syllables might be a little too brisk.   They believed that my father had had a cousin who'd died young called Catherine (actually, and too late, it turned out that she'd been called Helen...), and didn't want to invite bad luck, so, despite their families' complete lack of Celtic ancestry, managed to hit on a Gaelic equivalent.   Jennet (in addition to being the name of a small Spanish horse, or the offspring of a male pony and a she donkey) was a one-off long-ago name on my mother's side of the family.   But I never used the full set of labels (when the first of these names was unearthed at school when I was about eleven, my classmates promptly reworked it as Cat-in-anger) - except, it would seem, to register in college.    Now I'm left feeling that my nomenclature has been completely mangled, and that my alma mater has invented a quite other existence for me.

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