In my current (or continuing: whatever) sporadic sleep-at-night, I’ve been thinking. Thoughts about loads of things: my Desert Island Dishes has been quite a distraction, and I realise there’s no way I am able to trim the list down to 12, much less 10 or – how? – 8. (Is it cheating, I wondered at 3 a.m. last night, to put an ENTIRE Chinese feast of many dishes as one item?)
But in a more sensible train of thought, and one that would not have my tummy rumbling with aggrieved discontent that it wasn’t likely to have any of my choices right there and then, I started to think about my name. Nocturnal wakefulness does this: why, otherwise, would I think about the name I was given when I arrived in the last millennium?
My parents had only been married for a very short time – just a few weeks – when they set forth for Australia on a ship. Their wedding presents more or less unseen before they were packed into crates for transport (like convicts, one might say) to the Antipodes. The newly-weds were incredibly lucky because they had introductions to lots of people. Including a couple (friends of my maternal grandmother’s) who took the fledgling couple under their wing.
My mother had gynae problems, unknown until she saw a doctor in Australia. Suddenly, and rather unexpectedly, I was on the way. I arrived. Eventually (very overdue: I’m certain this is the reason for my curious grasp of punctuality). Cables were sent to Granny 1 and Granny 2. Cables came back, sparsely worded congratulations and asking what the child would be called.
Mummy and Daddy hadn’t thought of a name. For days I was just The Baby. They – and The Baby – stayed with the wonderful friends who’d been so kind in looking after my parents from the first moment of their arrival in Australia (for a while I was the Government House Baby, nameless but holding court in a manner which I’ve never replicated).
Dad thought Nicola would be a good name. Mum said she knew a Nicola who she’d never liked and, therefore, Nicola wouldn’t do. Mum then suggested Victoria: Dad said I didn’t look like a Victoria. I’ve always wondered, in a flight of Aussie fantasy, if they considered Adelaide. Alexandra was thought about. As was Elizabeth (Granny 1 and 2 were both Elizabeth). And Patricia (had I been a boy, I would have been Patrick…or James…or Edward…or…the list is endless). The cables from Granny 1 and Granny 2 came in thick and fast, both grandmothers growing impatient about no-name grand-daughter.
Amanda – neither of my parents knew or had even heard of an Amanda, so where it came from it is a mystery – was decided upon. And I would only ever be Amanda, a diminutive was never to be used.
Which worked for all of a week or two. Apart from Granny 1 and Granny 2, until now nobody has ever called me Amanda. I was Mandy. I remain Mandy. I hated Amanda, and didn’t awfully like Mandy: aged 6, I announced my name was Samantha Sputnik. Of course, now I’m so ancient, Amanda seems a much better name: a more grown up name. I rather like Amanda. It sounds…good. In between times, I’ve been called Manda, Mando, Mush, Mandolia, Mandingo and – which irritates me beyond belief, and some still use it just to see me bridle – Mand.
As I slipped into the dream state between wakefulness and sleep, I realised that – apart from Mand – it doesn’t matter what I’m called. I’m just me.