Perfidious Albion

I’ve been thinking about names. There are new ones springing up every day, Chenise and Shyla and, well, just about any sound you can make…..  there are some funny ones and some that are a little bit unfortunate. When I was pregnant I was discussing names with  another woman in the clinic. Her little girl, she told me, was going to be called Perfidia. I was a bit stunned, asking why she had chosen that one. “It’s a song” she explained “And I love it.” In fact, it’s a song I knew really well, a Glenn Miller classic, all about infidelity. I started tentatively, something like “The French call Britain ‘Perfidious Albion’, don’t they?” She didn’t know so I enlarged “They call us that because they say we’re treacherous.” She wasn’t concerned. Finally I came out with it, straight and unvarnished “Perfidious means lying, deceitful, unfaithful. When someone’s caught in a betrayal, they can be called Perfidia, like in the song.” She shrugged… made no difference… she liked the name. I gave up. So there’s some poor woman in Derby, about 42 years old now, and I bet she feels sympathy every time she hears Johnny Cash sing ‘My name is Sue, how do you do? Now you’re gonna die!”


Here’s Perfidious Albion with his left hand in the pocket of the dying poor.

I was named after my Mum’s sister. Aunty Lucy spent most of her adult life in Winwick  Asylum (yes, we really did call it that) coming out for maybe a couple of months every year when her condition was less disruptive, but after a few weeks the euphoria and delusions would start to emerge and before too long the ambulance would turn up and off she’d go again, waving happily as if she was off to Blackpool in a charabanc. My brother Peter and me just loved her. She was the one person in the family we could relax with. Her parents had left her their tiny cottage in Mundy Street, a two minute walk from where we lived, so although committed for all her adult life she was the only house owner in the whole family! Her mental illness was wild and wonderful, really it was. She was a happy soul, very rarely upset, always looking forward to something, crazily generous (although she owned nothing) and she loved the communal society of the hospital, the nurses and the routines. And they loved her. She was a woman content with her lot. She had pink cheeks and wild hair, and when she was free of the hospital uniform (sacks, really, communal and shapeless) she wore pretty and ridiculous clothes found in jumble sales, dresses better suited to a five year old, ribbons in her hair, huge handbags with clanking golden handles and clasps. A colourful character in the drab 50’s.

One year she was home at Christmas and when Peter and I went to see her she produced a bottle of Advocaat (egg nog, a mix of cream, brandy and honey, a sort of very very potent custard). It was, she told us, really good for us, full of good stuff, and indeed we loved it. It was like melted ice cream. I have very vague memories of singing and laughing and being a bit dazzled. Peter was 12 and I was 7. We had tumblers of the stuff so the singing and laughing was probably quite short-lived. On the way home I was horribly sick in someone’s front hedge and Peter vomited violently on a Royal Mail letter box. The yellow advocaat on the scarlet metal made a startling image, seared into my brain even now.  The people we lived with were all heavy drinkers, but I’m sure that the sight of a drunken 7 year old, reeling through the door, reeking of booze, covered in custard, dishevelled and confused,  was a bit shocking even for them. We were ill for days.

But we loved her, in a time and place when there wasn’t a lot of love to give or to receive. she gave us just enough to keep us going.

I’m glad I have her name. It means “bringer of light” and Lucifer was the brightest angel of them all before his terrible fall from grace, that’s why matches, way back in the first world war, were called Lucifers. Here’s a steal from Dr Dan Rhodes: ‘Lucifer became so impressed with his own beauty, intelligence, power, and position that he began to desire for himself the honour and glory that belonged to God alone. This pride represents the actual beginning of sin in the universe—preceding the fall of the human Adam by an indeterminate time.

If Dr Rhodes is right…. and he might be….. my name commemorates the origins of sin in the whole blinking universe….. so you know that woman called Perfidia?  She’s got it dead easy.

There was another Lucy, Saint Lucy, an early martyr. It’s her feast day on 13th.



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