Sunday, June 15, 2008

Other Names no 2 - CLARE

When I was a kid, I used to love Gilbert O'Sullivan's song, and be really envious of anyone called Clare. Truth was I wanted to marry Gilbert more than anything, but recently I heard it played on Radio One where they were incredulous about the lyrics and obviously thought Gilbert was the dirtiest old man ever. It's yet another thing I'm going to have to think again about - golly, it gets exhausting.

Anyway, Clare is - whichever way you interpret it - a beautiful name. It means famous apparently, which is appropriate because the very funny writer and blogger, Clare Sudbery is certainly going to be even more famous than she is already. I think she's inspirational in the way she makes things happen - not least blogging central, Bookarazzi. Anyway she wrote this about her name in the comments section and I liked it so much I'm copying it here:

There's not much to say about my name, except that it means clear, which I like because it's an anagram of Clare anyway, and it's not a bad thing for a name to mean. Caused no end of confusion when I was studying for French and German O levels and A levels, though.

"C'est clair?" my French teacher would say, and I, off in one of my daydreams, would leap to attention, saying "Yes miss?"

Or, "Erklaren sie mich," my German teacher would say, to similar effect.

Sheep say my name a lot, too. There's been a few times when I've been out walking in the wilds with my family, we've got separated, and I've become suddenly convinced that I can hear my dad or my sister lying bruised and bloody at the bottom of a cliff and shouting plaintively, "Claaaare!"

I could even say it myself when only a few days old. Apparently my parents hadn't decided between Clare and Alice, but then I got all upset, started crying, and demanded that they choose Clare. "Claaaaaare!" I cried.

But anyway. Regarding street signs. I have a "Clare Road" sign at the top of my stairs, just so you know whose steps you are climbing. The road itself is a few streets away, and I found its sign, detached, in the wrong place, just sitting there staring at me in the middle of the pavement. Well, I had to take it home with me. Didn't I?

(Note from Clare - Erklaren should have an umlaut on the A in the middle, and is pronounced "Air-Clare-un")

(And note from Sarah - the picture of the sign at the top of this post isn't Clare's but is stolen too - from here, a site well worth looking at.


womagwriter said...

It's a long way from here to Clare - one of my favourite old Irish ditties!

Clare Sudbery said...

Ha, bless you for doing a post about this.

And now you've reminded me of a whole new load of thoughts about my name! In Ireland, which is surely where the sign in your picture comes from, there are a county, a river and an island all called Clare. There's also a village called Clare somewhere down south - Surrey, I think - near the town called Sudbury, and a friend of mine once sent me a postcard of Clare, posted in - and therefore postmarked from - nearby Sudbury. There's also a Clare college in Cambridge, which I was once sent a postcard of.

And obliquely, this reminds me of a T-shirt someone once brought back from Canada for my aunt Carol, from "Camp Carol, Sudbury."

And finally... Gilbert O'Sullivan. Clare was in the charts when I was 5 or 6, and they showed a video on Top of the Pops where a soft-focus Mr O'Sullivan gambolled in a wildflower meadow with a little girl who seemed exactly my age. Consequently I half-believed the song was about me, and I still have the 7" of the single, in its torn red paper cover, which was the first record I ever owned.

I feel incredibly nostalgic whenever I hear it, and still play it every now and then. I played it once to some friends when in my mid 20s, in the small hours of the morning, after we'd been up all night doing the kind of things that make you feel all soft and snuggly at that time of the morning... and listened to the lyrics properly for the first time with an adult ear. And was rather shocked.

"I don't care what people say
To me you're more than a child"
"But why in spite of our age difference do I cry
Each time I leave you I feel I could die
Nothing means more to me than hearing you say
'I'm going to marry you
Will you marry me, oh hurray'"

[I'm not convinced it's 'oh hurray' there; I always thought it was 'Uncle Ray', not that it affects its potential dodginess]

In my less cynical moments I like to think it was all perfectly innocent, but it has definite potential for nastiness.

(In looking up those lyrics, I've been reminded that he actually spells it "Clair", but I connect it so intimately with myself, I always forget that)

Clair said...

Yay for Clairs!

Gordie said...

I remember Gilbert O'Sullivan, and I never thought there was anything questionable about that song; it was just a literary device where the listener assumes (because of genre conventions) the singer is talking about his girlfriend, and then a surprise is sprung. Exactly the same device is used in 'Save Your Kisses For Me', by Brotherhood of Man, and that won Eurovision.

On the whole, I feel quite glad I had my childhood when people assumed that strangers would want to look after your children, rather than now when they are assumed to be paedophiles.

Clare Sudbery said...

Gordie, it's definitely sad when an innocent love of children is miunderstood through cynical eyes. And it makes no sense for there to be hysteria about stranger danger when the majority of child abuse is committed by people well-known to the children in question.

But if these lyrics were as dodgy as they sound, this would not be an example of stranger danger. And the fact is that child abuse is a widespread problem that was once swept under the carpet and largely denied, meaning that it could, and did, go widely unchallenged.

I have several friends who were abused as children. It shocks me how many. My own exposure to it (through friends - my own childhood was thankfully very happy) may make me hyper-sensitive to it, but awareness is a very good thing if it helps to identify cases and therefore save more children.

Ahem. Sorry for getting all serious there!