Thursday, 13 May 2010

On a Thursday about fifty years ago, in Perivale in the county of Middlesex, a woman was lying in hospital reading a book by a former show girl about her affair with a famous writer. She was waiting for the doctor to induce delivery of her second child. The baby, already more than a week overdue, showed no sign of wanting to budge.

Eventually the doctors' efforts succeeded, ("they broke the waters" she used to reminisce "but nothing happened") but by the time the child emerged at last it was after midnight on Friday the 13th of May. The child's father was fast asleep after a long day's teaching few miles away in Ealing.

There was an outbreak of jaundice in the hospital at the time so the baby had to sleep in a bathroom instead of the baby ward, and mother and child remained in hospital for a week. When the father visited, he later recalled, he noticed that another new father in the waiting room had brought his wife a hula hoop - a fashionable toy in 1960, but perhaps not ideal for a woman who had just given birth.

The parents had already chosen a name for the baby: Thomas. They hadn't bargained for a daughter, but that's what they got. So for about 10 days she was described as "our little girl" while alternative names were canvassed - Thomasine, Charlotte (the father's first name was Charles though everyone called him by his second name, Stephen, and its abbreviation). They settled on Sarah, which alliterated nicely with her brother's name, Simon. She already had cousins, Desmond and Dena, with similar chiming names.

It was odd that they didn't decide to name her after a saint (there is actually a Saint Sara, who is black, mythical, and dear to the Romany -but they did not know that at the time). They did at least give her the classic Roman Catholic girl's name Mary as a second choice.

Well, that was my Mum and my Dad. The book she was reading was Sheilah Graham's account of her love affair with F Scott Fitzgerald (which I should get around to reading one day) and the baby of course was me.

Never knowingly puctual...

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