The bits and pieces of my fiction that I’ve posted over the past few months have come from a collection I wrote as a challenge to myself a few years ago: could I write something with a beginning, middle, and end in one day? Today’s fictional interlude is a bit different and more recent. It was inspired by a visit to a local garden and seeing their incredible blue delphiniums. I had no real plans for it when I started writing, just this insistent voice in my head demanding to be written and that her story told.
Yet where is it going? It certainly feels like the beginning of a longer work. I’ve played around with the idea of turning it into a blog for fiction that employees the Victorian language of flowers, where messages were encoded in every blossom and leaf. At the moment I don’t have the time or head space necessary to do the idea–or the character–justice, but this is something I hope to return to someday. Keep reading to meet a very determined figment of my imagination.
My parents could have named me Rose. Sure, it’s a bit old-fashioned, but it’s easy to spell and pronounce, and the flower itself comes in infinite varieties. What’s not to love about a rose? Well, besides the thorns of course, but I could have dealt with that.
Or there’s Daisy. Admittedly, it’s a bit too diminutive for my taste, calling to mind a cherub-cheeked toddler with blonde ringlets, but as far as names go, people wouldn’t give it a second glance.
Or Lily. Perhaps my favourite of all the flower names. It’s both exotic and simple, and rolls off the tongue with ease. I would have killed to have been named Lily.
But no, my parents, in their excellent wisdom and questionable taste, christened me Delphinium. Let me say that again: two university-educated, well-travelled people thought the best name for their firstborn child was Delphinium Heloise Kingston-Jones.
Delphinium for the flower, my mother’s favourite. Heloise for Héloïse d’Argenteuil, the French nun who carried on a correspondence with the monk Peter Abélard. In the twelfth century. Did I mention my father is a professor of medieval French literature?
I once asked why he didn’t campaign for Joan, or even Jeanne, after the infamous Maid of Orleans. “We were saving that in case we had another girl,” was his placid response.
But they didn’t. Instead, three years later I was joined by Albrecht Johann Kingston-Jones, inspired by a passing infatuation with German artists. Albrecht quickly became Albie within the family, which was further truncated to Al once he started school. Most people thought it short for Albert or Alfred, and he didn’t say anything to dissuade them of that notion.
Which brings us back to me. Delphinium doesn’t lend itself well to nicknames. Del has connotations of Del Boy Trotter, and there was already a Finn and Finlay in my class. Once, exasperated by my moaning that no one could pronounce my name and everyone else had a nickname, my mother said, “Delphiniums are a gorgeous blue flower. Why not ask people to call you Blue?”
I burst into tears. It wasn’t a nickname, it was a colour!