What’s in a name? A quick search tells me that my name Alison has been around since Medieval days. It was French probably, or maybe Scottish or English, and it is spelt with two Ls in America. Long ago, it was given to an Alice’s offspring – meaning ‘little Alice’ – and in Brazil it’s given to a boy.
Does any of that matter? Not really. What matters is that my Mum and Dad liked the name Alison back in 1967, when they wrapped me in blankets and held me in their arms, smelled my head and gazed in wonder at my tiny screwed-up face. It was a popular name back then. They christened me with it and put it on my birth certificate, tattooing it on to my embryonic identity like a branding iron.
But at home I was always Al, like Marion was Mar and Richard was Rich. They sometimes call me Ally Pally now, just for a laugh, because our grandparents used to call me that. Just saying Ally Pally takes us right back to their old house, with its swirly carpets and piano and dark wood furniture. Grandad in his string vest composing his Sunday sermon in a fog of pipe smoke, Grandma singing quietly to herself and wheeling in the tea-trolley laden with cups and saucers and slices of sponge cake and sandwiches cut into triangles.