"Sorry, could you just spell that for me?"
"Pardon, I didn't quite catch that? Oh, I thought that was what you said!"
"Are you serious?"
"How unusual! Where does that come from?"
"Sparrowhawk? That's like two birds, isn't it?"
The very best one was from the owner of the hotel in the Lakes on our honeymoon. We were asked to phone if we were likely to arrive later than 4pm to be sure our room would still be available. The lady later sheepishly apologised and confessed that this was not something they usually asked people to do but they suspected we might be playing a practical joke. The Hotel's name was Hawksmoor. Not the best start to my life with a new name!
So just to clear up some common FAQs.
Yes, it is really my name.
No, I am not kidding.
Actually, it's more like three birds.
Yes, it is quite unusual up north, but not so much down south.
No, I was not born with it, I got it when I married my husband - the clue here is in the Mrs...
My maiden name was Honnor, and yes, that was equally unusual, and yes, also always in need of spelling.
No, I don't know the origin of it.
No, I have not traced my family tree.
And finally, no, I am not an American Indian.
Eventually I grew used to the comments and questions, began to share the jokes. Depending on my mood, and how many times I'd had to spell my name in any one day, my responses would vary from light flippancy to deadly sarcasm.
Over the years I have had some interesting and amusing conversations with complete strangers. I am glad to say that the outright rude comments have been few and far between. Most people are politely incredulous, one or two laugh out loud. Bit rude, I think, but there you go. And just occasionally I get a lovely response, which makes it all worth it. One such was from Aidan Clarke.
Aidan came to perform his poetry in the library. Knowing the importance of a name, I am mortified to admit that we spelled his wrong on the publicity. He was immensely gracious, saying it happened all the time. I'm sure it does, though I am also quite sure from personal experience, that it irks the life out of him. We do at least have the ignominious honour of being the only ones, so far, to get both his forename and surname wrong. Sorry, Aidan. But like I said, we don't do things by half...
Aidan didn't know my surname when he met me. His response after the event, was to send me a poem which he would have read on the night, had he known. I can't reproduce it here, as it has been entered for a competition. It's a beautiful poem and I wish him luck with it. He has however sent me it's companion which can be shared.
Window on the World
I’ve sat for an hour
At a small round table
In a café window.
For a far, fierce hour
People, times and places
On a circle of wood.
This small circle of wood
Is an immense station
Intertwine and separate.
It’s a maternity wing,
Airport, motorway services,
Hospice and harbour,
Dedicated to arrival and departure.
There are armies on the march.
Celebrities come and go.
It’s an avenue, a hill
And an ocean dotted with sails.
Above it all, a hawk hovers.
I’ve sat for an hour,
(Or was it a lifetime?)
At a small round table
In a café window,
Listening to stories
Only time can tell.
30th April 2012
So what's in a name? Not much, really, it's just a name...
You can find other poems by Aidan here. If you get the chance to see him perform live then grab it!