On having a surname that no one can pronounce.

Although people have tried, bless them.


WEE-AY-ELD?
WADDLE?
WAY-EL-DA?

My personal favourite was something along the lines of ‘valkyrie’ at a poetry reading. My cheeks may have risen to an odd shade of scarlet.

I’ve been asked where I originate from (really the UK), and stopped at border controls (although I feel like this may be more due to my passport photo, in which I look vaguely like a pre pubescent six year old boy with a neat pudding bowl crop).
One of the classic moments was during a school register, with Miss calling out each of our names one by one, calling everyone’s first name and their surname. Of course she reached my name in the list and paused for a moment, gave me a quick glance, and left it at Liv. Sometimes it is clearly better to act blasé and breeze over it than give out an awkward mouthful.

I know plenty of other people experience the same issue, tricky surnames aren’t a rare occurrence. I think mine maybe does climb a little higher than the others, mainly as no one (not even myself) seems to be wholly sure how it is spelt. The original surname includes the German letter A-Umlaut – Ä. Those pesky little dots cause a whole lot of trouble, through the pronunciation, which differs from the standard A to a more stringent AY. The struggle arises when moving across continents, between countries that don’t fully share the same alphabet. The question of how my German surname is translated is a rather tricky one. Some of my cousins have dropped half the lettering anyway for a nice well rounded Wald. The Ä can traditionally be subbed in with AE in English, for the same sort of sound. However the pairing of these two vowels does seem to be difficult for some to comprehend. Therefore my parents did both occasionally drop even the E for just plain old Walde – as it states on all my credit cards and passports. Unfortunately I’ve been programmed to sign my surname WAELDE, which has resulted in a few sticky situations at visa inspections when travelling, when I’m unable to even sign my own name correctly.
That being said, there isn’t a whole lot that I can do now. Plus my go-to running dad joke involves raising a quizzical eyebrow when asked how to pronounce my surname. The waggish response of ‘it’s like WELL-DONE. Without the UN’, would surely go amiss.

I’m just going to continue on my hunt to marry a man whose surname begins with a G.

Who wouldn’t want their initials to be O-M-G anyway?

On passing my driving test & celebratory noodles.

Living in a fairly rural area, the best part of five years have been spent trekking to and from a very rural bus stop (so rural that in fact it has not even reached the marked title of an actual bus stop, and remains a bend in the road that you have to sweet-talk the bus driver into a quick standstill. Failure to do so leads to being dropped in the next lay-by, and having to tackle a bramble bush headfirst. This is followed by several muddy fields either plowed or filled with curious sheep, all the while feeling like a miniature Bear Grylls).

Thus the past five years of my life have been ruled by bus timetables (I can tell you exactly when the 55 passes the stop prior to my colonized bend in the road, and time myself to be ready and waiting approximately four and a half minutes in advance).
There have been few occasions when the bus has simply not arrived, or dismal Sundays spent meandering the high street and stranded in town, due to the one-every-three-hour rule on the day of rest. The mile in between my house and my bus stop has also proved perilous in the dark, when matched with a glaring pair of red headphones yanked up to full volume and cars not fully expecting a schoolgirl wandering country lanes in the dark. Countless arguments have arisen with my mother, over wearing the fluorescent & flashing battery powered vest she kindly purchased (ever the agreeable teenager, I stated that I would rather end up face first in a bonnet than sink to such crimes against fashion). Countless arguments have also arisen over mad dashes to the bus when the agreeable teenager forgets to set a timely alarm, with numerous pitiable pheasants taken on the death toll of such morning pursuits. This is all without mention of the extortionate fares of £7.50 per day, making my gym-goings suddenly very precious.
Having struggled under the woes of a teenager, a Rapunzel stranded in her rural castle, you can imagine my delight at receiving my first car after my seventeenth birthday, accompanied with driving lessons. These extended over the next customary 6 months, or 40 hours expected to pass ones test. These then extended for an additional 6 months.

I wouldn’t consider myself a poor driver. I’m not overly nervous, white knuckles gripping the steering wheel and nails furiously nibbled at every red light. Nor am I dangerous, for I certainly don’t tackle sharp bends at ’60 accompanied by a shriek of glee. I do however buckle under pressure (I turned to faithful old Rescue Remedy in my final two tests). The first was failed rather admirably – I simply didn’t pay attention in the navigational section, and came to a slittle confused stop at a roundabout as a result, A cheery examiner, described by my instructor as looking ‘as if she should be knitting shreddies’, told me she was certain I would pass next time).
Sadly this didn’t quite follow suite, and the following three passed with heightening nerves and wallowing disappointment, growing with every trip to the DVLA website.

All that aside, I do now stand the proud owner of a pass certificate, to match my proud owner of car status which, after a year and a half, I finally am able to decorate with garish swinging die (I’m going to signpost that as the plural of dice), and countless tins of fruit pastilles as procedure in any car.
Accompanied by this pass is are the celebratory noodles I banned myself from having a good 8months ago, after the soul crushing failure of my first test. A self confessed picky eater, I do have some credit to my habits and taste. Having scoured the aisles for the weekly grocery shop, cooked and cleaned for about 6 years, I admittedly don’t see much point in eating that which doesn’t please my palate. Hence my Wagamamas order has been nitpicky and consistent for the past few years

phad-thai-no-egg-no-shallots-no-peanuts-whole-wheat-noodles – please !

comes out in a sort of trance, or chant as if opening a hidden door. (Ali Baba reference, which I was continuously placed in front of as a child, in German no less) (sadly they are also not offering wholewheat noodles this season)

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So, after having to turn down several other group expeditions to Wagamamas with an embarrassed mutter about jinxing driving tests and black magic, I finally have my celebratory noodles!

On other people’s pets.

A rather unexpected choice of topic for my first post, you might ascertain. Yet, one which has been playing on my mind for some time now, and is frequently resurrected whenever I’m invited over to a fellow dog-owning household, and am greeted nose-to-crotch over the welcome mat.

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Dogs hate kisses. This is a widely known fact.

A word of advice is to be highly cautious of anyone who professes themselves a dog hater. A cat-lover myself, I do see reason in feline-cynicism, as understandably not everyone clasps together their hands and coos at the priceless image of their kitten as it retches up a damp hairball on the freshly folded laundry of their significant other. Not everyone is willing to submit to the prospect of sharpened claws sinking into your new pair of Wolford fishnets, at the abrupt reversal from devoted moggy, to brutal wildcat.
To qualify for the title of enduring cat lover, you tend more to side with admiration and amusement at the individually crafted nature held by cats. Dogs, en masse, are renowned for their unwavering love. You can shave them, pluck them, dye their fur a humiliating shade of hot pink as trending in Parisian poodles, and still they will gaze up at you with eyes so wide and brimming with love, they would curve into little heart shaped corneas, were this a cartoonised episode of Scooby-Doo, or Clifford. You only have to glance at the glowering furry eyebrows of Dan Bilzerian’s infamous Smuffball, to know that cats lack this unconditional and yielding infatuation with their owners, specifically when stripped of their hair and left with a running Mohican and chilly little flanks.

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Marco showing his displeasure at my unadulterated love and excessive fake tan.

A step behind the subjugation of pets into these two categories, the stereotypes of the slobbering, gormless dog, and the sharp-witted, only vaguely amused cat (sadly rodents and budgerigars haven’t qualified for this post), is the perception of other people’s own pets. Of course we love our own furry adoptees. Admittedly, no dog is ever as loyal as the elated Lassie, starring in her own television series, nor is any cat as humorous as Garfield. Yet arguably, in the same fanciful style of heavily favourited tumblr quotes, and the tone your mother takes with you when sobbing over your acne, it is their little flaws which make them all the more lovable.
Obviously, unwavering obedience would be wonderful. This aside, I can’t help but smile whenever our veteran golden retriever turns a blind eye, and swivels her head away and pretends furiously not to hear the call for morning stroll, in hope of shifting off the middle aged tyre hanging at her sides. Similarly, I’m equally repulsed as gleeful over the trail of dead shrews and dormice, left peppered across the hallway each morning by my feline companion. Although the stains of loose tails and innards and intestines are revolting, and I pity the rising rodent death toll, I can’t help but feel a little appreciation (as according to a vague google search on cat psychology, this is my kitten’s way of confessing his undying love for me, or rather the hand that feeds).

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Whilst I can stand these little imperfections in my own menagerie, I do struggle to plaster on a brave face and gently hustle an overfriendly lab away from my privates when greeted at the door. Similarly, it’s hard to see the attraction in a cat that saunters in at breakfast and teatime, and is otherwise absent from daytime grooming sessions, rather fond of roaming the outside gardens merrily under his own superveillance.
Yet, thinking back to my previous English house cats (may they rest in peace in the shallow graves I staked out in the garden, 21 a ripe old age for a moggy), and one habit of yowling constantly at three in the morning, followed by the doting attitude our household took to this custom, all these little shortcomings do make our pets more lovable. Perhaps this isn’t quite so easy to fathom when defending your nether region with a barrier of forearms, or plucking white hairs out of the jacket a friend’s cat has decided to nest and bear kittens within (asking for this garment back, when purposefully selected by the queen to bear her furry blessings, was shot down with a cagey stare). Still, imperfections aside, you love your pets like you would your grandma, no matter how many times one misses the litterbox, and the other snores during Question Time.

Interpretation of Ariel, by Sylvia Plath

Ariel. A luscious red haired mermaid sadly isn’t included in the identification of the namesake. Rather Sylvia’s husband, Ted, influenced many of the readings through adding that Sylvia rode at a Dartmoor riding school. Having engaged in several long and enduring treks over Dartmoor hill and heath, I’m thoroughly surprised that one shaggy haired moor pony ever bolted in its lifetime. My experience tends to surround hammering the oblivious sides of the beasts, and trying to blindly tear their mouths away from the nearest fern. This all takes place in spitting cold rain, in sodden castoff jeans considered weathered enough to feel the fury of three hours in the saddle. Not quite the ‘substanceless blue / pour of tor and distances’ (you can’t quite see for the next tor through the muggy Dartmoor smog, let alone the great distances. Prayers be with the ten tors volunteers). The spondees ‘stasis in darkness’ and ‘pour of tor’ amplify quite the pace at which the trail pony must have taken up, static scenery turned to a blur of Dartmoor colours (which have a regrettable tendency to revolve around grey and green).

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(my friend aboard a trusty Dartmoor steed)

Some claim the horse to ignite the symbol of male sexuality. I’m not quite sure. We may indeed have fallen so low as to include ‘stud’ or ‘studmuffin’ in the endless list of endearments, or Tinder profile labels, but horses can just as easily be assimilated in the female sense. I was never quite sure on the gender of Falada, my favourite fairytale mount, I don’t suppose they gelded in those days. The words murmured by poor Falada’s head ‘if this your mother knew / her heart would break in two’ do otherwise take the tone of a gentle, doting mare.

Jerusalem was also referred to as ‘Ariel’, as predestined to be destroyed by flames. Another interpretation of the title of choice, tying in to the concluding stanza, and line – ‘suicidal, at one with the drive / into the red / Eye, the cauldron of the morning’. Perhaps the pony has truly taken a turn for the worst, and with the wind up its tail bolted straight through the night until the rising sun brightens Plath’s world – if she has not already plunged off the careering animal in rather a few nightly hours. Otherwise, this reference could indeed be Jerusalem’s flames, come to plague. Much like Troy, you could ascertain. Cities tend to go down in flames.

I’m not necessarily a hardcore feminist. I don’t think this poem sees Plath paving the gender-war either. The allusions to female strength and powder are obvious; ‘God’s lioness’, as if embodying the almighty powder of a Lord within the sleek coat of a female predator. ‘Godiva’, too, the woman who paraded the streets of Coventry, nude and on horseback, to boycott taxation, is an emblem of female strength, on horseback (lets hope Plath herself wasn’t too unclothed, sitting astride her Dartmoor pony. It gets rather nippy in Winter).
Yet, ‘I unpeel – dead hands, dead stringencies’, suggests rebirth and shedding of restrictions. When related to ‘the child’s cry / Melts in the wall’, the mention of an adolescent could possibly be the internal child, in the narrator, or rather Plath, herself. Sitting astride a bolting horse is rather frightening (my mother bought me an ex racehorse in place of a trusty furry Shetland, so I can advise you justly). Perhaps Plath has indeed located her inner sophisticated goddess whilst straddling a wild horse. I just question the feasibility of reaching great epiphanies when grappling for the reins.

Stasis in darkness.
Then the substanceless blue
Pour of tor and distances.

God’s lioness,
How one we grow,
Pivot of heels and knees!—The furrow

Splits and passes, sister to
The brown arc
Of the neck I cannot catch,

Nigger-eye
Berries cast dark
Hooks—

Black sweet blood mouthfuls,
Shadows.
Something else

Hauls me through air—
Thighs, hair;
Flakes from my heels.

White
Godiva, I unpeel—
Dead hands, dead stringencies.

And now I
Foam to wheat, a glitter of seas.
The child’s cry

Melts in the wall.
And I
Am the arrow,

The dew that flies
Suicidal, at one with the drive
Into the red

Eye, the cauldron of morning.

-Sylvia Plath, 1962