Monday, 16 February 2009

What's in a Name?

The Sagittarian has speculated about the title of my blog. My readers have varied tastes; in an attempt to please both of them, I will offer several different explanations, any or none of which may be true.


A memorable event in my early life (in fact the only memorable event in my early life), was playing the part of the ferryman's son in Ingmar Bergman's 1961 film, 'Through a Glass Darkly'. I was offered it through an old family connection, and the location was the island of Fårö, which was closed to normal visitors at the time because it contained secret military installations. But Bergman lived there, and this was the first of many films he made on the island. I was only there for two days and have limited memories of it all. I do recall that Gunnar Björnstrand, who played the novelist, was always pleased to see me and taught me a traditional greeting which I still remember; 'Gå bort du otäck litten räka'. Sadly Ingmar Bergman was by then unrecognisable from his famous rôle as Ilsa Lund in 'Casablanca'.


Newcastle's Long Bar is on the Great North Road, almost opposite Central Station. In those days it was very much a men-only bar. In retrospect it was a bad idea to have agreed to meet Tim Darkly there for a pint of Fed Special on the way to a party. I'd have been all right. Cherry loons and an Afghan coat might have escaped comment in a student town. But Darkly was dressed as a nurse, complete with balloons. It wasn't a fancy dress party; he always dressed as a nurse, and I should have remembered that. Even then, we might have got away with it, if he hadn't misjudged his embonpoint (the balloons were over-inflated) and jogged the arm of the diminutive Geordie standing next to him, causing him to spill beer down his shirt. The man said something very brief that neither of us caught, and very deliberately poured a significant amount of brown ale down Darkly's cleavage before turning away. Darkly asked me how we should respond and I, thinking that the best thing would be to buy the man a drink, said, "Through a glass, Darkly". Unfortunately he thought I said, 'Throw a glass, Darkly'.

I can tell you, should you ever be in a similar position, that the care offered in the Royal Victoria Infirmary is second to none.


My choice of hymn for our wedding was number 240 from Hymns Ancient & Modern, which is adapted from the poem 'Elixir' by George Herbert (1593 - 1632). It includes the verse, 'A man that looks on glass on it may stay his eye; or if he pleases, through it pass, and then the heaven espy'. (It's a pretty line, although the following verse gave me an opportunity to glance significantly at the Social Secretary; 'A servant with this clause makes drudgery divine: who sweeps a room, as for your laws, makes that and th' action fine'). The glass line seems to echo Corinthians 1, 13,8. "For now we see through a glass, darkly" - a line I've always had affection for, since I am not unknown for seeing life slightly hazily through a glass.


  1. I'd so love explanation number 2 to be true... just because it's one hell of an anecdote!

  2. Yes, I saw her mention you and I commented that I reckoned you'd got it from Clough's poem. I didn't realise there were all these other options.

    what I want to know is why Brother Tobias?

  3. I love the whole mad metaphysical God thing (Christ as Philosopher's Stone, John Donne being RAVISHED by God, etc). I heard a theory that "Jerusalem" is an anti-intellectual hymn - because apparently "dark satanic mills" actually meant universities - Blake being so keen on the unfettered natural soul and all. I repeat it whenever possible because it's Mr Fishwife's favourite hymn (what were the odds??) and I like winding him up...

  4. The Balloons explanation is my favourite, and made me laugh out loud. I lived in Newcastle for 15 years though and never went to the Long Bar (it sort of rings a bell, but I'm not certain I've even seen it). I was a Head of Steam gal. Same neck of the woods?

  5. Bergman. You were one of the chess pieces in The Seventh Seal too - admit it!

  6. none of the above?

    (came over from jimmy's, sugar)

    (i'll leave quiety...)


  7. PS Two things I forgot to say - Yes, Ingmar really did go off in later life didn't he? I think it was a combination of losing Rick and the sexchange...
    AND was that what your original profile photo was?

  8. Steve - I don't think we'd have got out alive!

    Fancy - I must look up the Clough poem. There's another by General George Paton, apparently. Brother Tobias was just a nom de plume I hid behind when publishing poems in a school magazine. I don't know where the 'Brother' came from, but the Tobias was from a tiny children's book written and illustrated by Magdalen Eldon (who did the 'Bumble' books).

    Lucy - Me too! In a less informed way. Batter my heart sounds like an unhealthy order in a chippie.

    Hattie - I think The Long Bar is still there. It was a rather a functional, forbidding place, and appeared in the original (Michael Caine) version of 'Get Carter'. The bar was so long it demonstrated the convergence effect of disappearing parallel lines. I don't think Head of Steam was there when I was. It looks a lot like what was a club called Annabel's, where you could have a bop upstairs. I was introduced to it by Jimmy Gibson, who was a student then but went on to found the 'Cruise' chain of clothing shops.

    Rol - I have never been associated with pawn.

    Savannah - Welcome hinny! Boringly it was No.3. I'm just coming over to visit yours now...

  9. I was convinced that it was choice No 1. However, I then juggled the letters around from the phrase "Gå bort du otäck litten räka". It revealed an intricate and complex anagram of: 'Hot chickens are now available from the deli counter.'

    I knew then that this biblical phrase was a sign from god, and went straight to choice No 3.

  10. Lucy - Sorry, we crossed. He did, didn't he. Such a shame. You have a photographic memory; I can't remember where that one was taken (I was asleep at the time). Might revert to it soon, though. I like your newish one on the sidebar.

    Jimmy - Got me there; well done. (It was intended to be a palindrome as well, but I only got halfway).

  11. Well, I can settle the matter. It is, of course, that well-known first-century letter-writer and tent-maker, Saul of Tarsus, or Paul of Damascuc or whatever he chose to call himself at the time. Imagine that thudding through your letter-box!

  12. I so wanted it to be number 2, great story.

  13. Sadly, I do have a photographic memory. Great with faces, awful with names. Who are you again?

  14. Fantastic! You don't want me to scamper back to said bookstore and get the book for you? It looked quite a tome. However I prefer your story number 2, cracker!!

  15. I'm still convinced it's number 1! It all rings true, the family connections, the hazy memories of the great director. Although I would like to hear more about your friend Tim Darkly!

  16. Can Bass - You are right as ever - so right that you are more decani than cantoris in this case. It was indeed Paul of 'mulieres in ecclesiis taceant' fame. It comes just after (or is it before?) the much quoted 'When I was a child, I thought as a child' verse.

    Lulu - Thank you; for you it shall be 2.

    Lucy - I sometimes wonder.

    Amanda - How sweet of you. But no, don't - the SS says that I must cut down.

    Daisy - Well now, might it be true.....? I can tell you that, after a spell in 4 Para, Tim is now a female impersonator and children's entertainer in Bishop Auckland.

  17. I want them ALL to be true! And I had wondered about the 'Brother Tobias' bit too, so glad you answered that as well!

  18. "My readers have varied tastes; in an attempt to please both of them..."

    You ARE funny - but so much more, as this post further reveals.

    So glad to have made your acquaintance, Brother!
    So difficult to keep up with all the good blogs, but yours is a MUST for me.

  19. An most interesting post. I should have been following earlier.

    Abraham Lincoln
    Brookville Daily Photo

  20. Justme - These pseudonyms...we do like to hide, don't we?

    Cloudia - Thank you; and likewise. I come to yours for the sunshine.

    Abe - Welcome to you. I've just been visiting your blogs and am completely blown away by them; both for the photography and the anecdotes. I'll be following you now, sir.

  21. I want them all to be true also! Why can't they be?
    My first visit; thank you, I will be back.

  22. Ooooh! I so wanted it to be number 2 as well. Came here via, umm, I can't believe it! I don't remember. But glad I found it anyway. I'll be back. VLiF

  23. O - Hello O. I've been enjoying yours; you are a poet, and I'll be back too.

    VLiF - Welcome. I have visited yours in the past...we must have a mutual friend. I need to read more, but are you leaving France?

  24. Well, I definitely vote for two (although I am a little late in casting my vote).

    With the names, I always think of people by their blogger names even when I know their real ones. It makes it really odd when you meet people. I met some Twitterers just before I left the UK and two of those had pseudonyms and I just couldn't bring myself to call them by their "real" names but saying the online ones didn't feel right either.

  25. RB - It is odd, isn't it. Someone we've known for 30 years recently decided she wanted to be known by her other forename. Addressing her is like speaking a foreign language.

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