Sunday, 12 July 2015

On Being a Susan

Tod asks me why so many of my generation are called Susan.  There were five Susans in my class.

I don't know.  And it's too late to ask my parents.

If I'd been an Elizabeth it would have been obvious why.

So I google famous Susans and find that many - Susan Hampshire, Susan Sarandon, Susan Sontag - are roughly my contemporaries. Their parents responding to the same zeitgeist no doubt.

So, Susan Hayward perhaps? Looking unbelievably glamorous and at the height of her career the year I was born.  Google tells me "By the late 1940s, the quality of her film roles had improved, and she achieved recognition for her dramatic abilities with the first of five Academy Award nominations for Best Actress for her performance as an alcoholic in Smash-Up, the Story of a Woman (1947)" I wonder if they'd seen the film beforehand whether my parents would still have chosen her name?

And I wonder if my parents realised what they were giving me along with my name?  Susan is the sensible one. The older sister. The one who looks after the others and makes sure they have their scarves and have had breakfast.  She's there in the Narnia books (until she becomes too grown-up and sensible to take part). She's the same in Swallows and Amazons.  I never identified with the Susan in these stories.  I wanted to be a Lucy, or a Nancy, or a Jo from Little Women. The one who was always being naughty or rebellious and getting into trouble.

So I tried to cast off my sensible mantle and became a "Sue". And from then on the only person who called me "SUSAN" in a certain tone of voice was my mother.

But here, in France, "Sue" does not work well.  The sound is too short, too abrupt.  The combination of letters does not suit the French tongue and (I suspect) is not pleasing to the French ear. So I have rediscovered my full name. But now it has quite another quality.

Asked my name, I say "Susan", but what is written down and what is said back to me in French is "Suzanne", the voice lingering on the final syllable with even a hint of an "a" on the end. Oh, how much more exotic and exciting and mysterious.

Leonard Cohen's Suzanne would never have been described as "sensible".

Narnia books - C S Lewis
Swallows and Amazons - Arthur Ransome

Saturday, 4 July 2015

It's so hot ....

... we leave the swimming pool cover off at night in the hope that the water will cool;

... I'm grateful for the sweat from my hair line running down the side of my face and drying on my cheeks as I walk the dogs late at night past Philippe's now-harvested barley field;

... the water butts and underground tank are empty.  I'm reluctantly using tap water and the météo promises at least another two weeks of high temperatures.  At this rate it would be cheaper to let the veg garden dessicate and buy what we need from Lidl's;

... gardening is squeezed into the few hours before eleven in the morning;

... by mid-day the hydrangeas are wilting, no matter how much water I give them;

... I scan the skies for signs of thunder clouds building in the hope that they will break over us and not slip away north to the Dordogne;

... the citronella candles are recovering in the fridge.  Left unlit on the table outside the cottage, they gently melted in the noonday sun over the new "Paris grey and red to match the parasols" plastic tablecloth;

... in the crêperie tonight Giselle air-kisses from the other side of the courtyard, exclaiming it's too humid for physical contact.  We have gone there to celebrate. Tomorrow is the start of our ninth year in France.