Saturday 21 June 2014

'Becoming Nemo' by Anne Summerfield

Her school taught Latin, was old-fashioned enough to see this as something a teen might need to learn. But it was the Cambridge Latin project, so they got Ancient Rome brought to life, and as part of this the teacher allocated them Latin names. He came with a prepared list and seemed taller and more bespectacled than ever, rising to the occasion of those unreligious baptisms. Mainly the names were translations of all or part of their surnames, nothing too outrageous, sometimes there was a choice depending on how the translation worked out. So her friend whose surname was Warman became Bellicosa – warwoman since she was a girl - and though there was amusement around the word ‘belly’ she could tell that that the newly-minted Bellicosa liked this. Others were also named happily. She was given a choice between Agricosa – ‘old hag’ they all said - or something meaning summer which also provoked far too many jokes. She said no to both and the teacher was kind, says he’d have another think. Just for now she could be ‘Nemo’ -  no one.
     But she never stopped being Nemo, never changed or replaced it. Instead it became something to grow into like the gym slip and the stupid St Trinian’s style hat bought from the extensive uniform list. Instead it became who and what she was in any crowd, at any party. She could hide behind the name like she could hide behind glass. Invisible, overlooked, she slid silently through the world like a minnow in a stream. Which was especially useful to MI5 who were also impressed by her classical education.

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