Mens Temporum . UK

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Naming the Director's Secretary

Having provided a slim possible explanation for the name of the director in my novel I will now describe the possible influences surrounding my naming of his secretary. I gave her the name Caroline Chalfont but the only Caroline that I could recall at the time was a girlfriend from my youth who didn’t appear to have anything in common with the character. In addition the only association that I could make with the name Chalfont was a village called Chalfont St Giles and that didn’t appear to be promising either. Maybe those were the reasons why I chose to take the view that this girl didn’t feel any strong attachment with her name and preferred to be called just by her initials.

This decision set me a technical problem as I couldn’t decide how best to write her initials in the text. They would appear often, so I wanted to get this detail right but none of the obvious possibilities appealed to me. I quickly discarded “CC” and “C C” looked even worse so the best option appeared to be “C-C” but it still didn’t look quite right to me. I didn’t understand why I spent so much time considering this small detail and although “C-C” looked approximately right I continued to wonder whether there was a different way of representing her initials but did not find one.

After I had finished writing the first full draft of the novel I almost inevitably kept encountering people named Caroline. Maybe it was just that I noticed them then whereas I hadn’t before but there was more to it than just that. I mentioned previously that my wife and I made a donation to the funding of the visitor centre in that spectacular local tower and while corresponding with the secretary of the action group involved I noticed that she signed her name as “Cee”. I asked her about this and she told me that her name was Caroline but a friend had taken to calling her “C” and even sometimes “Big C” because of her small stature so she had adopted this nickname but called herself Cee instead to avoid any association with Cancer. She also mentioned the chairperson of the group, whose name was also Caroline, so the group was run by a pair of Carolines, which in my mind inevitably resolved into C-C. Although there had been articles in the local newspaper about the action group’s activities campaigning for restoration of the tower in the years before I wrote my novel we seldom bought or read it and the details about there being two Carolines were unlikely to have been evident in any article anyway, so I probably had no hidden foreknowledge of their existence.

I approached my strange experiences from various directions, one of which was an academic group at Edinburgh University who did research into the psychology of precognition. From a page on the group’s website listing its members I discovered that not only was the head of the group named Caroline and she had studied at St Andrews in her past, which came as little surprise, but also the second member listed held a doctorate and was also an associate member of the Inner Magic Circle, which was also in a way unsurprising in a group that inevitably had to tackle possible illusions and acts of deception. However, in my novel one member of the team working with C-C was a Doctor Andrews, a medical practitioner who was also an accomplished conjuror, which was a surprising coincidence given that that was hardly a common combination of activities. I couldn’t have chosen this group to contact for these reasons in particular because there was almost no other such group doing this specific type of research at the time and they were the most obvious people to approach. I think that now three apparently relevant Carolines are probably sufficient to make my point about C-C’s first name.

Curious about my original thought about Chalfont St Giles I looked up the facts about the village and discovered that it was where John Milton completed his work Paradise Lost. I have very little interest in classical literature so this was not likely to be something of which I would already have been aware. One of the underlying motifs in my novel was the idea that a man and woman could unite in both mind and body effectively to reverse the events depicted in the biblical creation story, so going some way to finding a form of paradise regained. One specific chapter in the novel was actually entitled “Rib Rebound” and a subsequent one mentioned “the beast” momentarily formed by this union as being similar to a fantastic creature described in the Bible. In fact during my research for the novel I had found it mentioned in one source that Adam had originally been destined to become a cherub, one of the strange creatures that transported God across the heavens, but when he was divided to create Eve his cherubic abilities had been destroyed. Hence the association between Paradise Lost and the novel was evident. It was only a detail though as C-C’s surname was never used prominently in the novel.

In contrast her initials C-C were prominent and eventually I encountered another striking connection that may well have influenced my use of them. I had been writing to a long known close school friend, who had become a lecturer in chemistry at Oxford University, about my experiences as he had a wide knowledge of science and used aspects of quantum mechanics in his work. At one point he mentioned seeing a reference to a book about coincidences that might interest me and gave me the details. I bought a copy of the book, which was Connecting with Coincidence by Bernard Beitman, a psychologist who collected examples of strange coincidences and tried to make sense of them much as I am doing here. The two large interlinked letters “C” in the title on the book’s cover caught my attention and so I looked at the author’s website and saw a logo on it, two back to back C’s linked by a wavy line. I realised that this was the missing link that I had been reaching for when choosing how to write C-C’s initials. With my mathematical background I was aware that the wavy line signified an approximation or difference in that discipline, so precisely the feeling that I had had about my choice of “C-C” while making that decision. I hadn’t realised then that my mind was reaching not for something different but actually the symbol that meant “different”. I wrote to the author about this peculiar coincidence and he kindly sent me a copy of his own graphic of the logo, which had the file name “C~C logo.png”. It would just have looked pretentious for me to have used “C~C” in the text of my novel, so my choice of “C-C” actually had been the nearest practical approximation if one accepts, as Dr Beitman clearly does, that there may be some deeper influence at work behind strange coincidences.

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