In an earlier post , I wrote about the difficulties of coming up with a character’s name and how I struggled to find the right name for Eden. What I didn’t discuss in that post is why Eden’s surname is ‘Grey’ and not ‘Gray’, especially as ‘Gray’ is the more common form of the surname. The answer is way back in the past.
When I was a teenager, I attended an all girls’ high school in Lincolnshire. Looking back, I realise it was a very old-fashioned school. We had a strict uniform, our skirts had to be a precise length and our coats a specific shade of blue, the girls were referred to as ‘our gels’ in a faux-gentile accent, and there were very strict rules on how we had to behave, not only at school, but outside school, too. Many of these rules related to not fraternising with the boys from the grammar school next door to ours. Rather tricky, considering many of the pupils lived in surrounding villages and shared buses with the boys every single day to get to and from school.
One of the teachers at the school was a Miss Jean Brodie type. Highly charismatic but a dreadful snob. She spoke in an affected way and acted as though she was a teacher at the most prestigious boarding school you could imagine, rather than at a small state school. I think occasionally she came to her senses and realised what an ordinary bunch we were, and desperately she berated us for holding our knives and forks incorrectly or using phrases such as ‘And that,’ and ‘Y’know.’
In one lesson on Tudor history, she was teaching us about Henry VIII and his umpteen wives. When we got to Jane Grey, she fixed us with a beady stare and said, “That’s Grey with an EY not Gray with an AY.” Her gaze swept the classroom and in a tone of immense superiority, she informed us, “You’ll never know any EY Greys. You’ll only ever know AY Grays.” In other words, you 'orrible lot will never mix with the aristocracy, and the implication that she hung out with EY Greys all the time.
The dreadful snobbery of this comment stuck with me, and when I was hunting around for Eden’s name and hit on Eden Grey, I knew instantly that she had to be an EY Grey, not an AY Gray. For starters, there’s a lovely symmetry to that run of Es. Secondly, and more importantly, I like to think of that snobby teacher and her pronouncement that us girls would never be good enough to know any EY Greys. And I think to myself, “If I want an EY Grey, I’ll have one. So stick that up your jumper!”
Paternoster has been re-issued and is available for pre-order here. The new edition will be published on 16th December 2019.
Kim Fleet lives and works in Cheltenham. Her two cats help the creative process by standing on the delete key.