One of the hardest tasks with writing a book is coming up with a title. The title sticks with the book through thick and thin. It is the first draw for any potential reader. It defines the essence of the book: it’s story, it’s location, it’s timbre.
A title sets the scene; the writing tells the story.
Book 2 has gone through a few iterations. Originally it was The One with the Brain Event, and I’d labelled all the chapter headings The one with… just like in the TV series Friends. Then my very wise husband pointed out that Friends is over now, and perhaps no-one will get the connection (can you believe the programme finished 10 years ago?). And perhaps they’d laid some sort of rights to the phrase The one with… as a title starter.
So that was scrapped.
And, in fairness, for a couple of years it probably lay there labelled as Book 2. I shall be sorry to lose that, as I have quite enjoyed the title. If nothing else, it emphasised to me that I had completed Book 1!
But I wanted something that followed on well from In the Shade of the Mulberry Tree but also reflected Africa. As a sequel ‘More tales from the Mulberry Tree’ might have worked. Instead I concentrated on the tree theme and thought through all the trees I had come across while living in Zambia. This was made a little easier as the houses at my children’s school were all named after trees, but in the end I decided they weren’t appropriate.
What finally tipped the title into being was rediscovering a poem my father had written for his grandchildren. It is by no means his best poetry, but it is fun and light-hearted: perfect for a 5- and 3-year-old, as they were then. He, in turn, took his title from a sign that was nailed to a tree at a cafe we frequented in Lusaka.
Beware the falling avocados
What do you think? All I have to do now is finish writing and editing the book!
Welcome to Withenay’s Wednesday Word: a wandering, wondering dip into the dictionary. The topics are always varied and rarely predictable!
a type of tree
from Old English asce (probably means spear)
There is an old British saying: If the oak comes out before the ash, we’re in for a splash. If the ash comes out before the oak, we’re in for a soak.
I didn’t notice what happened this year, but I live in hope that the oak came first. The (common) ash tree is native to the UK and is a hardwood used in a lot of furniture, as well as being good for burning or smoking. It surprised me to learn that it is in the Olive family of trees: a variant of our mediterranean cousins. I don’t think anyone’s so interested in eating its fruit though!
Ash has a second meaning, being the residue from burning (and, to carry the botanical theme on briefly, is supposed to be good to put around your roses, as it is high in potassium). This gives rise to the word being used as a colour: a pale, silvery grey. Hence the desire for ash blonde hair dye, and also the description of people looking ashen, usually after a severe shock or illness, as the colour drains from their skin.
But of course, today, I must celebrate The Ashes: the beginning of the summer’s Test Match series, England v Australia. It is arguably cricket’s greatest rivalry (though India v Pakistan is vying for the same accolade). The name goes back to 1882 when Australia surprised the English by their first ever test victory on English soil. The Sporting Times wrote a mock obituary to English cricket, concluding that: “The body will be cremated and the ashes taken to Australia.”
When the return tour to Australia came a few weeks later the English captain, Ivo Bligh, pledged to win back “the Ashes” and (thankfully) won the series 2-1. The urn he was given for winning remains one of the smallest trophies in sport (though a replica is now used).
So I suspend impartiality for a couple of months and say, “Come on England!”