A Short Story©winnie caw 2002
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copyright Winnie Caw (3rd October 1996)

Sagbag the Pirate

A Birthday Story

When Baby was born, during a heat wave in Calcutta ("Even for India, it was hot!" said her mother), the dilemma began. The long and arduous search for a name; a name which would epitomise the beauty and iridescence of their unique baby girl.

Her mother, being Swedish and proud of her lineage, fancied 'Gunilla', after her mother's mother, 'Mormor'; she had been instrumental in the discovery of the modern light bulb - or so family folklore would have it.

Baby's father poo-pooed the idea.

"Gunilla sounds like a military use for vanilla." He said, dismissing both name and folklore.

"Well, there was Eivor..." continued her mother.

"Stuff and nonsense," retorted Baby's father. "I thought that was the name of a Welsh steam engine."

All further suggestions made by Baby's mother were accordingly dismissed with equal scorn by her father.

Her mother gave up. "OK. The ball's in your court. Let's have your bright ideas."

Her father was in his element. An expert on all things literary, he launched into a speech:

"The possibilities are endless. What about a name from the bible? They have such wonderful meanings, and such history. There's 'Sarah' - that means Princess," he beamed happily. "Or 'Zara', meaning bright as the dawn."

Baby's mother looked doubtful; but Baby's father was just getting into his stride:

"What about Rachel? That's a lovely name..wait a mo, that means 'ewe' - perhaps not. Here you are! Mary - a good solid name. It means 'bitter'...oh dear!"

"You could hardly call us religious." Baby's mother reminded him. "Don't you find the idea a touch sacrilegious?"

But Baby's father was off on another tack.

"What about Blossom? Or Jewel? If you prefer to be modern..."

By this time, Baby's mother had collapsed on the sofa in hysterical laughter.

"Or there's Bianca, meaning 'white'. After all, she is the palest baby in the clinic nursery."

The subject was dropped as the cherub in question bawled for her breakfast.

And so the argument continued - what to call this wonderful new person? The negotiations continued as the subject of debate continued to bloom, impervious to the dispute raging over her head.


The day came when Baby's name absolutely had to be registered. Baby's mother had difficulty explaining the problem to the solemn-faced official at the Registry for Births, Deaths and Marriages.

"I just call her 'lille ängel' or 'lille söte' or some such, on the whole - do you see?" Baby's mother explained lamely.

The official did not see.


"No, not Lily. Lille. It's a Swedish word meaning 'small' - because Baby is. Well, it's a form of endearment."

It was apparent to the official that Baby's mother did not have a name for the baby. He did not have time for niceties. His job was to register all babies born in the district, and register them he would. Against 'Baby's name' he wrote 'Lily' and handed the birth certificate to the mother, heaving a sigh of relief.

Baby's mother looked at the official slip of paper in dismay. They had waited two hours in the heat and dust to register Baby; who was now hot, hungry and unhappy. As was her mother, with a headache to boot. She scooped Baby and certificate up in one gesture, swept out of the building, and hailed a taxi for home and cool normality. Upon arrival, the certificate was shoved to the back of the bureau, and forgotten.


When Baby was four years old, her father's contract in India came to an end. For once, her parents were in agreement. The family were coming home to England.

At the airport, Baby studied the destinations of the planes. They reminded her of the cue cards her mother had given her to read, to feed her precocious intelligence.

I - STAN - BUL. GEN - E - VA. DAR - ES - SAL - AAM. AD - E - LAIDE.

"Mor. Where is Adelaide?" She asked her mother.

"I don't know whom you mean. I don't recollect anyone of that name. Who is she?" Her mother was preoccupied with counting the luggage for the hundredth time that morning.

"No. " Baby persisted. "Look up there, on the sign thing." She pointed.

"Don't point, dear. Adelaide is a place in Australia but, you know, it's also the name of a queen. Queen Adelaide. Oh dear - now I'll have to start counting again..."

Baby was lost in thought. 'Adelaide'. She liked the sound of it. It sounded royal which - of course - it was.


"Yes, lille kara, what is it?" Her mother looked tired.

"Mor, I wish to be called Adelaide. Don't you think it a nice name?"

"Yes dear. I'm sure it is."

And so Baby began her life in England with a new name.


Life was very different in England. Everyone spoke more slowly, for one thing. On the other hand, life itself was lived at a frantic pace.

"Hurry here." "Hurry there." "Don't forget this and that...especially your coat and hat." The weather was so cold and damp; the countryside and people dull. Dull, dull, dull.

Although, they thought themselves so clever.

"Adelaide? Adelaide? What sort of a name is that? 'Ad 'e laid an egg, or what?" followed by great guffaws of laughter.

Baby resolved to change her name.

She had been reading 'Peter Rabbit'. She loved Jemima Puddleduck (though she thought her very foolish, even for a duck). She wished she were able to think up so many unusual characters, just like Beatrix Potter. Beatrix! Now, there was a distinctive name.

"Chances are," she thought, "some 'bright spark' will think of something clever to say."

An idea formulated in her mind. Suppose she were to shorten Beatrix to - say - 'B'?

B is for Beatrix or - anything she liked, really. Becky or Bessie or Beth or ....or

BABY! How completely apt! She would, thenceforth, be 'B'. Anyone nosy enough to enquire what the 'B' stood for would be told 'Mind your own beeswax'! Give them a taste of their own medicine. Pleased with herself, she soon became known as 'B' and accepted as 'B'. Of course, there would always be clever idiots, ready to 'invent' the sad stock response:

"Bee. Bee? What sort of a name is that? Buzz! Buzz!" rushing around the room waving their arms about and making utter fools of themselves.

How entertaining!


When B was twelve, her class were invited to enter a competition. Entitled 'Riddle-Me-Ree', the competition was to find the most ingenious 'Riddle about me'.

B had no trouble finding an angle. She had spent her entire life pondering this dilemma:-

My first is in ANNE and doubled in ANNA;

My second in JANE but never in JADE;

My third is in CORA but never in CLARE;

My fourth is in ANNIE but never in AMY;

My fifth is in CHERYL, and CICELY, and KIRSTY;

My sixth is in MONA, and MITZI, and MAUD;

My seventh in DAFFODIL but never in DAISY;

My eighth in LAUREL and LAURA; not in LYDIA;

My ninth is in SUKEY, and SASH, and SONJA.


My whole? A famous author, letter-writer and sage.

B was not surprised to win the competition.

She smiled, imperceptibly. WMC




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