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A postcard from revisions-land

I usually have a head start on names (real world names, at least – don’t get me started on fantasy names, just remind me if I ever start a new world again to steal all the names from Finnish, or Basque, or some other language for which a list is readily available), mainly because I’ve spent a surprising proportion of my working life trying to make sure that the right staff are paid for by the right departments.

This one, though, this one’s giving me trouble. Maybe it’s because I was determined for a long time that he didn’t need a name. I’ve been thinking of him as ‘ranty redacted man’ for a while now, and it’s kinda stuck, but I don’t think it will do. I may need someone else to refer to him, in the next installment. He may even turn up and be objectionable in person, and that will surely work better if it’s clear that he’s the same man.

I wondered if it was because I didn’t know enough about him, but as soon as I tried to attach a name (I’ve already half forgotten it, it fitted so badly – Piers Something-Posh) I realized that I knew far more about him than I’d ever consciously thought out.

He’s a moderately successful career civil servant in his fifties, and a firm believer in the system. That much was obvious, though I admit that the description, whilst strictly accurate, is also slightly misleading (you’ll have to wait and see). He’s competent but not brilliant. He has an honesty of purpose, but he’s dangerously set in his ideas. He’s university educated, and probably a grammar school man. No public school for him, however minor, but not a scholarship boy, either. (At the risk of patronizing readers outside the UK, a translation: he attended a state-funded school for which children were selected by examination.)

Is he married? I rather think he might be. An old-fashioned marriage of a type I’ve never been able to understand, sharing a bed and a bank account but not, in any real sense, their lives. There may be children. If there are, they mystify him, even now they’re grown.

There now, now I’m sorry for him, and he still hasn’t got a damn name.

Update: with enormous thanks to a Goodreads friend, ranty redacted man is now known as Simon Francis. You haven’t long now to wait and see how well that suits him: he features in Find the Lady, available from January 24th


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