Friday, 6 February 2015

Enlightenment through Anagrams

In 1982, Jonathan Raban rode out his mid-life crisis by running away to sea on a 32-foot ketch, Gosfield Maid, which he sailed solo around Britain.  I read an excerpt from the resulting book, Coasting, in a Granta travel anthology last week and am eagerly awaiting the delivery of a used copy of the book to arrive by post.

Besides being a good read, Raban’s book has introduced me to a new favourite superstition: the anagram.  When he first saw the Gosfield Maid, he quickly rearranged the letters to see what fate might await him on such a boat.  The exercise quickly revealed Die, dismal fog!  Being an Englishman, he fell in love with her almost immediately.

Having read this, I quickly grabbed paper and pencil to summon the anagram spirits to reveal my destiny with Spray and Mareda.

For Spray, only two words materialized:  prays and raspy

Now, perhaps I’m just being a negative nelly, but “prays on a raspy boat” does, you must admit, describe the last two years of misadventures we've had on Spray.  Maybe if we had interrogated the anagram spirits before we named her, things would have turned out differently.   

Mareda, I thought, will be trickier.  Mareda is already a sort of anagram of my first two names (Patrick’s idea…very sweet, n’est-ce pas?)  It can also be read in a pseudo-etymological sense to mean noble / wealthy / happy daughter (Eda) of the sea (Mar). 

I hovered over the paper nervously as letters appeared and drifted around the page, keenly aware that trying to convince Patrick to rename the boat now because of a bad anagram would require tense and disagreeable negotiation.

Two phrases materialized: a dream and a mad era.  While these things are open to interpretation, of course, I have to say that sailing away on a dream in a mad era is a pretty damn good omen !  In any case, it’s a definite improvement over praying on a raspy boat. 

Say what you will, I’m buying into the anagram superstition until I have proof to the contrary.  It’s got to be as sound as any other maritime superstition and at least it’s a fun one.  (Sure, I can say that now that things have worked out well for Mareda…).