In The Angel my main female character is called Kim. She was called that before I decided to make her a German and I’ve not changed the name yet and I’m not inclined to at the moment. It’s quite an androdgynous name inÂ also being used for men but probably the mostÂ notable current uses are American actresses like KimÂ Cattrall and Kim Basinger — such is theÂ influence of AmericanÂ culture that Kim could probably be aÂ genuine name in Germany (though I’ve not come across many although Wikipedia says Kim Basinger has German and Swedish ancestry). It also has an orientalÂ manifestation as both a first name and surname — think of North Korea.
The name is often shortened from Kimberley, which has a South African association with the town or city of that name, which apparently was named after one of the Lord Kimberleys the derivation of whose name will be discussed below. (Incidentally, the Guardian’s obituary of the fourth Earl of Kimberleyshows him to have been aÂ rather colourful character: ‘Johnny Wodehouse, the maverick, six-times-married fourth Earl of Kimberley, who has died aged 78, was as arrogant in his politics as he was in wasting his considerable inherited fortune on gambling, womanising and alcoholism.’ The current Earl is, by contrast, a computer programmer.Â I’m not sure what it is but there’s something about that I like.Â )
Interestingly, my Kim has a history stretching back about eighteen months. She was in a short story which was reworked into a screenplay forÂ the Open University AdvancedÂ CreativeÂ Writing course and sheÂ cost me marksÂ as previously recounted by making ‘Twat’ her opening line. When I was thinking of The Angel she popped up again as a partly developed urban, ‘edgy’ character.Â I still wasn’t sure why I’d called her Kim, though I had come across a female one of the South African variety in an office situation –Â who I’dÂ heard a few stories about but never properly met (oddly enough I just saw her in the work gym today).
So I’ve been wondering why I’ve persisted with an androgynous, non-Germanic Christian name for a character who has little in common with stars of Hollywood slightly erotic film and TV (unlike Emma who’d clearly love that sort of thing). I realised that it’s blindingly obvious and goes back to the etymogical origins of the name as in Lord Kimberley. ItÂ comes from ancient English and means royal fortress and Kimberley (or Kimblerly) means field of theÂ royal fortress — andÂ they are both derivedÂ from the place name Kimble in Buckinghamshire, which itself was named after one of the most ancient English kings, Cymbeline, of the Shakespeare play and the remains of whose castle are still in evidence in a field in Little Kimble. (In a further twist to the power theme I think I’m right in saying that the land on which Cymbeline’s castle stands is actually part of theÂ nearbyÂ Chequers estate.) I have to say I find something quite transcendent about the immediate vicinity of the castle — often the weather seems to change as you pass. Here’s an interesting ‘fact’ about the castle from a website on the Ridgeway, which passes close, as do both route of theÂ 7,000 year Icknield Way — the most ancient road in Europe — ‘Legend has it that if you runÂ seven times roundÂ Cymbeline’s Castle on the ChequersÂ Estate, the devil will appear’.
And The Angel pub isÂ located in a fictional place that’s not too far away at all from Kimble. In fact The Swan at Great Kimble is one of the pubs which will lend attributes to The Angel. So Kim sticks for me because the name is so intrinsic to the location of the novel. I’d never twigged that before but it seems so obvious in retrospect. Of course, Kim is going to explore the area all around here and draw spiritual and psychic energy for her art. I’ll avoid her running round the castle a full seven times though or my careful plotting will go awry.
I’m working on making it plausibly German — perhaps an Anglicised contraction of her real German names or a conscious multi-culturally inspired identity?