Bailey Newsletter 1 – A Girl Named Crisis

February 2022

Undecorated trees are fine.

Dear Friend and Reader,

It is now around three months since we launched the website I have recently started adding birthday greetings in the Dave Daze feature, so if you think I do not have your birthday and would like to see it (or that of someone dear to you) featured, do let me know by responding to this email. Leaving room for family and friends I think I can guarantee a spot to something like the first 350 people to request a mention!

While you are writing, do let me know what sort of thing you would like to see in these newsletters. My general idea is to comment on my writing, past and to come, and Joe may also chip in from time to time about his art.

I was pleased to publish Seventeen last July, and appreciated all the feedback on it, negative as well as positive. Within the former category was a feeling that there were too many names (perhaps a reflection of too many characters), sometimes difficult names. I can’t guarantee there will be fewer names in my next publication, but I do promise to include a family tree.

One name in Seventeen on which people have commented is that of the tournament in which Sir Tristram and his squad compete: the Sesquicentenario or Seskie. As he himself explains ‘The Seskie’s a trophy to mark 150 yeers of the oldest club fixture in the world, which I don’t need tell anyone here is Blood City v Young Faithfuls.’ I may need to tell some of you that the spelling in Seventeen is deliberately eccentric when it comes to measures of time, meant to reflect the fact that a yeer in Cibola is nothing like the same unit as a year in our world. It seemed a good idea at first but soon got old when I had to keep track also of mumfs, deys, ours, minnits and momets.

Although the word sesquicentennial exists to describe a 150th anniversary, such multisyllabic mouthfuls seem more of a feature in other languages than English – German is notorious for them. When there is a four-letter equivalent (long), why bother describing a word as sesquipedalian?

In 1830 Ecuador ceased to be part of Gran Colombia, so that when I lived there in the early 1980s the independent republic’s 150th birthday celebrations were fresh in people’s minds. I close below with a fragment from those days, substantially revised for this newsletter, a fiction of course though the legislative references are genuine as are all of the names.

While nostalgia, it will become increasingly clear, is a major theme of my writing, we should also look forward to that Roper Family Pretty Tree you can expect to find at the front of my upcoming novel Them Roper Girls. It tells the story of four sisters born in the 1950s in disadvantaged circumstances. Their lives over the next 60 years include difficult issues such as abortion, mental illness and suicide, but there are also many moments of celebration and humour in the girls' squabbles and attitudes to each other. Let a couple of them speak for themselves:

Angela: Whatever rumours you may have heard, all I can tell is I never knew Dad say my third sister Karen … wasn’t his. Mum had a wicked tongue so if she did say that sometimes that was Grace all over, you couldn’t tell if she was just trying to get a rise out of him.

Karen: Don’t think I’ll be rambling on like Ange … I wouldn’t want you to have to rely on her version, talk about unreliable memoirs. She never stopped moaning from then to now about how she had to be a mother to all of us, never had a proper childhood of her own.

More on them and their sisters in the next newsletter, meanwhile I leave you with a rather shorter tale of children who never had it easy.

All the best, David.


From: Never Anonymous Action Group (NAAG)

#636 Mariana de Jesus



To: The White House

United States of America

Very Esteemed Mr President,

I have learned with much pleasure that you will be visiting my country on your forthcoming tour of South America. Please excuse any errors in my English and believe me that I would not be writing to you if I had any hope of a direct appeal to our own national leader. Many are the letters I have directed to him, without reply to the date, but I know he must give at least the courtesy of a hearing to your voice on my behalf and that of the small group of which I have the honour to be president myself.

I can no longer find it in my heart to hate the mother who, perhaps in misplaced self-confidence more than with ill-intent, was the direct cause of my problem. My father, a rather weak man I now perceive, could not stand the shame in our barrio and left us alone when I was three years old, to struggle through my childhood under the name Crisis Deuda Externa (External Debt Crisis). This topic was much in the news around the time I was born. Mami must have thought it a sonorous and distinguished thing to call her firstborn.

Still and forever a patriot, I would not have you think that our government has been entirely unmindful of this issue. Predating the current administration, the introduction of an updated and revised Civil Registry Law was an important step to protect infants from the wrongs visited upon them by their parents. Though sometimes ignorance was the cause, or an otherwise commendable desire to give their children a head start in life, to make them stand out from the crowd, they were wrongs nonetheless.

Some thought the much-debated Article 78 of the new law was a restriction on the liberties of individuals enshrined in our country’s constitution, in making the choice of names for their own children subject to regulation and final approval by the state officials registering them. The limitation to two given names might not have helped me much (Debt Crisis or External Debt?), but the stipulation that the names must be ones in general use as such in our country might have.

Article 78 would also have spoiled your most famous country song, Mr President, since the name or names must also allow gender identification. No more boys named Sue. We do not lack a sense of humour you see, yet the situation really is no laughing matter. Unlike English all our nouns are of either masculine or feminine gender, so Crisis as feminine is appropriate in at least that sense for myself. Gender identification is, however, the least of problems for members of NAAG such as Eveready Pilar and Crucified Christ. On a less painful level names such as Maria Jose, or Jose Maria, common enough in the past, now cause confusion, sometimes allowed and sometimes not by the state officials at the civil registry.

No doubt your researchers will confirm that the text of Article 78 also prohibits ‘words that are extravagant, ridiculous or denigrate the human personality or express things or notions, unless their use is consecrated by tradition’. That this would disqualify nomenclature such as Sophisticated Editorial, Musical Emporium, Exquisite Pilsener or Perfectisimo God is very likely, but of little consolation to our friends already groaning under those names.

The complications of changing one’s name in our country are only slightly exaggerated in the vulgar but popular joke about Juancaga. A lad called that (Johnshit, with apologies Mr President, might be the nearest translation) goes through all the courts in our land to have it changed. No luck. He appeals directly to the President of the Republic. No luck. In despair the poor boy makes a pilgrimage to Rome and is granted an audience with the Holy Father, who listens attentively then says: ‘Your petition is granted, my child. From now on, be you known to all men as Jackshit.’

Even if the unbelievably cumbersome and time-consuming procedures to change a name are surmounted, it is still necessary to leave one’s own tierra if the intention is to make any kind of fresh start in comfortable conformity. Who amongst one’s childhood acquaintance will ever relinquish the opportunity of calling you ‘Coca Cola’ or ‘Port Authority’?

If our pueblo cannot always be trusted to make wise choices in the way it names its children, and bureaucratic intervention can never be completely satisfactory, can we not at least hope for a simplified process to rectify such mistakes? I know my own name will feature prominently as the main theme in your forthcoming discussions – sadly it seems always with us or just round the corner. As much as I hope your country’s ever generous financial support to mine will again be forthcoming, I hope too you will lend your voice in support of this individual External Debt Crisis and my movement, to make a meaningful difference in lives scarred and traumatised.

Looking forward to a word of public support for this our most humble petition – when you speak, Mr President, the world listens - the members of NAAG salute and wish you continuing success in your highest endeavours.

Signed Crisis Deuda Externa President

Alka-Seltzer Moreno Vice-President

Sesquicentenario Muñoz Secretary