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Best known for There’s a Hippopotamus on Our Roof Eating Cake, which was recently translated into Chinese, Hazel Edwards writes across media, for adults and children. Pocket Bonfire Production’s Hippo film premiered at St Kilda Film festival for the 30th anniversary, and is screening internationally at Edinburgh Film Festival and beyond. As ambassador, Hazel is involved with the 2012 National Year of Reading, and the Victorian Premier’s Reading Challenge.Hazel has two grandsons, for whom she writes stories each birthday. Her latest books include ‘Sir Edward ‘Weary Dunlop’ (Aussie Heroes series) and ‘f2m:the boy within.

(This was first written in 2004/05 and read on ABC Radio LifeMatters)

My name is Hazel.

Until now, I’ve been in a fairly select name grouping. Ex-PM’s wife Hazel Hawke and I have been a minority with the name Hazel. But there are a couple of other authors called Hazel Edwards; one writes Mills & Boon romance novels, and another is an English historian. There’s also a Hazel Edwards’ gravestone image on Google. And I’ve been “dead” a couple of times.

To quote from news of actor Julia Roberts’ twins being called Hazel and Phinnaeus:

“…Hazel is retro by at least a couple of generations. The world stopped having Hazels around the time it stopped having Berthas and Gladyses and Mildreds. The last time Hazel was heard from was 1961, when Shirley Booth played a busybody maid of that name in a sitcom of that name, based on a cartoon strip of that name. Phinnaeus is even more retro, as in Old Testament retro, and more obscure than such OT running mates as Methuselah and Obadiah.

But that’s probably the point. Celebrity baby names these days are very … different. We say this not to pass judgment, but to point out one more way celebrities are not like the rest of us….”

I’ve never thought of myself as retro nor a celebrity. I was named after my mother who was Hazel Grace, but known as Grace. My father suggested they use one of her names for their only daughter, so I became Hazel. That was lucky because I’m NOT graceful but neither was my mother. Names are not always accurate.

As a children’s author, I’m conscious of names for my characters, and tend to choose either symbolic ones, or those which are common with the age group and that they can pronounce. Ironically, Grace is the most popular girls’ name with the under-fives. My Hand Me Down Hippo character called Mini was illustrated by Mini Goss, who has a young daughter called Hazel, so that’s another coincidence and a “young” Hazel.

My neighbour alerted me to the Happy Hazel Society which meets annually at Hervey Bay, and these Hazels are mainly in their 70s, married to Rons, and sing I’m a Happy Hazel to the tune of I’m a Little Teapot. I don’t fit that group either, nor the shortened version Haze which sounds like a fog.

My husband Garnet is named after an uncle, and his name is a semi precious stone. Recently I spoke with a dentist mother of five daughters who had named each after a stone, and intended giving the appropriate jewel on each daughter’s 21st birthday. Garnet was one of her daughters. Opal, Ruby, Emerald and Topaz were the others. Being given hazelnuts on a significant birthday doesn’t have quite the same flair.

Also it was pointed out that Garnet and Hazel were both colours, a fact which had escaped us for decades.

I’ve always loved the name Quentin, but my husband doesn’t agree, so my character “Bad Luck Quentin” scored that one. It was a trade-off so our daughter would NOT be called Brunhilda after Wagner’s opera. But our son gained the real middle name Quest.

While I was a guest on ABC National talkback on the ‘Hazel’ issue of names, a caller rang with the following anecdote.

At the christening, the Irish priest asked the parents for the baby’s name.

Hazel,” they said.

The priest’s reply was, “With 365 saints names available for each day of the year, you have to call your daughter after a nut?”

P.S.

    • In the newspaper babies’ names of 2005, Hazel was very popular and grouped with other colours like Ruby and Scarlet. I didn’t anticipate that.
    • In 2007, my mature aged College of Advanced Education students “exies” gave me a “Hazelnuts Roast” which was a satirical afternoon of fun, the name taken from an earlier student publication, A Bunch of Hazelnuts. We drank hazelnut coffee.

My view is that you should ‘lease’ your parent- given name until 21, and then be allowed to trade it in for your own choice. But after 21, that would be your label for life. But I do have a shared pseudonym, A.K. Aye, for crime writing.

Hazel Edwards

Email: hazel@hazeledwards.com

Website: www.hazeledwards.com

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