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Salt


Salt crystals grown in The Good Egg

Salt is cubic, sharp-edged, associated with blood and sweat. It is a life-giving drip. A death-drawing spiker of pressure. It is pain but purification to an open wound. It has been used in rituals ancient and modern, poured protectively and thrown superstitiously over shoulders. Salt is the punishment for disobedience - Job’s wife turned to a pillar, Lyonesse flooded by seawater, an extension to flogged men’s torture. And it is the cause for it - its taxation leading the Cornish to smuggle and Ghandi to lead satyagraha against my greedy English forebears. Salt demands fairness.


The hardest part of making some art is deciding what to call it, perhaps for the same reasons it’s taken me until the age of 44 to change my name. Every possible meaning, association and pronunciation of a word comes hurtling in and dances with the others. In a brain that instinctively portmanteaus, spoonerises, and seizes on puns, picking words is an invitation to an avalanche. And how can you choose just one out of so so many? This year, I finally did it, and became Salt.


I feel like Salt has a particular relevance for a woman reaching middle age and drawing stronger boundaries. Must I come across as salty to achieve this? So be it. As I was recently reminded by someone against whose lechery I exercised these salty limits, Salt also has a sensuousness. It is flavoursome and bloody, detected with the tongue. It has been used as slang for sex, for female sexual partners, and for coarse salty humour. I like that it has space for anger, lust and wit.


Can I be both salt of the sea, and “salt of the earth”? Can I preserve, and bite, and learn to dissolve?


Most practically, it is a single-syllable noun that begins with S, which are the criteria with which I started my most recent search for a new surname. The one handed down from my father hadn’t felt right for years, and I realised that marrying out of it was unlikely, and not the prospect it was cut out to be. Why not take the word out of men’s hands.


I added to my middle names, too. While you’re on the Deed Poll forms, why wouldn’t you. Laurie, like my first name, Patricia, is a family ghost who lived with us in framed photographs and memories that weren’t mine. Martin is a migratory bird who leaves South East Cornwall and returns as I do, over and over, through the cycles of its life. Jane was already in my name. She’s my mum - I don’t know why put herself in there but I’ve decided she can stay.


Changing name is a little awkward, even embarrassing. Sometimes I have to re-introduce myself as “I am… but I used to be…”. I told someone my name the other day and they said “what a lucky thing to be called, so close to the sea” and I explained for the first time that my love for the coast is not nominative determinism, but, er… determined nomination? It feels clumsy and unsubtle to have named myself over something so literally and physically related to my sailing past and ongoing sea worship, a material I foreground in art-making and spread liberally over dinner. I even worry that when I say my name people might hear “Trish Assault”. But I guess that’s kind of punk.


These discomforts will pass. I already feel more at home in a new name. But then, I have always found great comfort in the new. It’s time to wear it in, and let it dissolve into the foggy waters of consciousness. I will type it into a thousand forms and try to spot which time it feels like it’s always been there.


Yours,Tricia Salt

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