It wasn’t long ago that my dear friends Alice Walkling and Oscar Wanless were due to have their first child. When talk arose of what the surname of their baby girl would be, they agreed it should reflect their new chapter, celebrate both of them equally – and also either side of the family that had gone before – all while giving a bit of a bop on the nose to the patriarchy. Smooshing names is all the rage, but “Walkless” didn’t feel right, and the other first-half-name mash-up (say it out loud), perhaps not so appropriate. So, they popped together the endings and, hey presto! They’re all now officially “the Lessings”.
When other friends of mine got married, they created a double-barrel with their grandmothers’ maiden names. When I was explaining these brilliant twists on something so traditional to my 78-year-old mother, she remarked: “How very original, darling.”
Novelty is eye-catching, for sure. Many of my smart, talented and motivated peers obsess over making their businesses, Insta feeds, even lockdown Zoom quiz names as unique as possible. But the truth is, a genuinely original idea is rarer than a white peacock. Almost everything, every idea – even each and every one of us – is an evolution of something that came before. And that’s how novel and exciting things come to fruition.
From the telly you’re watching to the single malt you’re drinking, the smartphone you might be reading this on, or the vegan recipe you’ve bought all the ingredients for and plan to follow (note to self: must get za’atar) – everything is built on a previous version, iteration, or generation. By necessity, ideas must come from somewhere, and will be rooted in cultures and experiences that have come before. But as French New Wave director Jean-Luc Godard said: “It’s not necessarily where you take things from – it’s where you take them to.”
My Glasgow-born husband makes sure we mark Burns Night every January – something he and his family wouldn’t dream of skipping despite having moved to the home counties when he was five. I’ll deck the table with tartan serviettes and pop on a specially curated Proclaimers playlist, and he’ll always – always – address the haggis, with somewhat amusing solemnity. But that’s where the nods to tradition end.
Instead of straightforward Scottish fare, I enjoy putting my own family’s spin on the meal, taking my Italian roots and creating haggis-topped bruschetta and homemade whisky gelato. And I’ll always opt to turn a “wee dram” into more of a dramatic cocktail affair. It’s, quite literally, a marriage of ideas; old and new.
In his documentary series Everything is a Remix, writer and director Kirby Ferguson considers a variety of creative arts and shares compelling evidence of how popular bands, artists and movies “copy, transform and combine” ideas from past musicians, artists and film-makers. In one episode he breaks down all the major story elements in Star Wars Episode VII that are rehashed from the rest of the series. But that’s OK, because George Lucas was himself copying scenes and shots from samurai films and westerns to make the original, which is one of the greatest movies of all time.
Star Wars landed in the sweet spot right between the familiar and the novel – a fresh presentation of heroic tales that had gone before, the perfect hybrid between the new and the old. It’s no surprise that more and more Hollywood hits are new versions of old stories.
When I got married, I had my late father’s wedding ring melted down and made into my own. My ring is vastly different to his; a completely different size and style, and gone is the inscription to my mother and the date that they tied the knot in 1965. It doesn’t resemble the ring he wore for those 43 years – yet I know that it was his, and that, to me, is significant.
It is said that all the gold ever mined in the world would still only fill a couple of Olympic swimming pools, suggesting that our wedding bands and necklaces and trinkets are forever evolving and changing into something new and meaningful.
I often wonder where my wedding band will be in 50 years’ time and what it may represent then. Will it belong to my daughter Daphne as it appears now, or might she be enjoying it in a whole new way – maybe as a chunky septum piercing? I’m more than happy for her to put her own original spin on it, while keeping the tradition alive.
Original by Tradition
The Glenlivet is the original Speyside Single Malt and has been breaking traditions to set new standards in whisky since 1824. Discover the single malt that started it all at theglenlivet.com