As I have many times before, I was cycling across the Addenbrooke’s site yesterday when I noticed a new sign pointing the way to the new perinatal unit. Now I have heard of ante-natal (usually in association with classes) and post-natal (in conjunction with depression) but never perinatal. Perhaps it was recent posts which alluded to some of the Savoy operas (named for the theatre rather than the region of Italy) which caused me to think of Iolanthe – and more importantly its alternate title, “The Peer and the Peri”. This may well be unique in popular entertainment as much of the “action” takes placed in the House of Lords – not a venue oft associated with entertainment or, indeed, action.
This association led me to imagine a facility where the female folk of faerie could go to give birth – a process rarely referred to in legend or ballad. I fondly imagined Cambridge alumnus Edmund Spenser’s most famous heroine (a metaphor for Liz I apparently) giving birth to a Faerie Prince(e) in Cambridge (though if we extend the metaphor, there may have been no heir and a Scottish Lord of the Fae would have succeeded). Perhaps this would explain the strange lights in the sky which I had previously ascribed to low flying aircraft – or perhaps I have become terminally fanciful.
Certainly, the Addenbrooke’s site contains (possibly) the finest monikered facility for the production of mortal offspring – the Rosie Maternity. So, why not extend the brand to cover the fair folk?
Mr (or Mrs) Collins lacks the poet’s soul, and their magnum opus tells me that “peri” just means near or around – as in the word perimeter – but I much prefer my more whimsical interpretation.